The Hiker’s Guide. I hope you find it useful.
Day 42 pre-amble
Not sure you need to be a hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional being to work out today’s theme from the blog post title. If you know, you know, but the answer is below.
LEJoG Day 42 (Thursday 25 April 2019) – The Hiker’s Guide
This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Standedge to Hebden Bridge (16½ miles)
Cumulative: 587 miles
Facts: Time on walk: 5 hours 10 minutes. Average speed: 3.19 mph. Weather: Cool, cloudy (rather than overcast or foggy); rain on Blackstone Edge and approaching Hebden Bridge; occasionally warm and breezy.
Practicalities: Tedious 40-minute walk back from Marsden to rejoin the main path.
Start: Footpath junction, Standedge, 10:35am (left Marsden 9:55am). End: Bottom of Bridge Gate, Hebden Bridge, 4:30pm.
It’s not far from the junction to the crossing of the A62, which is followed by a nice steady ascent to Millstone Edge. Here you’re in a narrow corridor between the conurbations of Greater Manchester (to the west) and West Yorkshire (to the east). I took this picture from there, looking in the direction of Diggle and Oldham.
View from Millstone Edge (looking west)
I really enjoyed the section on Millstone Edge. Almost perfect spring walking weather, bright with a strong breeze. Great views to the west, and a combination of boulders and grass that reminded me of walking on Stanage Edge, near Hathersage. The mind started wandering happily, focusing initially on the simple, quiet glories of nature. From there I started to think about climate change and humanity’s attitude towards it, doubtless triggered by the recent prominence of Greta Thunberg in the news. And in particular the insufferably mean-spirited and complacent reaction of certain egregious B-Ark types such as him and her. (If you’ll permit me to get meta for a moment, it was round about now that the idea for today’s post occurred to me)
After a short while on the edge the landscape turned much darker. Peat and what looked like blackened heather now dominated the surrounding hills. This is illustrated by the pictures below:
Peat and heather – note small fire
Peat and heather (2) – note larger fire
As I was already preoccupied with Swiftian views of our fellow man, the visible presence of smoke in the fields couldn’t help but prompt another memory of humanity at its dumbest. In the July before my walk, a fire was started deliberately not far from here. It went on to rage for a week over a seven-mile area of the Peak District. What I was looking at, however, was the end result of this fire, starting on Marsden Moor and spreading to Saddleworth just yesterday. I had no idea at the time that there had been such a recent fire. My mind went straight to the deliberate one from the previous summer. It seems likely that this one was, if not arson, caused by lighting barbecues. On dense moorland. Because that’s what people want from fire, that’s how they relate to it.
If the human race does go down in flames, due to climate change or indeed nuclear annihilation, sometimes you look around at the trivia that occupies our minds as we give free reign to some of the worst among us, and can’t help but think that we’re an apathetic bloody planet and that an outsider would have no sympathy at all.
Moving Swiftly on… I make no claim to being superior, for that way lies madness, hubris and the fate of Icarus. Or even Hotblack Desiato’s stuntship. While in deep thought on climate change, fires and why two talking heads who should be first against the wall when the revolution comes wish to spend their lives shitting on a girl sitting on her own outside the Riksdag with some concept of what it was that had been going wrong all this time, I wandered off the Pennine Way and along the Oldham Way. Like the imperfect human being that I am. This was the cock-up mentioned in the teaser, and my response was not to panic. It took a mere five minutes to return to the stone marker where I should have turned north.
