Caldercask Walks No 2 – Sowerby Bridge

Posted: 18th April 2010 by admin in Caldercask, Writing

This article was published in the April Issue of Caldercask. I will post a link when the website is updated.

I’ve been visiting Sowerby Bridge regularly for the last 12 years, in fact ever since I moved up to Halifax in 1998. For many of those years twice weekly, as a member of the canoe club based at Greenups Mill, and inevitably it ended up with a pint the pub afterwards. However back then we were not quite so blessed with the quanitity of good real ale pubs, the best choices being the Moorings and Puzzle Hall Inn, both of which are still doing a fine job today. The other choices of the Turks Head, Engineers, Bulls Head and the William IVth on the main road were less appealing at the time.

How things have changed now, the town is now my first choice for a night out, with many top quality pubs and resturants, including my favourite bar in the area, The Works. The list of well regarded real ale pubs include the aforementioned Works, Moorings and Puzzle Hall Inn, the Jubilee Refreshment Rooms at the Railway Station, the Navigation Inn and the Shephards Rest. Foodwise you are spoilt by several good indian resturants, including Chilli 2, Shyiba and the Village and Java resturants. For traditional fayre the Moorings, Navigation,Works and Firehouse all fit the bill nicely.

The town itself could host a good, if short pub walk, going from the Puzzle Hall Inn, via the Works, Firehouse, Bar Francisca for a cocktail for a change, then down taking your pick from the bars on the main road, before finishing off at the Moorings and Navigation. However I will be doing a circular walk from Sowerby Bridge, taking in some of the hills which surround the town before finishing back at the other end of the town. Don’t say you weren’t warned in the last article, and yes it does involve the up hill variety this time, not much, but a short sustained hill is encountered en-route.

Like my last walk I’ll start at my favourite pub in the area, the Works, from here, we’ll walk through town, join the canal to the old wire works at Copley, then head up to Saville Park via Woodhouse Scar Woods, across Saville Park to the Big 6 for a mid walk drink, then back down towards Sowerby Bridge walking in the shadow of Wainhouse Tower, with an optional pub stop at the Royal Hotel, and then back into town for a couple of stops at the near end of town and the Refreshment Rooms at the railway station. Distance is about 7km or 4.5 miles, with 130m of ascent.

The Works arrived on the scene a few years ago, and added modern pub centred around real ale to the town pub circuit, the opposite of most pubs in Sowerby Bridge, the high ceilings and open bar make it feel large, leather sofas making you feel welcome. A popular stop over for cyclists and walkers, and equally more heeled customers. A bar full of real ales, with at least 6 on tap any point, with regular ales from Timothy Taylor, Moorhouse and Copper Dragon breweries, and a couple of good quality ciders. It rather stole the Puzzle Hall Inn’s glory as the real ale pub in the area, though after a closure, that has now re-opened and is doing good trade. Consolidating this with Beer Festivals, room hire and good food has meant that the place has gone from strength to strength in an increasing competitive local market.

However, we must start the walk, so we reluctantly leave the soft sofa, and head on our way, heading through town, we head towards Halifax, and at the junction of Tuel Lane, we head onto the Calder and Navigation Canal towards Copley. This canal has the good fortune to have been restored in the last 20 years as part of the Rochdale Canal regeneration, and thus benefits from good paths for its distance. Its a canal I’ve cycled frequently from Mirfield all the way to Summit with different starting and stopping points, but the section from Salterhebble to Hebden Bridge is one of my favourite and most travelled, and the section I am walking is included in this. Nestled in the valley, its tree lined bank disguse the fact you are never far from the main Wakefield Road, and at times you are walking between the two navigable water courses, the other being the River Calder. On the way, there are access bridges to both the Navigation Inn and the Moorings in the Canal Basin.

After about 2km you will reach the now flattened site of the old wire works opposite the HBOS offices, this is your point of departure from the canal and the start of the first uphill section in this series. After joining the main road and crossing to the far side, you will come to Woodhouse Lane after 100m, this cobbled lane leads all the way up to the junction with Albert Promenade, which we will be walking below later. Its a steady ascent, lasting just under 1/2 a mile, nothing too strenuous, and before you know it, you will be at the junction with Scarr Bottom Road. At this point you need to carry on straight ahead to just before the left hand bend, you will see a No Entry sign on the right, and 30m before this is a path on the left leading into the woods. On a hot summers day, these woods give welcome shade, something which attracts local climbers to the crags below the wall at Albert Promenade. With over 20 rocks up to 12m tall, its fun for both the serious climber and also kids to mess about on the smaller rocks en-route. At the end of the woods, take the cobbles uphill to the promenade itself and take in the panoramic views over the Calder Valley.

