Sunday 28th November 2021
Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 6JE
The end of November was the one year anniversary for me and my partner, so we decided to take a day trip to Hebden Bridge. He found a leaflet, liked the look of it and suggested we go there. I grew up in the area and have been to the town before, so naturally I agreed. We packed a bag each, put on our warmest clothes and caught the Leeds train from Manchester Victoria. It was only a half hour journey but transport was delayed because of snow.
Once we arrived we were greeted with a winter wonderland! It was still snowing and everything was absolutely covered in the stuff. Neither of us had a specific plan for the day and were happy to just wander and explore. Unfortunately, the visitor centre was closed so we headed to Calder Holmes Park. We crossed many bridges and walked along the Rochdale Canal. We found some ruins of an old abandoned building that we explored. It was really cool but due to the fact that we weren’t familiar with the area and that everything was obscured by snow, it’s impossible to pinpoint the location.
We headed into the town centre and perused the local market stalls, picking up some tasty Vietnamese street food. Then, deciding we needed something sweet, we went to the Bay Tree Café for cake and hot drinks. Once we were done, it was starting to get dark and we still had an hour and a half until the next train home, so we went wandering again.
We found a place that I would describe as a children’s play area. There was a treehouse and paths and stairs that led to lots of smaller areas to explore. It was a lovely space to stumble upon but because of the dark and the snow, we really didn’t know where we were! After strolling through the suburban areas and along the canal once more, we headed back to the station. We were on our way back to the city not long after, which concluded a very enjoyable first anniversary.
I recorded the route we took on the OS maps app titled ‘Hebden Bridge’. It’s 1.21km (0.75 miles) and marked as moderate. While we didn’t seek out a difficult trek to tread, it definitely felt longer than a mile! But maybe all of the snow made it more of a challenge.
Something new that I discovered about Hebden Bridge was the equine history in the town. In the past, work horses played an essential role in transport around Rochdale canal and the Pennines.
One of the central bridges in Hebden is known as the packhorse bridge, and was built in 1510. The settlement was known for textile production, and also for hospitable landladies. It was a fairly central location for the local packhorse routes that spread to Heptonstall, Burnley, Halifax and other towns. The job of packhorses was to carry goods over difficult terrain, and this line of work was maintained from the middle ages to the 18th century.
While the construction of canals made packhorses and their ancient routes obsolete, there was still work to be done. Boat horses would spend long days transporting cargo by pulling boats along the canal.
I’d like to share this poem I came across about the ancient packhorse routes of the area. I couldn’t find the poet, but it sounds like it could have been passed down by word of mouth anyway.
Burnley for ready money,
Mereclough nooa trust,
Yo tekken a peep at Stirperden,
But Ca’at Kebs yo must.
BlackshawYed for travellers,
An Heptonstall for trust,
Hepton Brig for landladies,
And Midgely on the Moor.
Luddenden’s a warm shop,
Roylehead’s varry cold,
And if yo go to Halifax
Yo mun bi varry bold.
Links to Hebden Bridges’ horse history are included at the bottom.