The natural assets of the South Pennine/Calderdale region of Yorkshire including its spectacular choice of walking, cycling and bridleway trails and its fascinating non-conformist industrial history see it today as a Yorkshire visitor hotspot. A selection of historic and atmospheric villages in the region serve as perfect walking bases like Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, crammed with superb arts and crafts shops, vegetarian and specialist organic cafes and restaurants and 19th century mills now arts centre and architecture.
Other stunning popular accommodation bases include Mytholmroyd (boyhood home of poet Ted Hughes), Luddendenfoot, Sowerby Bridge and pushing into the heart of the Pennines Mankinholes and Ripponden. Numerous walking and bridleway trails criss-cross and interlink in the area including the Calderdale Way, the Brighouse Boundary Way, the Pennine Way, the Pennine Bridleway and the Todmorden Centenary Way. In small villages such as Heptonstall north of Hebden Bridge the octagonal Methodist chapel hints at the region's non-conformist history and is the oldest in the world still in use today.
There are many sides to Hebden Bridge - it's a contemporary bohemian arts and music base with a fascinating industrial history, particularly around its own Co-operative Guild which was one of the first to develop a Women's Guild Section. If you love specialised arts and craft shops, second-hand bookshops and real ale pubs, cosy live music venues, canal towpath walking and walking in stunning Hardcastle Crags and along the nearby Calderdale Way then Hebden Bridge is the perfect location for you.
Hebden Bridge centre, with main St George's Square is crammed with cafes, organic and vegetarian cafes and food outlets, pubs serving fine Yorkshire real ale, delicatessens, arts and crafts shops and designer or specialised clothing shops. Adjacent to the White Lion Inn is Bridge Mill - the building dates from the late 18th Century and is now home to an arts and crafts centre and cafe bar. (Hebden Bridge Mill, Innovation Shop & Cafe Bar, St Georges Square, Hebden Bridge. Tel. 01422 844160).
Branching off down Market Street are more coffee houses, some antique shops, second-hand bohemian clothes shops, specialised music and bookshops new and second-hand. Hebden Bridge has its own market which runs on Wednesdays as a fleamarket and Thursdays as a general market and is situated on Valley Road.
Situated along the Rochdale Canal at Hebden sits the Alternative Technology Centre (Hebble End Mill, Hebden Bridge, HX7 6HJ. Tel. 01422 842 121). Here you'll find a host of environmentally friendly clothing and home usage goods with exhibitions often on-site. (see webguide right for details).
For fine dining checkout Kitties Restaurant on Market Street or for a superb selection of organic vegetarian and vegan food visit the Organic House Cafe on Market Street in Hebden Bridge (weblink right for details).
Just North of Hebden Bridge is the stunning South Pennine treasure - Hardcastle Crags. The carpet of bluebells which covers the crags in early Spring is a particular highlight. The whole area is cared for by the National Trust and you can choose different trails depending on your interest, for example a Railway Trail, or Mill Trail. Gibson Mill, a historic 19th century water-powered cotton mill is at the heart of Hardcastle Crags and adjacent to Hebden Water. Built around 1800, Gibson Mill's water wheel is still on-site. The mill changed over to steam power as the industrial revolution grinded forward, producing cotton cloth upto around 1890. Then, from the early 1900s, Gibson became a centre for local entertainment events. Hardcastle Crags was particularly popular with the groups such as the Clarion. Inside Gibson Mill view the interactive exhibition which reveals more on its past.
For Hardcastle Crags Trail leaflets visit Hebden's tourist information centre or contact the National Trust Hardcastle Crags office direct. (weblink right for details).
Hardcastle Crags & Gibson Mill, National Trust Centre, Hollin Hall, Crimsworth Dean, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire HX7 7AP. Tel. 01422 844518.
Sylvia Plath's words convey some of the experience of Hardcastle Crags.
Granite ruffs, their shadows The guise of leaves. The whole landscape
Loomed absolute as the antique world was
Once, in its earliest sway of lymph and sap,
Unaltered by eyes. .
(Hardcastle Crags, The Colossus, first published 1960)
Hebden Bridge Visitor & Canal Centre
Butler's Wharf, New Road, Hebden Bridge, HX7 8AF
T: 01422 843831.