WIO News: Come spring, chances are there’ll be driving tours in fake panda cars along the A646 between Halifax and Todmorden, with overnight stays in dodgy-looking farmhouses. Happy Valley has done for Calderdale what Peaky Blinders did for Birmingham, and dark telly tourism is all about ticking off locations and looking the part (though I’m not sure hi-vis tabards will catch on). But there are three better, more active ways to explore the Calder valley. Two of these use the Calderdale Way, either the northern section or the southern, both of which involve hill climbs and traverses across fields, hedgerows, stiles – the usual argy-bargy of agricultural rambling.
The third, easier option is the towpath of the Rochdale canal – and that is what I did, or at least how I began, getting off the train at Sowerby Bridge and heading west. Canals are flat and sometimes circuitous, but they require no navigation skills. You can look around as you amble. As they were built for industry, they take walkers close to the action – people, places, buildings – and there’s plenty to see along this valley.
If gentrification has come to some corners of West Yorkshirethe West Riding, it doesn’t seem to have done much to Sowerby Bridge, which is essentially a suburb of Halifax. I could see the town’s looming Wainhouse Tower – a folly built by prosperous dyer John Edward Wainhouse – as I crossed the River Calder. I followed my nose to find the canal and it took me along a street filled with ruinous light industrial units and dead pubs – a genuine urban backside. Eventually I stumbled on some steps and climbed up to the towpath.