This article appeared in Caldercask published in August 2010, link to website to follow when article is put up.
Having developed from a run down mill town in the late seventies to what is widely regarded as the Calder Valleys tourism jewel in the crown, Hebden Bridge is a fitting base for this issues Cask Walk. A renowned small town, with a wide selection on niche shops, organic cafes and most importantly good pubs, also known for its alternative culture scene.
Sitting on the banks of the River Calder and Rochdale Canal, and surrounded by the hills of the Pennine Ridge, on the route of the Pennine Way, it’s prime walking country and has a walk to suit all moods and abilities. From a stroll along the canal, to a hike up to the high level reservoirs at Widdop and Gorple on the moors via Hardcastle Crags, as well as access to the Stoodley Pike Monument to the west of the town.
Its also well served with good real ale pubs, with the White Lion and the Hole in the Wall in the centre of town, the Fox and Goose sitting 5 minutes from the market square and the Stubbing Wharf located 10 minutes down the canal providing a good range of real ales. There are plenty of other drinking establishments, with Moyles Bar, the Railway Inn and the White Swan among others offering an ale selection. Food wise its well served well for Greek, Italian, British and Oriental tastes.
As usual I will start at one of my favorite pubs, the White Lion, a traditional 17th century coaching inn sitting next to the river, with 4 real ale taps, normally serving Black Sheep as a regular brew and a couple of rotating guest ales. Sited at the top end of town, just round the corner from the market square, this open spacious pub is split into a bar area and 3 dining / drinking areas, one for families. The food is a good quality english menu with nods to other food cultures, and the beer is well kept, with normally 3-4 real ales on tap at any point, with a regular Black Sheep and rotating guests.
From here, drop back down to the market square, and your walk will start with a stiff hill up to Hepstonstall, dropping back to valley level via Colden Clough and some woodland walks above Charlestown and then back via a couple of pubs based just off the main road. There are a lot of woodlands featured in this walk, this may be because I researched this walk on the hottest day of June and I needed all the shade I could get. Total distance is 4.5 miles and took me 2 hours of walking time, so I’d say 4-5 hours with generous drinking time taken into account.
From the market square head over the bridge just before the Shoulder of Mutton pub and take a left turn towards the Hole in the Wall, another pub well worth a visit on your return to the town later on, open plan, and serving a good selection of 4-5 real ales and a couple of real ciders at any point in time. Its a lot funkier than the White Lion and and a livelier atmosphere, probably a venue for a good night out, when you don’t just want a chilled evening session.
Ahead of you, you will see sign pointing the footpath to Heptonstall, up a cobbled path, which goes on for about 400m, with a steady steep gradient. I told you I’d build up the hills as I went on in this series, and this is your first serious challenge with an ascent of about 180m up to the village high up on the hill. There’s a rail to help you along on the steeper sections, but if you take it steady, you’ll be at the main road towards Heptonstall and Long Causeway before you realise.
Turn right at the main road, following the brown tourist sign, a few hundred metres down the road, you will see a green walking sign on the right hand side of the road heading into the woods, this will lead you to a stepped cobbled path, which goes on for about 200 m before coming out at the foot of the village itself. There is a bench at the end of this path which is a welcome rest after putting the bulk of the hill climbing behind you. Turn right to head uphill into the village, passing the sign for visitor parking and heading straight onto the cobbled road.
Following this road will bring you up to two pubs in close proximity, the Cross Inn and our stop of choice, the second White Lion of the day. This pub is a cosy pub, originating in the 17th century, split into a bar, and a main lounge warmed by an open fire on colder days. It does good pub food focusing on british fayre, with the obligatory nod to some italian dishes, and serves 6 hand pulled ales. The beers on offer came from the casks of Springhead, Derwent, Copper dragon and Daniel Thwaites breweries at the time of writing.
