There’s an old footpath which provides a scenic walk from Netherton village to Hinchliffe’s Farm Shop on Netherton Moor Road, or though to Magdale, and which takes you past a piece of local folklore.
On this 1892 map of the area, the route is coloured green, with the location of Hinchliffe’s (which didn’t exist back then) shown as the blue dot:
Part way along the path, which is named as Scar Top Lane on the above map, you’ll come across the first in a series of gritstone buttresses, which jut out over Spring Wood below. The first of these, marked by the red spot on the map, is Scar Top, or “Devil’s Rock”. As the latter name suggests, old tales are linked to this outcrop.
The oldest legend is that there was once a family of giants dwelling in Magdale to the east of Scar Top. One day, the daughter was found to be missing and her father searched the surrounding area trying to find her. Eventually he heard that she’d been seen on Wolfstones Height, a hill three miles due south and near to Netherthong. The giant took a run up and jumped off Scar Top with such force that he left behind his footprint in the rock. Landing at Wolfstones, he found his daughter apparently asleep on the hill, but he soon realised that she had lain down and had perished in the night. The daughter then turned to stone and the summit of the hill is said to be formed of her body. Apparently the locals used to call the hill, “Child o’th’Edge”.
Such legends are typical and are often attached to rocky outcrops or large stones in the landscape, for example the Cow and Calf on Ilkley Moor.
In the early 1800s, Scar Top became notorious as place local ne’er-do-wells hung out and likely travellers would avoid taking Scar Top Lane. A local preacher, who apparently knew the legend of the giant’s footprint, started a story to link those who loitered there with Satan. The story went that the Devil himself was seen on Scar Top and that he leapt from there to the summit of Castle Hill, some 3 miles distant. And so, the giant’s footprint became the Devil’s hoof print. Supposedly the Devil still wanders the labyrinthine tunnels under Castle Hill!1
Photos of Scar Top
To get to Scar Top from the centre of Netherton, go down Moor Lane and take the first right down Netherton Fold. After walking by some houses on the left, take the left hand road to climb up Corn Bank. Pass by Corn Bank House on your left and carry on up the hill. Walk past the row of houses painted white on your right and a spectacular view of the Holme Valley opens up to your right. The road forks into two here — take the rougher path to the left (Scar Top Road) rather than the tarmac narrow road which descends into Spring Wood. Scar Top is the first major outcrop you come to.
You can continue along Scar Top Road, which eventually leads into Spring Wood, to exit through a gate onto the junction of Netherton Moor Road and Sandbeds. From here, turn left and walk along Netherton Moor Road to find Hitchliffe’s Farm Shop.
Given that it seems a local preacher was responsible for dubbing it “Devil’s Rock”, it’s interesting to note that on the afternoon of Monday 5 June 1865, members of the Wesleyan church in Netherton met and walked to Scar Top, where they sang hymns together.2 In fact, it seems to have been a local Methodist and Independent tradition that a large group of around 150 people would walk to Scar Top every Whitsuntide, sometimes having a picnic or playing games there.3
On the morning of Sunday 19 January 1890, Police Constable Burns was walking along Scar Top Road when he spotted a group of men gambling at Scar Top. They ran off but left behind playing cards and money. Quite how they were identified isn’t given in the Chronicle article, but local millhands Abraham Todd, George Sykes, Frederick Robertshaw and Sutcliffe Robertshaw were found guilty at the County Police Court and fined a total of 12 shillings each.4
Photos of the Other Outcrops
Scar Top is just one of several rocky outcrops on Scar Top Lane.