The canals and old mill buildings of Lancashire have an atmosphere and mysterious charm all of their own.
Hebden Bridge near Halifax is one place where this industrial heritage can be fully appreciated.
Set in a high-sided valley on the River Calder, Hebden Bridge felt a little like Lancaster when I visited it with my husband Mark (aka Sparky) last weekend. The market town had a hippyish feel with lots of alternative types milling around the streets and other public spaces. Raggedy buskers were singing in the market square and all sorts of ethnic and quirky vintage shops were dotted about.
The town was attractive but the Rochdale Canal was the truly magical place.
Dozens of charming canal boats were moored along the banks and magnificent mill chimneys reached towards the sky.
Some of the boat owners appeared to be living on the canal and had built huts and tended gardens on the banks.
It was an easy walk but the views were so wonderful that they kept us entertained for several hours.
The original settlement was the hilltop village of Heptonstall. Hebden Bridge (originally Heptenbryge) started as a settlement where the Halifax to Burnley hilltop packhorse route dropped down into the valley.
The route crossed the River Hebden at the spot where the old bridge (from where Hebden Bridge gets its name) stands. The steep wet hills and access to major wool markets meant that Hebden Bridge was ideal for water powered weaving mills and the town developed during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The town lies close to the Pennine Way and the well conserved region of Hardcastle Crags and is popular for outdoor pursuits.
Because Hebden Bridge is in a valley, it has always had problems with flooding. A recent TV programme on the 2012 floods featured extensive footage of floodwaters raging down the valley sides and through the streets of Hebden Bridge. When we were on our walk we could see sandbags still piled up outside properties.
After our walk we had a delicious pub lunch at the Shoulder of Mutton Inn.
Although we enjoyed our visit to Hebden Bridge I must say I wouldn’t want to live there.
The high-sided valley made it feel slightly oppressive and I started to long to get back out into the open.
However, Hebden Bridge is well worth a visit as there are lovely walks to enjoy and the landscape is redolent of Lancashire’s industrial past.