Otley to the Topic Folk Club in Bradford. Via Ilkley Moor, Keighley, The Worth Valley, Cullingworth and Thornton.
The 5-day ride started by passing through some very affluent areas of West Yorkshire, especially the spa towns of Ilkley and Harrogate. Otley was much more down to earth and from here on we were firmly in the Industrial Woollen District. But still plenty of fine countryside as well as a great deal of historic interest.
Our B&B at the Victorian Black Horse Hotel was a mixed experience. Not expensive but you need ear plugs for the traffic noise outside the single-glazed windows. But they do a very well-cooked breakfast with some choices, my poached eggs and bacon were fine. And they kindly locked our bikes away in a garage for the night.
From Otley we cycled uphill to Menston and up the side of Ilkley Moor (some of the photo captions here might not mean much if you are not familiar with British cultural history)
It’s a very scenic road although you have to climb a lot. It does suffer a bit from too many vehicles as it’s a convenient short cut avoiding the main road from Wharfedale to Airedale. And we had some rain and wind as well as sunshine, you can see that from the photo above.
We came down into Airedale and into the industrial town of Keighley, once very wealthy from its woollen mills but not affluent today. A toasted sandwich for lunch in the friendly market cafe and up the hill to Oakworth. Once we came out of the town the beautiful hills soon asserted themselves again and then we came to Holden Park.
It’s a Victorian sculpture in reinforced concrete, a labyrinth of petrified trees and tunnels, very seductive for children, all surrounding a bowling green where the house used to stand.
This strange leftover is little known but a great place to stop and wander around for a while.
Among his other achievements Holden invented the striking match that we still use today. But he was a true Victorian and, since the invention had not cost him much work he decided it was not fair to patent it.
Instead he made his fortune through inventing and using very clever wool-combing machinery to improve the quality of wool manufactured in Yorkshire and also in France, where had factories.
Then off down the hill into the Worth Valley and Oakworth Station on the Worth Valley Railway. A preserved steam railway and location for the classic ‘Railway Children’ film loved by generations of British families. If you’ve not seen the movie don’t even try to decode the captions.
Back up the other side of the valley where we found Paul Langham’s amazing Clockhouse Antiques, tucked away on the main road. Well worth ringing his bell and if you would like something unique to take home he has some lovely Chinese style ceramics as well as a huge collection of clocks.
We rode over the moorlands through Cullingworth and down to Thornton. Then a fast ride down a steady decline into Bradford and the Topic Folk Club where Jez Lowe gave a great performance to a packed house plus some excellent floor singers. One of the longest established clubs in the country.