Pennine Way 2007

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 3 - Diggle to Cowling

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Day 3 - Wednesday 6th June - 12.4 miles on Pennine Way + 1.5 miles from Diggle + 1 mile to Mankinholes
1,000 ft ascent + 600 ft from Diggle

Diggle to Mankinholes via Stoodley Pike - GPS 15.9 miles

The weather forecast was for an east-west divide in the weather at the start of the day, with sunshine in the west and a band of cloud covering the east, gradually clearing through the day. I woke with sun streaming through my window but looking up to the hills I could see the band of cloud hanging over there. I had a good breakfast at 8.00 and set off at 9.00 wearing my walking clothes that were still a bit damp from last night’s wash, but they would soon dry out once I got walking. The shortcut soon took me back to the pub, but I missed my turning for the Oldham Way and went up the road for a little way before realising and turned back. The cloud had already lifted from the hills and it was a lovely sunny morning as I made my way back up to rejoin the Pennine Way. Despite the sunshine, though, it was quite chilly due to the strong NE wind that was meeting me head on, so there was no chance that I was going to work up a sweat. It should have been about a mile and a quarter to the top, but I did a little more by missing my way near the start.

There were some fine views back down to Diggle, as was the case last night, and I then crossed the main road to pick up the Pennine Way. I could have cut a corner off by taking a bit of the Pennine Bridleway, but that wasn’t shown on my guidebook, which was published before the Pennine Bridleway came into existence. The views from Standedge were splendid, and it was good to be walking on a natural footpath for a while. Although there is still a lot of peat around here, it has eroded near the edge to leave a bed of gritstone, which makes a good footpath. I saw a couple of well bronzed walkers with large packs coming towards me, so I assumed that they had been walking the Pennine Way north to south, though I didn’t stop to chat.

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View back to Diggle from Standedge
Diggle from Standedge
Diggle and Harrop Edge from Standedge
Diggle and Harrop Edge
Castleshaw Reservoirs from Standedge
Castleshaw Reservoirs

The walk along the edge was marvellous, giving a gradually changing view on the reservoirs below, until the point came to turn away, leaving the Oldham Way to continue along the edge, with the Pennine Way veering NE over Marsden Moor. The wind, which had been sideways on for a while, was now back straight into my face as I headed across a totally different landscape of wild, rolling, grassy moorland with little else in sight. The pathway had been made up of hardcore and chippings, and was little better for the feet than flagstones. I tried walking over the grass for a while, but it was not very easy without a trodden path, so I reverted to the footpath. For a brief while, the mast on Windy Hill came into sight until I went down a dip. As I made my way up the gentle ascent of White Hill, there was a view of Readycon Dean Reservoir, and further up, by the trig point, where I stopped for a rest and a drink, much wider views opened up of the hills to the west. The arrays of pylons and masts was evidence of the large urban area beyond, but not much of this could be seen because of the distant haze, though on a clear day I suspect that the whole of Manchester can be seen from here.

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Windy Hill Mast and Truck Stop looking towards Blackstone Edge
Windy Hill Mast
Pennine Way Crossing over M62 Motorway
Crossing over M62

It was not far then to the Windy Hill Mast, which loomed large ahead, then past the lay-by offering snacks to passing truckers and motorists, and on to the Pennine Way footbridge over the M62 motorway. Of all the bridges over the M62, I always think this one is the most aesthetically pleasing with its graceful curves, even if it is cast in concrete. As usual, the motorway was busy as I crossed over, being treated to an even chillier wind as I did so. As I reached the other side, there was a sudden blast of heat as I was briefly sheltered in a hollow and the sunshine was being reflected up from the light sandstone path. A steady ascent leads up to Blackstone Edge, with views to the east of Green Withens Reservoir along the way. Near the trig point on Blackstone Edge are a number of large gritstone rocks sculpted by the weather into various shapes, some resembling faces from certain angles. This made an ideal place to stop for lunch, as I could find shelter from the wind beneath the rocks and enjoy the lovely views down into the valley around Littleborough below. Various stretches of water could be seen, with Hollingworth Lake to the south and Higher Chelburn Reservoir further north.

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Strange Rock Shapes on Blackstone Edge
Strange Rocks on Blackstone Edge
Higher Chelburn Reservoir from Cow Head
Higher Chelburn Reservoir

When I returned to the ridge from my sheltered position, I was soon reminded of the chilling wind that I had escaped for a while. The route then drops down towards the Aiggin Stone, a small standing stone, leaving Blackstone Edge behind. An old Roman Road, once known as Dhoul’s Pavement, leads down the hillside for a way before meeting a track by a drainage channel that follows a contour round the hillside to the A58 road and the White House Inn. They seemed to have been doing quite a good trade for lunch as I went past, and I might have been tempted in for refreshment had the weather been warmer, but as it was I continued on by.

