The Manshead Round – O.M.R. takes us on a walk of discovery over the moor tops

The Manshead Round – Can Be Seen In The Distance

To our right there is a wall that in times past indicated the boundary between Soyland in the Parish of Ripponden, and Hebden Royd. Great Manshead fell in the Soyland area, in the 1300’s the Parish of Halifax was the second largest in England, with Rochdale, the next Parish being the largest.

The close season is upon us, which many anglers observe and on still-water’s as well. For me I think it gives the fishy inhabitants of the water we visit a well earned break, plus it gives the bankside flora and fauna time to blossom into summer colours.

So what do you do in the 3 long months break? Some use the time to clean, service, and maybe expand their collection of vintage tackles, I seem to do that full time anyway, so my close season is actually the start of our walking year at home.

A Pennine View

Living in the South Pennines we have an abundance of moorland and valley walks on our doorstep. I like walking the tops, above the high pastures, where the air is crisp and clear and the views can be stunning, well, if the weather is kind they can be. They can also be non existent with thick cloud and rain. But there is always something to wonder at, and many new things to see.

Today Ruth and I have planned to go on one of our favourite walks, the Manshead Round. It is almost a rough circle of the moor taking in 7-1/2 miles of high pasture and footpaths, the best thing is it goes right from the front door.

So here we go; its about 11.00 am, the sun is shining and we set off up the road take a right turn to Castle Lane then another steep lane that leads to the moor top access road. We stride out up the narrow lane stopping to allow a car to pass by, then reaching the top we turn left and head onward, still going uphill, suddenly the view ahead opens up. Quite why there is a bus stop up here in the middle of nowhere is a mystery, but the local Corvids seem to like the perch.

A Convenient Place To Perch

Pausing to take a snap, we then head on, branch right, and up a narrow right of way footpath between the fields, passing a half dozen curious alpacas on our right in a walled field, we walk on and suddenly find ourselves in the back garden of a cottage. It is one of the odd things that seem to be normal around here.

The footpath is a public right of way, how it comes to run through the garden is a mystery for the cottage is probably a couple of hundred years old. The cottage residents must be used to the odd person traipsing past their back door, and cheerily pass the time of day. We head along the lane, and then the next surprise! As we approach the high pastures, there on our right is a well manicured and looked after cricket pitch with a delightful club house. ‘Stones Cricket Club’, is in a really fantastic location, high in the Pennines with far reaching views over the surrounding moors and farmland.

We hear the thwack of leather of willow, and over to the right we see a couple of players practising in the nets, mid march and they are already preparing for the season.

Walking on, we turn right down a farm track, then left and the way ahead is open to view, we can see our destination, Great Manshead Hill (I have no idea who the great man was that the hill was named after).

Gt. Manshead Can Be Seen In The Distance

Here you can see it in the far distance, the path to it is actually to the left of the plantation you can see, but today we are taking a different route because I have something to show you that you would probably not recognise unless you actually knew what it was. We reach the end of the farm track which is just this side of the plantation, from here we will turn right along a metalled road.

We pass a tractor towing a slurry spreader, wave to the driver who we recognise as Ian, a chap we know from the village. He is out muck spreading, very appropriate for what is coming shortly.

The road takes a turn to the right, but we carry on ahead, through a gated entrance to the moortop track. This track passes a second plantation, to our right, and a little further up are some old delphs or if you like quarries.

Here I will tell a rather strange tale.

Back in about the early 1980’s this area was the scene of a rather strange confrontation, here up on the tops a group of ‘New age travellers’ decided to set up camp, they forced the gate open, and their convoy of various battered vans, horse boxes etc, all moved onto the land. They set up ‘benders’ (tents constructed from tarpaulin and bent tree branches) and in no time had the area looking like a bomb site. Human waste, litter, etc. When local farmers asked them to leave the travellers became aggressive and threatening . The local farmers all have grazing rights, owned land, and had cows and sheep running free on the moor. Naturally they were concerned for their stock, their land and what was happening to it. The travellers had no idea of what they would up against.

Where It All Started

The farmers went to the local Constabulary wanting them to evict the travellers, who were not welcome and in fact trespassing. It was an uncomfortable truth that the landowners had to apply for an eviction notice, all which took time and money. The farmers had an alternative plan. If the travellers wanted to stay there they could.

One afternoon about a half dozen tractors with slurry spreaders on the back appeared and in no time at all the whole encampment, benders, vehicles, occupants was knee deep in liquid cow muck, there were a second lot of tractors with telelifts on the front with concrete blocks that were placed all around the encampment, and the burly farmers informed the travellers that they would be back every day to ensure the land was well fertilised.

