Introducing Hebden Bridge

Yorkshire’s funkiest little town is a former mill town that refused to go gently into that good night with the dying of industry’s light; it raged a bit and then turned itself into an attractive little tourist trap with a slightly off-centre reputation. Besides the honest-to-God Yorkshire folk who have lived here for years, the town is home to university academics, die-hard hippies and a substantial gay community – all of which explains the inordinate number of craft shops, organic cafés and second-hand bookstores.

Above the town is the much older village of Heptonstall, its narrow cobbled street lined with 500-year-old cottages and the ruins of a beautiful 13th-century church. But it is the churchyard of the newer St Thomas’ Church that draws the curious visitors, for here is buried the poet Sylvia Plath (1932–63), wife of another famous rhymer, Ted Hughes (1930–98), who was born in these parts.

Plath’s grave lists her full name as ‘Sylvia Plath Hughes’, with the ‘Hughes’ in bronze: this is because it had been repeatedly chiselled off by Plath lovers who believe that Hughes’ adultery with Assia Wevill provoked Sylvia’s suicide (Wevill later also committed suicide) and so leading church authorities to ensure that the name couldn’t be removed.

The Hebden Bridge Visitor & Canal Centre (843 831; www.calderdale.gov.uk; Butlers Wharf, New Rd; 9.30am-5.30pm Mon-Fri, 10.30am-5pm Sat & Sun mid-Mar–mid-Oct, 10am-5pm Mon-Fri, 10.30am-4.15pm Sat & Sun rest of year) has a good stock of maps and leaflets on local walks, including saunters in Hardcastle Crags, two unspoilt wooded valleys run by the National Trust (NT), 1.5 miles northwest of town off the A6033. There are streams and waterfalls, and numerous walking trails, some of which link to the Pennine Way, and another that takes you all the way to Haworth.

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