Due North, day 1

duenorth1Hebden Bridge to Haworth

Hebden Bridge is an interesting place set in a steep Pennine valley with houses stacked on top of each other to make the best use of the limited land on the hillsides. In the 1970’s it was a magnet for people escaping from the city and looking for an alternative lifestyle. The combination of very cheap houses, heroic landscape and a regular train service to Leeds, Bradford and Manchester resulted in an unusual community of artists, alternative therapists, walkers, climbers and commuters, now smug owners of houses that have rocketed in value since the town’s charms have become more widely ecognised.

But when I arrived at Hebden Bridge station there was little incentive to explore. It was a very grey late afternoon with a light but steady rain. My first action was to put on my long tights over my cycling shorts (not the way Batman would do it but the shorts had better padding) and dig out my waterproof jacket. Then I set off up the long hill that climbed up the valley side onto Oxenhope Moor and down again to the town of Oxenhope 11 miles away. If you follow that road by car it looks like a long and arduous climb but it’s a very steady gradient and I was fresh so I kept up a good pace to the top where the wind was stiff and wet but not directly into my face.

I was already thinking that it was not a good night to be camping when I passed a pub advertising accommodation but I had barely started and the location was very isolated. Later on I regretted not stopping. In Oxenhope I asked about accommodation at the village shop who suggested several pubs that I phoned but they were all full, it being a Saturday I guess a lot of people were out for the weekend walking. One of them suggested a hotel in Haworth a bit further along my route. Haworth is a tourist town with quite a lot of accommodation so I pressed on.

The recommended hotel looked expensive but, in any event, it was full up so I set off up the steep main street towards the Bronte Parsonage, another of those tick-box places like Iona (mentioned in my Hebrides trip) that attract large numbers of people who have it on their itinerary but may have little real understanding of why it is significant. Emily and Charlotte Bronte are slightly more recent that St Columba so it’s possible that people visiting Haworth know a little more than the hordes bussed in to Iona every day.

There were several pubs and guest houses on the main street but all were full, except one strange place which insisted that they couldn’t take me in as they only had double rooms. The fact that it was getting late so they probably wouldn’t get any more passing trade that day, and I would have been happy to pay whatever price they set, within reason, didn’t seem to sink in. Maybe there was something threatening about a wet middle aged bloke in cycling clothes, so I trudged up the hill until, finally, at the very top right by the Parsonage, the Black Bull had a room.

The Landlady found me a place to lock up my bike beside the dustbins (secure if a bit smelly), I had a hot shower and put my wet clothes to dry on the radiator in my room, the food was OK, the beer really good and the pub still had the actual chair (they said) that Branwell Bronte sat in when drinking there. You can see a picture here.

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