After this well deserved stop, turn right out of the pub and head up out of the village passing the school on your right. As you leave the village you get a fantastic view of Stoodley Pike and the surrounding tops. The road levels off after about 400m and you will see a green sign pointing left towards Lumb Bank and a public bridleway down a paved road. This road will eventually return you to not far off valley level, so you can enjoy the extended stroll on an almost constant downward gradient for approx 800m before you reach the base of the valley. The path will head down then veer to the right before straightening off.
You will see a smaller track crossing the main path near a low window in the wall, ignore this track and carry on, eventually the tarmac will give way to a gravel path, heading in the same direction. This track heads to the remote cottages of Pickets Mill, the only remainder of which is the tall chimney which dominates the base of the valley. As you drop down the track will do a u-turn towards a row of cottages, just before you get to the cottages, do another u-turn and cross over the bridge. Turn left here, and you will start to head back down towards the Calder Valley,
This part of the track goes on for just over 1.2km, and you just need to keep heading down the main track, following the stream, losing height all the time. You will know when you are coming to end of the track when you see the playground and football pitch to your left. Soon after this you will join the main road which heads up to Blackshaw Head, At this point we have another short up hill section after turning right following the road until you see the stairs on your left hand side, head up these stairs and turn left at the top rejoining the road. You will see a sign at the bottom end of the terrace marked “Glen View”, take the path to left just before this sign, and after a short stretch you will see a house ahead of you and yellow flashed path heading into the woods to the left, follow the yellow flash.
This path will follow the top of the woods, tracking a dry stone wall for half of the distance, before following a well defined path through the woods, after which you will enter a small clearing, at this point start to tend to the left hand side of the clearing, dropping some gentle height, past a rope swing. You will come to a fork in the woods, take the right fork and you will come out opposite a well maintained bungalowed garden as you gain the road, take a right turn here and head slightly uphill. You will come to a wooded dead end, with a footpath sign on your left, follow this sign. The path in this wood is slightly less defined, but still easy to follow.
The track will meander through the wood for a while, passing a dry stone wall, keep to the right of this, and just after this take the middle footpath straight ahead, not the vehicle tracks on either side. You will then pass over a stile, and the path will tend right and uphill for a few hundred metres. Eventually you will see a footpath sign pointing either side of the main path you are on, take the left turn here. Following this path will bring you down to just below the Wood Farm entrance. Here take a left turn and head downhill. This road goes on for about 500m, taking a left u-turn before joining the rail side road this side of the tracks. You are now within 10 minutes of your next pub, don’t worry! After reaching the main Hebden Bridge road, go left and cross the road, and after a few minutes you will reach the Stubbing Wharf, via an access road to your right.
The Stubbing Wharf sits next to the Rochdale Canal, with a large bar and dining area, with additional space upstairs at canal level, which can be hired out. The pub is famous for its selection of real cider as well as real ale. Its welcoming to both dogs and families, the latter to be said for all pubs mentioned on this walk. Normally the Wharf serves at least 5 real ales, and 3 real ciders. The house beers are Black Sheep, Copper Dragon and Timothy Taylor, with an additional rotating selection. The food again concentrates on well made english dishes.
After leaving here, there is one more stop. Follow the road into Hebden Bridge, just before the road forks towards Hepstonstall, you will see the Fox and Goose, this the last scheduled stop of the day, although you can add any pub to the end of the walk, and there’s plenty to choose from, after the short walk from the Fox to the town centre, taking the bottom road as you leave the pub.
The Fox and Goose sits on the junction, with a beer garden to the rear, and a couple of rooms inside. A staunch supporter of the small and micro breweries, you won’t find any beers from any of the established national real ale brewers, focusing on a regular ale and 5 pumps rotating daily, inevitably leaving you with a selection beers never tried before. When I visited, I had tried none of the beers on offer, and the one I tried certainly hit the spot. A regular spot on the local real ale festival circuit and regular midweek events makes this well worth a visit.
Any train from Halifax which heads to Blackpool or Manchester Victoria, reverse is same to get back to Halifax, every 15 minutes during week and Saturday, up to every hour on Sundays
Buses from Halifax – 392, 517, 590, 591, 592, 593 (same services return, this is only a selection, there are 26 in all)