7th May 2010 – Bleak Hey Nook to Hebden Bridge – 16.4 miles
“I could not doubt that this was the Miss Stapleton of whom I had been told, since ladies of any sort must be few upon the moor, and I remembered that I had heard someone describe her as being a beauty.”
Dr. Watson – Hound of the Baskervilles
I had been hoping for a slightly easier day today. Yesterday was quite tough, albeit shorter than Day 1, but there were lots of steep little pulls to remind you that you were walking one of the toughest paths in the UK. As a result my feet and calves were tired this morning.
Day 3 involves about 16 miles, but once you make the initial short climb onto Millstone Edge it should be fairly easy going for most of the rest of the way. And so it would have been if it hasn’t been for the wind. The sun was out and the sky was mainly blue with some fluffy high clouds and it would have been perfect walking conditions if it hadn’t been for the wind.
Coming from the north east it was almost directly in my face all day and it was strong and very cold. Strong enough to make walking quite difficult at times and cold enough to have me wearing hat and gloves all day.
Even this was not enough to ruin a great days walking though, it just made it slightly longer and much harder than it should have been. I had views today! The Trailblazer guide is rather disparaging about the scenery today and to some extent it’s right, there is an abundance of reservoirs, electricity pylons, wind turbines and well laid access roads. But when you’ve been staring at 10 yards of heather either side of a flag stone path for the better part of two days you’ll take what you can get!
Anyway I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Wellcroft House is excellent. From the initial welcome, to the comfortable and clean room, the lovely breakfast and the price – I was totally sold on the place. If I ever get a chance to walk through that area again it would be top of my list.
I breakfasted alone, the four guys were having a later start, but I wanted to be away by 08:30 if I could, to allow for a more relaxing walk.
I walked out into the bitter cold wind at 08:25 and found the quickest way back onto the Way, joining it just before the trig point on Millstone Edge. This is where the full brunt of the wind hit me and I donned hat and gloves and pulled my hood tight over the top. I considered using my waterproof troos at that point too, the wind was cutting through my trousers, but I actually preferred the cold to having sweaty legs all day.
Today’s walk is punctuated by road crossings and trig points – four of both – with a huge monolith of a monument, at Stoodley Pike, to close off proceedings just before your arrival in Hebden Bridge.
The path is well defined along Millstone Edge, down to the first road crossing up to White Hill and then down again to the second road crossing at the A672. There was a tea van here, which was unexpected and it was very popular with several cars clustered around it, a huge farm tractor and a couple of artic lorries too. Unfortunately there was nowhere to sit out of the biting wind, so I ignored the temptations and pushed on to the M62 crossing.
The Trailblazer guide says you can hear the motorway long before you arrive at it, but all I could hear was the flapping of my hood in the howling wind. So the sudden appearance of hundreds of racing vehicles dozens of feet below me was a surprise. The footbridge is superb. A long graceful arc of concrete across the rushing traffic. The displacement of walker and driver is intense, moreso in my opinion than th C2C footbridge over the M6 at Shap. You look down from a great height at the cars with the rugged path clear behind and ahead.
The third trig pillar, at Blackstone Edge is located high on a gritstone outcrop – a truly wild spot with the wind threatening to carry me off the top as I captured the requisite photos for a pillar new to me.
There was a brief flurry of hail stones for a few minutes as I dropped down to the White House pub, which was shut – I was too early. I got some respite from the driving wind as the Way turned alongside Blackstone Reservoir and the surrounding wall sheltered me, for a few minutes at least. I took a small diversion to bag a trig point (not a pillar) at Light Hazzles Edge where I met an old guy gamely trying to cycle into the manic headwind. I’d actually caught him on his bike but when he got off and pushed it he fell behind.
I really enjoyed the respite from yesterdays ups and downs and the level path beside the reservoirs made for easy navigation and even easier waking.
Stoodley Pike, still a couple of miles distant, came into view as I left the path beside Warland Drain.
Leaving so early I’d not seen another Pennine Walker all day, indeed I’d only met a couple of rough looking young lads with a savage looking pit-bull, obviously on the lookout for a fell-top dog fight. I gave the salivating brute a wide berth and avoided the dog too 😉
I took my lunch break beside Warland Reservoir – it had a wall which acted as a perfect wind break – even when I was standing, the wind was driven up and over my head. I could raise my hand over my head a feel the force of the wind blowing against it, but I was completely sheltered. I thought this would be the last shelter I was likely to find before reaching Stoodley Pike, so sat down with my back to the wall and took off all my layers and enjoyed the quiet.
Nigel, the solo walker from Old House, passed me as I took my lunch break – I’ve never seen a long distance walker in jeans before, but that’s what he was wearing – they obviously work for him. We had a short chat and he’s staying at Badger Field Farm tonight, which is high on the hill, the other side of HB, so he’s got a tough little end to the day.
With his head-start he was about 1/2 a mile ahead when I started walking again and I used him as a target all the way to Stoodley Pike. He seems to walk at a similar pace to me as I only caught him as we arrived at the monument. I took the obligatory tour of the viewing platform, risking life and limb on the pitch black, uneven, spiral staircase to be rewarded with a view little better than that available at ground level. The additional 30 feet of elevation did add considerably to the wind speed though and it howled around the platform, driving me back down after a single circuit. I carried my headtorch 270 miles and this was the only time I used it!
Stoodley Pike could easily be a monument to Manchester City – it would be no less than we deserve – much of the graffiti around the base and upper platform is Man City related; whether it be the team name or the name of past legends like Bell and Lee. There’s 200 years of scribblings and scrawlings in and around the tower, so it doesn’t seem all that incongruous really.
I took an unconventional route into Hebden Bridge, avoiding the huge dog-leg left and then right along the canal in favour of a steep descent past Horsehold Farm. This brought me into the centre of the village, just next to the pubs and cafes I’d been longing for for 6 hours! I was way too early for the B&B, but then I’d been expecting that, hence the short-cut.
I found a warm spot in a quiet pub and had a cold drink then wandered round the modernised pedestrian precinct before stopping at the Co-op to stock up on water and lunch for tomorrow, arriving at the B&B at 16:00 exactly.
I’m now in the very busy and noisy pub across the road, the Stubbing Wharf with a pint of Copper Dragon half in and half out of me and very nice it is too. Food is now being served , so you’ll excuse me while I replenish some calories and stock up on some carbs for tomorrow.