A forgotten past
Today, the unassuming valley enclosing Harden Beck and Goit Stock Woods is a quiet backwater, little visited except by locals. But it wasn't always the case, for by the beginning of the 19th century, there were at least three textile mills processing silk, cotton and worsteds crowded within its narrow confines and taking advantage of the fast flowing stream to power the spinning and weaving machines. The buildings of two have survived: Harden Bridge, which now used by light industry and Bents Mill at Hallas Bridge, higher up the valley, which has been converted for housing. And the terraced cottages, built nearby to house the workers are still lived in.
A tourist resort
But times change, and by the beginning of the 20th century, despite being converted to steam, the relative isolation of Goit Stock Mill left it uneconomic. By then, however, the inherent beauty of the valley, its woods and the bonus of a modestly spectacular waterfall began to draw trippers, eager for a day's holiday away from their workaday lives in the big mills of the surrounding towns. With railways serving both Bingley and Cullingworth, the 'Happy Valley' soon became popular and part of Goit Stock Mill was converted to a ballroom and café. Crowds flocked to this quiet spot and reports say that the 1927 May bank holiday drew 20,000 people. However, it turned out to be a tragic day, for that evening a fire destroyed both the famous dance floor and the instruments of the Wilsden Brass Band, who were providing the entertainment. All that remains today is the chimney of the old steam engine, standing on the hillside above the caravan park.
A quiet sanctuary
Cloaked in deciduous woodland, the valley has become a haven for wildlife, supporting birds such as jays, tree creepers, woodpeckers and many small songbirds that build their nests amongst the trees and bushes. You might even see a dipper probing the pebbles of the sparkling beck for insects.
The falls themselves were created by the differential erosion of a band of soft shale underlying the gritstone rock, which, as it is worn away, eventually causes the hard rock to collapse, leaving the overhanging lip of the fall.
From the parking area, walk downhill to take, just before the bridge, the second turning off on the right into Goit Stock Lane. Beyond a terrace of cottages, built for the workers at Harden Beck Mill, the ongoing rough lane crosses a cattlegrid and soon joins the stream along the base of the valley below Crag Wood. The track later crosses a bridge to run between a residential caravan park and its parking spaces. The Goit Stock Mill lay towards the top end of the caravan site, its tall chimney still standing.
At the far end, keep ahead to pass Calgary Lodge and enter Goit Stock Wood. Ignore the path off left and walk forward above Harden Beck along the Millennium Way for some 0.25 miles (400m) to reach the first and largest of the two waterfalls. The continuing path clambers up the rocks beside the fall; and although a handrail has been installed, care is required as the rocks can be slippery. Carry on past a second, smaller cascade and cross a plank bridge, soon emerging onto a crossing bridlepath above Hallas Bridge by the third of the valley's mills built in this short stretch of valley.
Turn left up the hill, going left again in front of a terrace of stone cottages. At the end of the street, climb steps to a stile and walk on at the left edge of successive pastures above the wood. At the far end of the fifth field, the path slips through a gap stile to continue within the upper fringe of the wood. Soon joined by another path from the left, keep going across another stile to then leave the trees behind. Follow the field-edge past another row of cottages to emerge over a final stile onto Wilsden Road.
Go left past a garden centre, where there is a café. As the road then bends right, keep ahead down a steep, narrow lane, Mill Hill Top. Rejoining the main road at the bottom, walk left past The Malt Shovel Inn to the parking area.
Woodland paths and tracks, field paths, several stiles
Deciduous woodland and arable land
Can be off lead in woodland
OS Explorers 288 Bradford & Huddersfield, Explorer OL21 South Pennines
From Harden, take Wilsden Road to roadside parking at bottom of hill, just before bridge and Malt Shovel Inn
None on route
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
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.