Holmfirth – 31st October 2021

Strenuous Leader : Carole                                                                            Distance : 11.00 miles

We leave Holmfirth via Victoria Park and Back Lane to join the HVC Walk (Holme Valley Circular) through Upperthong and on to Digley Reservoir. We then join the Kirklees Way to Brownhill Reservoir and carry on along the HVC to White Gate Road. Cross country, on lanes and footpaths returning to Holmfirth along Dover Rd and R. Ribble (no, not that one).

Although no great height gain, please note this is quite an undulating walk.

Leisurely Leader: Peter                                                                                  Distance : 7.00 miles

This will be an interesting walk. I recced a walk from Holmfirth and it was up and up and uphill with some nice views but unfortunately, I believe that it was too much up and up.  So, I decided to start our walk from Holme instead. This will take away most of the uphill. However, because the route has been changed some of this walk has not been recced.

But it will be a lovely ramble with great panoramic views. Happy Rambling Everyone. 

Easy Leader : Jackie                                                                                       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. 

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