Cleckheaton and the River Spen

A speedy flight from a bustling town centre whisks you into peaceful countryside.




2.25 miles (3.6kms)

130ft (40m)

About the walk

Cleckheaton is a small, bustling town on the River Spen, with a true commercial heart as yet undepleted by out-of-town shopping centres. Clustered around the junction of A643 Huddersfield/Morley and A638 Wakefield/Bradford roads, it feels as though it should be busier than it is. The M62, however, has relieved the town of much of its choking traffic, and though the town was once served by two lines, and had two stations, it no longer has a railway. Life in Cleckheaton then, is allowed to progress at a far more affable pace.

Yet it takes surprisingly little time to escape the centre and find yourself surrounded by greenery. Directly to the east of the town centre lie open fields, angling lakes and woodland, and a good network of paths that transport you into the countryside within minutes.

Once a thriving textile town, Cleckheaton specialised in carding, the process by which clumps of raw materials such as wool or cotton are combed into straight fibres, ready to be spun. By 1838 there were at least 11 carding mills in and around Cleckheaton and 50 years later its output won it an undisputed reputation as the carding capital of the world.

The price of success

Cleckheaton’s success came at a price, however. Its mills, like many others in the years of the Industrial Revolution, employed children on starvation wages to insert the staples into leather for carding the wool. And there were those who resented the mechanisation processes introduced in the early 19th century. In April 1812, local croppers made redundant by cloth-finishing machines attacked Rawfolds Mill with the aim of destroying the equipment; two were mortally wounded. A week later, the owner of another mill in the town was murdered. More than 100 suspects were rounded up and 64 were charged. Three were executed for the murder and 14 were hung for the attack on Rawfolds Mill. It was one of the worst incidents involving the Luddites, a country-wide working class movement that protested against increasing mechanisation by destroying factory machinery. They took they name from the mythical figure Ned Ludd, or Captain Ludd, who according to folklore was first to smash equipment, in a fit of rage. With such a turbulent past, perhaps it’s little wonder that access to the peace and quiet of the countryside has been preserved here.

Walk directions

Along Chapel Street, immediately jink left into a back street behind the Independent Methodist Church. Cross the road at the bottom and take the track opposite, which descends to cross a stream into a field. Bear left here, to the corner of a pond.

Bear left on boardwalk over a meadow. The boardwalk ends at a gap stile through a fence, the path continuing along the field-edge and through a kissing gate. After crossing a footbridge, a flag path bears you to a junction. Turn right, along a streamside path to a road, met on an S-bend. Turn left, cross carefully on the bend and take the signed snicket between Brookfield View and Kestrel View.

This brings you to a gap through a fence into a field. Turn right, keeping close to the field-edge and ignoring any gaps or stiles offering access into housing on your right. The path leaves housing behind when it passes through a gap to be guided below paddocks. Cross a step stile and continue along the right-hand edge of the field beyond, on what soon becomes an obvious worn path paralleling a stream.

In the far corner, cross a bridge over the stream and follow the fence on your right to a step stile. Ascend the next field, with the fence now on your left, bearing gently right to follow the hedge along the top edge. Half-way along the hedge, pass through a kissing gate to continue in the same direction along the opposite side. It guides you to a gap stile by a field gate in the corner.

Through this, bear right, across the field, to cross a stream and, a few paces beyond, a step stile over a fence. Head across the next field, to its top corner (to be sure, aim for the left-most of two phone line poles ahead). On meeting a farm track in the top-right corner of the field, turn left to the road.

Cross to the pavement and turn right, toward Egypt. At the far end of the first building passed on your left, turn left and mount an iron step stile into the yard of Egypt Farm. Pass through the yard, crossing a stile by the field gate opposite and keeping ahead down the field beyond, with the fence on your right, down to the far left corner, where a gap stile lets you into the field below.

The fence on your left guides you down to another stile, beyond which the route runs between a fence and a wooded embankment. Where the fence turns right, keep ahead on a firm path which gently climbs to a junction.

Through the wooden bollards turn right to cross lofty Cleckheaton Viaduct, which offers fine views across Cleckheaton and the Spen Valley as it passes above Harry Mann Dam. Keep ahead beyond the bridge, up a wide track leading back to Bradford Road.

Additional information

Generally good field paths and tracks; many stiles

Wetland, farmland and urban fringe

Dogs can exercise freely but should be on lead through farms and around livestock

OS Explorer 288 Bradford & Huddersfield

Free short-stay (4hr) parking in the town centre

In Cleckheaton

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