“Yorkshire people are first and foremost friendly and we do things without much fanfare. We are understated and love the countryside here. One of the special things about Yorkshire is that a lot has not changed. You can go to the Dales and, apart from the fact there are now more cars, they’ve not changed for 20 years and you go back after another 20 and there’s still no change.” – Alistair Brownlee
Hebden Bridge is on the Yorkshire side of the Pennine Hills. Not long ago, it was a small mill town producing wool and woollen goods. By the end of the sixties, the town was in bad shape. Shops were empty and blocks of terraced houses were being pulled down.
During the seventies and eighties the town was repopulated by a motley mixture of artists, writers, photographers, musicians, alternative practitioners, teachers, green and New Age activists and more recently, wealthier yuppy types. The area has a rich literary history. The Bronte sisters wrote their famous novels just a few miles away in Haworth, the American poet, Sylvia Plath is buried at Heptonstall on the hill overlooking Hebden Bridge and the poet laureate, Ted Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd, two miles away.
Hebden Bridge was an obvious destination for those wanting to escape the cities because life here can be a fine mixture of the urban and rural. The water from the hills powered the first mills of the Industrial Revolution. Yet, ten minutes from the town centre and you can be walking alone by the river in one of the many wooded valleys. A half an hour’s walk uphill and you can be rambling across heather moorland.
The Picture House
The Picture House is no ordinary cinema. It opened in 1921 and is one of the last civic owned cinemas in the UK. This was the main place for entertainment for weavers, mill-workers and residents alike and has always been a cinema although it may have not survived without some tough community action on more than one occasion. Today it is very much part of the heritage of Hebden Bridge. It shows between 15 and 26 films each month and programming ranges from mainstream Hollywood to art-house and foreign language films.
This unique project includes the regeneration of the landmark town hall which came under community trust ownership about three years ago. It is intended to be home to more than 30 small digital and creative businesses with shared public hall, conference and seminar rooms. The project has created a public courtyard, a hall that seats 200 and it’s licensed for weddings and civil partnerships.
More than a few tourists head to Hebden Bridge for an annual shopping spree buying anything from their favourite lingerie to supplies of tea and biscuits. The town has independent stores selling everything from high fashion to organic fruit and vegetables, not to mention craft and health food shops.
Hebden Bridge with its steep wet hills and access to major wool markets was ideal for water-powered weaving mills that powered along in the 19th and 20th centuries. At one time Hebden Bridge became so famous for its clothing manufacturer that it became known as Trouser Town.
And if all that is not enough then there are their amazing cafes and restaurants to keep you busy. After three weeks living out of a hotel, I can safely say I tried them all, purely for blog research, although the few tipsy evenings were unplanned not completely necessary for my own sanity.
I highly recommend Aya Sophia Greek restaurant in Hebden although I had wonderful company. The food was delicious and the staff couldn’t do enough to help, everything I need in an evening out.