Tom Tittiman & Churn Milk Joan – The Characters Of Midgley Moor
Nestled off the main road between Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd in the Calder Valley is another of the valley’s hidden gems: Luddenden Dean. A stunning area to explore on foot, sunk between two expansive moorlands; the Luddenden Brook flows along the valley floor beneath a canopy of stunning woodland. There is even a campsite there, for those travelling from afar – Jerusalem Farm - and I’m told The Lord Nelson pub in Luddenden village is a treat to visit.
From the main road, turn onto Luddenden Lane and shortly after the school there is a car park (HX2 6PE) situated on the right-hand side. An honesty box asks for a £1 donation for half a day. Here begins the route: ten miles, relatively easy and requiring the OL21 map.
Walk south along the main road for 130 yards; cross over and take the lane named Greave House Fields. Follow this up and through the houses, passing between the wall next to a chicken coop to enter a field. Climb up to the left-hand corner and continue along the waymarked bridleway, the path re-joins a lane passing between two houses. It dog-legs back on itself and at the field, keep left, following the wall. Pass the recreation ground to meet a quiet road that leads to Midgley.
Turn left, towards another school, opposite which turn right along a narrow lane to turn left at the first opportunity. Cross a field, at another narrower lane turn right, then again take the first left (at a path crossroads). Up to the top and right again, then take a left, not obvious, but is beside a wall. This makes a short ascent up the edge pf the moorland. Hop over the stile and join the Calderdale Way.
From here navigation is simple. Turn left along the Calderdale Way (CW); the moorland slopes up on your right, boasting patches of heather just turning a gorgeous lilac. The CW keeps to the wall for perhaps a kilometre and when the wall stops, bear up and right slightly. There are posts, although not waymarked as CW.
Churn Milk Joan
Pass around the brow of the hill and above you see the standing stone that is Churn Milk Joan. Standing about 7ft tall, the stone attracts many local legends and was the subject of a Ted Hughes poem (Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd in 1930; his wife, the famous poet and author of The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath, is buried in nearby St Thomas’ Churchyard in Heptonstall). One custom is to leave behind a few coins on top of the stone for good luck, exchanging with a few left by previous visitors. This time, for once, there actually were coins atop the stone, however, alas, I was devoid of coins, so my luck would rest with the gods.
Turn left from the stone and you will re-join the CW (you don’t notice you’ve drifted off it) and again walk beside a wall, skirting the edge of the moorland. With a distinct field edge on your left, you have the option to turn right and ascend to the trig point above. Otherwise, the CW continues around another brow, passing above Hebden Bridge golf course. Either way; the route continues on the CW (clearly re-descending from trig on a western bearing – an obvious pathway).
The view towards Stoodley Pike
You follow Keelham Edge, between moorland and farmland, beside the still helpful wall. Heading north, you see the settlement of Chiserley on your left, with views across the valley to Heptonstall up on high – Hebden Bridge, so close by, hides beneath the periphery of view.
High Brown Knoll
After perhaps another kilometre, shortly after what’s best described as a large wooden bucket stuffed with planks and logs, the path turns a distinct left. Coming to a metal gate, the CW continues through the gate, but you can bear right alongside another field edge and you meet a bridleway which will then re-join the CW.
You will curve to the right, shortly after take a clear pathway on the right (SE 002 292) which follows Deer Stones Edge on a gentle ascent, beneath a peak called Tom Tittiman and making a clear passage to the trig point at the summit of High Brown Knoll. To the west are Crimsworth Dean and Hebden Dale, but both remain hidden, instead the views gaze out across miles of beautiful moorland all around.
Take the track bearing south-east. Beside another standing stone, it curves left, but keep straight on instead out across the inviting moorland stretch. After perhaps 250-300m, turn to the left (as shown on map, SE 013 300) and then beyond a small, low, isolated stone bridge, the way marker indicates a right turn and the path continues.
The Standing Stone on High Brown Knoll
Maintain a south-easterly bearing, gradually drawing closer to the wall on left-hand side. Reaching the wall, beneath is a steep-sided woodland clough descending to the valley floor. Spot the interesting turret adorning the house across the valley, another sits right at the base of the valley. Somewhere northwards in the valley is Castle Carr, the remains of what was once a mock Tudor Castle. It is opened to the public once a year to show off its fabulous fountains. At this point on the route you can just glimpse the reservoirs above it.
Follow the wall for approx. 0.5km before leaving the path through a gate (marked Hough Dean on map, SE 019 289) and best described as ‘just after a descending path joins on your right, and the gate is set back from the main pathway on the left.’
Here begins the descent off the moorland. It initially curves then continues south-east, becoming narrower and steeper. It comes to a tarmac lane, when that dog legs, keep ahead over a stile to descend a field (still south-easterly). Re-join a tarmac, flat lane which will eventually meet Jerusalem Lane. When the lane bisects, take the upper, right-hand lane (however, for a well-earned rest, just beneath you spot Bob’s Tearoom & Gardens – an absolutely delightful café where you can enjoy tea and cake in the courtyard.)
Dry Carr Lane becomes High House Lane and after a while, beside some garages, turn left down a narrow flight of steps to the descending lane. Take the first right (a walled passageway), turning left between two houses and descending to a quiet road beside a cricket ground. Turn right for a while, then another left turn passes between farm buildings, still descending, to reach the end of a terrace of houses. Turn right and the clear path mirrors the brook, passing beside a cemetery and entering the church grounds.
Pass beneath the Lord Nelson Pub then on a path between houses. At next junction, above you to the left, spot a path continuing between houses that are comparatively newly built and the final stretch is above the brook, beneath the trees and finally a footbridge returns you to the main road, about 50 yards south of the car park.