The Cragg Vale Coiners Walk from Christopher Goddard’s illustrated map
I’ve recently blogged about the infamous Cragg Vale Coiners, who in the 1760’s from the remote moorland above Mytholmroyd, embarked on a criminal enterprise which nearly brought down the economy and is now recognised as one of the biggest frauds in British history.
Led by “King David” Hartley, the gang clipped the edges off gold coins, before re-smelting them and pressing new coins to put back into circulation. The story has inspired a book by local author Benjamin Myers and is soon to become a major BBC TV drama.
There is now a walk which has been created which takes in many of the locations from the book as well as the real lives of the coiners up on Cragg Vale. The walk was created by Christopher Goddard, who has written many walking books about West Yorkshire. Goddard is also a talented illustrator who brings his maps to life with imagery and is in my view Yorkshire’s answer to Wainwright.
My old rugby pals Digger, Monkers & Rickers and I decided to check out the walk having read the book, so we caught the train to Mytholmroyd and started out on our walk.
We set off walking up the B6138 Cragg Road following Elphin Brook. The Cragg
Vale Road proudly claims to be the longest continual ascent in England, climbing 970 feet over 5.5 miles. The road was one of the climbs on the Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014 and also as part of the celebrations a team of 18 cyclists towed a grand piano with pianist up the slope in front of thousands of locals!
Soon we reached Dauber Bridge where we took a path off on the right along the side of Parrock Clough. A clough is a steep valley or ravine, and we have many listed on the maps around Calderdale.
The path eventually reached the woods of Bell Hole which is now renamed as Broadhead Clough Nature Reserve.
The path climbs through the woods, very steeply at the final stage passing Bodger’s Bog and out onto the Moor Top.
After walking through thick woodland, the view once we reached the moor top was spectacular. It was also interesting looking back down into the woods which we had climbed through to see how far we had come.
We walked along the ridge of Erringden Moor to Bell House where David Hartley lived and ran his counterfeiting operation. It was an old stone farmhouse and its barn attached sold in 2017 for £850,000. The five bedroom farm has great views down the valley and the barn has now been converted into a 3 bedroom holiday let. I’m sure they will make a killing once the TV series airs on BBC.
From here we passed Keelham Farm and continued along the ridge to the rocky outcrop of the Lumb Stone. After a cloudy but warm start to the day, the sun came out and we stopped with our dogs for lunch. Apparently the charismatic King David would address his gang from the rocks. Today we had our own King David holding court!
The next stretch involved weaving our way through Upper Lumb and Lower Lumb farms and through some stunning wild flower meadows before reaching the wooded valley side again. Walking through a stile we followed the valley edge with a very steep drop on the left hand side which was not great for my vertigo.
Eventually this path took us down to a man-made weir which had been built in the 1700’s to drive the water to power a paper mill. The paper mill later became a cotton mill in the 1800’s but you can still see the old water wheel.
From the mill we met the main road, soon coming to the Robin Hood Inn. We were quite hot by this time and it would have been rude not to stop for a quick re-hydration pint!
Particularly liked their weather forecasting stone!
The next stage involved walking down the road for a short stretch to Beech Cottages before climbing to Upper Birks then a long ascent into and then through Sutcliffe Wood. This took us back onto the Moor top on the other side of the valley where we had been this morning.
Fortunately, this was our last climb of the day and when we left the wood, we were rewarded with great views across the valley back over to Bell House.
We walked along the valley edge along Hollin Hey Bank before meeting Hall Bank Lane. This old stone track showed the erosion of years of historic use by horse and cart.
We soon were back in Mytholmroyd with an hour before our train back to Leeds. The Shoulder of Mutton called, so we stopped for a quick pint of Osset Brewery White Rat.
It was a great walk with a few tough sections of ascent and descent. Whilst the map had the walk marked out at just over 5 miles, it was a good deal longer and our apple tracker showed we had walked just over 8 miles.
For me it was fascinating, having read the book it really brought the area to life and you could picture the coiners living and working in this inhospitable landscape and how they would have interacted with the local community.
Not only would I highly recommend the Gallows Pole book by Ben Myers, but if you like my images and want to attempt this walk yourself then it’s definitely worth getting the map from the Christpher Goddard’s website: