Out & About in Calderdale - Hardcastle Crags

Out & About in Calderdale - Hardcastle Crags

Thursday 20th July 2017

Walkers, naturalists and those interested in spotting the rare northern hairy wood ant will enjoy the 400 acres of unspoilt woodland which makes up the National Trust property of Hardcastle Crags in West Yorkshire.

Nicknamed "Little Switzerland", this scenic wooded valley is popular for guided walks and rambling.

A great place to start any visit is at the Visitor Centre in the heart of the woodland, in the converted Gibson Mill building. The centre gives a detailed overview of the history and nature of the area with interactive displays, colourful exhibits and special events from time to time. The mill is used as a community centre and as an educational attraction.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the mill is what visitors don't see. The 19th century cotton mill is the National Trust's flagship environmentally friendly building, without any connection to the national grid for electricity. The building produces its own power and is fully self-supporting.

The mill also has no mains water or sewer connection. It relies on natural spring water along with dry toilets and a specially designed clay soak away which is filtered through the soil. Local wood from the forest is used to provide hot water and space heating. Electricity comes from water-powered turbines, along with photo-voltaic and solar panels which are used when the water levels are low during the summer.

Guided tours of this environmentally friendly mill are available for those interested in learning about this eco-friendly architectural example, which has minimal impact on the environment.

Displays include information about the industrial history and use of the mill, the social heritage of the people who worked at the mill and the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside.

The mill has an interesting place in local history, being one of the first mills to be built during the Industrial Revolution. The wheel of this water mill was the power which was used to produce cotton cloth for over 90 years. At the height of production the mill employed 21 workers who worked a hard 72 hours per week.

After its working life as a mill was over, Gibson Mill became the local entertainment venue with a dance hall and dining rooms, roller skating and boating on the mill pond in the early 1900s. After the Second World War it lay derelict until the National Trust took it over and reopened it in 2005 after 50 years of disuse.

Setting off from the Gibson Mill there are more than 30 miles of footpaths and trails across this scenic area of the South Pennines. There are several circular walks with some steep inclines from three to seven miles in length to suit all ages and abilities.

Tumbling streams, waterfalls and gritstone outcrops which gave the area its name, make this a wonderful place to enjoy long walks and fresh air in this unspoilt area.

The appropriately named Muddy Boots Café at the mill serves hot and cold snacks and drinks to visitors, along with ever-popular home-baked cakes