I awake to another grey day. It has been raining but has stopped by the time I got going. The wind is evil though.

After a cooked breakfast I say goodbye to the B&B and retraced my footsteps for half a kilometer or so. There is an apparant short cut but I can't see it goes and it involves climbing a rickety style which my knees don't like the look of much.. So I go the long way round and give the old joints a bit of time to warm up.

Rock Farm must be named for the craggy outrcrop lining the edge of the plateau. It is literally a few feet below the moor level and so very soon I am back in moorland. Immediately the larks start up again. They are with me almost all day today.

The Pennine Way follows the edge of the plateau, just behind these rocks. I soon see the path I eschewed, looking perfectly fine. And then I am above Rock Farm itself, looking down on it and the valley below and beyond.

The wind is, if anything, stronger than yesterday and just about as cold. It really does not feel like May.

But the going is pretty good and I make good progress along Standedge until the path veers off across Castleshaw Moor. More bleak moor. Pretty much like most of yesterday and the country between Kinder Scout and Longedale beyond that. Bleak black flat moorland.

Soon I am on White Hill which looks a lot like Black Hill from yesterday. About the same colour and the same lack of anything you could call a hill really. Just a vague peaty mound on a plateau.

After White Hill I start to hear the sound of traffic. There is a huge radio mast in front of me and by the time I near it I catch glimpses of the M62 in its deep cutting. There is a car park first though and a road with signs telling me that I am on the border of West Yorkshire and Lancashire.

There are lots of walkers too, which seems more than a bit strange as the combination of bleak moor and roaring traffic noise is not the most attractive I have ever encountered.

I stop to take a photo of the rather elegant footbridge across the motorway but it is only when I step onto it that I realise it is high enough to set off my vertigo. I have crossed a few motorways on my journey. The M25, the M1 and the M69. But this one is different. The footbridge is high above a real canyon of a cutting. Stopping to take a photo makes me feel a bit dizzy.

I am glad to get over it and it makes me wonder if the Forth Road Bridge, which is on my currently favorite route through the Scottish Central Belt, is such a good idea.

Glad to get over the other side the ground rises steeply up into more moorland.  But before long I find myself on the plateau edge again. This is Blackstone Edge and the walk becomes much more entertaining. For one thing there are great views off to the west and north west. For another the rocky edge is more dramatic than Standedge. It has a really mountainlike character and picking my way through the rocks is fun, if fun that has to be paid for by the odd painful jarring of my knee.

Far to the north west is a dramatic hill. It looks to me to be in the wrong place. Surely that should be more lowland Lancashire? Later I look at the map and work out that it must be Pendle Hill.

The way winds, following the edge of the plateau, before plunging downhill until crossed by an ancient roadway. Marked as Roman on the map but I remember Wainwright reckons it is more likely a medieval packhorse trail. I stop to look at the Aiggin stone, an ancient way marking.

There is a footpath marked on the map and I try to follow it rather than detouring down the packhorse route. But it peters out and I blunder through heather until I come to a culvert and a broad path following it down the hillside. This winds around confusingly. I caught a glimpse of a reservoir above but now I am not sure where it has got to. But before long I am striding down the track towards a quite miraculous pub.

Now I remember it from Wainwright's description. The White House Pub. It is just gone twelve but I am getting hungry and this is the last refreshment place, as far as I can see on the map, until Hebden Bridge.

So passing a mass of young walkers huddling from the now ferocious wind I go inside and order tea and great dinner of roast pork. Sitting by a window with a view down the valley, I revel in the luxury .

All too soon it is time to go back out and into the wind. A good track takes me down past a reservoir and then on, winding, just like the Pennine Way along Standedge and Blackstone Edge,  along the western fringes of a great moorland plateau.

But there is a difference. Whilst those tracks were reasonably level if lumpy and rocky in places, this is completely level, and good enough for verticals. An access road for the succession of resevoirs I am passing, I suppose. It is the easiest walking I have encountered since Cromford Canal towpath. And progress is satisfyingly rapid.

