Holmfirth, West Yorkshire Sunday 23rd April 2017

Today’s Walks

Strenuous Leader : Rowland Nock   Distance : 10.00 miles

We initially head out through a small sloping park to the old weaving village of Upperthong (love the name!!). We travel west skirting Digley Reservoir to Holme, following the Kirklees Way. From Holme we head up and round Brownhill Reservoir, picking up the Holme Valley Circular Way to the lanes back to Holmfirth, giving wonderful views of the Holme Valley. Hopefully we will be back in time for tea & tiffin or a pint

Moderate Leader : Peter Denton   Distance : 7.00 miles

We will be starting our walk from the Post Office and public convenience. We will be heading for our first climb taking us straight out of the town, onto the hills and the lovely views, that Compo, Foggy & Clegg enjoyed when filming, while we head towards Hinchcliffe Mills. We then head up to Digley Reservoir. This should be a good place to enjoy our packed lunches, or just drinks and a respite. We then set off for a cross country ramble to Netherthong from where we head down into the valley and on to a pub or cafe for a well-deserved cuppa of whatever.

Leisurely Leaders : Philomena Walker & Hazel Anderton   Distance 6.50 miles

As we leave town we have a short steep climb at first out of the valley up a little lane and then a stepped path as we start our way up to Upperthong. Compo was buried here and there is a nice little pub run by some of the villagers although we might get here too early to enjoy a bevvie. After the initial steep climb the rest of the walk becomes ……… leisurely. There are several ‘thongs’! around these parts but it meant a narrow strip of land in Norse so Upperthong meant higher strip of land. From here we make our way across lanes and fields to reach the Holme Valley, where there are splendid views, and the Digley Reservoir, which we will go around on the shoreside path. We come back to Holmfirth alongside the River Holme apart from when we make a detour through the village of Dobb to avoid the main road.

Easy Leaders : Jackie Gudgeon   Distance : 5.00 miles

Today the easy walkers will leave the coach in the village of Holme. There are toilets here, and a pub for our customary tea or coffee before we ‘set sail’. Please remain on the coach when the others are getting off in Holmfirth, so that the coach can then continue to our dropping off place. We leave Holme village to take a footpath across fields and down to the Digley Reservoir, which we circle behind on a high track with good views over the valley. Following mostly good tracks and quiet narrow lanes we descend steadily to Hinchcliffe Mill where we cross the River Holme to climb the hill on the other side of the valley before another quiet lane leads us down into Holmfirth. This walk is predominantly downhill, except for two small climbs, the steeper one out of the valley after Hinchcliffe Mill. Outstanding views all the way. Neither of the climbs are severe and we will take as much time as anyone needs.

Notes On The Area

Before Last of the Summer Wine became a national institution, the most famous comic characters to come out of Holmfirth were on the postcards published by Bamfords. Saucy seaside cartoons became a serious business for the family firm just after the Great War. The family had already pioneered lantern slides and the motion picture industry but were eventually outflanked by Hollywood. A museum tells the story – in pictures of course.

The television series Last of the Summer Wine put Holmfirth on the map. Surprisingly, the café featured in the series is exactly what it seems; a proper old-fashioned café straight out of the 1950’s. A good indicator of its pedigree is the fact that it welcomes cyclists and walkers. Farming and weaving villages like Upperthong were established long before the town. Settlements on the terraces of the valley sprang up during the 15th and 16th centuries, though most of the surviving houses date back only two or three hundred years. In three-storey cottages families worked at hand looms on the top floor; while in older two-storey buildings the bedroom had to double as the loom shop. Daylight to work by was essential and free, hence the rows of windows.

Although the TV series brings in lots of visitors many people also come to enjoy the countryside, especially the lovely scenery across the Holme Valley. It has other attractions too, for example the old cinema has been named as the NME best small music venue and attracts many famous names. There is a folk festival in May and a Brass Band contest.

The town of Holmfirth is a gem, built at the confluence of the Holme and the Ribble, where the Norman Earl Warren built a corn mill in the 1300s. For several centuries the lower valley was left to the woodland while the hilltop towns of Cartworth, Upperthong and Woodale prospered, combining farming with weaving. There are some fine stone farmhouses on the upper slopes of the valley, now often absorbed into the outskirts of the newer town. With the expansion of the cotton mills in the mid-19th century tiers of terraced cottages sprang up lower and lower into the valley as cotton mills crowded the riverside. The river itself was harnessed but never tamed; it still floods when the Pennine snows melt too quickly.

Holmfirth is best explored at a gentle pace, because most of the streets are steep. From Victoria Bridge in the middle of town it is possible to wander up Penny Lane, around the back of the church where the surrounding hills peep out between chimney-pots and sooty walls, and down cobbled lanes worn smooth by a million clogs. Somewhere along the way you are certain to arrive at Sid’s Café, or The Wrinkled Stocking Café, next door to Nora Batty’s house on the riverside.

The fast-flowing River Holme has cut a narrow gorge through the gritstone hills. Water power brought prosperity to Holmfirth, but it has also brought death when, in 1852, the nearby Bilberry Dam burst and the flood claimed 81 lives. A vast amount of damage was done. On a pillar near the 18th century church you can see recorded the extraordinary height the water rose to when 90 million gallons came thundering down the valley. The memorial to the flood is a dual-purpose monument as it also commemorates the ‘Short Peace of Amiens’ in 1801 which was presumably of special interest to Holmfirth, a woollen town, as the inhabitants had been engaged in producing cloth for the French armies.