What we do

Cutting back vegetation

Overgrown vegetation can prevent people using a route. It may be soft plants like nettles, or harder ones like brambles. We clear these with shears, slashers, hedge cutters and strimmers.

An impassable path (with bare legs) due to nettles, above Hardcastle Crags

We cut back overhanging trees and bushes, which can easily close a path. We clear these with loppers, hedge cutters and saws.

A path in Todmorden re-emerges after cutting back with loppers

The spread of Himalayan Balsam is a growing problem that we have been trying to deal with. We can clear Balsam that encroaches on paths, but if you need to clear other locations you could read our guidance on how to deal with it.

Balsam clearance at Foster dam, Hebden Bridge

Occasionally, with help from friends with a chainsaw,  we are able to clear trees that have fallen across the path. For huge trees we rely on the council’s work team.

A fallen tree across a path in Crow Nest Wood in Hebden Bridge

Improving drainage

A path may be muddy with detritus washed down from above which needs scraping off. If water is running over the path we can create ditches and drains, or even divert water courses. Azads, spades, shovels and mattocks are the tools for this work.

Above Cragg Vale, a drain cleared out alongside an old causey path

Widening and improving path surfaces

Paths often get very narrow and difficult to walk on. Widening a path involves using azads, spades and mattocks. One of our favourite jobs is uncovering ancient causey stones that have been covered by grass.

Uncovering a causey path on the Calderdale Way at Hebble Hole, Colden

Putting in revetment

On steep hillsides paths sometimes become unstable, and we need to put in a revetment to hold up the edge. After levelling the path and fitting a long plank, we ram in the pegs with a heavy steel bar – one of our essential tools.

Revetment installed on a path in Midgley

Repairing stiles and gates

Many stiles were built more than 20 years ago, and the Pennine weather and livestock take their toll. New tread boards, new uprights and new rails are often needed. Hammers, saws, drills and other carpentry tools are used  on these jobs.

Impassable stile on a path below Burlees Lane, Hebden Bridge

Constructing and repairing steps

Old stone steps can become overgrown and need clearing, and wooden steps can eventually rot. Over time slopes can become eroded and very slippery. One way of dealing with this is to install a new flight of steps. Hammers, saws, drills and other carpentry tools are used  on these jobs together with the big steel bar.

‘Stairway to Old Town’ replacing a hair-raising slope with a jump down on to the main road

Constructing and repairing boardwalks

Boardwalks get people across marshy ground that can’t be dealt with by channelling water away from the path. After a decade or two these often need repairing – usually to replace rotten or broken slats. We use a short steel bar to remove the old slats, and a hammer and nails to fit the new ones. Sometimes we add staples to the boards to give people a better grip. The boardwalk is firmly fixed to the ground by long pegs hidden under the slats.

Replacing slats above Mytholmroyd

Repairing stone walls

We usually have to repair walls where there is some kind of stile. Walls start to disintegrate where sheep climb over or where the stile getting a lot of use. Hammers and stone chisels are the main tools, but more importantly we need our two experienced wall builders, as they have the eye for the right stone in the right place.

A rebuilt wall crossing at Shackleton above Hardcastle Crags

Constructing and repairing bridges

Wooden bridges face the same problem as boardwalks and we often find rotten or broken slats. Occasionally we have to rebuild a bridge if the main beams have broken. For this work we use hammers, nails and staples. We secure the bridge to the ground on each bank of the stream by driving long pegs into the ground with a heavy crowbar.

A repaired bridge at Hippins Clough, Blackshawhead


Many more people are walking without maps and rely on waymarks – “The reassurance of the little yellow arrow” as someone put it. We put in finger posts, low waymark posts, and we replace individual waymarks. Across moors we often put in yellow topped posts to make sure people don’t get lost in the mist. We always carry a selection of waymarks as you never know when one will be needed.

All kinds of signage – cleaning, installing and fixing.

Repairing information boards

There are several information boards scattered around the hillsides. Because of their exposed position they often need refurbishing and the information needs rewriting. Carpentry tools are needed for these jobs

Three of the refurbished boards around Todmorden

Surveying and inspecting

We regularly spend a day walking along a published route to make sure it is in reasonable condition, and at the same time we add waymarks where needed.

When a member of the public reports a problem, we usually get someone to go and inspect it. This ensures we know how long the job will take and what materials and tools will be needed.

A marked up page showing the location of problems on one of the Walks round the Villages

Three large completed projects

Erringden Moor boardwalks
Gaddings Dam
Tod tops access boards

More information about what we do

We have a more detailed blog of photos and information, which is completed after each of our work parties.

We have also produced a small brochure that describes CROWS, what it does and how it works. You can download the CROWS Brochure here.

Our depot

We are based in Mount Shed below Banksfield Estate in Mytholmroyd. We are very proud of our depot organisation – it is the engine that powers our work.

                 Tools and supplies                        Job sheets from reports & inspections

                     Pre cut step risers                       Pre cut waymark posts and stile kits  

       We do look after ourselves!                  Digging and scraping tools

The legal framework for our work

There are some legal constraints to what we can do. More information about the legalities of working on Rights of Way.

Lost paths

England and Wales have about 140,000 miles of footpaths, but it is estimated more than 10,000 have been lost from current maps. We encourage people to rediscover them and put in legal applications for their recovery  before the government deadline in 2026 after which claims will no longer be accepted.

If you know of a lost footpath, first find out if it is an existing Right of Way. Go to the council’s mapping site. Select Rights of Way in the left hand index. You will then see all the Rights of Way appear and just have to expand the view.

If it is not a Right of Way, but it is clearly well used, you will need to put in an claim. To do this you can contact Calderdale Highways, or perhaps your first port of call should be the Ramblers, whose website gives clear advice on how to identify a lost path and make an application. The method involves comparing new and old maps, plus examination of historical sources. Walking and exploration is involved, but don’t forget that a lost path has to be proven before you can use it, otherwise you are trespassing.

Community Rights of Way Service – a poem

Who opened up these moors CROWS
Who cut holes in the wire CROWS
Who rebuilt these dry stone walls CROWS
Who built these stiles CROWS
Who hung all these new gates CROWS
Who built these new bridges CROWS
Who dug all these ditches CROWS
What tool do they use CROWBARS
Who shows the direction to go CROWS
Who pays for all of this?  Not sure Who pays towards some of this? CROWS
There is a need to CROW about it

Graham Ramsden