Followed a good path to the A640 road, fording a stream along the way and leaving the burnt heather and peat behind for good. Crossed and entered another expanse of moorland: from memory I think this is still Marsden Moor rather than Saddleworth Moor. Actually, a quick bit of research confirms that Saddleworth Moor is further south and was crossed by the A635 yesterday (I always thought it was much closer to the M62). Anyway, as it happens the boundary of the Marsden Moor Estate comes less than 10 minutes walk from the road and coincides with this:
From there it’s a relatively gentle up and over White Hill (466m), followed by a descent to the A672. The next landmark looms as soon as you leave the road for a piece of rough scrubland. It’s the M62, and it’s big. Really big. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the street to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to the M62. Look:
The M62, near Junction 22, viewed from the south
This is a sentimental moment, as it’s my last chance to see a motorway crossing until Scotland. And you know how much I love those motorway crossings. To be fair, this one is a doozy. A footbridge especially constructed for the Pennine Way, important enough in itself to justify the header image. I confess that, the older I get, the more I resemble Jim Nelson when crossing road bridges on foot. Probably because I instinctively know that one moment of clumsiness and the ground will not be friends with me. It’s why I’ll probably never visit attractions such as the CN Tower, for instance. A trace of fear is always there, even though of course I know bridge crossings are mostly harmless. And you can hardly call this one especially daunting:
South-to-north walker’s view of the M62 footbridge
Even as I steeled myself for the ascent of Blackstone Edge, I could barely tear myself away from the motorway:
So long, and thanks for all the Rish(worth)
The ascent of Blackstone Edge is on a good, stony path but seemed to take longer than the map indicated. Fortunately my magic thighs were more than up to the task of the longest climb of the day so far. Reaching the summit was satisfying, and (once there) lunchtime doubly so. The first full-on rain of the week was considerably less delightful. It soon forced me to don my waterproof trousers, cut lunch short and descend quickly. Trailblazer warns of navigation problems here, but I found the Aiggin Stone quite easily. Turned left to descend the hill facing Littleborough, then followed the contour to the A58. A short climb, crossed the road, passed the White House and then joined a level track heading north/north-west. To find…
…reservoirs. Oh no, not again. As if I hadn’t seen enough of them yesterday, here were three in a row, spread over 45 minutes of mindless tedium. They’re inoffensive in themselves, of course, reservoirs. But they do attract an uncomfortably high number of insects and they’re quite dull to look at. Particularly so if you’re walking their full length rather than crossing them. But, if you want to complete the Pennine Way – let alone LEJoG – resistance is useless.
The first reservoir (Blackstone Edge) was the worst. The second reservoir (Light Hazzles, much longer) was the worst too. The third reservoir (Warland, even longer than the others) I didn’t enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline.
Not really. After Warland there was a small bridge and then I re-entered the moors for the long haul to Stoodley Pike monument. I think you ought to know I’m not feeling very depressed about reservoirs. You may well read 50FootHead and think I seem to be having this tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle, but we’re not in broken pencil territory yet.
According to a fingerpost, Stoodley Pike monument is 1½ miles from here. It seemed a very long 1½ miles to me, I have to say. After passing a few resting walkers, I arrived at Withen’s Gate. Here one could turn left along the Calderdale Way to stay in a village named after the small holes in a loaf of bread which give rise to the momentary suspicion that something may have made its home within. We’ve all been there, right? Instead I turned right, climbing steeply to a rocky path, becoming grassy further along the ridge, which led directly to Stoodley Pike monument.
This is a major landmark for Pennine Wayfarers. In particular, those walking from north to south see it as the first sign they are close to the Peak District. It’s just under 40 miles from Edale. Stayed for about 15 minutes: it was difficult to find shelter from the strong winds. The views over the Calder Valley are perhaps more impressive to look at than the monument itself:
Calder Valley, looking west towards Todmorden
The next stage, descending to a stone wall and passing through farmland (Lower Rough Head Farm), would seem over-familiar on many of the Pennine Way stages to come, but felt unusual today. Soon I entered a walled lane, heading north past Edge End Farm. The Pennine Way continues north, crossing the River Calder at Mytholm before climbing steeply again. As I, in common with many, preferred to stay in Hebden Bridge slightly off route, it was time to seek an alternative. I would like to have completed the Pennine Way in full, but LEJoG must always take priority.
While certainly not infinitely improbable, it was nevertheless a stroke of luck that page 110 of the Trailblazer guide presents the walker with an ideal alternative: the Hebden Bridge Loop. Rather than have me recite the route over the latter part of Day 42 and early stages of Day 43, please consult the links.
Honestly, I can’t recommend the Hebden Bridge Loop highly enough. It is brilliantly waymarked, with the red arrows standing out on country paths and on roads, and surely impossible to get lost even without a map. Also, I can’t imagine the original route being any more attractive. Finally, I had already booked accommodation in Heptonstall (a village around 10 minutes by bus from the centre of Hebden Bridge), which is also right on the loop route. Complaints? None at all.
In brief: a short, sharp descent is followed by a wooded path with Horsehold Wood on your left and fields on your right. This emerges on to Horsehold Road (becoming New Road), a long descent, steep in places, on a wide road used by motorised traffic with no verges or pavement. This brings you to eye level with the great chimney stacks by the Rochdale Canal, and eventually you are level with the River Calder and Rochdale Canal themselves. Rather than crossing Hebble End, the loop takes you east along the canal to Holme Street. Walk to the end of the street and you are in the centre of Hebden Bridge. Taking care not to get killed on the zebra crossing, I stopped my Fitbit at the bottom end of Bridge Gate.
After the walk
Knowing I couldn’t manage the steep climb to Heptonstall, I found the first bus stop and worked out when my next bus would be. Removed my boots and muddy waterproof trousers before using public transport, of course. The bus came within 15 minutes of my arrival in Hebden Bridge. Very friendly bus driver, who recognised me later when I returned to Heptonstall after my evening meal.
