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Caroline Spalding
Features Correspondent
11:29 AM 5th January 2020

Northern Walks: Stoodley Pike And Crag Vale

The monument of Stoodley Pike is iconic to the district of Calderdale; visible from afar and a magnet for walkers and fell runners; attracted by its ruggedly beautiful surrounds and, of course, the views it looks out on.

The moment itself was completed in 1856; replacing another which had been erected to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 but which collapsed in 1854 due to lightning strikes and weathering. You can climb its 39 steps in darkness to the balcony or take shelter from the wind at its base; either way it is worth pausing here to take in the spectacular vistas.

Looking back towards Cragg Vale from Withens Clough Reservoir
Looking back towards Cragg Vale from Withens Clough Reservoir
The six mile route (requiring OS Explorer OL21 map) begins from the car park at Withens Clough reservoir and initially follows the Calderdale Way, which in 2018 celebrated its 40th anniversary; itself a 50 mile loop weaving through the dramatic landscape and charming villages of Calderdale, offering insights into the history of the Calder Valley’s textile industry.

Follow the Calderdale Way around the periphery of the reservoir for a short time, before the Calderdale Way leaves to the right through a gate. After a short ascent, the path makes a distinct turn left and you can pick up way-markers to continue on the route; passing a small plantation of fir trees, beyond which stands an isolated ruined farmhouse; once no doubt an idyllic setting for a home, albeit one requiring a very brave and robust mindset.

Above Withens Clough Res, towards an isolated, ruined farmhouse from the Calderdale Way
Above Withens Clough Res, towards an isolated, ruined farmhouse from the Calderdale Way

You will come to a gate and continue to reach the brow of the hill; revealing the Upper Calder valley beyond with views towards Todmorden. At a distinct path junction; turn right – this is now the Pennine Way (GR SD 967 231). You start to walk across flat boulders; reminiscent of (in some imaginations) almost a Martian landscape. There appears no precise route across the rocks; however your aim is towards the Stoodley Pike monument; with flat moorland to your right, and a steep slope to your left. Beyond the boulders the path returns to a clearer beaten track as you approach the tower.

Stoodley Pike from the Pennine Way, view towards Hebden Bridge and Halifax
Stoodley Pike from the Pennine Way, view towards Hebden Bridge and Halifax
At Stoodley Pike bear right, still on the Pennine Way as it begins a gradual descent. Pass through a gate and continue ahead, leaving the Pennine Way and aiming towards the large plantation ahead. At the edge of the woodland, turn right to follow the track (marked Dick’s Lane on map). Beyond the trees, pass two field lengths to another path cross-roads. Don’t take the obvious track on right; instead bear right diagonally (following a way-marker) another field length; then turn right following a boggy pathway beside the stone wall at the edge of Bell House Moor. Walking poles will assist some of the wetter spring crossings; failing that cling to the wall!

You’ll pass a large farm on your right (Knowl Barn) then another smaller building; keep to the wall until you eventually descend to the abrupt end of the moorland; reaching a stony lane. Turn left. Approaching another small farm, as the track curves, leave it going right (GR SD 999 239). Almost immediately the path meets a walled field edge, turn right again, following the wall and the path straightens and should pass between two stone walls. This however becomes very overgrown, but a clear path runs beside it to reach a way-marker in the bottom left-hand corner of field (GR SE 001 238). Here, marked Upper Lumb on map, you begin a steep, zig-zag descent down a narrow tarmac lane until meeting Cragg Brook on the valley floor; sheltered by overhanging trees growing out of its steep banks.

Cross the bridge, taking the first right-hand path which crosses fields to emerge by the Hinchcliffe Arms pub. Turn right, passing the pub and the final stretch is a long, gentle sloping climb back up to the start point at the reservoir.

Cragg Vale is a hidden gem for walkers looking for paths through spectacular landscape: farmland, woodland, moorland – extensive views from both sides of the valley. This short route will certainly whet the appetite for further exploration throughout the year.

All map data is copyright of Ordnance Survey Limited.