Great walking too. Though the path is flat and broad it is not boring as the views, falling away on my left hand side are constantly changing. Slowly hills to the north come nearer until I am on one side of a deep valley. The larks faithfully keep me company too.

Before the broad track gives up altogether I get a glimpse of a great stone spire in the distance which the map tells me rejoices in the name of Stoodley Pike. The path follows a culvert for a way and then strikes off directly for the monument. Once again the Pennine Way is flagged in stone, so though the track is gone the walking is just as easy.

But my knees are hurting now and I am getting tired. I find the edge of the plateau again, looking down at Mankinholes with glimpses of Todmorden deep in the Calder valley beyond. But that damned stone spire does not seem to be getting any nearer.

In fact, the thing is so big that I misjudged how far I was away from it. It seems to take hours to reach it but I do at last, and dive into shelter from the brutal, unrelenting wind. I finish my water and have a bit of food before setting off, down into the valley towards Hebden Bridge.

The knees don't complain too much as I finally desert the plateau. The path goes down steeply, through stone walls and fields of sheep. And then I take a track down a well wooded gully. Crossing the stream, and emerging from the woodland, the sun comes out.

And I am suddenly in another world entirely.

All day, for most of two days, in fact, I have been fighting a freezing wind across bleak, dark brown moorland. Now I am in spring sunlight walking through green grass fringed by trees. There are bluebells here and there in the woodland. Birds like chiff-chaffs and great tits singing furiously.  It is like stepping out of winter and into early summer. So sudden is the change that it is almost unsettling.

The path takes me to a cobbled lane by a farm called Horsehold. There are horses in the field too. Well, ponies anyway. After a bit the cobbles turn to tarmac but the lane is still very quiet with hardly any traffic.

 I start to get glimpses of Hebden Bridges famous double decker houses through the trees. They are still some way down though and it is steep. My knees are not too keen on this game and I am glad to take a break when I see a handy seat.

A woman is walking up the hill and looking tired, and as I get up to carry on, vacating the seat, I can tell she is relieved.

Hebden Bridge below, Heptonstall on the hill above it. This is a strange and lovely landscape. Urban blended with rural in a unique way. I enjoyed my flying visit by train a few weeks back but this is so much better.

To my surprise when I get down to the town, almost the first place I come to after crossing the canal  is a co-op and it is open. So I go and buy a few supplies and a bottle of wine.
I had intended to go and find a pub to eat tonight but as I had the big meal in the Whitehouse I thing cheese on toast will do me, until I see the crumpets. I buy an onion too in a fit of extravagance. And then I set off through the picturesque town centre to find my hostel.

There is a quite brutal hill to get to it and the belated sun is still strong so I am sweating by the time I find the place. I was a bit  wary of this place as the website made it look a bit too hippified for my hippy-averse tastes.  But the woman who runs it smiles and says, "hello, I'm Em."

And I have to admit that it is really lovely. I have a little room to myself as there are few visitors and it is called Horsehold, after the farm I passed an our or two earlier.

In Rock Farm B&B last night they were perfectly polite and I got a good deal. But it was hard to escape the feeling that I was akin to one of their sheep being sheared. Part of the business of running a hill farm. This is not a complaint. That was what I was and I was very happy that they were there and taking in walkers.

But Em is really friendly and interested in my walk, and her partner re-boots the computer for me so that I can log on to the internet for as long as I want and for free. So I feel that to them this is not just about extracting money from me.

And there really is something to be said for that. Even if the place does smell a bit of jasmine.


  1. Caroline said...

    A hill farm smelling of jasmine!
    The things you manage to find, Spencer!

    I'm so glad you are feeling better. This leg was obviously a good experience!  

  2. Spencer said...

    Thanks, Caroline. But I may have been unclear. It was the hostel in Hebdon Bridge that smelt of jasmine. Not a hill farm!

    Though my room was called Horsehold which is or at least was one. The hostel is in the town.  


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