The Pennines

The Pennines section of the 41 Yorkshire Rivers Way runs for 81 miles from the River Spen at an obscure point in Ravensthorpe near Dewsbury through to the centre of Skipton. On the way you will come into contact with 8 of the 41 rivers, namely the Spen, Calder, Dearne, Holme, Colne, Rayburn, Worth and Aire. Split into 7 days it is walkable within a week although the individual day lengths are quite variable with three 14 mile days mixed in with 4 days of 11 miles or less. Two of the shorter days come in the early stages and coincide with overnight stops in Denby Dale and Holmfirth and both towns have sufficient interest to allow for a late start or early finish. 

Day 1. 14 miles today so not a quick and easy for starters. Not the most scenic of starts to the day I’m afraid, on a main road bridge overlooking the River Spen flowing between two old mill buildings before joining the River Calder around 50m away. A cycle way crosses the Calder to pick up the Calder and Hebble Navigation for the first two miles or so before leaving the canal and heading out of the valley to Thornhill and Thornhill Edge. From Thornhill it’s across the fields to Flockton before another pull up to Emley and the nearby transmitter mast. We drop down again to cross the track of the Kirklees Light Railway then uphill again to Lower Cumberworth and finally a last downhill stretch into Denby Dale and the infant River Dearne.

Day 2. Working on the assumption that you’re heading out in day 2 and not setting off in the opposite direction on the South West Corner route, it’s back up the hill to Lower Cumberworth. From here it’s across the fields bypassing Shelley and heading into nearby Shepley for a zig zag walk through the the village streets. From Shepley it’s a climb then short drop to Fulstone followed by an undulating section that meets the main A616 near Lydgate. Then it’s a short climb passed Wooldale and the final drop into Holmfirth where the short 8 mile day finishes in the town centre where the road crosses the River Holme.

Day 3. 9 miles today so another shortish day but it’s worth it as you head into reservoir territory. A steady start to cross the A6024 near Holmbridge which leads into a 4 mile long 1000 ft climb past Digley reservoir and onto open moorland passing a number of Cloughs on the way, namely Marsden, Snape and Reap Hill, before arriving at the A635. This is the high point of the day and it’s downhill all the way across many more ‘Cloughs’, too numerous to mention in this route summary. The main feature of this section though  are the reservoirs. The path takes you past Wessenden Head, Wessenden, Blakeley and Butterley reservoirs before depositing you in the small Pennine town of Marsden.

Day 4. A long day of 14 undulating moorland miles starting with a sharp climb from Marsden out onto land and over to Old Clough. A section of 4 sharp descents and climbs follows over the next 7 miles or so high includes visits to Deanhead reservoir, a farmhouse sat in the middle of the M62 motorway, Booth Wood reservoir, Booth Moor and Baitings reservoir before topping out on Manshead End. The final 4 miles is downhill all the way in Mythomroyd in the Calder Valley.

Day 5. Over the moors again for 11 miles to Haworth with its cobbled Main Street leading to the parsonage and its links with the Bronte family. As with day 4 it’s a steep pull from the outset onto open land before dropping into a the wooded valley of Higher Booth Wood. The climb out of the valley passes through several other named woods. The path climbs steadily along the valley side before dropping down to Graystones. The last climb of the day heads up Sun Hill and the last section drops down and turns into a flat, lane-based mile or so into Haworth. 

Day 6. Another undulating 14 miler today. We start by dropping down from Haworth to the River Worth and then climbing onto Oakworth Moor. The next descent takes us down to the wonderfully named Middle Slippery Ford Farm. Then it’s a gentler climb over open country to Winter Hill and Stake Hill followed by a steep drop to the A6068 near Cowling. A short up and down burst via Cowling Hall Farm leads into the final climb of the day to Pinhaw Beacon which is also the highest point of the days walk. A 2 mile downhill stretch to Earby completes the day.

Day 7. The seventh and final day of the walk is an 11 miler to journeys end at Skipton. The first part of the day takes us out of Earby via Earby Beck before heading towards Thornton in Craven. We’re in the Pennine Way now as we head northwards to pick up the Leeds and Liverpool Canal just to the south of East Marton. After following the canal for a little way the two of us part company for now and we continue in a generally northerly direction towards Gargrave where the last of the rivers in this trail is encountered. At this point, Day 1 of the Wharfedale Loop section leaves Gargrave on its way to Malham and beyond. In the meantime we head to the northern edge of Gargrave where we meet the Leeds and Liverpool Canal once more and for the final 5 miles we keep its company, as well as reversing down the first part of the Warfedale Loop, all the way into Skipton.

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