Here’s another thing that I did last year, but didn’t get around to writing about at the time.
There’s a footpath called the Hebble Trail, which follows the Hebble Brook upstream from Salterhebble up into Halifax town centre. In parts, it uses the route of the Halifax Arm, a disused canal branch off the main Calder and Hebble Navigation. So, on a sunny day in August last year, I decided to check it out.
I walked from home in Sowerby Bridge, along the Rochdale Canal and thence the Calder and Hebble Navigation, and then picked up the Hebble Trail at Salterhebble. A small stub of the Halifax Arm remains, running to a turning area for narrowboats outside the Watermill pub. The footpath continues through a tunnel under the A629 road, which would have carried the Halifax Arm back in the day. Straight afterwards, you’re into the filled-in remains of one of the 14 locks that used to carry the canal up to the town centre.
The footpath doesn’t follow the canal for the whole route and does deviate a little, but almost all of the first section is off major roads. There are a number of information boards on the way up, but almost all have been defaced by graffiti. Worse still, much of that graffiti looks to have been there for some time.
Sometime over the past decade or so, several pieces of outdoor gym equipment have been added. Whilst these are common in public parks, the equipment here is spread out along the trail. I suppose this means that you could go for a run, but also stop at each set of equipment to combine resistance and cardio training, should that sort of thing interest you.
After passing though a small industrial estate, the Hebble Trail reaches Shaw Lodge – a large mill complex. Nowadays, most of the signs encourage you to head back to the main road at this point, but I knew that the trail continued onwards. I was about to find out why the signs were changed.
My comment about the graffiti was perhaps a sign of things to come. The Northern section of the Hebble Trail is clearly not a priority for our local council and is therefore in a state of serious disrepair. It’s also not great if you’re planning to cycle it, or pushing a pram – which I was. Part of the trail involves passing under some industrial buildings, and these were covered in wall to wall graffiti. Thankfully, it was late morning on a sunny summer day. I wouldn’t have liked to have done this in the winter.
The final section passes through what was the Mackintosh Toffee factory. It’s now owned by Nestlé, and is where After Eights and Quality Street are manufactured. The trail hugs the Hebble Brook closely through this section, and ends at a butterfly meadow below Halifax railway station. The meadow, alas, is private property owned by the big Swiss confectionary company, but you can often see rabbits hopping about in it.
The Hebble Trail ends under the railway viaduct, behind Halifax Minster. It’s then just a short walk up the hill into the town centre proper.
The lower, southern portion of the Hebble Trail is lovely and good for a stroll – especially in the summer, as the trees provide a lot of shade. It’s just a shame that the northern section has been forgotten about, and left to deteriorate. It could be a great segregated route into the town for walkers and cyclists, away from the main roads, if appropriate investment is made. Sadly, I can’t see that being a priority for our local council, and as the northern section isn’t part of the National Cycle Network, I can’t see there being any other funding forthcoming.