One of the benefits of living in Manchester is the easy access to some of the country’s best walking terrain, with the Peak District, Lancashire and Yorkshire moors, and Cheshire countryside all within a short train or car journey. I picked an early-autumn Wednesday morning (checking the weather reports beforehand is a must) and packed some fruit, sandwiches, drinks, and waterproofs (you can never trust the weather reports 100%) into my rucksack and set off for a mini-adventure.
Whilst a large proportion of the students in my halls were still hours away from waking, I was already out and about, among the thousands flocking to their first lectures of the morning along Oxford Road. I left them behind and made my way into town to share the pavements with the smart suits and shoes of Manchester’s city centre workers. As another day of work or study was beginning for everyone else, I was jumping on a train at Victoria Station and heading north towards Hebden Bridge (in Yorkshire!): only £9.40 and 40 minutes away.
On arrival at the station, I made my way through the town centre and decided to get my pulse going with a steep ascent into the village of Heptonstall. After an encounter with grubbing mole on the footpath, who seemed far more interested in flinging chunks of earth across the path in search of worms than in my clunking footsteps, I made my way up to explore the village’s ruined church and the oldest continuously-used Methodist chapel in the world (I’m a historian, so I think this kind of thing is cool!).
I then descended through fields on the other side of the village into Hebden Dale, a winding, wooded valley owned by the National Trust, where my stroll was accompanied by the gurgling Hebden Water below. In the centre of the valley stands Gibson Mill, built around 1800, and one of the earliest textile mills in the North-West. Interestingly, as the remote site became uneconomical for cloth production, it became a leisure resort in the 1900s, with the current woodland planted in the former industrial area, and the mill converted into a dance and entertainment hall. It has now been renovated as a visitor centre and pioneering renewable energy hub.
From there, I headed through Hardcastle Crags onto Wadsworth Moor. After a busy few weeks of studying, teaching, and working at the halls, the total isolation of the moor was blissful! The October sunshine, low in the sky even at mid-afternoon, gave enough warmth to keep off most of the chill of the fresh wind that blew across the hilltops and into my lungs. I ambled on between thistles, heather, and dry stone walls for what seemed like forever, but was probably about an hour, before sitting awhile beside Lumb Hole Waterfall.
I then headed back towards the town, although it was at least another 45 minutes before I encountered another human being. I rounded the day off with a pint in a pub and a huge portion of fish, chips, and curry sauce down by the river, before heading back the station. The mileage, alcohol, and carbs conspired to render me unconscious for most of the journey back, and I awoke to see the chimney of Strangeways looming over a darkening cityscape. I trudged back through Manchester relaxed and more than a little pleased with myself on a wasted day well-spent.
This week, I have been mostly drinking: Titanic Stout in The City Arms, round the corner from Manchester Town Hall. Quite possibly the tastiest beer in town, if not England. Maybe even the world. Perfection.