We’ve spent the last couple of days lounging about at Number 19 so decided it was time to shake off the post-Christmas torpor and head out for a proper walk with Sybil. The recent bad weather has restricted us to on-lead only walks which are a bit dull and don’t really burn off Sybil’s seemingly endless supply of energy. As a result, Sybil transforms into a giddy goat and charges around the house chasing her beloved Kong chewy thing or one of her many tug-of-war rope toys that are well & truly tugged and show great signs of war.
So with dry-ish weather conditions we headed out to Hardcastle Crags all wrapped up in our warm coats & waterproofs.
Hardcastle Crags is near Hebden Bridge and has more than 160 hectares (400 acres) of unspoilt woodland. As well as being the home of the northern hairy wood ant (no, really) there are tumbling streams, glorious waterfalls and stacks of millstone grit, all crisscrossed by more than 15 miles (24km) of footpaths. We didn’t see any northern hairy ants (do they have flat caps & whippets?) but in all fairness we didn’t look for any either.
Rather than approach the Crags from the Widdop end at Blake Dean, we decided to park in the National Trust car park at Nutclough and explore from there. We choose to take the Mill Walk route along the water towards Gibson Mill – somewhere none of us had been before. The whole valley is really secluded – you can’t see or hear the road, houses or even electricity pylons. Surprisingly, it was very green with new growth spurting at every corner and Day-Glo lichens growing on most trees. Huge lumps of rock are scattered across the landscape – we wondered if they might come alive at night like the trolls in the Discworld books? It doesn’t seem too much of a stretch of the imagination!
Sybil had a ball exploring the valley floor and jumping over the natural springs tumbling down the hillside to the river. Although she doesn’t seem to mind mud, she really dislikes getting her paws wet in water – we’re hoping she’ll change her mind when she discovers beaches and the seaside on our travels. The water was raging in places and the waterfalls sounded thunderous. Fallen trees lie unobtrusively on the ground looking like sleeping dragons awaiting their wake-up call. It really is the most magical place.
Our walk took us to Gibson Mill, a family-oriented visitor centre, telling the history of the valley over the past 200 years, with interactive displays, dressing up, dancing and exhibitions. Having no link to the national grid, the mill is unique in the UK and is the Trust’s flagship sustainable building. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hardcastle-crags
Putting Sybil back on the lead, we stopped off for a lovely cup of coffee and a sustaining sausage roll. Suitably refreshed and availing ourselves of the charming facilities we took the easy track route back to the car. In all, we walked for around 2 ½ hours and Sybil is now curled up in her basket – I think we’ve worn her out at last!