Generally, we don’t venture out of North Yorkshire for our day trips. We don’t need to: we’ve got the Dales to our left, the Moors to the right (I think there’s a song there somewhere), and if that wasn’t enough the Yorkshire Wolds offer a slightly gentler option to the south. However, this weekend we fancied a bit of a change (and it was raining everywhere in North Yorkshire), so we hopped in the car to make the drive down to Withens Clough reservoir in West Yorkshire. From here, we planned a short but rewarding walk up to the imposing monument atop Stoodley Pike, tackling sections of both the Pennine Way and the Calderdale Way. It was a lovely morning’s walk, which also taught us the important lesson ‘if no one else is taking the short cut, there’s probably a reason for that’…
We found the walk we did on the OS Maps app, which I highly recommend both for planning routes and navigating, but there is a similar 4.5 mile circular on the Yorkshire Water website if you don’t have the app. This route follows the same one that we did until the final section, returning on the (quiet) road instead of cutting through the woods like we did. We did see a few other walkers continuing on the road as we entered the woods and very soon discovered why!! The ground was absolutely soaked, completely waterlogged, with sludge well over the tops of our boots the whole way back to joining the road at the end. I’ve never been so happy to see tarmac in my life! Lesson learned – if no one else is taking the short cut, don’t take the short cut.
The walk starts from the small car park at Withens Clough reservoir, a few miles south of Hebden Bridge. As well as the walk we did up to Stoodley Pike, you can walk around the perimeter of the reservoir, or pick up one of the many footpaths in the area – both the Pennine Way and Calderdale Way pass close to the reservoir.
Car parking is free but spaces are limited – we arrived at 10am on a Sunday and got the last space – although a group of about 20 ramblers had clearly just arrived, mostly in their own cars! So perhaps it isn’t always as busy as it seemed. There were a fair few other walkers about though it certainly wasn’t what I would class as properly ‘busy’ – but don’t expect to have the place to yourself either.
The terrain on this walk was a bit of a mixed bag. Aside from the gradual climb up to Stoodley Pike, it’s relatively flat, but very often the path is uneven and boggy so you need to watch where you put your feet. Alongside the reservoir and coming down from Stoodley Pike the path is well surfaced and fairly level, but walking over the moor was nothing if not ‘squelchy’. This was however nothing compared to the mud bath waiting for us in the woods! If you take one recommendation from this blog today, avoid the woods and go the long way round.
Reaching the top of Stoodley Pike your eyes will immediately be drawn to the huge tower which soon comes into view. A monument was first built on the top of Stoodley Pike at the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1814, however, this structure collapsed a few decades later after being struck by lightening. The monument was rebuilt in 1856 to mark the end of the Crimean war, and a lightening conductor was added shortly after to help prevent the tower collapsing again!
You can climb up the monument to reach a viewing platform looking out over the surrounding countryside, however, this would have been tricky for us with the dogs, and the views from the bottom probably weren’t that different anyway! This is a lovely place to stop for lunch or just to have a rest and enjoy the view.
Dog friendly rating – 4/5. There are parts of this walk where you will be able to let your dog off the lead to have the freedom to explore – alongside the reservoir where the path is enclosed and in the woods (if you choose a very dry day you might be OK mud wise!) would be good places. There are livestock in other parts of the walk so keep this in mind and put your dog on a lead if you come across them: we saw both sheep and cows with calves (this helped me drag myself up the hill much faster than normal!). There were one or two stiles but these were the kind that the dogs could easily manage without any intervention from us. If you’re heading out on a warm day, make sure to take some water for your dog, as there aren’t many places for your dog to have a drink.
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