Stoodley Pike Walk - March 16th

Posted 17/3/2019

Well DVWGs walk number 397 will be long remembered for the adverse conditions which our party braved to walk.

This was our third visit over the years to ascend the Pennine Bridleway to visit Stoodley Pike, the magnificent monument which dominates the skyline of the upper Calder Valley and was built to commemorate the end of the Crimean War.

Unfortunately our three visits have also coincided with adverse weather conditions, snow, ice, rain and storms and this walk unfortunately was no exception.

Most of our party of eleven decided to take advantage of cheap train travel using a West Yorkshire Day Rover ticket which allowed us to travel to Hebden Bridge and back for just £6.50 per person. A cheap way to get out and about.

After meeting the rest of our party we proceeded to a canal side cafe at Hebble End for a coffee before commencing our walk.

Commencing our walk in heavy rain we crossed the Rochdale Canal and started a very steep initial ascent out of Hebden Bridge through the very aptly named Crow’s Nest Wood which made for a very tough first mile.

Here we ascended to a path known locally as Pinnacle Lane which morphed from a footpath into a walled lane and offered at least some shelter from both the heavy rain and gale force winds which we were now encountering.

We continued along this path with some degree of difficulty in the prevailing conditions, particularly where we encountered a burst water main, which flooded the track.

Pinnacle Lane ended at a junction of paths which in the conditions seemed to be quite aptly named, Lower Rough Head, here we joined the Pennine Bridleway before we did our final climb to the monument which stands majestically at the highest point above the Calder Valley.

By now the conditions were deteriorating quickly, our party of eleven were wet and finding the conditions difficult, we therefore decided that would be simply too dangerous to go to the very top of the hill to where Stoodley Pike is situated, we could however continue along the Pennine Bridleway which walked the lower perimeter of this hill and linked to where we had originally intended to descend to once we had visited the monument. This sounded like as sensible plan.

Walking along the Pennine Bridleway was still not easy in the wind and the rain, conditions were deteriorating and for about 0.5 mile we seemed to be walking along a river bed as the path had flooded and we were in water almost to ankle deep.

We descended from the moor into the village of Mankinholes, whilst it was still raining we were sheltered from the wind, this at least did give us some relief.

From here as leader, I was thinking of the best possible route to get our party back quickly and safely. I seriously considered changing our route and walking into Todmorden, which was nearer, to catch the train home, however as our two newcomers, Lorna Mee and Alex Roles had driven to Hebden Bridge, I didn’t think it was fair to ask them to pay an additional train fare. Events were unfolding which we were unaware of which made this decision a good one!  

As we left the village we opted to change the route slightly and walk down a road which cuts through Shaw Wood to meet with the Rochdale Canal towpath near Lobb Mill to walk back to Hebden Bridge, it was quite impressive seeing the sheer volume of water coming down outlets, streams and waterfalls as we descended.

Once on the canal bank the seriousness of the situation started to become clear to us, we were walking the towpath which was between the River Calder on one side and the Rochdale Canal on the other. It soon became apparent that the River Calder was close to bursting its banks and the water was moving at a phenomenal speed, indeed we witnessed a couple of areas where the river had burst out, we were warned by a couple of local residents to get off the towpath quickly too.

As a further complication there are several overflow drains along the towpath where the canal drains into the river, these are crossed by a single plank bridge, several of these bridges had become submerged under water as had paths below bridges leading to some very challenging and uneasy crossing points being tackled by our party.

It is of great pride to us that all of our regular walkers know that DVWG is unlike many other walking groups, where our walkers will help and support each other in times of adversity and difficulty. At one of the bridge crossings this was certainly a team effort, where the bridge ended the next step was into deep water it was therefore necessary to climb onto the adjacent banking to safety, this resulted in Peter Bentley and David Kirk physically pulling our party one by one from the end of the bridge.

Our party were tired, wet and hungry as we had not been able to schedule our usual lunch stop due to the conditions, therefore a quick late lunch was taken under a bridge on the canal bank which provided shelter. Upon reaching the outskirts of Hebden Bridge we stopped for some liquid refreshment at a pub called Stubbings Wharf.

Whilst having a drink and re-counting the day’s adventures we were made aware by pub’s staff that trains from Hebden Bridge had been cancelled due to flooding, we now needed to consider our options to get home, another drink needed to consider our options.

We walked back into Hebden Bridge and saw the Environment Agency opening lock gates to relieve the pressure on the Rochdale Canal and saw evidence of local home owners and businesses sandbagging to prevent flood damage, the village was obviously nervous and on a state of high alert.

To our joy we found that trains were terminating at Hebden Bridge and returning to Leeds due to the line to Todmorden being flooded, a good decision being made not to go to Todmorden earlier in the day, we left shortly before the flood warning sounded.

Our journey home was a lively one, with us all enthusiastically discussing the days adventures and indeed dangers, we all agreed that we should return in the height of summer to truly appreciate this stunning walk and the beautiful town of Hebden Bridge.

Well done to our party of eleven who took part in this 6.8 miles walk, dubbed marine commandos by Russell Yapp, one of our party. This walk will live long in the memory for the adventure and indeed the danger.

Well done to David Kirk who clocked up 200 miles season to date on this walk, a big hello and welcome goes out to Lorna Mee and Alex Roles who joined us for the first time today, who dubbed the walk, “an experience they will never forget”.