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Strange Rock Shapes on Utley Edge
Rock Shapes on Utley Edge
More Strange Rock Shapes on Utley Edge
More Rocks on Utley Edge
Warland Reservoir
Warland Reservoir

A section of reservoir walking starts from here, first with the Blackstone Edge Reservoir, then Light Hazzels Reservoir and Warland Reservoir. These are all moorland reservoirs with only gentle slopes surrounding them and, on a dull day, the scenery can look very depressing with everything including the water looking black or grey, but today was a different matter. In the bright sunshine it all looked lovely with bright blue waters and views of the hills across the valley near Todmorden towards Heptonstall Moor. This long, level trek could be quite tedious but, with good views along the way and easy walking, the miles soon melted away. I stopped for another break by the start of Warland Reservoir. The wind was not quite as cold now in the middle of the afternoon, and I had had some shelter from it along the way, but as I set off again along the side of the reservoir, I got the full force of the wind from across the open moor. After a few hundred yards of open railings, there was a wall, and I suddenly felt pleasantly warm as the wind was deflected upwards and over the top of my head leaving just a gentle breeze and the warmth of the sunshine.

By the end of the reservoir, the route heads away from the edge and over open moorland with less of a view, but now a beacon in the form of Stoodley Pike is there to beckon walkers onwards. It stands majestically overlooking the steep edge of Calderdale, still about two miles distant, but gradually getting larger and larger as I made my way onwards. About half way there, the view into Calderdale opened up, with Mankinholes just below - my destination for the night. It was now a much more interesting walk following along the edge of Calderdale with views down into the steep sided valley and across to the surrounding hills. I finally reached the monument and climbed the spiral staircase inside up to the viewing platform. I did have a torch in my rucksack, which would have been useful, as halfway up the staircase is in total darkness, but instead I managed by feeling my way along until I started to get a faint glimmer of light from above. The views all around were very good, but the cool breeze soon persuaded me to return back down to find a sheltered spot near the base for a rest. A number of footpaths lead down the steep hillside, and I took one of these to join a track below to Mankinholes and the Youth Hostel, which I reached at 17.30.

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Monument on Stoodley Pike built in 1856 to mark the end of the Crimean War
Monument on Stoodley Pike
Lambutts Water Wheel Tower
Lambutts Water Wheel Tower

The very pleasant and helpful young lady warden said that I was one of a dying breed of Pennine Way walkers, which confirmed what I had already started to suspect. The hostel was very quiet and I had a dormitory to myself, unlike on my first walk of the Pennine Way in 1991 when it was packed solid, though not all with Pennine Way walkers. This is now only a self catering hostel, but the Top Brink pub is not far away so, after a shower I walked down there, first taking a closer look at Lambutts Water Wheel Tower just below. The water wheel itself is no longer in evidence, but the tower is huge, so the wheel must have made an impressive sight. Down by the pub it was quite sheltered from the wind, so I was able to sit outside to have my beef and Guinness casserole with a pint of Landlord. It was quite surprising how busy the pub was for a Wednesday evening, but on a fine summer’s evening it makes a good place for a drive for people who live in the surrounding area. I tried a pint of Castle Eden for a change and found it tasted very strange. It was not off, but had a rather watery taste that was slightly sweet and nutty. I didn’t like it at all, but then realised that it was probably their mild, not their bitter. I can enjoy some milds, but this one I didn’t get along with at all and it was a struggle to finish it, so I decided to return to the hostel for an early night.

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Day 4 - Thursday 7th June - 18 miles on Pennine Way + 1 mile from Mankinholes
2,750 ft ascent + 250 ft from Mankinholes

Mankinholes to Cowling - GPS 20.4 miles

I woke after a rather disturbed night’s sleep caused by a muscle I had pulled in my back. It was a struggle to get my things together as it was painful bending down and not helped by the low level of the bottom bunk. Down in the hostel kitchen there were a few items of spare food going free, so I bought some slices of bread, marmalade, Weetabix and a tin of tuna and used the spare margarine and milk. This enabled me to have a breakfast of Weetabix plus toast and marmalade, and to make tuna sandwiches for lunch – I still had some malt loaf and Kit-Kats that I had brought from home to supplement the sandwiches. Using some of the hostel sugar, I also mixed up some more of my Kool-Aid drink. Even with quite a bit of sugar, it still has a rather bitter taste, but then I added only a fraction of the sugar that was recommended.

