Railway walk at Hardcastle Crags
Hardcastle Crags, near Hebden Bridge, West YorkshireRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
The valleys of Hardcastle Crags, west of Halifax, offer stunning riverside views while the oak, beech and pine woods are full of tumbling streams. Whether you decide to climb the rocky paths to the hilltops or enjoy a picnic by old weirs, there's plenty of wildlife to see.
- Bus stop
Start: Gibson Mill Courtyard, grid ref: SD973298
Leave Gibson Mill by crossing the footbridge and turn right. Pass the weir for the lower mill pond and go up steps to walk around the upper pond. Walk carefully along the side of the river, passing the weir for the upper pond. Look across the river to the crags.
Look for dippers, heron and grey wagtails on the river and woodpecker, jay, nuthatch and goldcrest in the woods. Dragonflies hover over the millponds in spring and summer. Many species of fern, moss and lichen thrive in the woodlands and in spring you can see bluebells, or visit in autumn to see hundreds of varieties of fungi.
At the fork in the path, go left up the hill. Climb up the valley side, steep initially but soon eases. Where the path meets a wall, it levels this was the old railway track. After a small cutting and a dip, leave the path to the left to view Hell Hole Quarry. Return to the path and continue.
After Gibson Mill ceased spinning and weaving, it became an 'Entertainment Emporium' providing dancing, roller skating, teas and two restaurants. People walked here from Halifax and Littleborough for tea and a dance.
Shortly after going up some steps, the route turns 90 degrees to the right and by more steps. Before descending, look ahead to see the remains of the supports for the wooden trestle bridge. At the bottom of the steps is a lovely spot for a picnic. Continue back along the riverside.
For 10 years, from 1902, a railway ran from Slack to the site of construction of the Walshaw Dean reservoirs, carrying men and materials. A huge wooden trestle bridge was built across Hebden Dale to carry the railway. It was demolished in 1912. Only the stone stanchions, which you can see at this point on the walk, remain. A huge shanty town, nicknamed Dawson City, sprang up at Slack to house the workers. It was said to be a lawless place ruled by two women, the Queens of Dawson City.
After passing a stream cascading down the opposite bank, the path turns right and uphill and then down steps. It goes up again almost immediately to meet a rough track. Go left downhill to the river.
Cross the river by the footbridge and go up the valley ahead to meet a rough road, then turn right. Follow the road along and through a gate to meet the road through the estate. Go downhill, passing Lady Royd Field on your left, (where local school children came to play) and then the top of Hardcastle Crags on your right. Continue on back to Gibson Mill.
The 19th century former cotton-spinning and weaving mill now champions sustainable technology. It is not connected to the National Grid so it has to generate all of its own power and recycle its own waste. It uses solar panels and water powered turbines; even the lift works on green technology. Look out for the remains of dams and weirs which kept the valley's mills running.
End: Gibson Mill Courtyard, grid ref: SD973298
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- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Moderate
- Distance: 2 miles (3.2km) to 3 miles (4.8km)
- Time: 1 hour to 2 hours
- OS Map: Explorer OL21; Landranger 103
Allow 2 hours for the 3 mile (4.8km) Railway Saunter, way-marked by purple. This walk goes through the steep-sided river valley and is steep and uneven in places. There are stunning views along the route, but take care as even in dry weather it can be wet, muddy and slippery underfoot. Dogs welcome under close control.
- How to get here:
By foot: access via riverside walk from Hebden Bridge. Pennine Bridleway passes property
By bike: Sustrans National Cycle Network route 68 (Pennine Cycleway), 2 miles (3.2km) from Hebden Bridge
By bus: service 906 runs from Widdop Reservoir to Midgehole car park via Hebden Bridge Station (summer weekends and Bank Holidays only)
By train: Hebden Bridge Station 2 miles (3.2km)
By car: A646 westbound from Halifax then A6033 towards Keighley, 1.5 miles (2.4) north-east of Hebden Bridge. From Midgehole car park walk up estate road to Gibson Mill, or take one of the other way-marked walks to get there
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