I stayed at the Cross Inn, Heptonstall. What follows is a more detailed description than usual of my typical post-check-in thoughts and actions. As this period of tiredness before a shower and pick-me-up is normally around 4pm-5pm, you might call it the long, dark teatime of the soul. It’s actually quite short, but if you’ve had a long day it still feels like a chore and sometimes you do wonder if your soul is at ease – is this really what you wanted to do with your 40s? Well, in an ideal world, no. But no such thing exists. Yet some get closer than others, don’t they?
Let’s stop there. These thoughts aren’t normally going through my head. The first thought is usually – hope it’s a decent shower rather than a bath, and the second: is there any tea in this hotel room? The third involves biscuits, which I don’t tend to eat at any other time. But it’s always a disappointment if a hotel fails to offer complimentary biscuits. Isn’t it, though? Don’t care about them if I’m abroad, but a walker’s hotel or B&B and no biscuits? That’s a mark off on booking.com immediately.
Before I can enjoy the shower, cuppa and biscuits, though, I have to undress and put all the manky washing in my ever-burgeoning wash-bag. This is one of the factors that prevents me from having walking holidays longer than 5-6 days: I really don’t want to spend my spare time in a launderette and after five days the bag is too big to be kept safely away from clean stuff in my rucksack.
It’s not a thrill-a-minute life, is it? But once you’re clean, dressed and refreshed it’s as if you never had these worries and all the hassles of the walking day are forgotten. And it so happens that tonight I was in the town voted by The Times in 2013 as the coolest place in Britain to live (Trailblazer, page 114). One of the main attractions is a “vibrant arts scene”, hopefully not involving bad poetry. Regardless of where I am (excepting big cities where I don’t have to walk tomorrow) however, my priority is much the same: a good meal and a decent beer.
This evening I decided to go Greek, so the restaurant at the end of the walking day was Aya Sophia. I don’t especially like eating on my own day after day, especially in places like this which are designed for groups. But after many Inter-Rail and walking holidays I’m used to it now. During the food I researched craft beer venues in Hebden Bridge, stopping at Chapter 17 for a strong, dark brew (sorry I have no record of the name). It wasn’t exactly a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster but the effects were very pleasant. Bus back to Heptonstall around 8:30pm.
Postscript – My Listening Pleasure
Homecoming: The Live Album by Beyoncé (started after lunch, got me through those damn reservoirs and past Stoodley Pike) and Cuz I Love You by Lizzo (Hebden Bridge Loop). Both released just last week, so if you weren’t listening to those albums, you guys are so unhip it’s a wonder your bums don’t fall off.
Picture, from Wikimedia Commons, shows the Pennine Way footbridge over the M62. The closest thing on my journey to a hyperspace expressway.
Next: Day 43 (26 April 2019)… in which I get wet, but it’s twenty-nine days too early for a towel.
This post was conceived and written as a tribute to the late Douglas Noel Adams (1952-2001), creator of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy radio series, books and TV series. I would love to include a photograph here, but feel that a link to an electronic encyclopaedia would be more in keeping with the man and his creation.
As I’ve already mentioned here, the death of Douglas Adams hit me harder than that of any justly famous person (as opposed to the degraded term ‘celebrity’) until Prince in 2016. Here’s the Guardian’s obituary and some other contemporary links from 2001.
Below, mainly for the uninitiated, is an index of the 42 references to Adams and Hitch-Hiker’s which I’ve worked into this post and the previous teaser. RIP, DNA.
- “There’s a cock-up” (Day #41 teaser). Ford Prefect uses this term to describe the consequences of the Golgafrincham B-Ark crash-landing on prehistoric Earth. The useless third of the Golgafrinchan population will out-evolve the native cavemen, thus defeating Earth’s ultimate purpose.
- “but I don’t panic” (Day #41 teaser). “DON’T PANIC!” is the phrase on the cover of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (hereafter “the Guide”) itself.
- #42. I chose Day 42 because 42 is, of course, the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.
- The Hiker’s Guide – the Day 42 blog post title is obviously a reference to the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide, adapted for a walking blog.
- “Hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings”. Mice, to you.
- “This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.” Spoken by Arthur Dent to Ford Prefect shortly after the latter tells Arthur that the world is about to end.
- B-Ark types: the useless third of Golgafrincham‘s population (qv 1.), from whom all current Earthlings are sadly descended. This may be a science-fiction comedy, but it’s also a pretty sharp satire (qv 8.). Corroborative evidence is all around you.
- Swifitan: reference to Jonathan Swift, to whose satire Adams’s work (certainly Hitch-Hiker’s) has often been compared, particularly in its view of human nature. See for example here.