I managed to get off by 8.55, watching the other hostellers setting off in their cars. Going back along the route I came down by yesterday, I could see Stoodley Pike looming up ahead on top of the ridge. The track is part of the Pennine Bridleway, and I followed this past Stoodley Pike to where it crossed the Pennine Way, which I rejoined to drop down through Collis Wood to the main A464 road. The weather was cool with dark cloud just clear of the hilltops, but there were a few bright patches around so I could but hope. There was not much wind this morning, so it didn’t feel any cooler than yesterday in the sunshine. There was not a great deal of interest down through the wood, but I crossed over the canal, then the road and up through a railway arch to join the steep path up the opposite hillside, which was the first steep climb that I had had for a while. This area consists of a number of steep sided valleys that have to be ascended and descended, which makes it a fairly strenuous day, even though no great height is achieved. High Underbank sits up the steep hillside, with very steep, narrow roads giving access to the houses, the residents of which must have a few problems getting to work at times in winter.

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Path up steep hillside to High Underbank
Path to High Underbank
Packhorse Bridge at Colden Clough
Packhorse Bridge at Colden Clough

Up the hillside, Stoodley Pike was again in view looking back towards it across the rather industrialised valley. There came a point where there was a sign for either the Pennine Way or Wainwright’s detour, so I took the latter, past a tiny graveyard perched up the steep hillside. The route was then not very clear, so I just kept taking the steepest route up the hillside until I came to the road, where I discovered that I had come up the Pennine Bridleway about 300 yards west of the Pennine Way. After walking along the road to pick up the way again, I climbed up over the top of Pry Hill and began the descent to Colden Clough, down one of the narrowest paths imaginable, with the walls on either side extremely close together in places and also badly overgrown – it was obvious that they were very parsimonious with the land around here and didn’t intend to waste much on mere pedestrians.

At Colden Clough, a local beauty spot with an old stone packhorse bridge over the stream, I stopped for a break having walked about five miles. My breakfast of toast and cereal had not been very filling, so I ate some of my malt loaf to keep me going before setting off up the next steep hillside. I found a confusing number of footpaths, but I couldn’t see any of them that was waymarked for the Pennine Way. The path I ended up on was a very overgrown one by some houses, which then came to a road. My gut feeling was to take the path straight across the road, but I couldn’t see any indication of it being the Pennine Way, only a sign for the High Gate Farm Shop, which was a little way west of the route. I thought I must be in the wrong place, so turned right along the road hoping to find another path up the hillside, but there were none, as I had been right in the first instance. A minor road doubled back to return me to the route without having wasted too much time or effort, but it just showed that the waymarking around this area was not up to the same standard as I found for most of the way so far. The other thing that can cause confusion in these parts is the fact that the Pennine Bridleway runs very near to the Pennine Way, so care has to be taken not to mistake the two when looking at signposts, as they both have acorn symbols and can look very similar at a glance.

The route now headed up onto the open moors, which provided some fine moorland walking that was easy on the feet with hardly a flagstone in sight, apart from a few forming little footbridges over boggy streams. Although the moors are rather featureless, the views across to the NE of gentle hills and moors are never lost. Eventually Gorple Lower Reservoir came into sight, as did the Pack Horse Inn just off the Pennine Way. The track leading down to Gorple Cottages by the foot of the dam was rather stony, but it was possible to walk on verges for some of the way. A pleasant walk along by Graining Water leads back up to the road where I was treated to a patch of sunshine for a while. After a short walk along the road the next destination was the Walshaw Dean Reservoirs following the access road along with the Pennine Bridleway, again with the possibility of walking on verges for much of the way. By the dam of the Lower Reservoir, I found a change to the route from that in my guidebook, as the Pennine Way now crosses the dam to take a path along the SE side of the reservoir whilst the Pennine Bridleway keeps to the old Pennine Way route ahead, crossing the dam of the Middle Reservoir, where it meets up with the Pennine Way again.

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Bridges across Reaps Water and Graining Water
Reaps Water and Graining Water
Graining Water near Clough Foot
Graining Water near Clough Foot
Rhododendrons by Walshaw Dean Middle Reservoir
Walshaw Dean Middle Reservoir

This was a convenient place to stop for lunch, with a view across the reservoir and some shelter from the cool wind provided by the dam wall. At 2.10, I set off again past a fine show of rhododendrons by the edge of the reservoir, with about nine miles left to walk. Again, the Pennine Way and Pennine Bridleway have been separated, with the Pennine Way taking a track slightly closer to the reservoir for a while before the two join forces again. As well as the rhododendrons on this side of the reservoir, there was also a fine show across the water on the opposite bank. After about half a mile, the route departs from the reservoir to make its way over the Bronte moors on yet another line of flagstones. Bleak moors lie ahead and on both sides, but the reservoirs still provide an interesting view when looking backwards until the profile of the hill cuts off the view.