Your next pub is not too far away now, and you’ve done all the hard work. Head across to Saville Park, and following the boundary wall round at the top of the park. While you are here, you can take in the view across the whole of Beacon Hill, from Elland all the way over to A58 leading out of Halifax town centre. The Big 6 is not evident as it is tucked away in a back street. As you round the school, you will see a play park on the far side of the road, take the rutted road next to it and 2 streets back on Horsfall St, you will find the Big 6, with its beer garden on the next street along. This pub couldn’t be more different to the works, an old fashioned pub, made out of 6 terraced houses knocked together, with several distinct areas, and more nooks and crannies. A small bar serves 5 real ales as well as a good bottle selection. Its no worse for its traditional layout, which is conducive to a good atmosphere. It may look on the small side, but it can pack in plenty of people when called for. The beers are kept well and regularly rotated, and there is always a good welcome from the staff.

Now we are half way through our walk, its now time to return to Sowerby Bridge, we will retrace our steps as far as the cobbled path into Woodhouse Scar woods, cutting over the top side of the school this time and walking past the impressive front to the school, until turning right into Albert Promenade, and dropping into the woods, however this time, we will stay on the cobbled path and bear right, and eventually meet a junction. Turn left, then when you reach Scarr Bottom Road, turn right, following the road. Mostly free of trees on the lower slope, you start to get more of the clear views across the valley and onto the tops opposite, always however getting closer to being in the shadow of the local monument, Wainhouse Tower, open to the public on certain days until a few years ago due to structural issues. On a clear day from Southowram you can see Wainhouse Tower across the tops and in the background, Stoodley Pike.

After a while, drop onto Master Lane to your left, and past the Tower House, after a slight uphill, take left onto Upper Washer Lane, and you will eventually get to the Royal Hotel. I put this as an optional stop off, as the pub was closed as I went past while doing this walk myself, and thus cannot judge the place on its real ale credentials, however it looks well maintained and tidy, so it may well be worth an excursion. In any case, continue down this road as it becomes Edward Road, and you will soon meet the main Pye Nest Road into Sowerby Bridge. Follow this road down to the roundabout and go left into the town itself. The next stop on this tour is the Moorings in the Canal Basin, although an alternative is the Navigation Inn, which can be reached via a steep road just after the Wakefield Road junction, sitting above the canal, a lovely vantage point on a warm summers day, from which you can enjoy one of several good ales.

The Moorings has just reopened after a refurbishment, and have kept a good real ale presence on the bar, with Black Sheep, Old Speckled as regular beers and a rotation cast of guests including Ruddles quite frequently. There is a good range of food, and have eaten there many times before and can well recommend the homemade burgers and chunky chips. The only downside is that they also give a regular pump to Greene King IPA, but that is a personal thing, as I am not a fan of the brewery at all, stemming from a month working down there near Ipswich a few years ago, and being served poorly kept pints for the period. With plenty of space both inside, with views over the canal, and outside at the front of the building to enjoy the sun, its a worthy place to spend an afternoon chilling in its own right.

Now onto the last short leg of our journey, rejoin the main road through the town centre past the canal, and in the middle of the terrrace of shops you will see a narrow passage way signed as the route to the railway station, head through here and over the bridge and follow the signs to station, you will reach the Jubilee Refreshment Rooms next to the track. This bar opened last year in one of the old platform buildings after 12 years of negotiation with the buildings owners by the Wright brothers, a pair of railway and real ale enthusiasts. Despite some set backs due to break ins and minor crime, is still providing a pleasant environment to enjoy quality range of real ales, normally 6 at any time, and if you are hungry at the end of your walk, they also serve light snacks to soak up your pint with. It is also the perfect place to wait for your train home if you arrived here that way.

I’ll leave any local extensions down to you as normal, but there are plenty of worthwhile options to choose from in the town.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Halifax – Sowerby Bridge
Bus – Service 579
Train – both the Manchester and Blackpool services from Halifax serve the station.