I am a little sad to be leaving Hebden Bridge. Making its aquaintaince was more than thirty years overdue, but I am delighted to have belatedly done so.
    OK, so it may be true that it is becoming a bit yuppified, and it is so alternative as to be a somewhat unsettling. But it is a charming place with a lovely canal and fine old stone buildings, and it has a real sense of community. Best of all it is set in truly gorgeous countryside, threaded through with a denser network of footpaths than I have ever seen, anywhere.

Which is quite a lot of plus points, you have to say. But it is time to say goodbye move on. Back down the steep hill and up alongside the Hebden Water. The detail is so dense on the map that it is hard to work out what is happening, especially without my glasses on, but I take a quiet back street to a footbridge which takes me on a path alongside a little field which is apparently where the local cricket and archery clubs transact their business. There is something that typifies the landscape. The only place flat enough for cricket is small and hidden away in a secret hollow amongst the trees.

The walk is immediately lovely, reminiscent of the Derwent Valley riverside though more enclosed, the wooded hills on either side press tightly. I take a detour up one of the wonderfully made stone wall enclosed footpaths. Wainwright bemoans the fact that so few of these are maintained but that was in 1966, and now, when leisure walking has become such a popular and economicaly important activity,  I see no sign of the decay that he refers too.

After a bit of up and a bit of down I come to Midghole and a wonderful looking little shack of a pub called the Blue Pig, buried in the woods. Too early for pubs though, tempting though it looks, so I press on to the junction of two valleys where I have to make a route decision.

I am very tempted to go the Hardcastle Crags way. An American woman in the hostel said that these woods were carpeted with bluebells, and I really want to see them anyway. I could go that way and rejoin the Pennine Way higher up. But that is a detour and I want to get as far as I can today. My ticket is from Skipton, which would be a real stretch, but there is a station at Cononley  which is an outside possibility.

I decide that the woods I am in will have to do, they are part of Hardcastle Crags though perhaps not the best bit. That will have to wait for another day.

So on I go. From New Bridge my path is soon a minor road but I don't mind it because the road is so minor that there is almost no traffic on it at all. It goes up but the gradient is not too brutal. And it is remarkably straight in this country of twisting valleys.

I pass Hollin Hall, a National Trust property. There are woods on either side, but not continuously, so I begin to get views down into the valley on my right, and up towards the moors that are my destination, before forestry engulfs me.

Out the other side and the road becomes a track. In the distance ahead of me is a building just to the right of the track with a farm gate and some animals beyond it. According the map this is called Laithe. As I get nearer I can see that they are cows and that they have calves with them.  Oh joy!

There is no obvious way round them. The cows are crowded in the narrow area between the barns and a low wall to the left, which has a barbed wire fence on its top. However, they look placid enough.

I open the gate, closing it behind me. About ten cows, many with calves, are looking at me with big dumb eyes. There is a large bull in the middle of them but he does not seem concerned.

I am though. there is not really space for me to pass. I move forward, bringing my arms up to make myself look bigger, but I do this slowly as I do not want to panic them. The first couple of cows low and move out of the way a bit reluctantly, calves trotting in their wake.

But one stands her ground. She bellows and steps forward. I try the arm thing again, still slowly. She makes a half step towards me.

OK! OK! OK!  I get the message and retreat. Just as I am thinking how little I want to be undoing the gate lock with the cows behind me, I realise that there is space along the top of the little wall to walk and even a couple of steps up to it. The barbed wire is just back far enough to leave room to walk. The cows could butt my legs if they were determined, and the agressive one keeps behaving menacingly, but it seems I am just far enough away to make my presence tolerable.

A little way on and I have to get down to the main track. Most of the cows are now ignoring me but one is coming down the track after me, trailing a calf. I don't think it is the most agressive one but do not wait to ponder. I walk smartly up the track. I look back. There is the cow. Another half a kilometer or so. There she is, not happy, it would seem, to let me out of her sight.

I pass a building, a big, half-ruined house. One part was a byre for animals, the other part the farmhouse by the look of it. It makes me think of Wuthering Heights as I am now well into Bronte Country.

And there are lots of these buildings up here in the upland farm country. Some have  been modernised, others left to crumble.

The cow keeps following me but eventually, with some relief, I go through a gate and can relax. Now I am near the head of the valley and there is no more woodland. It is bright and clear, with a warm sun which is starting to worry me as I have lost my sun block. A dog barks on a farm across the valley as the track descends to cross the little river that I have been following since Midgehole.

Here the track joins a minor road and it is a steep and warm climb. Just as I start I pass a field gate with a warning on it that there are cows with calves and a bull in the field. So if this is a dangerous thing why were they allowed to block that right of way so thoroughly?

But I am puzzled too. I have been walking for many years and have gone through many fields with cows and calves before without problem. This is the second time I have met a really agitated, aggressive cow on my walk. I wonder if the cows are particularly skittish this year after the long winter or something.

