I hadn’t advance-planned today’s route because I wanted to know how yesterday’s had gone before determining gradients vs busyness of roads. I decided to avoid taking the most direct route, which would have run right through Bradford and Leeds via some horribly busy roads. The only alternative was over some high ground.
Leaving at 8.30am I dropped back down for a short run of the Rochdale canal until I reached Hebden Bridge. Here I had a proper breakfast and coffee. Last night’s hostel, Mankinholes, is fairly basic by today’s standards, so I had to self-cater. Again, this has weight implications, so I kept it simple with a Chicken Korma ready meal and some apple pies. Tea was made with communal tea bags and no milk.
Given its isolated location, I was expecting the hostel to have very basic internet too (eg. Wifi translated to morse code, transmitted down to the next valley, then the text transcribed by a quill pen onto scrap paper, tied around the neck of a ferret, sent down a long pipe, ferret captured, translated back to TCP/IP then routed onto the main internet). In fact it had no internet, but the village was right next to a TV tower which had 3G repeaters on it, so my phone internet worked brilliantly.
Hebden Bridge is a tad ‘boheeemian’, due to the numbers of hippies who settled here in the 1960s and 1970s. The locals are pretty up-market these days too. The only hippies I saw were living in houseboats on the canal a mile upstream. After coffee in the town, I couldn’t put it off anymore. It was time to climb the Pennines. The A6033 out of the town climbs steadily onto Oxenhope Moor. It’s a quiet road and most drivers were being extra careful because of the mist. The temperature had significantly dropped overnight and the weather had a winter feel to it. I arrived in Oxenhope, then Haworth, pleasantly relieved that the climb was quite bearable. The run on to Keighley was also quite straightforward.
Ever since I’d joined the Rochdale canal I had been passing a good number of old mill buildings. These are a major part of the architectural heritage of the North. The ones in Manchester, in particular, have a penchant for emulating elements of Italian architecture. The power houses of these mills, where the main steam engines were located, are particularly ornate. Yet sadly, many of the amazing buildings are semi-derelict, having been run for various purposes since they were abandoned by the textiles industry. This is as much true for Yorkshire mills as Lancashire mills. At Keighley, I saw my last large mill buildings of the journey.
Another feature of this area is the number of old Methodist churches. During the Commonwealth, following the Civil War, the Church of England was effectively abolished for the best part of twelve years, when diversity of religion was tolerated and even encouraged. With the return of Charles II and the re-establishment of the Church of England, established religion had very limited hold on some of the isolated Pennines communities. As a result, a century later, John Wesley found the Northern Pennines particularly fertile ground for his evangelical preaching. The result is that, for West Yorkshire and North East Lancashire, Methodism was the majority religion until its very steep decline that has occurred since the 1960s. I passed more closed and converted Wesleyan chapels than open ones on my bike.
Another feature I kept noticing was the number of open or closed co-operative stores. This part of the country is the heart of the co-operative movement. Despite the recent problems with the co-op bank, the movement and its principles bear further study. Sharing capital for the greater good is strongly linked to the social conscience of the 19th century Methodist evangelicals.
The route from Keighley to Otley over Bingley Moor looked easier on the map, but in actual fact it was much tougher going. The gradients were acute at times, which may explain why this area is chosen for the Yorkshire stretch of the Tour de France this coming summer. As I struggled with the gradient, the wind and mist were joined by a steady drizzle.
Once I reached Otley, I knew that I had cleared the Pennines and looked forward to an easier route across the Vale of York. With this in mind, and also to compensate for the drizzle turning into steady rain, I did one of my calculations at the Half Moon in Pool in Warfedale that I could allow a pint with lunch. Eventually, with the weather no better, this turned into two pints, in what turned out to be a very enjoyable lunch break.
In fact, there were still quite a few undulations between Pool and Weatherby, which was quite hard going. After Weatherby, what looked like a quiet B1224 runs a fairly level and straight route to York. In fact, this road proved to be the “Weatherby to York race track”, but mercifully there were few lorries.
York is the end of my journey. I pulled in front of the Minster at 4.45pm which gave me time to pray a thank you prayer for my safety and for all the strangers I met on the journey, as I knelt before the sacrament in the quiet Zouche Chapel. Tomorrow I board a fast train back to Bristol.
Distance 57.73 miles.
Total trip distance 268 miles.