TOP THREE YORKSHIRE WALKS FROM TOG24’S MD
It’s National Walking Month and now that we’re able to get outdoors more frequently, we asked Mark Ward, TOG24’s Managing Director, about the walks local to him in Yorkshire that he’s most looking forward to getting back to.
Mark is the third generation of his family to run TOG24, so it’s no surprise that he loves the outdoors and is a keen walker. He enjoys nothing more than a good, long hike accompanied by Frank and Arthur, his beloved whippets, and rounding it off with a pint. Sadly, we currently can’t visit a pub at the end of our walks, but we can still take in the breath taking beauty of the countryside.
Please remember that if you’re out for a walk to keep to the 2m social distancing rules. Safe walking!
For fans of bluebells: West Yorkshire Woods
I love walking the dogs around the remaining woodlands in West Yorkshire. They’ve all been heavily industrialised in the past and it’s really interesting to see how nature has come back and taken over again.
Lady Woods in Mirfield has been used in the past for mining coal and making charcoal and there are the remains of mine shafts, dams, a Victorian reform school and an outdoor swimming pool in there!
In Judy Woods near Norwood Green there are bell pits everywhere and the iron ore mined was used to make the cannons the Duke of Wellington used at Waterloo. Both woods are currently full of bluebells. There are hundreds of different routes you can take in each, but I always make sure I end up in one of the excellent nearby pubs.
In Norwood Green there is the Olde White Beare, which was made of the timbers from a warship of the same name and inside, the all wood snug really gives you a feeling that you are still at sea, (hick!).
In Mirfield, all routes lead to the Flowerpot, possibly my favourite pub in the world, with its riverside location, real fire and magnificent Ossett beer.
Coastal: Whitby Walks
We’ve spent a lot of time in Whitby over the years, and for me, it’s probably the nicest town in Britain. Whether you are wanting Dracula & goths, history and ghosts, arcades and fish and chips, steam punks with brass rockets strapped to their dogs or just sun, sea, sand and fresh air, Whitby has it all.
Whitby is the only port in England that faces due north, and because of that, it’s the only place you can see the sun rise and set in the sea. FACT!
We love walking on the beach all the way to Sandsend and having a pint and a crab sandwich in the Hart Inn, but for me, the classic Whitby walk is east to Saltwick Bay. The strong tides mean that the walk is never the same; sometimes sandy, sometimes bare mudstone rock and after a storm it can be covered in washed up trees, seaweed and bits of nets.
Dinosaurs & shipwrecks
A lot of fossils have been found on this stretch of coast and it doesn’t take much imagination to imagine dinosaurs lumbering along the imposing headland of Saltwick Nabb. Add in the shipwreck of a concrete ship, (the “Concretia”), the fabulous deserted beach, the remains in Saltwick Bay of the alum industry, (and the origin of the expression, “taking the p*ss”, look it up), the magnificent views of the ruined abbey and the harbour below on the cliff top walk back to town and you have the makings of a stunning walk.
To top it off, right by the abbey is the Whitby Brewery. Housed in an old farm shed and with palettes for tables and barrels for chairs, they brew my favourite beer, a deceptively strong IPA, a couple of pints of which makes for a perilous descent of the 199 steps back into town!
Rich in history: Halifax & the home of ‘Gentleman Jack’
There has been a lot of interest internationally in Halifax on the back of Sally Wainwright’s BBC series, Gentlemen Jack. The programme tells the story of Anne Lister, a wealthy local landowner and, on the back of her famous coded diaries she is known as the “first modern lesbian”. There are now coach loads of visitors from all over the world turning up at her home, Shibden Hall, and visiting her resting place at Halifax Minster, and it’s still possible to walk around many of the sites associated with her.
Traces of industrial past
As with a lot of West Yorkshire, the industrial exploitation of the land has been softened by the years, and the Shibden Valley, which in Anne’s time was full of her quarries and mines digging for coal and clay, is now a beautiful rural area. It’s still possible to see traces of the past in the valley; from the ornate ventilation tower of the Walker pit, (named after Anne’s wife), to the walls and tunnels built of the spoil from her quarries, but in the main, nature has reclaimed the area.
To visit her works, Anne would have had to walk past Scout Hall. Built in 1681 by John Mitchell and now derelict, the hall is what is known as a calendar building; it has 12 doors, 52 rooms and 365 panes of glass. Mr Mitchell came to an unfortunate end. He was obsessed with building a flying machine and boasted that one day he would “fly with the steadiness and velocity of an eagle”. He didn’t. His ghostly flying machine can apparently still be seen plummeting off Beacon Hill above Halifax.
Skulls of Beacon Hill
His apparition is not the most alarming sight that Beacon Hill has witnessed over the years, however. Visible for miles around and used to send news of national triumph and disaster from Roman times to the Spanish Armada, the hill was used in the 17th century to display the bodies of executed criminals hung in chains to discourage the locals from copying their deeds. A skull of a local murderer, whose body was displayed in this manner, was apparently used in a production of Hamlet at the Theatre Royal in Halifax!
Proper Northern cobbled street
From this grisly location, Anne’s route into town from Shibden would have been down Old Bank, a cobbled and comically steep street; exactly what Southern folk would think of as a typically Northern road! At the bottom of Old Bank is Halifax Minster, where Anne worshipped and where she was buried in the Lister vault after her untimely death.
I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time in Halifax Minster, not because I am religious, but because they regularly hold candle lit rock concerts in there, complete with a real ale bar! It’s a fascinating space to wander round with a pint in your hand. The Duke of Wellington’s regiment have a chapel in there which displays their flags from Waterloo and the Crimean war. There is also a life size carving of a local beggar that was used as the alms box; a memorial to a local Bishop who was burnt at the stake; a Puritan stained glass window, (no colours allowed); and an elaborate medieval font that only survived the Civil War because it was buried in the cellar of the Ring O’Bells pub next door! Recent restoration work has unearthed Anne’s gravestone, which was lost for many years, and it’s discovery has made the Minster a must-visit site for anyone doing the Gentleman Jack tour.
Best Pub in Yorkshire
If all this walking, (and history), has made you hungry, I can recommend calling at the award winning Shibden Mill Inn for a bite to eat when it reopens after lockdown, (it was recently voted the best pub in Yorkshire, which is saying something, for the second time).
If you’re thirsty, stroll from the Minster, past the recently refurbished Piece Hall, to the 3 Pigeons pub. The “3 pigs”, as it’s known locally, as well as having excellent Ossett brewery beer, has the only surviving domed octagonal “northern drinking lobby” in Britain, mosaic floors and many other original Art Deco features. Have a pint, you deserve it!