From Bradford to the Bacca Pipes Folk Club in Keighley, via Queensbury, Halifax, Calderdale, Hebden Bridge and Oxenhope Moor.
Our overnight stay was at the excellent and cheap Ibis budget hotel in Bradford. Bed & Breakfast guest houses in Britain are often good but for the cyclist on a budget, a hotel like the Ibis, Travelodge or Premier Inn gives terrific value and a reliable bed for the night. And you can choose your own breakfast, Ibis had fresh croissants and fruit but I nipped into the city centre for a proper Italian coffee and a fresh pastry. The Ibis, like most budget hotels, was very accommodating with our bikes which spent the night in a store room off reception.
Out of Bradford to Queensbury, one of the highest towns in England, was a long climb but our route was a quiet one and climbed through the suburbs at an easy incline except for one small sharp hill near Great Horton.
On the way out of Bradford we came across Highgate Mills, a small mill now converted to nice-looking flats. A good place to discuss the heritage of industrial buildings dotted across the Woollen District and increasingly put to good use. A mill building is not so different from a block of flats or an office block and the structure is often very sound and strong.
In Queensbury the huge Black Dyke Mills has not produced wool for a long time but its fame lives on in the workers’ Brass Band. Like many factories and mines across the North, brass band music was the social glue for a whole community and still is. Young people are still coming to the Black Dyke Band to learn to play and its fame is international.
From Queensbury we dropped down Windy Hill into Halifax. Along the way we stopped for coffee at the Five Food cafe, in an old mill, providing food to workers from the modern factories surrounding it.
Having had a quiet route out of Bradford then it was great to cycle down Old Lane, a little road ignored by the traffic on the main road on the other side of the valley. The lane runs down the back of the huge Dean Clough complex of Italianate Mills.
Once Dean Clough was the largest carpet factory in Europe, owned by the Crossley family who were the leading figures in Halifax.
In the 1980s Ernest Hall, a musician and property developer, bought the protected buildings for a song, when nobody else could see a use for them, and imaginatively turned them into a home for business and the arts, with offices for big companies, workshops for small ones, artists studios, restaurants a hotel and several important galleries.
His work at Dean Clough was the inspiration for hundreds of other schemes, like the little housing development we saw up the hill at Highgate Mills.
We rode into the centre of Halifax to the sound of a busker playing a beautiful liquid trumpet piece. Unlike Huddersfield and Keighley, Halifax was not rebuilt as a modern shopping centre in the 1960s so in the 1980s the town started to rediscover its elegant Victorian buildings, especially the area around the magnificent Borough Market.
We climbed up Gibbet street, a steady climb that avoided the main road, then down into Calderdale, along the valley for a way then down to the canal at Luddendenfoot.
Luddendenfoot was the home of the British Furtex factory where all the fabrics for every bus and train seat were made, I visited their archive around 1988 and it was like a trip down memory lane to see all those familiar fabric patterns again. Sadly now gone although the transport fabric business is still being carried on by a company not far away in Wakefield.
Along the valley on the picturesque canal towpath to Hebden Bridge. Another old industrial town but one that has become a very popular place to live and a tourist destination, partly for climbing and walking but increasingly for its laid back creative culture.
So having had our organic cake, we set out up the last big hill. Within the town it’s quite steep but once we get past the buildings it becomes more manageable. Apparently the road was regraded by Italian prisoners of war in the 1940s and the Italians are great road builders.
So we wound our way steadily uphill onto Oxenhope Moor where the views were spectacular.
Then, if you trust your brakes, you can hurtle down the long road into Keighley to the Bacca Pipes Folk Club. A very fitting way to end a brilliant week of cycling, history and music.