South Pennine Walks
Crow Hill & the Alcomden Stones
Date: 18th Oct 2014
Distance: 7.0 miles
Ascent: 1050 feet
Time: 3 hours 50 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SD995371
A walk in Bronte Country visiting the lonely summit of Crow Hill before returning via the Alcomden Stones and Top Withins.
Route Summary: Ponden Reservoir - Lower Slack - Birch Brink - Ponden Kirk - Ponden Slack - Crow Hill - Redmires Flat - Alcomden Stones - Withins Height - Top Withins - Master Stones - Lower Slack - Ponden Reservoir
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: The main aim of this walk was to visit Crow Hill, a lonely moorland summit situated on the main Pennine watershed to the north of Boulsworth Hill. After considering a number of route options I chose this one which gave me the opportunity to also revisit some of my favourite spots in Bronte country including Ponden Kirk and the Alcomden Stones.
Starting alongside Ponden Reservoir my plan was to approach Crow Hill via the old quarry track climbing on to the moor Ponden Hall. Rather than making directly for the track via Ponden Hall I instead took a more circuitous route via Low Slack and Birch Bank so that I could enjoy the views from the path contouring around the top of Ponden Clough.
In particular I wanted to revisit the stone outcrop called Ponden Kirk. Possibly once a site of pagan worship it is often cited as the inspiration for the fictional Penistone Crag in 'Wuthering Heights'. In local folklore it also connected with .. Whatever its religious and literary connections it is a fine spot commanding a cracking view of Ponden Clough and the Worth Valley. It is one of my favourite spots in the South Pennines.
Having walked around the top of Ponden Clough I descended slightly towards Upper Ponden before cutting across the moor to reach the quarry track. This led easily up to the remains of some old delphs, now largely covered in heather. Just above the old quarry remains I came across a large boundary stone engraved with, 'Lad or Scarr on Crow Hill'.
From the Lad on Crow Hill the path quickly faded as I neared the top of Crow Hill. The summit itself was unmarked; with moorland stretching in all directions it felt very remote. Boulsworth Hill and Pendle were both easily identifiable though unfortunately the cloudy conditions obscured the view northwards towards the Yorkshire Dales.
From the top of Crow Hill I could see what looked like a path heading directly for my next objective - the Alcomden Stones just over a mile away. On closer inspection the 'path' turned out to be a ditch. This in turn ran almost exactly along the boundary line marked on the map. As I made my way alongside the ditch I came across a total of four small boundary stones all of which were engraved 'KC 1902'. Probably due to the dry autumn thus far the ground was easier than I expected underfoot. That said there was one bog as I crossed Red Mires Flat that was very wet and at least 2-3 feet deep in places.
The Alcomden Stones are one of those seemingly random collections of gritstone rocks that are so characteristic of the southern half of the Pennines. I sat and ate my lunch in the shelter of the highest of the stones and whilst contemplating my surroundings arrived at the (somewhat heretical) conclusion that I preferred the bleak beauty of the Pennines to the more obvious charms of the Lake District.
After my lunch I followed a thin path to the trig point on Withins Height before continuing, this time in a south-east direction to Top Withins. Thus far I hadn't encountered a single person on the walk so it was something of a shock to the system to when Top Withins suddenly came into view along with about fifty odd people who were milling abouts its remains.
From Top Withins I followed the Pennine Way north before branching off to visit the gritstone outcrop called the Master Stones. These were not particularly substantial but provided a dramatic enough foreground to an excellent view of the Worth Valley. From the Master Stones I headed towards Birch Bank where I dropped back down the path via Low Slack that I'd climbed up at the start of the walk.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable walk though not one I'd recommend doing in poor visibility, the section between Crow Hill and the Alcomden Stones would be particularly difficult in such conditions. This was my fourth walk in this area and each time it has been cloudy. While I would normally moan at the lack of sunshine and blue skies I find that grey cloudy skies are better suited to the bleak and lonely surroundings.