Hardcastle Crags woodland wildlife walk
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: Midgehole car park, grid ref: SD988291
From the information point at Midgehole car park turn left down the hill and then immediately right following the path to the riverside picnic area. The cotton industry left its mark on the landscape, from millponds to pack-horse trails. In the early 20th-century Hardcastle Crags was visited by workers from neighbouring towns and villages. They would walk from as far as Littleborough for tea and a dance at Gibson Mill.
Water from Hebden Water kept the many mills in the valley running. The dams and weirs are all that remains of them. Look out for dragonflies hovering over the ponds in spring and summer.
Follow the path upstream along the riverside and into the woods; look out for signs of the valley's industrial past as you pass millponds and weirs.
Continue along the riverside path, then climb a flight of steps, before dropping back down to the river by a set of stepping stones. In the early 20th century, people came here for a day out, sometimes walking as far as 8 to 10 miles (12.8 to 16.1km).
Look for dippers across the river; the white bib against a dark, plump body is unmistakeable. The woodland and streams also attract many other types of bird including jay, woodpecker, grey wagtail, heron, goldcrest and nuthatch.
Continuing along the riverside path, you will pass Gibson Mill.
The 19th-century former cotton-spinning and weaving mill is now championing sustainable technology. Gibson Mill is completely cut off from the National Grid, so it has to generate all its own power as well as recycling all waste. It uses solar panels and water-powered turbines and even the lift works on green technology.
Leave the mill on the main track, heading back toward the car park. After a short distance, at the top of the slope, take the path leading off to the left up into the woods. 'The ferns and mosses carpeting the woodland floor and the majestic trees create an inviting, yet at times eerie, landscape', Ian O'Leary, National Trust Warden.
The damp, shaded woodlands create perfect conditions for many species of fern, moss and lichen. Lichens are especially sensitive to pollution so their presence indicates good air quality; look out for them on rocks. The woodland floor is covered with bluebells in spring, or visit in autumn when the fruiting bodies of hundreds of varieties of fungi emerge from the ground.
After a short while the path leads down through a conifer plantation. Look out for signs of the northern hairy wood ant, before joining the main track through the estate.
Follow the way-marked route back up the valley to reach Slurring Rock. This is where children used to slide down the rocks in their clogs. Continue past the rocks and drop down onto the old pack-horse route back to the car park.
End: Midgehole car park, grid ref: SD988291
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Moderate
- Distance: 3 miles (5km)
- Time: 1 hour
- OS Map: Explorer OL21; Landranger 103
Circular walk, way-marked by red painted flashes on the trees. The route goes through the steep-sided river valley, uneven and steep in places. Paths can be muddy after wet weather. Dogs welcome under close control, but please do not allow your dog to foul on paths and around picnic areas. No bins provided, please take your waste home.
- 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, 1.5 miles (2.4) north-east of Hebden Bridge
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