Inspirational Trails 19: The Calder Valley
Written By: SportsShoes
In part 19 of our Inspirational Trails series, inov-8 athlete and ultra-runner, Alison Walker, talks about her move from London to Yorkshire during lockdown and how she's discovered a whole new world of trail and fell running on her doorstep.
After the first lockdown, I found myself feeling trapped. My mind-freeing runs around Victoria Park became a constant people and dog dodging run. It became more of a stress going out to train and what I saw on tubes and buses made me feel uncomfortable about getting on them to go somewhere different for a run. Plus, I was always a ‘run from door’ type person anyway.
My husband and I had always wanted a life outside of London, but felt tied to it because of work and staying in our city jobs was an easy option. When restrictions eased last summer, we stayed around different parts of the north and finally settled with Hebden Bridge, in the heart of West Yorkshire’s Calder Valley. It had runs that were tough (but not tough like the Lakes) and there was the safety net of the flat canals should we want a flat run. We found a perfect house close to town, but within easy access to the moors and fells to break us into a life in Yorkshire. In December, we made the big move upt’ North and never looked back.
I was introduced to the wonderful people at Calder Valley Fell Runners by GB international trail runner Holly Page, who was part of my London running club many years ago. I felt a bit of a fraud signing up to a fell running club (I used to do the running in flat circles thing a lot), but I always believed in doing things that scare me.
The Calder Valley is a beautiful place, as I quickly found out on my many local adventures…
I had been on a few runs with my new found friends and on one of my ‘exploratory’ runs, I decided to connect the dots between the various moors which I really had fun on. I just made it up as I wanted to go trig/stone hunting. My coach did say to ‘explore’ and ‘get used to the terrain’, so I took his words quite literally.
I started from our house and ran up Horseheld Road through Callis Woods, where you can hear the stream on the right whilst you climb up the hill. Once you get to the farm gate, you catch your first view of Stoodley Pike. If you go up the staircase, you’re greeted by wonderful, panoramic views of the area – a good place to see where runners are coming from too! It is a runnable climb to Stoodley (usually there is ice if it has been snowing), but it’s a challenge and an enjoyable run up.
I decided to take a slightly different way down, trying to follow the club handicap route down through Erringden Moor (aka bog moor) to the CVFR ‘killing field’. I was trying to find the boundary stones that my clubmate, Cass, showed me a few weeks ago in the snow. I think I missed one, but found the rest. It was very moist underfoot, but I have got used to it now, having had wet feet on most of my runs since I’ve moved here! The moisture doesn’t bother me much, but I am always careful with my landing as I don’t want to twist an ankle! Once I got to the edge of the moor I could enjoy the beautiful view across Mytholmroyd, with Midgely Moor in the background. Then, down a runnable grass hill down into the valley – I was chanting to myself ‘little steps, fast steps, it’s just grass if you fall’…
From there, I meandered along the river path over a shaded disused railway track to Brearley, crossed the road and up about 100 stone steps to Towngate (there is a convenient bench at the top of the steps), and onto a footpath which joined the Calderdale Way. As I looked to my left, again there was a beautiful view of the valley. However, I knew there was a little more climbing to do before I got to Churn Milk Joan. I passed some sheep, squelched through some bogs, and finally got to Joan! I’d previously turned left at Joan, but I decided to head straight up in search of Millers Grave, but ended up finding Greenwood Stones instead. The clag started to come in and I didn’t want to faff around with my map and get cold, so I decided to press on towards High Brown Knoll.
I followed the ‘path’ which was actually a stream, but I couldn’t see any other way so just kept on going. I was later told by the locals that it was very wet up Midgley Moor that day, so they weren’t at all surprised. I soon found myself on the ascent to High Brown Knoll and felt very pleased with myself (I had just done a 16 min mile across the deepest and wettest bog ever).
Just as the sun made a timely appearance, there was one final trig to tick off for the day before I descended back into the valley; Shackleton’s Monument aka ‘baby Stoodley’. Normally on a clear day, you can see the three main monuments in Hebden Bridge in a row – baby Stoodley, Heptonstall Church and Stoodley Pike. As it has been raining and snowing pretty much non-stop since December, I had decided to wear my inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 to tackle the terrain. I had to clamber up the muddy hill to Shackleton’s Monument and down a different muddy hill to the entrance of Hardcastle Crags, so I was very thankful of the excellent grip!
I then finished my run by meandering along the river back into Hebden, conveniently stopping my watch at the pizza stall in town for a much-deserved pizza. Yes, a whole one to myself, plus a hot chocolate when I got home!
I was pretty pleased with my solo exploratory run (about 15 miles with 3000ft of climb), and I cannot wait for more of these in the spring/summer when I can be out all day and take in the sights without being afraid of getting cold. I know that I am only just scratching the surface on the trails here, so I have plenty to look forward to!
I feel very fortunate to call ‘Calderfornia’ my home. The same route feels different almost every time I run it, as the weather and the views both change daily. I get very particularly excited for a cloud inversion! If anything, I know that the Calder Valley will continue to have a positive impact on my life i.e. make me a tougher runner with stronger feet!
You can follow Alison and all her running adventures here.
Photos: Alison Walker