Introducing Hebden Bridge
Tucked tightly into the fold of a steep-sided valley, Yorkshire's funkiest little town is a former mill town that refused to go gently with the dying of industry's light. Instead it raged a bit and then morphed into an attractive little tourist trap with a distinctly bohemian atmosphere. Besides the honest-to-God Yorkshire folk who have lived here for years, the town is home to university academics, artists, die-hard hippies and a substantial gay community (it allegedly boasts the highest proportion of lesbians per head of population in the UK) − all of which explains the abundance of craft shops, organic cafes and secondhand bookstores.
From the town centre, a short stroll along the attractive waterfront of the Rochdale Canal leads to the Alternative Technology Centre, which promotes renewable energy, recycling and sustainable lifestyles through a series of intriguing exhibits and workshops.
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's the churchyard of the newer St Thomas' Church that draws literary pilgrims, for here is buried the poet Sylvia Plath (1932−63), wife of another famous poet, Ted Hughes (1930−98), who was born in nearby Mytholmroyd.
The Hebden Bridge Tourist Office & Canal Centre has a good stock of maps and leaflets on local walks, including a saunter to Hardcastle Crags, the local beauty spot, and nearby NT-listed Gibson Mill, a renovated 19th-century cotton mill. The mill houses a visitor centre with exhibitions covering the industrial and social history of the mill and its former workers.