In short, after 24 hours the ‘Travellers’ were begging the farmers to let them leave, where they had at first been aggressive, they were now on the other end of the situation. Needless to say they left and never returned.

We continue up the rutted farm track and past a ‘bob hole’ in the wall. You will see that a flat stone has been rolled across the hole, the hole is a method that the farmers use to get sheep from one area to another without having to put a gate in the wall, there are lots in the fields around here.

The Bob Hole

Onward and upward. Looking ahead and in the left we see an unexpected building looking like a military installation. I cannot count the numbers of people who see it but do not know what it is.

You will see the building looks out across a flat area of moortop. In WW2 the Government had the idea to create decoy airfields, the plan was to lure enemy bombers away from cities and drop their cargo onto barren areas where there would be no loss of life. These decoy areas were called ‘Starfish’ sites, this particular one had a decoy runway lit by oil drums every night, the buildings were to protect the ‘Starfish’ servicemen from any blast that may occur due to enemy bombing. As it happened there was never any bombs dropped on this particular site. Incredible that such a place should still exist and be so accessible.

A Blast Shelter

We walk to the end of the path past the bunker to where it starts to descend into Cragg Vale. The view across the next valley is panoramic, and looks across toward Stoodley Pike; a large monument that was constructed to mark the end of the Napoleonic wars. The first monument built fell down, so it was replaced by something far more substantial. The Pike is above the small town of Hebden Bridge. Ruth takes the time to take a few snaps of the view.

The Pennine Way runs past the Pike, and it is a well known route marker. We now return to the top of the track, turn right and cross a stile, pass the bunker on our left and start the walk along the right hand edge of the ‘Starfish’ Runway.

To our right there is a wall that in times past indicated the boundary between Soyland in the Parish of Ripponden, and Hebden Royd. Great Manshead fell in the Soyland area, in the 1300’s the Parish of Halifax was the second largest in England, with Rochdale, the next Parish being the largest.

A Typical Boundary Stone

The boundary is Marked by a stone. It is not known how old this boundary stone is, but it must have been of some importance to warrant a person carving it, bringing it up here and placing it.

The moorland here is dotted with gritstone boulders jutting out from the peaty earth, there are thousands of years of weathering on the stones, and some have most unusual forms. These are called ‘Cup Stones’ supposedly formed by a small pebble ending up in a depression in the rock and over time the wind and rain weathers the stone, the pebble hones the stone accordingly to forms the ‘cup’ or so it is believed. I prefer the other explanation, that the stone cups were made by the Druids to hold the blood of sacrificed virgins. I suppose neither will ever be proved.

A Cup Stone

The cup stones are the halfway point in our ramble, so we take time to partake of the wayfarers lunch, an apple and a cheese, with an Adnams ale chaser. The views here are spectacular and we never tire of them, even having seen them so often. As we drink in the ale and panorama I can hear three separate birdsongs, which tend to indicate that Spring is here, a curlew, a plover which we call a ‘Flappit’ and a skylark. We search the skies and over ground but there is no sign of the birds – but we know they are there somewhere. Before we carry on Ruth takes some photographs of the splendid views.

Ruth Taking Photographs Of The Splendid Views

Refreshed, we take up our walking poles and resume our ramble, up, along the footpath, past cairns that mark the way, until we eventually reach the Manshead summit Trig Point. From here on it is as they say all downhill, looking down the valley we see two reservoirs, the largest being Baitings, the second one being Ryburn. We live just beyond Ryburn so the view is welcome. Walking on we pass a small stone circle. Passing this way before I have heard other walkers describe it as a Neolithic burial site, and cairn.

In fact this Neolithic site is just a shooting butt, there is a line of about 13 of these old shooting butts all along the moortop, relics of when the moor was used by Lord Saville, the landowner to host shooting parties. Lord Saville owned the land that these days stretched from the M62 to well across the moors past Hebden Bridge and onward, in fact he owned a shooting lodge just a few miles from here which is no doubt where the guns using these butts stayed.

We pass the plantation, pausing to glance at a standing stone amongst the pines. Despite researching the stone, there is nothing recorded about it, the landscape around here has many neolithic burial mounds, stone circles and prehistoric settlements. It could even be an erratic, although its shape seems not to support that theory.

Shortly we are back onto the farm track that we approached Manshead from at the start of the walk. We pass the cricket ground and cottages go through the back gardens past the bus stop, turn right returning down the steep Castle lane and in no time at all are back home.

I am now sitting comfortably and enjoying a cup of Baileys Coffee, some excellent fruit cake made by Ruth, and composing this piece for the TPR&F. I hope you find it entertaining.

Writing & Images OMR – Yorkshire, April 2022