Cats, Dogs & Robin Hood’s Bed Upon Rishworth Moor
Stretching between Ripponden and Littleborough is a vast expanse of moorland that is Rishworth Moor. Easy to navigate with far-reaching views, this 14-mile route is perfect if you are looking to get some miles under the belt but are unsure of your stamina. It is mostly flat, but do choose a clear day, otherwise the route could potentially be dismissed as somewhat dull. However, with great company on a fine day, you can consume the miles with ease.
It begins from Mill Fold CP in Ripponden (GR SE 040 197, HX6 4HS). Follow the riverside path away from the town (initially a tarmac lane) then through the woodland until meeting a bridge beneath the Cinnamon Lounge restaurant. Cross the main road and continue along the tarmac road (Bar Lane) on your right. This valley sides steepen on approach to the reservoir dam; climb up the right-hand side and then cross Ryburn reservoir. Beyond, keep next to the water, continue ahead at the bridge and turning right at the second waymarked path that leaves the permissive bridleway (SE 019 183).
This drops to a footbridge, re-ascending the other side to enter fields. Approaching a walled garden, cut across its corner (or you can go round) and spot the way-marker beside a cluster of properties (Lower Wormald). Continue straight ahead (a way-marker, easily missed, is posted on a new-looking gate) and pass around the back of the houses. Cut diagonally across the next field to the top right-hand corner and repeat through the next field to meet a stile.
Continue between the fence and wall, to bear left at the next stile with a sign “To Back O’ The Height.” Keep between the fence and wall, turning right at the ladder stile. At the end of the wall turn left; then turn right to descend slightly beside a large property, again go left, passing in front of the building.
Continue to another property (Higher Wormald) and take the driveway track up to meet the road; a left turn then right through a gate begins the permissive pathway that stretches right across the moorland – from here you cannot get lost; there is only one path. It passes beneath the Cat Stones of Cat Moss, curves the contours of Warm Withens Hill to eventually bump into the Rishworth [catchwater] Drain (SD 985 173).
Here turn right (for a shorter route, turn left to head directly for Green Withens Reservoir). You will pass through a gate; beyond which at a footbridge (SD 982 177) you turn left to join the Old Packhorse Road path, thought to be a former turnpike road across the moor, dating to 1735.
Pass over the gentle summit and descend slightly to reach Aiggin Stone, possibly a way-marker or religious symbol thought to be approx. 600 years old, whose origin is not entirely clear. It is nonetheless a boundary stone (it’s just on the Lancashire-side of the border).
James L Maxim, in his 1965 book “A Lancashire Lion”, had declared the turnpike road to be just that, dismissing the previous claims that it was a Roman road. He said that the name “Aiggin” would suggest a pronunciation similar to “edge” ergo “Edge Stone” or, more simply, derived from the French word “aguille” – a needle or sharp, pointed rock.
Here, turn left to join the Pennine Way. This passes along Blackstone Edge – a spectacular setting; dramatic rocks cling to the hillside, with panoramic views all round. You will pass Robin Hood’s Bed, a millstone grit boulder that has a natural groove in which one can lie and where, it is said, that Robin Hood once slept. Folklore also claims that ‘no wind ever blows’ at this particular spot – my many visits disprove this theory!
Continue along the clearly defined Pennine Way towards the M62 and the obvious transmitter on the horizon.
At the motorway, bear left and join another catchwater drain which leads to Green Withens Reservoir. At the far side of the water, follow the track right (ignore first waymarked path) and at the fourth footbridge, cross over to ascend the slope. Here you might veer off the pathway, some tracks do not appear on the map. You can glimpse the trig point atop Dog Hill above. Continue in an easterly direction (if you do lose the path, it is open-access land and inevitable tracks will return you to the right passage).
Having made a gentle ascent, it is another flat stretch eventually reaching a wall with a ladder stile. Climb over and continue – mirroring the stretch of wall above. You can clamber up to the top of Pike End, from here you need to make a steep descent northerly to the stile beside the property (next to Pike Law on the map).
Turn right at the road, leave it at Pike End Farm to pass down the driveway and beyond, where the path enters a field recently occupied with long horned cattle and their calves, so proceed with some caution. Beneath you return to paths and tracks, way-markers point the way.
Descend to the small settlement of Godly with a pretty church. Keep descending straight to meet the main road.
Cross over and take the path directly ahead. The road passes Heathfield School, and a mill complex of flats. Beyond the hairpin turn you can divert (right, through a gap in the wall) for a wander in the woodland which is beautiful. However, the route concludes by turning left beyond this gap, passing in front of a single property and across the fields beside a stream below the trees. You will come to the bridge beside the restaurant from where you simply retrace your steps to the start.