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Hardcastle Crags and Hebden Water

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Hardcastle Crags and Hebden Water
Author: clairesharpuk, Published: 29 Jun 2015 Walk rating : Rating:star1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
West Yorkshire, Hebden Bridge
Walk Type: Woodland
Hardcastle Crags and Hebden Water
Length: 3 miles,  Difficulty: boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
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A 3 mile circular walk around the wooded Pennine valley of Hardcastle Crags, near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. Owned by the National Trust the valley comprises a beautiful shallow river, Hebden Water with steep wooded valley sides and you will have chance to discover lots of wildlife plus some industrial archaeology along the way. If you have children with you, you may wish to bring along crayons and paper as there are several engraved markers around the site, showing the various leaves and seeds in the woodland.

The walk follows a mixture of dirt and rocky paths, which can be muddy in part and can also be very slippery when wet. There are no gates or stiles on route but you will need to negotiate several flights of steps and some uneven climbs through sections of rocks. The outward leg largely follows the riverside path whilst the return journey climbs steeply up to the valley top ridge which has steep drops down to the side. If you would rather avoid this part, you can choose to return via the valley’s quiet vehicle track or back along the riverside path, the way you came. Dogs are welcome in the site. There are picnic tables in several places along the route and there are public toilets at the start and about half way round. Approximate time 1.5 hours.

Hardcastle Crags is located about 2 miles north of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. The walk starts and finishes from the Midgehole Car Park on Midgehole Road which is marked with brown tourism signs from the A6033. The car park is free to National Trust members or £3.50 buys you a whole day on weekdays or 3 hours on weekends and Bank Holidays (correct Jun 2015). Park in the first car park you come to (opposite The Lodge) or, if this is full, continue to the alternative car parks and then return to the first car park to begin the walk. Approximate post code HX7 7AA.

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Walk Sections

Start to Stepping Stones
Start to Stepping Stones

Start point: 53.7586 lat, -2.0188 long
End point: 53.7597 lat, -2.0347 long

Standing in the first car park with the access road and The Lodge across to your left, walk ahead up the pedestrian stone slope and fork left (signed to the Information Point). On the left you will notice some paint flashes on a large oak tree: red, yellow and white. These are used as waymarks in the woodland and this route will be following the red trail. Follow the path between woven fences, cross over the access road and go directly ahead to join the stone path leading you downhill (signed for the Mill Walk and Picnic Area).

At the bottom of the slope you will come to a T-junction. Turn right along the riverside path, with the river (Hebden Water) running down to the left. The path climbs alongside the river becoming a rocky stepped surface (take care as it can be slippery). At the junction, turn left down the flight of rocky steps (with a wooden handrail) to continue directly alongside the river.

In the 1800s and early 1900s this valley would have been a hive of industrial activity as Hebden Water drove many cotton mills located here. Today, the only trace of this industry are the stone weirs in the river, a few buildings and the flagstone packhorse trails on the riverside and valley banks which you will encounter on your journey.

Continue on the path over a boardwalk, up a flight of wooden steps, down a rocky slope and on through a level section of trees. The path continues over a very rocky section, up another flight of wooden steps and winding along a long section of paved packhorse trail to reach a T-junction. Turn left, down the slope and you will come to the riverside, alongside a set of stepping stones.

Stepping Stones to Gibson Mill
Stepping Stones to Gibson Mill

Start point: 53.7597 lat, -2.0347 long
End point: 53.7648 lat, -2.042 long

You do NOT need to cross these stepping stones to continue your route, but they are very beautiful so take time to explore them should you wish.

When you have finished at the stepping stones, stay on the same side of the river and continue on the woodland path with the river still on your left. Stay on the path nearest to the river which winds along and undulates, with the rocky slopes contrasting starkly with the flatter paths through the trees.

Hebden Water is a draw for many birds so keep your eyes peeled. We were lucky enough to spot a grey heron fishing for his brunch and a dipper (a small black bird with a white bib) resting on a rock.

The path leads you past (but NOT over) another two sets of stepping stones and you will emerge to Gibson Mill. The 19th century cotton-spinning and weaving mill has been converted to a cafe and visitor centre (open weekends only in the winter months and closed Mon and Fri all year) which is cut off from the National Grid and generates all its own power though solar panels and water turbines. It acts as a centre to champion sustainable technology and also houses exhibitions about the mill’s history. There are also public toilets here (just over the river bridge).

Gibson Mill to Vehicle Track Fork
Gibson Mill to Vehicle Track Fork

Start point: 53.7648 lat, -2.042 long
End point: 53.7606 lat, -2.0334 long

The next section of the route involves a very steep climb up the valley sides. If you would rather avoid this you could either retrace your steps back along the riverside path or follow the vehicle track (signed to the car park) which will lead you all the way back to the start point from here.

For the full route, turn sharp right onto the vehicle track (signed to the car park). After just 100m (at the top of the first slope), fork left up the steps to join the woodland path signed as the Mill Walk. Follow the path climbing steeply up the uneven rocky steps, taking care as this can be slippery at times.

As you walk, look closely at the rocks and you may notice many large ants scurrying around. Hardcastle Crags is well known as the home of the northern hairy wood ant which lives in huge anthills with nests as large as six feet tall. Experts believe that they could be 400 ant nests on the hillside and with an average of half a million inhabitants in each nest that would give a total population of 200 million ants. It is hard to spot the hairy bits of the ants with the naked eye, but under a microscope the ants have hairy eyebrows, a feature which distinguishes them from their southern wood ant cousins. The ants are highly defensive and their primary weapon is pungent formic acid which they use to repel attackers.

As you near the top, take particular care as the drops down to the right are very steep. At the top of the climb, stay with the path along the top ridge, enjoying the beauty of the woodland slope down to the right. Ignore the stile on the left, simply keep ahead along the ridge top path. Further along, the path leads you steadily downhill and draws alongside the main stone vehicle track.

Vehicle Track Fork to End
Vehicle Track Fork to End

Start point: 53.7606 lat, -2.0334 long
End point: 53.7588 lat, -2.0193 long

Do NOT join this, instead fork left to continue on your woodland journey. The path climbs steadily to reach a waymarker post. Turn left here and continue climbing more steeply up the valley side.

The woodland slopes are a rich wildlife habitat. In spring the woodland floor is awash with bluebells and wild garlic, whilst in autumn the trees create a spectacle of vibrant reds and oranges. Look out for deer within the woodland as well as an array of woodland birds such as woodpeckers, jays, wrens and goldcrests.

The path swings right and continues undulating through the woodland banks. At the T-junction keep left, climbing for a short distance and then swinging right. As you approach the stone wall ahead, turn right to join the old flagstone packhorse trail, from which you will have fabulous views to the other side of the valley.

Continue down the packhorse trail (taking care as it can be slippery). As you emerge from the trees, the path continues between stone walls with rocky sheep pastures each side. At the next junction fork right, down a short slope, and then turn left on the path down into the upper car park. Pass through this car park to reach the tarmac access lane and turn right along this (heading downhill). After just 50m, turn left down the wooden steps which lead you back to the car park alongside The Lodge where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2015 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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10 images to "Hardcastle Crags and Hebden Water"

4689_0Richard1435604350 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
There are several sets of stepping stones. These were shaped to help the flow of the water maybe?
4689_1Richard1435604350 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
There are only a few places on the homeward leg of the walk where you get great views.. but it's worth looking out for them.
4689_2Richard1435604350 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
Many of the stones along the packhorse trail looked to be worn from so many travellers over the years.
4689_0Richard1435604819 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
We saw this wonderful heron on our walk in late June 2015.
4689_0Richard1435605154 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
Bobbie, Claire & Richard - June 2015
4689_0bbeccabbecca19901472486025 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: bbeccabbecca1990
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
20A1A8A3-CD36-48FA-9673-841392940759.JPG
4689_0bbeccabbecca19901472486035-1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: bbeccabbecca1990
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
3DD5BBD2-5B4D-4CD9-8506-9E1900AA0DA6.JPG
4689_0bbeccabbecca19901472486044-1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: bbeccabbecca1990
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
88CE98FA-84A5-45A6-9B30-CD559BA688AC.JPG
4689_0bbeccabbecca19901472486054-1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: bbeccabbecca1990
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
8C3B5781-7F3E-46B8-9751-CFAE1B065631.JPG
4689_0bbeccabbecca19901472486065-1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: bbeccabbecca1990
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
E84D200D-92EA-4561-AAB4-AD1FFCFEC23B.JPG

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