Cask Walk 6 – Halifax and Manor Heath

Posted: 15th August 2011 by admin in Caldercask, Writing

Over the past 18 months, these pub walks have taken you all over Calderdale, from Hipperholme and Brighouse to Sowerby and Hebden Bridge.  I try to bring you a different set of pubs each time, but inevitably there comes a time where you cannot avoid overlapping without the walks become too convoluted.  One area I have only touched on however is Halifax town centre, with just the Ring O’Bells being featured on these walks.  So in this issue we will both start and finish in the town, with a newcomer to the real ale scene taking its place at the start leading to an old favourite down the road to finish.  A mainly urban walk will take you to Manor Heath, Skircoat Moor and the formerly industrial valleys which follow the railway lines back into Halifax from Salterhebble.  The total distance is just under 5 miles and takes in 5 pubs, with hills which meander up and down for the entire route.

We will start the walk at Dirty Dicks Food and Ale Emporium on the corner of Clare Road, on the site of the old Royal Oak.  This newly opened pub, which has fully restored the Royal Oak interiors former glory after several years of very poor treatment, has not only 8 real ale pumps, but good continental beers as well as a excellent food selection.  This pub has re-established the Real Ale Triange with the Pump Room and Three Pigeons which was lost when the Royal Oak moved to being a more mainstream pub.  The food and beer here are both equally good and will set you up for the walk ahead.  Their house beer named after the pub and sourced from Empire Brewery near Huddersfield is a bargain at £2 per pint.

However there comes a time to move on and now is that time, the next destination is the Big 6.  There are several ways you can reach here, but the most scenic route in my opinion is via the old hospital and past Manor Heaths’ park and green.  As you head out of of Dirty Dicks, turn left and follow Clare Road until you meet the cross roads behind the swimming pool, carry straight behind the pool until you reach the end of the road.  Turn right and walk past the car park up Hunger Hill before joining Skircoat Road to your left.  Following the road above the Shay stadium, you will reach a fork in the road, cross the road and take the right hand option.  Continue up Heath Road until you reach the roundabout, turning right onto Free School Lane.

On your right as you head up this road is the site of the old hospital which was vacated over 10 years ago for the current site on Skircoat Road.  Mostly replaced by new build houses now, the original hospital building can still be seen as you reach the top end of the site.  As you continue up Free School Lane you will reach the cross roads with a church on your right and the moor to your left and ahead.  At this point you can take any route across the moor (flying balls permitting), but eventually you will end up at the perimeter of the Manor Heath School site which sits atop the recreational area on its right hand side.  At this point, cross the road and take the path until you reach the end of the terrace and hit the heavily rutted road.  The third set of terraces back will reveal the Big 6.

The Big 6 is an old fashioned pub, hidden away in a back street, comprising of 6 terraced houses knocked together, with several open areas, and even more nooks and crannies.  A small bar serves 5 real ales as well as a good bottle selection.  It is no worse for its traditional layout, which is conductive 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.    In the summer there is a small beer garden in the next street along.

Retrace your step back to Manor Heath and as you pass the school, take the diagonal track across the moor, ending up at another set of crossroads.  Head down Skircoat Moor Road, passing the walled gardens and playgrounds of Manor Heath Park. At the major crossroads take a right onto Skircoat Green Road.    Along this road are several very good sandwich and chip shops, so is the perfect opportunity to grab a mid walk snack.  You will pass the Murgatroyd Arms, stay on this road until it starts to tend left, at that point go to your right and then take the right turn onto Dudwell Lane, ahead of you to your left is the Standard of Freedom.

The Standard of Freedom is a cosy pub, with the room bending round both sides of a central bar, and views overlooking Copley from the rear windows.  There is also a small outside terrace on the road side of the pub.  The beers are from the major players such as Timothy Taylor and Black Sheep, as well as Tetleys Cask.   This was my first visit to the pub and the beer quality (I sampled Black Sheep) was good and appeared to be kept well.

Leaving the pub turn right and at the junction keep going straight ahead on Dudwell Lane towards the church spire in the distance.  Go past the church and school on your right   You want to follow this road all the way until you go past the new hospital and come to the junction with Huddersfield Road.  Take a left turn, and cross over passing Jacksons Flower Shop, taking a right just after it onto Westbourne Grove.  At the bottom of this terraced street, take a left and follow the road at the base of the railway embankment.  Eventually the road will curve right under the track, ignore the road to your right and continue.  You will come to the junction with Phoebe Lane, carry straight onto Shaw Lane and eventually the trees on your right will clear and the path will fork right onto Boys Lane, just down this track is the Shears Inn.

The Shears Inn is not a pub you find by accident, nestled in the shadow of a various factories / warehouses and sitting deep in the valley.  The beer selection is excellent, with the three Timothy Taylor staples being joined as I write this by Moorhouses, Thwaites and York Brewery beers, including a particular favourite of mine Thwaites Wainwright.  This is joined by the normal mainstream products and another bonus for me, Stowford Press cider, an excellent example of the product.  The place is as well known for its food with a good range of “pub food” covering every base you could want it to as well as a tapas selection.  A beer garden sits along the side the pub and gives good shade on a summers day.  The pub itself is open and spacey with a large bar and dining area.

To regain the main road to town, turn left out of the pub and retrace your steps to the fork with Shaw Lane, turn right onto the lane and head uphill.  This will bring you out at the back of the tower blocks near The Shay.  Turn right onto Gaukroger Lane and you will shortly meet Shay Syke.  Turn right and follow this road, heading straight on at the roundabout and the 3 pigeons will be on your right.

The Three Pigeons, an Ossett Brewery operation is split into 4 rooms, a main bar area with 3 outlying areas.  The pub is a staple on the Halifax real ale map and was a regular of mine when I lived in the vicinity.  The pub generally serves 3 Ossett beers and 5 guests, at the time of writing these included beers from Fullers, Fernandes and Tring breweries.  Beers are generally well selected by the experienced landlord.  The pub also features a classic pacman gaming table in the back room.

An optional excursion after this is to visit the Pump Room after.  This is well worth the short walk up the hill to the roundabout.

Sitting on the roundabout, the view from the beer garden is not the worlds best, nestled next the uncollected barrels and looking at 4 roads, but it more than makes up for this with its beer with a selection of 7 ales, a couple of good continental beers as well as a wide selection of continental bottled stock not on tap.  The pub is split into 2 rooms off the entrance and is epitome of what you would expect from such a pub with acres of polished wood.