It’s my fault – I have to admit it.
Last year I was at the Waggon and Horses pub in Outlane when I got chatting to a chap at the bar who told me about West Yorkshire’s ‘secret beach’.
Immediately, I was hooked having naively assumed Whitby, Scarborough and Blackpool were our nearest places for a sandy day out.
At 355 metres above sea level, the picturesque hilltop spot is the highest beach in the UK and is run by a group of local volunteers who rescued the dam from closure in 2001.
It’s considered a safe place to swim, with clean water and no tides or currents – but, of course, there are no lifeguards.
Swimmers are advised to stay near the walls and definitely not to dive as there are numerous rocks under the water near the edges.
It turned out the beach was at a place called Gaddings Dam, near Todmorden, around 20 miles away from Huddersfield and, incredibly, it did have a proper, albeit tiny, beach complete with real bronze-coloured, soft-looking sand.
The Examiner ran the story and it was our biggest read of the year online.
But there is the law of unintended consequences and the next thing that happened was an explosion of interest in the dam fuelled by our sister paper, the Manchester Evening News which also ran a long piece.
And that’s when the trouble started with readers complaining that the beach was no longer ‘secret’, that day-trippers were leaving litter with inconsiderate motorists blocking Lumbutts Road, close to the dam, meaning on at least one occasion that bus services were unable to get past and had to detour.
In addition there were problems with visitors travelling to the Shepherd’s Rest pub at the foot of the footpath which leads to it, leaving their cars in the car park and not buying any drinks. According to one report some even ate their own picnics there.
So, on Saturday afternoon I packed my hiking boots and set off. Forty-five minutes later I was staring at a steep climb though there is a gentler path for those who don’t want to tackle a proper ‘lung-buster’.
It takes about 20-25 minutes to reach the top and it is a truly magical sight as for any novice climbers there’s no indication of what lurks over the edge.
A short stroll to the left reveals what must be the smallest beach I have ever seen on which half-a-dozen friends were drying off from a refreshing dip.
I bumped into a friendly family including Kevin Ewart, 41, who lives at Cooper Bridge along with his 12-year-old daughter Paige, his partner Charlotte Inman, her eight-year-old nephew Seth and their cocker spaniel Amber.
Kevin said: “I’m really glad I came up, it’s a fantastic spot, it’s the first time I have been and if it had been sunnier I would have been in the dam. Amber has enjoyed swimming though and bringing up rocks from the bottom. Seth’s day was made when he found a souvenir – a sheep’s bone.”
And there was no disguising the joy of several young children who squealed with delight when a mummy duck proudly herded her brood of chicks on the sand searching for scraps.
Afterwards, I met a trio of horse-riders stopping at the Shepherd’s for a well-deserved drink. They proved to be excellent company and said there had been problems with litter being discarded but that local scouts had been effective in picking it up.
As for the problems with the road being blocked by penny-pinching motorists who refused to buy a drink and use the pub car park they shrugged their shoulders.
I did like the idea of riding up to the top though, that would be something very special indeed though I would be fairly terrified to return that way.