- “Because that’s what people want from fire, that’s how they relate to it.” Discussion between an exasperated Ford Prefect and the Golgafrinchan marketing consultant on prehistoric Earth. Never mind practical evolution, the marketing consultant declares it more important to “find out what people want from fire, how they relate to it, what sort of image it has for them.”
- “apathetic bloody planet… no sympathy at all.” The words of captain Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz, immediately before he destroys the planet Earth.
- Hotblack Desiato’s stuntship. It flies even closer to the sun than Icarus did.
- “deep thought“. Deep Thought is the name of the super-computer created by qv 5. to come up with the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything.
- “two talking heads” – reference to Zaphod Beeblebrox.
- “…first against the wall when the revolution comes“. As in the mindless jerks from the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.
- “… a girl sitting on her own outside the Riksdag with some concept of what it was that had been going wrong all this time.” Invoking Greta Thunberg, using this quote from Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.
- “fording a stream”. Crowbarred “ford” in there for the sake of a reference to Ford Prefect, Arthur Dent’s intergalactic travel companion from Betelgeuse and roving researcher for the Guide.
- Remarkable feat of engineering it may be, but the M62 is, of course, not even peanuts compared to space.
- “last chance to see“. Last Chance To See is the title of a radio series and accompanying book by Douglas Adams and zoologist Mark Carwardine. The title refers to endangered species.
- “the ground will not be friends with me” – refers back to the fate of the poor sperm whale called into being above the planet of Magrathea in Hitch-Hiker’s, specifically its last thoughts.
- “mostly harmless” – the Guide’s entry for the planet Earth and title of the “5th book in the increasingly inaccurately-named Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy.”
- “So long, and thanks for all the Rish(worth)” is a pun on So Long, and Thanks For All The Fish, the 4th book in the Hitch-Hiker’s series and the final message from the dolphins to humans before the destruction of Earth. I’m saying “so long” to the M62, and Rishworth is on that A672 road. There has to be internal consistency, I don’t just pluck these puns out of my bottom.
- “my magic thighs“. Majikthise (pronounced the same way) is a philosopher who fears being put out of business by Deep Thought finding an Answer to the Ultimate Question. His mate is called Vroomfondel. Walkers should have decent enough thighs, even if they’re not quite magic, but I’m yet to meet one who fondles vrooms.
- “lunchtime doubly so“. Ford says this to Arthur shortly after breaking the news that the world is about to end.
- “Oh no, not again.” The last and only thoughts of a bowl of petunias formed at the same time as the sperm whale (qv 17.).
- “mindless tedium“. One of the things which attracted the young Vogon guard to his job, throwing Arthur and Ford out of an airlock.
- “resistance is useless“. Favourite statement of the same Vogon guard (qv 23.)
- “The first… was the worst. The second… was the worst too. The third… I didn’t enjoy at all.” Adaptation of this quote from Marvin the Paranoid Android.
- “I think you ought to know I’m not feeling very depressed.” Marvin’s first line, with an extra word inserted to reassure my readers.
- “I seem to be having this tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle.” Seemingly innocent quote from Arthur Dent which caused thousands of years of war, all of it rendered utterly futile by a terrible miscalculation of scale.
- “a village named after…“. This is the definition of Mankinholes from The Meaning Of Liff, by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, first published 1983.
- “infinitely improbable” – reference to the Infinite Improbability Drive which enables Zaphod’s starship Heart of Gold to rescue Arthur and Ford from certain death in deep spoace.
- “None at all“. The amount of damage a bulldozer would suffer if council official Mr Prosser allowed it to roll straight over Arthur. And by a strange coincidence…
- “Taking care not to get killed on the zebra crossing“. From one of my absolute favourite sections of Hitch-Hiker’s. Read the whole thing.
- The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul is the title of a Dirk Gently novel by Douglas Adams, and also a quote from Life, The Universe and Everything (the third book in the Hitch-Hiker’s Trilogy).
- “is there any tea in this hotel room?” Arthur asks the same question on spaceships.
- Bad poetry: specifically Vogon poetry, the third worst in the universe.
- “the restaurant at the end of the walking day” – reference to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the second book in the Hitch-Hiker’s series.
- Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster: “the best drink in existence.”
- “you guys are so unhip it’s a wonder your bums don’t fall off“. Quote from Zaphod Beeblebrox and possibly my favourite one-liner in the book.
- “a hyperspace expressway” – what the Earth is destroyed to make way for, at the start of the first book.
- “twenty-nine days too early for a towel” – Reference to Towel Day. For the relevance and importance of the towel, see here. As ‘Towel Day’ is 25th May, 26th April is 29 days early. [Incidentally, I’ve never been tempted to attend conventions of this kind, no matter how much I love something. Am I missing out?]
- is The Answer.