At the top of the hill the little road becomes a track again as the grazing land gives way to moorland. Lapwings circle me as I pass the last house on this side of the mooorland. It is good to see them agitated as it means that they must have eggs, or more likely chicks.

My right knee is giving me some bother. But the going is good enough over the top of the moor so I make decent progress until the track descends. Here I have to make a decision. The direct route to Haworth means plunging into a valley and then back up again. I elect to angle round the access land to try to maintain my height so that I can then walk into the town via Haworth Moor.

To start with this seems like a good plan. I find a path, unmarked on the map that follows a conduit along the contour of the hill. Then I strike off down hill towards Haworth Moor itself. A wheatear seems to like the stonework on the conduit. This the second I have seen today as there was one on the track where I was followed by the cow and calf.

This is not so good.  I am really hot now and worried about sunburn. The going is very rough, heather and tussocky grass and my knee gets jarred immediately. Soon it is killing me. I make my way down into a gully and then struggle up onto the main tongue of the moor, startling the odd curlew and red grouse. I could see a whitish track quite clearly from the conduit. But it seems to take an ice age to get to it. Not an ice age, it is far too hot and sunny for that. An interglacial?

But at last, knee shrieking with pain, I blunder onto the track and hobble off. I half expect, well, hope, that walking on a wall made track will soon ease the knee pain but it is not to be. I limp on towards Haworth.

It is a strange thing about this walk but, so far, I have hardly covered any ground that I had ever walked on previously. The first couple of miles to Parliament Hill and across Hampstead Heath and the extension were familiar enough. And that was it apart from a few hundred yards in Northampton and the half a kilometer or so between my sister's house and the centre of Enderby village.

But once I cross Moor Side Lane which dissects Haworth Moor I recognise the view. I have walked here before with my ex-wife and her Aunt who used to live in Haworth.

Three notches short of agony I hobble across the last bit of the moor and then take a couple of footpaths into the village. I see the Church first, it's squat tower between the trees flying the union Jack.

And my footpath takes me right into the churchyard so that, apart form the church itself, almost the first building I see is the Bronte parsonage.

I have visited it before, and want to get some lunch and get on, so I take a quick photo and hobble into the picturesque village which is absolutely plastered with union jack bunting.

I try a cafe first. The menus are strange, Yorkshire pudding comes with everything and parkin is equally ubiquitous. The American woman from the hostel comes in and I say hello but she barely acknowledges me.

And I am not getting served so I move on, settling at last on the first pub that I passed.  It is at least quiet, and I have indifferent Cumberland sausage and mash, declining the chance to have Cumberland sausage and Yorkshire pudding.

I get it at last. I am in a Yorkshire theme park. You have to have Yorkshire pudding and parkin because that is what you eat in Yorkshire. It is like rock in Blackpool or haggis in Edinburgh. If this was the East End of London it would be jellied eels I suppose. It is perhaps just as well that East London is not a major tourist destination.

The lady in the tourist office tells me that there is a chemist in Haworth but it is by the station. This is a pain as I remember that the station is at the bottom of a steep hill and in the wrong direction. But I am really concerned about burning so I set off down the hill, and through a beautifully kept municipal park.

But when I finally find the chemist it is shut for lunch. So I retrace my steps to a small supermarket and am finally in luck. They only have factor 8 but it is better than nothing. And then I pass a little army surplus shop.

I dive in and emerge with a floppy but brimmed hat. And press on. I take a pretty footpath alongside the railway. Cross it and then strike uphill, sweating profusely, to Oakworth.

There are not many shops that I can see in Oakworth but there is a tanning studio. No sunblock in Yorkshire but tanning studios. I guess they are not really used to sunshine round here.

I get a bit confused in Holden Park as there are many more paths than are marked on the way. But I guess that I emerge on Race Moor Lane and a couple of ladies walking dogs confirm it.
I have necked some ibruprofin with my meal and the knee pain, whilst still with me, is better than it was on Haworth Moor. Still it is enough to make me worry. But footpaths are not a viable option anyway so I take a minor road that sets off downhill towards the pretty and excellently named hamlet of Goose Eye. 

After Goose Eye it is a very steep pull up hill to the edge of Laycock and time for a decision.

I have seen this on the map for a while. My plan was to take the Millenium Way which wanders into Steeton. I can get the train there or, if time allows, make my way up the Aire Valley to the next station. Time is not too bad but there is my knee to consider too.

But there is another way. A B road cuts right across the hill to Sutton-in-Craven which is not far from Cononley. It is direct and dead straight. And that is the problem. It looks like a road that will have very fast traffic. It looks like the sort of road beloved of motorcyclists, like Snake Pass. It is not going to be fun but it might get me on efficiently.

