Hardcastle Crags, there is something about that name that conjures up words like majestic, inspiring and dare one say breathtaking. It is a beauty spot of the South Pennines with more than 160 hectares (400 acres) of unspoiled woodland (near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire).
As well as being the home of the northern hairy wood ant, there are tumbling streams, glorious waterfalls and stacks of millstone grit, all crisscrossed by more than 15 miles (24km) of footpaths.
I have to confess that the “northern hairy wood ant” was not high on my list of “must see” things when I visited the crags.
At its heart is Gibson Mill, a family-oriented visitor centre, telling the history of the valley over the past 200 years, with interactive displays, dressing up, dancing and exhibitions. Having no link to the national grid, the mill is unique in the UK and is the National Trust’s flagship sustainable building.
A brisk walk along the main path to the mill and suddenly you are confronted by a carpet of bluebells and wild garlic, it is even possible to get the smell of the garlic when a breeze blows and foodies say that the garlic is wonderful to cook with, much subtler and sweeter than the traditional bulbs of garlic we use in the UK.
The carpet of bluebells was magnificent and at times it was like looking at a paining by one of the French impressionists. As I walked I was assaulted by a rainbow of colour, so many shades of green leaves, muliti-coloured lichens, pinks, blues and whites of the various wild flowers not forgetting the creamy mushrooms growing half way up a tree.
After visiting the mill I made my way back along side the river and was at all time overshadowed by a canopy of leaves and branches. Bird life is in abundance although it is far more difficult to pick them out in the dense trees than it is to hear their songs……………..
I was extremely impressed with the walk and I shall no doubt return in the near future as the photographic opportunities are unlimited, if you have never visited give it a try and your efforts will be rewarded.
Further information can be obtained from http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hardcastle-crags/