• Neil

Stoodley Pike Walk 01-07-19

About ten years ago, I was stood on a platform at Wavertree in Liverpool waiting for my train. An express train wooshed through and the destination name on the front caught me and my mate off guard. Todmorden. Neither of us had a clue where it was, and why a train was going from Liverpool to there (most terminate at Manchester).

The next day, still a bit bemused by the name, we Googled it. A town in West Yorkshire. Right. A few weeks later we got on a train to see what it was all about. It was a small place, there was a shop called Cards & Beans which didn't sell beans. I bought a can of snails and some chutney from the outdoor market. And we went in the Tourist Information to ask about the ominous monolith on the hill overlooking the town. Turns out it was called Stoodley Pike, to add an element of mystery the polite girl told us no one knew why it was built (there's a plaque on it commemorating the defeat of Napoleon!). She gave us directions, but with only an hour or so left before the train home, we settled for a pint or two in the Queen Hotel instead. Plus it was raining.

The next time we ventured that way, there were four of us and we were intent on going up to Stoodley. None of us were prepared, we all even had holdalls for a night out in Manchester in tow. I had pumps on. One of us ended up ankle deep in mud, but we got there. The time after that we were still as badly prepared. It was a semi-stag do of sorts. We drank beer on the way up rather than water. Slightly inebriated, we made our way down into Hebden to finish the walk with more beer at the Shoulder of Mutton. Good times, blistered feet and sore heads. I think I've been up to Stoodley at least once a year ever since. Its a pilgrimage of sorts as it was the first place I'd ever travelled to to go walking, so see it very much as 'the start' of getting into walking, even if I went about it the completely wrong way. Nowadays, the pumps have been swapped for walking boots, and the holdall with night out clothes and beer has been swapped for a rucksack with camera gear and water.

Its great because there are many different routes you can take, some nice and easy, some middle of the road and some more challenging. As such you get a variety of different walkers, and sunseekers given that Gaddings Dam boasts 'Britain's highest beach' and is a go to place for locals and vistors alike in the summer.

This walk, was one of the middle ground routes. I was packing my Mavic 2 Pro and Osmo Pocket, both recent purchases that needed breaking in properly, so I was using the walk to put those through their paces rather than myself.

Route Overview

I left the house at around 5am, and it took roughly an hour and fifteen from St Helens via the M62 and Hollingworth Lake in Smithybridge (worth a walk around itself). As I was driving there and started hitting the hills I could see the mist rolling down off them. Some of it looked beautifully apocalyptic as it was swirling round pylons. I was tempted to pull over and get the camera out, but I persevered in the hope there was opportunities by Stoodley. Once above Todmorden, I parked across the road from The Shepherd's Rest Inn (Postcode OL14 6JJ) on a small patch of land set aside for parking for those wishing to walk up to Gadding's Dam. Don't park on the pub car park, its not cool particularly if you don't call in for a drink or food (which you should as the food is great). If the small patch of off road land is full, park east of the pub on the opposite side of the road. Don't park west of the pub as you will cause congestion by making the narrow road even narrower. There's farms along this road and there's often a tractor rumbling along it moving between fields, so making sure they've enough space to manoeuvre is important.

This loop this walk makes takes you up alongside Langfield Edge, on to Heeley Hill and along the ridge to the Pike, before dropping back down and picking up the road back to the car park. Just under 5 and a half miles all in, but a bit of work on the calf muscles during the ascent.

The walk starts opposite the Shepherd's Rest Inn. You'll see the gate and the path cuts diagonally up the hill away from it for a spell. Before it starts curving away around the ridge. It was after only a few hundred metres up this path that I got my reward for not stopping to take photos en route. The mists were rolling down off the hill in dramatic fashion, and the pike jutting out from it all made it even more spectacular.

I fired up the Osmo Pocket and let it have a run in hyperlapse mode. I wasn't disappointed (the first 5-6 seconds of the video at the end shows what it can do). Meanwhile I caught a few shots of the misty hills, this being my favourite.

The mist was too thick at this point for sending the drone up. I had flashbacks to nearly losing my Spark in low clouds over Dale Head (Blog post HERE), so thought best not to attempt it. Carry on up the path from here and it gets high sided on your right, whilst dropping away to your left. You'll see the plateau of the hill in front of you stretching all the way along to the pike.

You'll hear before you see an offshoot of the Coldwell Spring to your left as you make your way up, you'll cross it eventually. In wetter weather this can have quite a force behind it, but at the end of June and after a few days of sunshine, this was a mere trickle.

You'll reach a point on the path where it forks off in three directions. Left takes you to the pike, a path almost going back on yourself leads you up to Gadding's Dam (a nicer incline rather than the steep direct route up from the road) and then another leading off to your right where you can amble towards Warland Reservoir over Langfield Common. Word to the wise: It was hot, and the land up there is quite boggy. Boggy land in heat means midges and there are LOTS. Something I certainly didn't factor in. I was repeatedly bitten whilst stopping to take photos or fly the drone. Mainly on my hands and legs to the point where it looked like I had a mild case of chickenpox. Take repellent or bite cream. I didn't. Don't be like me.

Taking that left route, you walk along the ridge on the edge of Higher Moor taking in East Scout, High Stones and Dry Brinks along the way. There's plenty of cairns along this route, not that you could ever get lost and need to rely on them, even in low visibility. The path is well travelled and cuts into the moor (as you can see from the drone flyover in the video below) and even if it as foggy, just following the ridge line would eventually bring you out at the pike. You get some great views out over Todmorden along the way.

Away off to the right you've got Withens Clough Reservoir and the dramatic ruins of Red Dykes Farm which are accessible via footpaths. In fact, if you wanted a really gentle walk up to the pike, then parking at Withens Clough Reservoir car park would mean a gentle path past Red Dykes Farm and up to the monument. It is a small car park and Rudd Lane that leads up to it is very narrow and high walled with not many passing points, so caution is advised.

There's a few small clefts that you dip into on the path towards to the monument, so watch your footing, particularly in wet or wintery weather. I would say the walk along the ridge alone would take roughly, 30-40 minutes in good conditions. In hot conditions in can feel much longer and the pike doesn't seem to get any closer!

Once you get to the pike, you are free to explore and look inside. Make sure to turn your torch light on on your phone as it is absolutely pitch black and that tiny winding staircase up takes no prisoners. Once up, you're around 40 feet higher giving you a good vantage point over the Calder Valley looking down towards Todmorden. Its been defaced over the years with graffiti. My lasting memory from when I first climbed up to the Pike, feeling like it was a real achievement (particularly given how unprepared we were) was seeing the words 'Manchester City Are Crap' scrawled along one side of the balcony. Its still visible today.

On the other side someone has now daubed a huge ban the bomb symbol. However, if you look past that, you can see some interesting markings in the brick work. There's a Masonic square and compass symbol and Star of David above the door directly below the memorial stone. Folk tales suggest this was due to the Freemasons having involvement in the rebuilding of the monument in 1854 (the first monument collapsing in 1814 due to lightning strikes), and that the pitch dark stairway is intended to replicate the /masonic blindfold ceremony: a trial by ordeal after which you step out into the light. Believe of this what you will.

From here you've a few options. If you carry on past the pike you can follow a path down into Hebden Bridge (one of my favourite places, I'd recommend a visit), you can turn back on yourself, or you can take what looks like a drop down off the ridge to your doom. Don't be alarmed, looks are deceptive. At the foot of the hill, you'll see a long winding yellow path. This path directly in front of the pike down leads to that. This is the one I opted for for the first time since I've been up there.

Once down and at the path, take a left heading back roughly parallel with the ridge you walked along above. At the end you'll hit a gate, and once out you'll be on the edge of the tiny hamlet of Mankinholes. Depending on which source you read, this can either refer to the Celtic 'Mankin' meaning 'Fierce Wild Man' (and lets face it out in the sticks in Yorkshire this is highly likely!) or 'Mancan's Hollow' with Mancan being an Irish surname.

Turn left away from Mankinholes (keep an eye out for the carved stone sheep on your left) and this puts you on Mankinholes Bank that takes you past the picturesque Lumbutts Methodist Church (over 180 years old!) and on to Lumbutts Road. This is the final leg. Follow this down with the Last Drop Inn on your right, and an old abandoned mill on your left, then a very brief pass through of Lumbutts itself (its around 10 houses all in). After this the road will rise up and eventually bring you back to the Shepherd's Rest.

A few apps say around 1hr 40 for this, I reckon at a steady pace this is more of a 2hr plus walk. Next Stoodley walk will probably be around Autumn time. I think I've done all seasons bar this, so will be good to see what the landscape looks like as the green valley turns orange and yellow.

GPX Download

If you want to head there and follow the route, the GPX file which works with most walking and hiking apps can be downloaded HERE.

Video Of The Route

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