This very enjoyable circuit – through surprisingly-attractive countryside – is dominated throughout by the towering presence of the Emley Moor television mast.
At every turn, at every open aspect, there it is – an overpowering and constant companion. Indeed, at some points along the route, it appears to be almost alongside, within touching distance, yet we never get within three-quarters of a mile of the giant pinnacle.
The mast is the highest concrete structure in Europe and the tallest free-standing structure in the UK. At 1,080 ft, it is about the same height as the Eiffel Tower. It replaced a metal tower which collapsed in 1969 in freak weather conditions when it became overburdened with ice.
Clayton West, starting point of today’s adventure, is a former coal mining community which thrived with the arrival of the railway in 1879, a branch line of the Huddersfield-Sheffield railway. Coal traffic was the backbone of the railway and this ensured it survived the savage Beeching cuts of the mid-1960s.
Sadly, with the decline of the coal industry, transportation of coal by rail ceased in 1979 and this, combined with dwindling passenger numbers, led to the rail line’s closure in 1983, the track then being taken up. Clayton West’s colliery, Park Mill, struggled on until closure in 1989.
However, that wasn’t the end of the story for the village rail line. A group of enthusiasts decided to use the rail bed for a 15-inch narrow-gauge light railway. With support from Kirklees Council, a Light Railway Order was applied for and granted in 1991.
A team of volunteers set to work building the track which opened in stages between Clayton West and Shelley, some three miles to the west. The first stage – to Cuckoo’s Nest Halt, a mile west of Clayton - opened in October, 1991. The line was extended to Skelmanthorpe by December, 1992, and finally to Shelley by May 1997.
The Kirklees Light Railway, now a popular attraction, has five locomotives. There are cafes and play areas at either end of the line at Clayton West and Shelley station
PARKING: Clayton West can be approached from the Leeds area via the M1 exiting at junction 39 and then taking the A636 signposted Denby Dale. On entering Clayton West – slow down! - turn second left into Long Lane (road sign: High Hoyland) and immediately park by the roadside on the left (Arden Lodge Care Home).
IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAST
6 miles: Allow 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours. Map: O/S Explorer 288 Bradford and Huddersfield
From wherever you park in Long Lane, return to the main road (A636) and turn left along the pavement with the Emley Moor TV mast dominating proceedings from the beginning. Pass under the bridge carrying the Kirklees Light Railway and continue for another 300 yards to Albert Road on your left and, here, cross the A636 with care and take the path opposite, past a concrete bollard.
Continue along the enclosed path, over footbridge, and turn left along field edge. Go through a barrier to the left of a horse paddock with temporary tape fence. Follow the enclosed path (houses to your left) to emerge in a vehicle track and take the path opposite along right edge of field to emerge in a street on the edge of Scissett and go straight ahead.
Go past a “No through road” sign reading: Unsuitable for vehicles 200 yards ahead. Continue to end of road and press on along a vehicle track – the unmade Pilling Lane – with the Kirklees Light Railway (and Cuckoo’s Nest Halt) appearing to your right.
At end of this lovely section, when the track becomes a dirt road on the edge of Skelmanthorpe (Elms View on your left), turn right at fingerpost on lamp-post. Follow this path to pass under the railway and then go half right over the large field on a decent path heading for a wood (Blacker Wood). Do NOT enter the wood – instead, turn left along edge of wood to a stile with a pink arrow for the Denby Dale Round.
Enter wood at this point and bear left down to a footbridge over the Park Gate Dike and go straight on to end of wood and turn left over stile with arrows (one for Emley Boundary Way). Go up right edge of field.
1: At top of field, enter farm access track – Blacker Farm to your right – and turn LEFT along the farm track and follow it for about 500 yards to emerge in the Emley-Skelmanthorpe road at Park Gate, turn left for 80 yards to a fingerpost and turn right along access road between properties – this becomes a vehicle track within 30 yards (property called The Barn on your right).
Press on with the Baildon Dike appearing on your left. Cross a stile to left of a gate across the track and press on to emerge – eventually – in a vehicle track at the properties at Baildon Place. Turn right, past the cottages, and pass to the right of an ornate metal gate. Continue for another 200 yards and then, as track turns left at a large tree – stay alert! – spot the stile on your right (to right of the large tree) with a farm (Silver Ings) beyond.
Take this path, walking along right edge of field by fence. Drop into a dip and go up the other side, over stile, with a huge barn to your left. A gate pops into view ahead, just left of the fence. Go through and go straight up the field to a fingerpost visible on the skyline at top of field.
Cross an awkward stile at the fingerpost and turn left up the field in line of fingerpost - make sure you keep looking back over your shoulder to check you are in line with the fingerpost. You should be aiming well to the left of the white gable end of a house.
A stile comes into view at end of field, cross it and the broken stile just beyond and continue along an enclosed path to enter field. Go straight across the field aiming for the hedge running up the field in the distance. Soon, gates and an animal feeder pop into view in the dip with a farm (Taylor Hill) on the hill to your front right.
2: At the gate and stile with three yellow discs – arrows obliterated! - cross the stile and go straight ahead by wall to the next gateway. STOP! Do NOT pass through, but turn right alongside the hedge (hedge should be on your left) towards the farm at Taylor Hill. Go through two gates to a fingerpost at the second gate and, here, go slightly right to clip the barn corner to bypass the properties and continue in same line to a riders’ gate with fingerpost. Go through, cross the wall, and enter the road on your right.
Turn LEFT along the road for about 300 yards. Walk single file, facing the traffic, as this road is very narrow and quite busy. Keep your eyes peeled! You will arrive at a fingerpost on your right with stone houses on your left.
Turn right along the track (the unmade Frank Lane – no relation!) and follow it for a mile and a half through the area known as Emley Park with no deviations whatsoever to arrive in the A636 in Clayton West. Cross the road with care into Long Lane opposite and regain your vehicle.