This was the third day of mine on the Pennine Way, and the first time I have done over 25 miles in one day. Even more impressive was the fact it was an extremely hot day; indeed, when I did get to my B&B at Ponden, by 7pm or so, it did feel rather extreme. Which, of course, is just another way of saying I achieved things that day.
The hike started at Standedge Cutting, but it took just a few minutes off the main road to find myself in the quiet. As you can see on the map above, this part of the Pennine Way takes one between the city of Manchester (south-west of here) and Bradford (north-east), and it is something of a miracle how quiet it is here when one things of how massive the two cities are. The first stretch, about 4 miles, takes one in generally north-bound direction towards the massive M62, where a special overpass has been built specifically for the purposes of the Pennine Way walkers to get to the other side.
The sound of the very busy road stays with one, unfortunately, for at least 1 mile until one finds themselves on the other side of the hill the path in the image below leads to. Once on the other side, things quieten down, thankfully.
The path leads over to Blackstone Edge (473m) with views on Green Withens Reservoir to the east on the way. From Blackstone Edge, there are wonderful, uninterrupted views towards Manchester. There is something peaceful in looking at a city, which will be noisy and bustling, from a distant, windswept and calm place.
After another 3-4 miles, one reaches Halifax Road. The weather by now was truly scorching – consider that there are no trees anywhere, gracing one with those fantastic British views, but where it’s 27C or more, you really do need your hat and plenty of water! The world looked very dry around.
Past Halifax Road, a wide – and very flat – dirt road leads the walker past a few reservoirs. One of them, Warland Reservoir, at least the way it looked then, would make for a good dystopian film – after a few weeks’ of high temperatures and no rain (very unusual for England!) – there was very little water left in the reservoirs. Despite the very hot weather, this was actually quite chilling a reminder of how very much at the mercy of nature humans truly are.
When one finally leaves the flat and desolate areas of the reservoirs, 3 miles later, Stoodley Pike comes into view. Erected in 1856 to mark the end of the Crimean War, this obelisk sits on top of this (below) 396m hill and is a very striking sight to behold. It is a landmark seen from miles away wherever in the area you are. From the hill’s top, one is greeted by fantastic views of Hebden Bridge in the valley just below, Todmorden and Calder Valley. I stopped there to admire the views all around before heading down for a well-deserved lunch at a pub in nearby Hebden Bridge.
I stopped there to admire the views all around before heading down for a well-deserved lunch at a pub in nearby Hebden Bridge.
Refreshed, with plenty of new (and cold!) water accompanying, I started a very steep hike up the other (northern) side of the valley, leaving Hebden Bridge, stopping now and then to take in the astonishing views towards Stoodley Pike; I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something almost quintessentially English about the view in the image below.
Rather relieved that after the very steep ascent, the path evened out and became gentler for a while. I was now surrounded by fields full of sheep, typically rural area.
This quickly changes into moorland when the path turns in north-westernly direction and follows a slow descent towards Lower Gorpie Reservoir (this could be called a reservoir day as you can see!)
Passing by the reservoir resulted in being exposed to astonishing number of flies for a while. Now, suddenly, almost without warning, the environment changes into green area, full of bushes. I absolutely love the way the surroundings change on these hikes – from rocky, almost alien area to moorland to wooded, lush ones.
Shortly after the area pictured above, the route reaches Widdop Road for about 5 minutes and then takes one right (or north-east) towards yet another set of reservoirs. I was able to pick up the pace a little bit as a part of it was on a road, but soon enough I was passing Walshaw Dean Reservoirs, pictured in the next two photos. The views were quite beautiful; I don’t think the images do them justice.
It was already 6pm by now, and I was getting rather tired. Nonetheless, one presses on! The trail now ascends following a narrow path through moorland towards an old farmhouse, Top Withens, which is reputed to have been Emily Brontë’s inspiration for the location of the Earnshaw house in Wuthering Heights.
Top Withens is located in a fabulously remote moorland area, overlooking the entire area from above. Even nowadays, it is little wonder, one thinks, that Emily Brontë would have thought it fitting to include in her haunting novel. The place is quiet, mysterious and atmospheric.
As remote as the place feels, however, it is actually only 2 miles from here to Ponden Reservoir where my destination that day was. The last photo was taken just before the last steep descent towards to Reservoir – in the distance one can see the village of Stanbury here.
I arrived at my B&B very tired (over 25 miles in 27C degrees+ is no easy thing to do!), but very proud of what I have achieved. It was, however, a lovely thing to do to soak in a bath and sit down at a table drinking orange juice!
All images from this trip can be seen in the video below: