South Pennines walk - Littleborough
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 October 2018
A grand upland walk without too much effort
Man has not always dealt kindly with the moors and hills of the South Pennines, sandwiched between the industrial sprawl of West Yorkshire and East Lancashire. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution enterprising mill owners harnessed the power of the fast-flowing upland streams to power their clattering looms while a later generation turned the lower rivers into open sewers with their industrial waste. Turnpike roads, railways and canals were shoehorned into the narrow, steep-sides valleys or driven through tunnels carved through the guts of the hills. Denied the national park status and protection given to their northern neighbours in the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District to the south, they have long since been criss-crossed with power lines strung from huge pylons and the building work goes on to this day as more and more hills sprout unsightly clumps of wind turbines.
Yet, despite these intrusions, the overall feel of this walk remains one of huge skyscapes and vast open spaces both of moorland and water as it takes in no fewer than five reservoirs along the way (six if you count the second visit to Blackstone Edge) but the price for such broad vistas is that often the horizon is adorned with either columns of pylons marching across the heather or windfarms in almost every direction.
The reservoirs themselves are, of course, also man-made but are less clumsy and intrusive additions to the landscape. Most were created originally to impound water to top up the nearby Rochdale Canal but later were converted to drinking water storage for the surrounding towns when the coming of the railways reduced traffic on the waterways and signalled the start of their long decline until they were reborn in recent decades as visitor attractions. Nevertheless this makes a grand upland walk which takes you across the top of the moors without imposing any demands for serious effort. Because the starting point is already at 1,275ft (390m) what little climbing there is on the circuit is almost imperceptible and the miles pass remarkably easily.
1. From the car park by the White House pub walk east along the A58 and across the dam of Blackstone Edge Reservoir. At the far side turn left into Turvin Road, signed to Mytholmroyd. Shortly after passing a battered and weather beaten Welcome to Calderdale sign look out for a gate on the left signposted to White Holme Reservoir. Go through this and follow the access road.
2. At the reservoir turn right along its edge on a broad vehicle track and follow this over a bridge at a sluice and carry on to a broad feeder stream where the track swings right to follow the watercourse. Carry on through a gate onto a now much narrower path continuing in the same general direction through the heather. It carries on almost right across the moor until as it nears the northern rim the squat obelisk of Stoodley Pike appears on a distant ridge. The 121ft (37m) monument is the most prominent landmark in this part of the world, dominating the Upper Calder Valley. It was originally built to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 but collapsed forty years later and had to be replaced by the present tower. Even at this distance it is an impressive sight, like a rocket parked on the horizon.
3. This is the cue for the path to swing leftwards along the moor’s edge, giving views down to Withens Clough Reservoir in the valley below, a sheet of water whose popular sandy bank is sometimes jokingly said to have the highest beach in England. The views along this section, which passes a small ruined cabin to reach a concrete pipeline, improve with almost every step until it reaches a flagged path crossing the moor.
4. This is part of the route of the Pennine Way, which will be followed leftwards all the way back to the car park, except for one brief diversion. The next reservoir, Warland, has been undergoing maintenance work this summer so the Pennine Way, which normally follows the top of the dam, has been diverted down a flight of temporary metal steps. So, until work is completed, go down these and at the foot of the steps go forward for a few yards and then take a small wooden stile over a fence on the left and follow a rough, narrow path around the edge of the construction site to rejoin the access road at the dam between Warley and Light Hazzles reservoirs. Once back on the main access road it is followed past Blackstone Edge Reservoir to the car park.
Start/finish: White House pub on A58 between Ripponden and Littleborough
Distance: 8 miles/13km
Terrain: Rough roads, moorland paths and flagged causeys
Time: 4 hours
Parking: Car park west of the pub
Refreshment: Pub at start/finish
Map: OS OL21 South Pennines