Our series of self-guided walks continues with Aquarius (Jan. 22-Feb.21 approx.).
You will need the Ordnance Survey 1:25000 South Pennines map. Please note that routes and their condition were accurate at their time of survey, 2018-2020; updates may be made at later dates.
Please be alert to any other quasi-affirmations of Aquarius the water-carrier as you walk!



The customary depiction of Aquarius is as a water-carrier, but in terrestrial zodiacs the figure invariably appears as a bird, most often an eagle, as here. An eagle, ‘lord of the air’, suits Aquarius as an air sign, of course, and as for the water-carrier aspect – most of the sign is taken up by rather waterlogged moor. For this reason, waterproof boots are recommended for this walk.

There are other associations of eagle and Aquarius identified by Mary Caine’s zodiacal research – Ganymede, cup-bearer to the gods in Greek mythology, flew to the heavens on eagle’s wings and became astrologically associated with Aquarius, while closer to home, the Welsh Mabinogion tells how Llew Llaw Gyffes can only be killed as he steps into his annual bath (=water-carrier) from the back of a goat (Capricorn allusion?) – inevitably, this happens  and Llew takes off for the sky in eagle form. Chaldean lore has an eagle called Zu associated with Aquarius, who steals the tablets of fate from the god Bel [E M Plunkett, Ancient Calendars & Constellations]; and we even find a coincidence with Bel in the Aquarian vicinity, as our eagle is flying away from the valley and farmhouse known as Bell Hole and Bell Farm. So an association between Aquarius and eagle seems to be found across various mythological traditions.

We enter Aquarius, appropriately, from Nest Lane in Mytholmroyd – though the farm which gives its name is Throstle (=thrush) Nest, we can surely accept some poetic allusion in the Aquarian bird flying up from here. The tip of the wing touches Nest Lane at the track between Rose Mont and The Nook, but we walk on and pass Nest Cottage, a detached stone-built house in front of Throstle Nest, and; to the right, underscoring the avian point is the Nest housing estate. Nest Lane becomes the rural Park Lane, and just as you reach Little Park on the right and just before the driveway to Park Fold on the left, a footpath cuts off to the left between hedges and up along a deep-cut holloway known as Turgate across the hillside behind Park Fold. This is an old turbary track – a route used to transport peat turves, used for fuel and roofing – and marks the leading edge of the eagle’s right wing. This path, in its lower stretch and upper stretches particularly, begins to remind us of Aquarius’ role as water-carrier.

At the top of the slope, climb the stile and proceed alongside the sunken path to a crossroads of tracks, and turn right towards the house. The footpath used to run behind the house, but has been sequestered into its garden, and now runs in front of the rather overstated façade. Soon after, it crosses a little stream – the water-carrier again, but it is here that we walk on to the eagle’s beak, from which the water seems to trickle like a gargoyle. After this, the track curves with the hook of the beak, and on a bend two stone gateposts carry and unmarked right-of-way up along another sunken track to draw the top of the beak, and as you cross a stile on to the moorland of Broad Head you step also into the eagle’s head.

At Broad Head Moor you should aim for a line approximately diagonal to your left – aim for a farm visible on the far side of a dip – Bell House, home in the 18th century not to an ancient god, but to David Hartley, the leader of the Cragg Vale Coiners, and his wife Grace. On Broad Head lie both the head and back of the eagle – you will be crossing the back towards the trailing edge of the eagle’s left wing. There is a marked track, but the moor is so waterlogged – Aquarius again – that it is probably better to find your own route across to avoid equating the eagle to a wader. It might be easier if it’s an icy February, and you can perhaps walk on the water, as it were. You will come to the top of a slope falling into a small cwm-like valley, Bell Hole; a post, which should be to your right, marks the wingtip with a path that drops down into Bell Hole and draws the trailing edge of the left wing.

This beautiful hollow is also known as Broadhead Clough Nature Reserve, and unsurprisingly consists largely of wetland habitats. Thankfully, boardwalks carry us over the boggiest stretches until we come to a waymarker, at which we follow the path to the left. The eagle’s outline from where we entered the moor at the other side of Broad Head to the eagle’s tail slots into the outline of Capricorn – we have been walking the cusp. The path now runs along the foot of the slope, and is mostly dry except where it crosses a stream a few hundred yards along; soon after this you will see Great House to the right. Posts mark the present footpath towards the house, but when you come a right-hand option turn right, into the eagle’s tail. The path jigs down to a track – turn left as it draws the fork in the tail; as the track approaches the wood by the stream on the right, a path strikes off to the left back up towards Great House and the houses to its right, to complete the eagle’s tail. Just beyond Plane Tree Cottage take the track and then footpath that trail sinuously uphill. The path emerges from woodland into more open bilberry and heather; go past a stile on the right and continue along a sunken path beside the wall, and in a little while you come to a ladder stile. Climb this and proceed to the corner of a conifer plantation, from where a path leads straight and steep down Daisy Bank to outline the railing edge of the right wing. At the foot of this slope you come on to the track between Rose Mount and the Nook, and the wingtip where it rejoins Nest Lane.

Much of Aquarius lies in the mediaeval Erringden Hunting Park, for which of course a raptor association is also apt, and it is curious, if only coincidental, that old spellings of Erringden recorded in A H Smith’s placenames are Heyriedene, Eryndene, Erindene and Ayrykdene – in which one can fancy a reference to an eagle’s eyrie, and a resemblance to the Welh word for ‘eagle’ – eryr… Any attempt to make of Erringden an allusion to this Aquarian eagle’s hill is etymologically spurious, but poetically appealing.