On the packhorse trail along Salter Rake

An invigorating moorland walk, punctuated by reservoirs, finishing off with a stretch of the Rochdale Canal.




6 miles (9.7kms)

902ft (275m)
2hrs 30min

About the walk

Salter Rake is an old packhorse road which, as the name suggests, was used particularly for transporting salt from the Cheshire salt mines across the Pennines. When these trading routes were first established, the Calder Valley was largely undrained. The teams of packhorse ponies, laden with pannier bags, would keep to the drier high ground, only descending into the valleys to cross rivers on the narrow stone bridges that are so typical of the area.

Most of these causeways (or 'causeys') were paved with stones. More than three centuries after they were laid, these stones still fit snugly together as the pieces of a jigsaw. To judge from the way they are deeply 'dished', the stones have seen heavy use over the years by countless horses' hooves.

Familiar rocks

Gritstone rocks and outcrops are familiar features throughout the South Pennines. The Basin Stone, an oddly-shaped rock looks – from one viewpoint, at least – like a fishtail. It is a prominent landmark high on Walsden Moor and was one of the many sites used by travelling Methodist preachers when they delivered their open-air sermons, well away from the watchful eyes of the authorities.


Like many of the reservoirs you will encounter whilst walking in the South Pennines, the one passed on this walk – Warland, and its neighbours, Light Hazzles and White Holme – were built to supply water for a canal. The Rochdale Canal was built to link Manchester to the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge. By the 1920s there was very little commercial traffic still using it, so the reservoirs were converted to an alternative use and joined the complex of water supply systems built to slake the thirst of East Lancashire's mill towns.

Walk directions

Walk southeast along the road for 300yds (274m), passing the former Bird i'th Hand pub to take a track on the left past cottages, Warland Gate End. Cross the Rochdale Canal on a swing bridge and follow the track over a stream to zigzag steeply up the hill. Where the track later forks, keep right through an ornamental gate towards Calflee House. Turn right when you reach a T-junction. Approaching the house, go through a second gate and swing left on a track that leads up to another house. Pass around the back of the building to find a field gate and continue across the open moor on a rising rough track. As you approach the retaining embankment of Warland Reservoir, follow the track to the right, which slants upwards to reach the reservoir.

Double back left along the top of the dam, from which there are terrific views over Calderdale and East Lancashire. Cross a bridge at the northern end of the reservoir, and keep on the track as it follows a drainage channel.

When both track and channel wheel to the right, go left in front of a stone bridge, to follow a flagged path in the direction of another, smaller lake, Gaddings Reservoir. It was reputedly built with convict labour and was intended to supplement water supplies for the textile mills in the valley disrupted by the construction of the canal. On the distant skylines ahead and to the right are two of the many windfarms, built to take advantage of the abundant winds that sweep the Pennines.

Bear half left at the far end of the reservoir, down stone steps and continue along a clear path that soon passes close to the curiously shaped outcrop called the Basin Stone. Shortly you come to a meeting of paths, marked with a small waymarker post.

Turn left here, on a path that's soon delineated by causeway stones; you are now following Salter Rake, an old packhorse road. Enjoy excellent views over Walsden as you make a gradual descent, still across open moorland, then accompanying a wall. Eventually, leave the moor through a gate and continue to a junction opposite a mullion-windowed farmhouse. Bear left to pass a second house, Hollingworth Gate, walking through a gate back onto the moor. Immediately branch right off the track on to a causeway path, marked as the Pennine Bridleway. It later swings above another farmhouse and before long, winds across a beck to reach the tiny hillside settlement of Bottomley. Go right here, down a metalled track, but then bear immediately right again, through a gate, along a cobbled, walled path heading directly downhill, which takes you to the Rochdale Canal.

Cross the canal by the side of Bottomley Lock, and walk left along the canal tow path. An easy 0.5-mile (800m) stroll takes you back to the swing bridge straddling the Yorkshire–Lancashire border over which you set out. Go right to the main road and right again back to your car.

Additional information

Good paths and tracks throughout

Open moorland, reservoirs and canalside

Keep on lead throughout the walk, especially around sheep

OS Explorer OL21 South Pennines

Lay-by, 300yds (274m) north of Warland Gate End on A6033, by playfield, between Todmorden and Littleborough

None on route

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About the area

Discover West Yorkshire

Everybody knows that Yorkshire has some special landscapes. The Dales and the Moors first spring to mind, but what about West Yorkshire? That’s Leeds and Bradford isn’t it? Back-to-back houses and blackened mills… Certainly if you had stood on any of the hills surrounding Hebden Bridge a hundred years ago, and gazed down into the valley, all you would have seen was the pall of smoke issuing from the chimneys of 33 textile mills. But thankfully, life changes very quickly in West Yorkshire. The textile trade went into terminal decline, the mills shut down forever and in a single generation Hebden Bridge became a place that people want to visit.

The surrounding countryside offers walking every bit as good as the more celebrated Yorkshire Dales; within minutes you can be tramping across the moors. And this close proximity of town and country is repeated all across West Yorkshire. There’s such diversity in the area that you can find yourself in quite unfamiliar surroundings, even close to places you may know very well. Take time to explore this rich county and you will be thrilled at what you find to shatter old myths and preconceptions.