Saturday 16th August, Mankinholes to Haworth – 18 miles
Mankinholes YHA is a large, forbidding blackstone 19th century house. I had a rather fine dorm bedroom to myself (the fireplace screens were very nice) and the freedom to look over my wounds in the mirror.
The rush down from the top at 21.30 last night had taken it out of me: my left ankle was beginning to swell up and both of my sides were red raw from the chafing of the backpack waist-straps. They were really sore, certainly prior to day three of sixteen! I was used to these sores occurring (from walking the West Highland Way the year before) and I usually tended to manage them, by applying some Savlon from an old tube I carried in my first aid kit (exp. date 2004) and some strip plasters on top.
It was self-catering only here, so I dipped into my rations and had a packet of Eccles cakes for breakfast. I get going just before 10. My left ankle at once begins to hurt – I’m going to have to be careful that I don’t aggravate it much further.
The start of the day’s walk was returning back up the packhorse trail up to Withens Gate at the top. This old path is quite a piece of work, rounded slabs snugly fitted behind each other, following the wall in parallel on a steady but never overly severe incline.
When I get to the top, there is a considerable gale blowing and my woollen hat comes out. I make towards the Stoodley Pike moment, a few hundred yards through a stiff wind over a rocky eroded path with stones protruding. The monument is a blackstone obelisk sat squat on a cross-shaped base, built in the middle of the 19th century to mark the victory over Napoleon. It’s a symbol that this region, with its stone houses and factories, its reservoirs and the lines of communication, is pretty much a legacy to the industrial revolution and the Victorian age.
I shelter in the corner of the structure away from the wind. Deciding to go up to the viewing platform (via a dingy staircase in pitch black darkness), the glory of the view across the valley towards Todmorden is tempered by the wind, so I don’t hang around long.
Passing through the Valley
The descent from the monument isn’t challenging, some well marked footpaths going through a farm and then veering left along a track for a mile through Callis Wood to the bottom of the gorge. Very attractive to walk through, but today I find myself preoccupied with my ankle. The valley is quite a thin strip of urban civilisation – the side opposite Callis Wood is odd houses and farms precariously perched on the side of the valley.
The paths on this hill are dense and narrow and crowded by vegetation. I find it easy to get a little lost – when I wander in front of someone’s house to shortcut my way back (I’m loathe to go back on myself halfway up this hill with 15kg on my back) the owner is good enough to point my up through his back garden to where I ought to be heading. I pass by the old graveyard – a lively man in his later years is busy weeding around the old headstones, a quiet care of his. He explains that he himself did the Pennine Way around 40 years ago; we talked of the paths before the flagstones were put down and of my challenge ahead – he remarked that of the things he’d done it was one that perhaps had given him the most satisfaction.
From there, it was still a hard climb through a lot of vegetation, tight paths and staircases, including a spout of water that had turned the rock beneath it orange. Eventually I mad e it to the top (realising that my woolly hat had fallen off somewhere behind me). The next phase of the day was crossing over the grassy fields towards Colden, with the first of many dips and rises over Colden Clough (with its splendid bridge fashioned of slabs) and then the village itself (part of it a terrace, the remainder farm houses). The farm a little further along the road had a really well stocked shop (which I’d kind of been hoping for – not having any sandwiches with me).
Heptonstall Moor to the Pack Horse Inn
Heptonstall Moor, covered in heather and looking very purple, wasn’t hard to cross at first, until the inclement weather set in. By the end the wind and rain were beating at me a little and ready for a break, I headed for the Pack Horse Inn. I got there at 3.10 – as I was removing my boots and gaiters in the porch the landlord came out and told me that they’d shut at three, but I’d be OK to have a pint. So I quietly had a pint of Black Sheep whilst the last of the diners (out for an Saturday afternoon drive) were finishing off. The interior of the place was old and full of character, as you’d expect really.
Passing by the Walshaw Reservoirs
Back on the way, the next mile was along first country lane then freshly laid reservoir road leading to the three Walshaw reservoirs. At the middle dam I had a good lie down for 25 minutes, taking in the view of the reservoir ahead with its rhoddendenron banking and a modern (sort of) manor house at the other side of the dam.
The path continued along a bank between the reservoir on the left and a channel feeding it on the right – this bank is covered in rhoddendendrons, with just enough room for a path along the right edge. Eventually the path leaves the middle reservoir and heads over Wadsworth Moor. This is a long but unchallenging stretch which eventually comes out over the hill on to the other, greener side, picking up a long track down to Ponden.
Three Miles in to Haworth
After walking 23 miles the day before, by now I was rather weary so I veered away from Ponden and headed straight towards Haworth. At Standbury I check the bus timetables: the last one on Saturday is 5.55 and it’s now 6.40. So I have another three miles up the road to Haworth (the YHA is on the far side of town). Haworth is a rather impressive place (old houses and cobbles and lots of shops), although with its literary fame it is a bit of a tourist trap. The youth hostel is a grand mansion (built and left by an industrialist) on a hill. It’s a rambling building, reminding me of the SYHA on Loch Lomond, but in a better state of repair. It seemed quite busy that Saturday – I was in a full ten bed dorm on the top floor.
For my tea, I walked down the hill to the Chinese Takeaway, thinking that with my previous exertions I’ll be more than able to finish a king prawn chow mein with rice and a bag of chips – I can’t. I then called home to check that my brother was still OK to meet up in Skipton on Monday and accompany me, and also to ask him to bring some more plaster strips.