And I decide that as I have not had to endure much road walking for days I will go for it. I set off. The sun is still very hot. My knee is OK but I am worried more about the descent which looks steep. And the traffic, though not too heavy, is as fast as I thought it might be. However, there is a decent verge, too rough for walking on but there to step on if need be. And, I must say, the drivers and bikers here are uniformly courteous, swinging into the middle of the road to give me a wide berth. The only one that doesn't is a white van, but before I have time to curse I realise another vehical was coming up behind me so he did not have that option.

And on the crest of the hill I am suddenly very glad that I came this way. There is a sign announcing that I have reached North Yorkshire, and a vista spread out in front of me of the Aire Valley and beyond. Far beyond is a distinctively shaped hill. Pen Y Ghent. I am next to sure of it.

I have walked all the way to North Yorkshire and I start the descent, hobbling a bit but smiling in the bright May sunshine.

It is steep but the walking pole and ibuprofen do their bit. And before too long I am strolling through Sutton-in-Craven. I come to a pretty little park where older people are playing bowls. The short cut has served me well and I have plenty of time so I stop and sit and have a bite to eat and finish my water.

It is such a relaxed, peaceful scene. Men playing bowls, mothers with babies strolling by pushing buggies, teenagers teasing each other and flirting. All white as far as I can see. There is something timeless about it. I wonder what the story of Sutton is. Why is it here? What is the industry? Every little village from Hebdon Bridge on has seemed to be a mill town. But I have not seen a mill.

I set off at last, from Sutton to the adjoining town of Cross Hills and then out on a footpath over meadows. Sheep graze in the lush Aire Valley bottom. Stone walls dived the fields. But I can see cows up ahead and I wonder if the footpath is going to cross that field too.

To my relief it veers off just before it, following a stone wall with a drop into the cows' field. These cows have calves too and there is a bull, and some of them are behaving very strangely. Two cows square up. They bellow, and then butt each other. They keep drawing back a few paces and then launching into it again, but a third cow gets involved, bashing into the side of one of the combatants.

I watch for a while and try to get a decent photo without much success. They keep breaking off and calming down and then suddenly attacking each other again. One is black and this one is behaving like a cartoon bull. Snorting, pawing the ground, running off to butt one of the other cows again.

What is going on with cows I wonder. And looking at the map there is a lot of valley bottom on the way to Skipton. When I get back up this way will I have to cross fields in which these crazed animals are grazing?

But that is a worry for another day. After a brief road walk I take another footpath as I have lots of time. This one follows the Aire itself, gently curving towards an old mill, and there is a perfectly placed bench. Opposite me is an earth bank and I am just thinking how perfect this would be for sand martins when I see some swooping over the river.

I still have lots of time but, as I approach the station I hear an announcement. The train approaching is going to Leeds and that part of my ticket isn't time specific so I run the last hundred yards.

Which might not have been such a good idea with my dodgy knee. But I make just make it to the train and am soon hurtling back towards Leeds for my connection to London.


  1. Linda Fern said...

    Hi Spencer,

    I comment on the Becoming Jane blog all the time, so I'll try it here for you. I still have to find time to read every word.

    Yrs aff'ly,

    PS. it does say that comment moderation has been enabled. I'll post at Dregs too.  

  2. Spencer said...

    I hope you enjoy it Linda. Do you walk in your neck of the woods?  

  3. Anonymous said...

    You're in north now Spencer, where cows have attitude. Not like your soft southerm cows.

    I'm really enjoying the blog.


  4. Spencer said...

    Well, the first stroppy cows were in Derbyshire. More Midlands then North.

    Glad you are enjoying it. Thanks for the comment.  

  5. Charles M said...


    I suspect there is a book developing here.

    Thanks for sending me the link to your blog - the link opened at Stage Two and I thought! ... it's taking him a while! Huh! ;-)

    ... but wow when I explored further!

    First of all - Amazing Photography!

    It's kinda like a 'What does the UK look like today - Outside the city! No one around! That's it also - there are almost no people in your photos although I havn't seen all of them! It makes for a feeling of quite activity as you follow each stage - I love the shots of the lanes and paths and roads!

    Your observations and attention to detail concerning the places are arresting! - Makes me want to do something like this! Maybe a walk from London to Galway! ;-)

    I attempted to read as I explored the blog but kept thinking - this is rich enough for a book and its difficult to read on a blog! .... but hey!
    That's not a criticism - it's just the unresolved technology!

    Just keep walking and writing.

    Shall be checking the site and your progress out from now on and wish you all the best and all the continued enjoyment you are obviously communicating.

    The blog does have a unique energy about it.


    PS. Just a thought! It would be wonderful to somehow have a map pf your journey and your progress in some simplified form on the side panel.

    Also some details and a link to where Isle of Lewis is for some of us foreigners would be good!  

  6. Spencer said...

    Thanks for your thoughts, Charles. I know, I know, it needs a map. I will work on it when I get a moment.

    At present I have seven days walking to update though!  


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