Pennine Way Stage 4 runs from the Calder Valley to Ickornshaw. Today’s walk is 16 miles which starts with a steep uphill out of the Calder Valley. However, if you stayed in Hebden Bridge you’ll have an extra mile to walk beside the Rochdale Canal before leaving the Calder Valley. Highlights of day 4 include walking through Bronte Country as well as active wildlife in Heptonstall Moor and Ickornshaw Moor.
Hebden Bridge / Rochdale Canal
If you decided to stay in Hebden Bridge overnight, you’ll have an extra mile to walk back to the Pennine Way route. It’s a beautiful walk alongside the Rochdale Canal. No doubt you’ll have enjoyed a good meal as well as topped up on snacks in Hebden Bridge.
Pennine Way Sign
The first Pennine Way sign of the day is situated right next to an iconic red post box. It’s all uphill from here, after which you’ll cross an old stone crossing known as Hebble Hole Bridge.
Steep Climb from the Calder Valley
The climb from the Calder Valley is the steepest ascent of the day. I definitely recommend you have a coffee before this ascent. About half way up there’s a staircase and also some old walkers boots. Did some Pennine Way walkers give up here? Surely not.
Lapwing on the Pennine Way
At the top of the hill coming out of the Calder Valley is farmland leading to Heptonstall Moor. I was lucky enough to see Lapwing and Curlew in this area. These are two of Yorkshires big five birds. You’ll also cross a country road known as Badger Lane. Who knows, maybe you’ll even see a badger! Lastly, there are a few accommodations at the top of this hill including, Hebden Bridge Camping Site. These make an interesting alternative to staying in Hebden Bridge town.
Stoodley Pike Viewpoint
When you reach Heptonstall Moor, turn around for stunning views over farmland and the Calder Valley back to Stoodley Pike. My example shows how quickly the weather changes as you walk through the moors.
The Pennine Way crosses over Heptonstall Moor. During this stretch of the Pennine Way I didn’t see another human. My only company was sheep, cows and lots of singing Meadow Pipits. After walking a few miles across Heptonstall Moor you’ll reach several reservoirs and Bronte Country which are popular with walkers. For this reason, enjoy the peace and quiet of Heptonstall Moor.
The Meadow Pipit is often heard but not seen. However, if you stand and look where the noise is coming from, a little movement will soon give up their position. I was walking though during their breeding season so they were flying in front of me and leading me away from their young. As soon as you’re able to see Meadow Pipits, you’ll see them everywhere including dry stone walls, in heather and on barbed wire fences. As a matter of fact, with their friendly singing they become pleasant company.
Walshaw Dean Reservoir
The Pennine Way runs alongside Walshaw Dean Lower and Walshaw Dean Middle Reservoirs. In addition, there are also reservoirs before and after these but just off the route. With 16 miles to cover, it’s highly unlikely you’ll make a detour to these, not intentionally anyway. For this reason, follow the familiar Pennine Way path to the right after Walshaw Dean Middle Reservoir.
Robin on the Pennine Way
A Robin joined me as I sat down for a sandwich beside the Walshaw Dean Reservoir. He wasn’t befriending me because he wanted some food, he’d brought his own and wanted to enjoy it with company. In addition to a Robin, a Grey Wagtail briefly joined me.
Top Withins – Wuthering Heights – Bronte Country
Top Withins is a farmhouse said to be the inspiration for Wuthering Heights. Wuthering Heights is of course a famous novel by Emily Bronte. In addition, it’s also the first bothy on the Pennine Way. The next bothy isn’t until you reach Cross Fell in Cumbria. Lastly, if you’re interested in the Bronte sisters you could stay in nearby Haworth for a couple of days to explore this beautiful part of the world.
After passing Top Withins on Haworth Moor the Pennine Way heads towards Ponden Reservoir in the Upper Worth Valley. The reservoir is surrounded by lush greenery and wildlife. Enjoy this part of the day as you’ll soon be heading uphill and back into moorland.
Weasels on Ickornshaw Moor
As I was walking uphill towards Ickornshaw Moor I passed a group of young weasels playing on the path. One of the curious kits stayed a while to have a good look at me.
Ickornshaw Moor is a long stretch where at times you can see nothing but a narrow path going through moorland. What’s more, you must stick to the path as it’s surrounded by bogs, even in Summer. On a hot day you’ll need plenty of water as you cross this lonely stretch of the Pennine Way.
As I crossed Ickornshaw Moor I didn’t see anyone or hear any wildlife. However, I was about to be treated to a rare sighting of a Golden Plover. There was a pair with either eggs or young who were calling. As I was on a narrow path surrounded by bogs there was no way to manoeuvre or camouflage myself from them to get a better picture. Nonetheless, I was able to watch them watching me from a safe distance.
Where to Stay in Ickornshaw and Cowling?
After crossing Ickornshaw Moor you’ll pass a small waterfall and walk through farmland until you reach A6068 Keighley Road. This marks the end of the Pennine Way Stage 4. Check out these accommodation options in Cowling. If you’re camping, turn right on the A6068 and consider the Squirrel Wood Campsite.
Pennine Way Stage 5 Ickornshaw to Malham