Walk – Pennine Way Reservoirs

It was a sunny morning and I got a call from Lisa asking if I fancied doing a walk that we'd been discussing earlier in the week. I'm trying to earn a living working on the computer from home so I have a lot of flexibility in my daily routine. (Some would say – too much! :wink:). Of course, I said yes – I'd rather work when the sun isn't shining…

We caught the rural bus, service 900*** from Hebden Bridge to Blackstone Edge – a much easier method of getting to an altitude of 1,300 ft than walking up there! Our route back to Hebden Bridge follows the Pennine Way for about 6 miles, a level walk for much of that. There is then about 3 miles of gradual descent. Short of sticking to the Rochdale Canal towpath, or walking round Hardcastle Crags all day, there isn't an easier 9 mile walk in this area. You get a lot of good views for a modest investment of energy. It's not that we don't like expending energy, but every now and then it is nice to have a day out which doesn't feel like hard work.

We could have caught the morning bus, but neither of us were ready then. By the time we caught the afternoon bus, black clouds were building up so it looked as though we might have left it too late. Southern England had some big thunderstorms earlier in the day, and there was quite a strong wind blowing that system towards us. Now the thing is, a high-level flat walk is great in good weather, but you don't want to be the highest object on a moor when lightning bolts start hitting the ground… 😯

We got dropped off at the top of Turvin Road, by Blackstone Edge reservoir and strolled round to the opposite end of the reservoir, just above the White House pub. The Pennine Way crosses the road by the pub and heads off across the hilltops beside Blackstone Edge, White Holme, Light Hazzles and Warland reservoirs. There is a circular walk round the reservoirs which follows our route on the Pennine Way as far as Langfield Common, where we would be turning off towards Stoodley Pike, while the circular walk goes round the other sides of the reservoirs and back towards Blackstone Edge.

Pennine Way, Blackstone Edge Reservoir
Pennine Way beside Blackstone Edge Reservoir

We met a couple of mountain bikers coming the other way. Technically it is illegal – it's a footpath, not a bridleway – but to be honest, I've ridden up there myself a couple of times. You can see that the first section has a good surface, but further on the path does tend to get very swampy in wet conditions and MTB riders churning that up would probably be frowned upon. I think most people turn a blind eye to cycling up there, but what really causes bad feeling is people taking motorbikes and quad bikes onto the footpath. They really do make a mess of some pretty delicate peat bogs.

Pennine Way, Warland Reservoir
Pennine Way beside Warland Reservoir

There was a strong wind coming from our right as we walked beside the reservoirs and I could hardly hear what Lisa was saying at times. Suddenly the wind just stopped! It was as if somebody had turned a giant fan off – bizarre… It stayed like that for about 10 minutes and then the wind started to pick up again.

The weather conditions were constantly changing. It got very overcast, then the sun would start to break through again.

We could see for miles from up there. One way, right over Greater Manchester, the other towards Leeds and York. In the distance it was very murky and I really thought that we were going to get caught out in a storm but it just didn't happen.

Eventually we got beyond the reservoirs and headed out alongside a big stone culvert known as Warland Drain. This section of the Pennine Way can get very boggy after rain but it was dry for our walk. Sometimes it is so muddy that it is difficult to make progress on the path. I've had to resort to walking along the culvert in the past.

As the path diverges from the drain, we had to cross open moorland. This section used to be a nightmare to walk over – absolutely horrible in anything but drought conditions. The authorities finally stepped in and ‘sanitised' it with large slabs of stone.

Stone slabs on Pennine Way at Langfield Common
Stone slabs on Pennine Way at Langfield Common

What a difference they make – no more losing your boots in 3 feet of stinking, squelchy peat! I avoided doing this walk for many years after a particularly unpleasant slog across the moor when it was wet. I like nature, but not that kind of nature! Sanitised is okay, as long as it isn't ‘manicured'.

We found a nice spot to have a little picnic. It was really peaceful on the moor, not much sound other than from a few curlews and the occasional walker passing by. That's another reason for not wanting motor vehicles up there – the noise pollution is almost as bad as the damage done to the paths.

We stopped for quite a long break since it didn't look like we were going to get wet after all, and we were not in any hurry to get home. Eventually however it was time to continue the walk.

Stoodley Pike was now in view, looking as imposing as ever, even from a distance.

Stoodley Pike from Langfield Common
Stoodley Pike from Langfield Common

There are lovely views down from the hillside towards the hamlets of Lumbutts and Mankinholes, with the fringes of Todmorden in the distance.

Lumbutts from Langfield Common
Lumbutts from Langfield Common

The Pike was getting closer! We actually descended slightly at that point and then climbed back up to the monument but it's not a big ascent, probably no more than 120 ft in total.

Stoodley Pike from Langfield Common (closer)
Closer view of Stoodley Pike from Langfield Common

We didn't hang about for long at the Pike. (It's not long since we were last up there.)

And now at last we began our descent to Hebden Bridge, gentle at first, a little steeper towards the end. but not steep enough to hurt my delicate knees. Off Erringden Moor to the lonely farm house at Rake Head, then down to Old Chamber, and back into town via Weasal Hall and Horsehold Road.

Descent from Rake Head
Descent from Rake Head

Guess what we did next? No, we didn't go to a cafe for coffee and toasted currant teacakes – we were too late, they were shut! 😥 Never mind – we'd had a picnic instead.

A most enjoyable walk, and we had been lucky with the weather.

*** If you would like to do this walk – catch the Huddersfield bus (900 service) from Albert Street or the railway station, Hebden Bridge to Blackstone Edge. Here's a link to the current timetable.

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