Over the top of the hill, Top Withens came into view, considerably restored from the ruins that I remember from previous times. This didn’t surprise me, as it attracts a large number of tourists, especially the Japanese who seem to have a great fascination with the Brontes. The weather was still overcast and rather dreary, but then this place is meant to be seen in bad weather, preferably with mists swirling around. The Bronte Society has had to put up a plaque on the ruins to dispel any notions that this was Wuthering Heights. It reads:

Top Withens

This Farmhouse Has Been Associated With
“Wuthering Heights”,
The Earnshaw Home In Emily Bronte’s
The Building, Even When Complete, Bore
No Resemblance To The House She
Described, But The Situation May Have Been In Her
Mind When She Wrote Of The Moorland
Setting Of The Heights.
Bronte Society This Plaque Has Been Placed Here
1964 In Response To Many Inquiries.

Passing various signs in Japanese and English for the Bronte Way and other points of interest, I headed down towards Ponden Reservoir, for a while on a flagstone dual carriageway, presumably as a single track path is not enough to cope with the hoards of tourists, or maybe it was just to carry 4 x 4 vehicles up there. Views of the reservoir and the moors beyond opened up – a little dreary now in the dull weather, but lovely on a sunny day. Walking past Ponden Reservoir, I heard the screams of a group of schoolchildren who had been building rafts made from oil drums, then sailing them out into the reservoir. One of them had come apart and various children were in the water, suitably equipped with wetsuits, otherwise they may not have found the cold water so much fun.

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Top Withens associated with Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Top Withens
Ponden Reservoir
Ponden Reservoir

I decided upon one more break before making for Cowling, so I pressed on past the reservoir and up the steepest part of the hillside so that I would then have a fairly easy walk for the rest of way, with about four and a half miles left to go. As I was walking along the short stretch of roadway before starting the ascent, I stepped aside for the traffic to pass and my foot went down a dip at the edge of the tarmac making me trip over. Fortunately, I didn’t come to much harm other than a grazed elbow, but it just goes to show that it is not just over the hills where danger lies. After my rest looking back over the reservoir, I set off again at 4.25, skirting round the hillside by path and road to where the route headed in a perfectly straight line by the side of a wall before reaching the large expanse of open moorland of Ickornshaw Moor. Once onto the flat-topped moor, the path was paved with flagstones, though in this case there was good reason, as the ground was very boggy. Once I was out of the valley, there was little to see other than a large expanse of desolate moorland with just the sound of a few birds for company. There is a small rocky outcrop near to the trig point some way to the west of the Pennine Way, but otherwise just wilderness.

Coming down towards Ickornshaw and Cowling, the views opened up more to the valleys ahead, and there were the first few signs of human intervention in the form of some grouse butts and a few wooden buildings by a wall. Further along I had been given instructions on a detour, taking me directly to Cowling rather than going to Ickornshaw and having to walk along the busy main road. Unlike the Pennine Way, this footpath was not sanitised, and for the first time so far I actually got my boots muddy. The detour took me right down to within a very short distance of my B&B, where I arrived at 18.15, having paused on the way to make a phone call home.

I had a very good welcome with a cup of tea and a chat before going up for a shower, washing out a few things and getting changed to go out for something to eat. Towards the end of the day’s walk, the sun had come out to brighten up the landscape and turn it into a very pleasant evening, though from beside the main road there was little to see of the surrounding countryside. The Harlequin, just down the road had been recommended for a good meal – this was the place that had been recommended when I stayed in Ickornshaw in 1994, but I gave up looking for it before I got there and opted for the fish and chip shop instead. This time it was easy to find, but I was a little surprised, as it is more of a high-class restaurant than a pub, though they do also serve meals in the bar. The prices were not cheap, though they were in keeping with the quality of food and service that was provided, which was excellent. Normally, I would have found their nouvelle cuisine ideal, as I don’t like being over-faced with food, but after a long day’s walk there is more need for calories, so it is a little different. The Timothy Taylor’s Landlord was the best that I had tasted up to now on the walk so, although it was a little expensive at £2.60 a pint, it was worth it.

Today had been a long day’s walk, but my feet had been holding up very well. After all the worries about my left heel and the problems I had had on the first day by trying to keep most of my weight off the heel, I had reverted to walking normally, but just trying to avoid excessive jolting when putting my foot down. From then onwards, the problems with my feet diminished and, though I still had some soreness in front of the balls of my feet, this had tended to diminish over the past few days, so that they had not given me much trouble today. My left heel, that I was so worried about, had actually been giving me less problems than I had been experiencing daily at home. Admittedly, my boots have shock absorbing insoles and arch supports, both of which are recommended for the complaint, whereas my normal shoes do not, but the main recommendation of rest could hardly be the case whilst walking the Pennine Way. I had hoped that I might meet up with Pete today, as he was staying in the other B&B in Cowling, but I didn’t see anything of him, though I should see him tomorrow, as he is staying in Malham Youth Hostel as am I.

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