Holmfirth Circular Walk via Holme Moss
13 miles. 1928 feet of ascent.
A moderately challenging walk out of West Yorkshire and temporarily into the Peak District, spanning the high moorland either side of Holme Moss. Across a series of bogs to Black Hill and the Pennine Way, and back down to Holmfirth via the Issues Road track and Digley Reservoir.
If you can call it a climb, out of Holmfirth. Naturally, most walks out of town involve an ascent of some sort, but today, once the initial steep rise up Cemetry Road is completed it’s more of a gradual trek for three quarters of an hour or so on the rocky path over New Dunsley with elevated views both back down to Holmfirth and across in the far distance to Holme Moss, Black Hill and beyond.
Beyond the Rising Sun Farm (and campsite), and onto Cartworth Moor Road, heading initially between the cricket and football pitches and the quarries, leading there on to farmland and increasing wilderness. It's not long to the moors from there, straight up the road that turns progressively muddier underfoot before turning off, briefly, onto White Gate Road. Just a few minutes are spent traipsing up the black stuff before the entrance to the moors appears on the right in the shape of a gate. What was left of civilization is left behind as another rocky track traverses through heather lined moorland on the approach to Green House Hey Wood.
The High Tops
The track, over the cold and windswept moor leaves no idea of what lies at the end of it. The woods of Crossley’s Plantation to the right are given barely a cursory glance as the landscape eventually opens up, with beautiful views over Yateholme and Brownhill Reservoirs, and miles beyond. Casting your eyes to the left are the lonely and dramatic hills that will be traversed later on, slowly being engulfed in swirling low cloud, soon to turn into thick fog.
From rocky tracks to muddy, narrow paths cutting through more heather and the long, golden clumps of grass. Past the cairn at Elbow End and down to the grouse butts around Ruddle Clough, and a choice of three paths. One, over the fence and onwards to Snailsden Reservoir. A second that runs beneath the way we came but back towards Yateholme, and then todays, that winds its way around eventually to Holme Moss.
The path clings to the edge as it winds around beautiful Ramsden Clough before heading across the barren lands towards Great Twizle Head. Naturally, being mid-winter, the ground was very boggy and muddy and what path there is is largely walked around rather than along, due to the conditions under foot. With the addition of the fog, there was the occasional concern I’d drifted off the trail but fear not, once the landscape had enclosed again the path was obvious, but the views were non-existent.
A fence with a gate was reached, and the car park at Holme Moss was just ahead. Not that I could see it, and after planting both feet in a deep muddy bog either side of the gate, the fog meant I was only a hundred feet away before the brief outline of a van on the edge of the car park could just be made out. The views from there back down the Holme Valley are usually glorious. No point hanging around today though. Nothing but pure white in sight. Unsurprisingly, the ice cream van often found up there was nowhere to be seen either.
Above: That is what the view from Holme Moss is supposed to look like!
The Mysterious Path to Black Hill
On the OS maps there is a track that runs just beyond Holme Moss mast and along to Soldiers Lump, the trig point on Black Hill. This is mysterious to probably only me, and from the viewpoint of the trig at the other end of the path you’d never know it exists. So with this fog to contend with too, it was with some nervousness that I scaled the small stile separating the small car park from the desolate and freezing moorland I now headed into. The only hint of a track was occasional footprints in the mud, but again, such was the bogginess that walking in a straight line was impossible. Every few feet I’d be having to traverse away from the path to avoid going more than ankle deep in the mud. Cursory checks on my GPS ensured I hadn’t carelessly veered away into the middle of nowhere.
The wilderness turned into groughs and peat bogs that reminded me in parts of the wilder parts of Kinder Scout and Bleaklow. The fog thinned out just enough to make out a view down Heydon Head, as the path wound its way around the varied and now picturesque scenery. More exploration of this area is needed, and I also duly noted many handy places for wild camping. Not for spellbinding views, but for the ease of being able to be as inconspicuous as possible. Eventually the trig point could be seen, though typically it was still a wet walk underfoot until the flagstones on the Pennine Way were reached. It was absolutely freezing there, and to think, I nearly left home with out my hat and gloves.
The Lower Lands
No navigation issues from here and a choice of routes back to Holmfirth. Northbound from Black Hill there is the option to head all the way down to the main road at Wessenden Head (especially if the snack van is there) to pick up the Kirklees Way. Today, I took the short cut, turning off onto the Issues Road track (visible from the higher echelons of Black Hill, and by now the fog on the lower ground ahead had cleared). If visibility is still bad, fear not, for the turn off Black Hill is marked by a CAUTION sign, advising of a detour for those occasions when further down the hill, heavy rain can make crossing the stream at Dean Clough somewhat tricky.
A slightly steep descent down to the track, which once reached is a straight road all the way down to the village of Holme. Early on Issues Road is another alternative way to reach Digley Reservoir, a left turn which loops along Good Bent and down to the beautiful Blackpool Bridge. That is for another walk and another blog. I continued to Holme, where incidentally there is a lovely pub called The Fleece Inn, and if you get too comfortable in there (easily done and highly recommended) there is an hourly bus back down to Holmfirth. If you wish to soberly (or not!) stay on two feet, as soon as Holme is entered then you are back out again, following the Kirklees Way to Digley, and a walk across the bridge to its north side to find the lovely path that, via some woodland, heads alongside the Holme River to Holmbridge and Hinchcliffe Mill, where there are an abundance of trails on low and higher grounds to choose from to take you back to Holmfirth.