May 2 2016
Hebden Bridge. For a place that I’ve visited infrequently, it holds a special place in my heart.
You see, about 5 years ago, friends persuaded me to go on a walk to Heptonstall and then down to Hebden. And down is the key word here. Because I’m simply terrified of heights, and – in particular – drops.
On the final approach toward (what I think is named) Heptonstall Abbey, I sensed an ABYSS to my right. I daren’t look, I was frozen in terror. I leaned into the verge, grabbed handfuls of grass and pulled myself the final few yards until I reached safety. Face white as a sheet, I recuperated with a pint of Timothy Taylors in – to date – the only one of their pubs I’d ever been in.
Roll forward to last year. Following the death of my dear friend Phil, his son-in-law thought that it would be a great commemoration if we were to re-enact that walk. So we did, with prejudice on MY part!
We got to the point where we had to turn toward “The Abyss” and I balked. I froze. I couldn’t face it. Ashamed, I sought a flatter route. My friend (The aforementioned Son-in-Law) and his Dad joined me. Which was – it turned out – for the best as, when we got to the pub, my friend’s Dad (also a dear friend) had a heart attack. He survived, thankfully and remains one of the most decent people I know.
He survived. Like Hebden Bridge survived this..And it’s still heartbreaking to see the pictures and video.
My understanding is – that following from the grievous floods of 2012 – many of the affected properties were uninsurable due to the risk. So the businesses of this beautiful town (founded during the reign of Henry VIII) are having to drag themselves up by their bootstraps. To raise themselves up from the horror of those floods. Hebden Rising, if you will from the waters that swamped the town on Boxing Day 2015.
And Hebden Bridge IS rising.
Manchester was wet. the “Rainy City” living up to its name on this Saturday morning. But there was a train to catch, with a smile on my face, a song in my heart and tickets in my pocket.
The walk into town was brisk, thirst inducingly so. It was also pretty. Hebden is an unarguably pretty place to be. Especially when the sun has got its hat on. And this morning, that hat was broad of rim. A beautiful day for a beer.
What always struck me about this town was the sense of community. This might come from having a population of less than 5000 of course – the feeling that everybody knows everybody else. And gets on. This was exemplified in a Facebook conversation I had with one of our destinations which – when I discovered that we were going to be too early for opening time – happily suggested one of the others as a breakfast option!
I like that. Good people.
Kind of one of the reasons why I chose Hebden for the second leg of the “Northern Tour” (first “leg” viewable here – Liverpool). It’s like a literal ‘breath of fresh air’. Away from the usual Manchester haunts where you can get too comfortable, stuck in that Manchester bubble. Yes, I still believe that it is England’s premier beer city. But, every so often, you need to check yourself a bit. Try something different.
And Hebden Bridge is certainly that. Different.
There’s also this.
(Market Street, Hebden Bridge. 26/12/2015 – Image courtesy of Amanda Ogley)
Boxing Day. 2015. Don’t mind saying that I wept, from the comfort of the in-laws Lincolnshire sofa. The scenes of torrents raging through the town is etched. The messages from businesses and people in the town adopted a hashtag. #HebdenRising
It stuck with me.
So I put it to some beery friends that we should have an away day. In this pretty little West Yorkshire town at the first opportunity.
Old Gate (1-5, Old Gate)
Built of sandstone (typical of the town’s buildings) this is one handsome place from the outside. And – at 11:30 on Saturday morning – had the virtue of being open. So we entered, fully desirous of a cup of tea (on my part).
Then, crossing the stone-flagged floors, I saw the 8 handpulls. And Chop & Change (Cascade) by Vocation. And weakened. Sod the teapot. Give me a pint glass please. Yes, it was early. But I am but flesh and blood you know! (Despite what some may think)
The beer was lovely. Citrussy, dry and bitter. Vocation don’t let you down. The pub was more beautiful though.
Stone-flagged floors, sandstone bar, this is a 3 properties simply opened up – but with 3 distinct areas. One end seemed to be coffee drinkers, the other end breakfasting. And then there was us. In the large middle section. Drinking beer. At 11:30am. Which, as I realised 12 hours later, is not big. Nor is it particularly clever. Oh but that Vocation was lovely though!
A quick chat with Ollie (Bar manager) told me that they were kind of expecting us. Having just nipped across the street to Drink to grab a pump clip from Martin the owner. That sense of co-operation again. It feels like a co-operative town. Like everyone has equal shares and looks after everyone else. It feels like my kind of town.
Having had the Vocation – and most of the others (having arrived) being midway through their chosen refreshment, I kept it Yarkshire by opting for a swift Kirkstall Pale Ale. Another lovely refreshing beer, brewed by an under-regarded Leeds brewery in my humble. Never had a bad one from Kirkstall yet. A #ISBF2016 approach may be required I think.
I was ready to leave this lovely place. But Steve – the Karkli Sherpa of #ISBF2015 fame – needed to finish breakfast. A half of Un-Human Cannonball. I bowed down. Awestruck.
(“What do you mean ‘It’s MY round?’ “)
The Fox & Goose (7, Heptonstall Road, Hebden Bridge)
It was about 3 years ago when this pub first entered my consciousness. Locals were battling to secure it as a Co-operative pub and raising awareness and looking for help. I re=tweeted a few messages at the time and – from the moment that they were successful in early 2014, I wanted to go and see West Yorkshire’s first co-operatively owned pub for myself.
It was worth the trip.
Honestly! I really had NO idea that there was a beer festival on!
A rambling old pub. With 3 rooms (that I could see), a roof terrace with simply STUNNING views across the Calder valley. And barrel loads of that most indefinable of qualities. Soul. This pub certainly has that.
And, like I said, there was a beer festival going on in the pub. Timing is – as they say – everything.
The beers were all excellent. As were the Pork pies (more of that later). Mallinsons, Rat (the Ratsputin Imperial Stout HAD to be done!) and Wishbone. All superb. Which just left where to sit…..
That view though.
Into the beer garden that felt like a roof terrace.
Apart from good company and beer, what else could you want? And I had both.
We also had a four-legged stalker.
Meet Charlie. The pub dog with laser guided sight. On that Pork Pie. He got some – of course. How could you possibly refuse?
As I said. Soul. Tons of it in this pub. History, back story, original features to die for, loads of wood. It feels ancient. And loved. My kind of place. It’s a feeling thing.
Just don’t try walking up the Heptonstall Road. Have done it in a van. It feels VERTICAL.
(Pic courtesy Martin Ogley)
Drink (15, Market Street, Hebden Bridge)
The first place I bought beer from in Hebden, early last year. Back then it was “just” a bottle shop – but with plans to become a bar. The plans came to fruition. Then came Storm Eva.
(pic – Martin Ogley)
And that’s how high the water got. Heartbreaking for a new business venture.
But, 4 months later…..
Here we are. 2 local beers on cask, 3 on keg (+ Brooklyn Lager) and a bar that’s nice and busy. Just how it should be.
Although is IS open-plan downstairs, it feels like two rooms. Both being busy with conversation. Upstairs was busy too, with Martin (the owner) giving a private tutored beer tasting.
Martin has taken the “opportunity” afforded by the damage wreaked by Eva to move the bar from the front room to the rear, leaving the front to seating and the sale of bottles and cans. I *may* have bought one or two. Well…….
(Essential reading material for some the next day….)
(Maida Vale tube station – how very appropriate)
I like Drink. A cosy little new bar. Almost the polar opposite of The Fox & Goose and – with the keg offering – catering to a different crowd. But just as busy
The struggle through Eva has been worth the effort. And more than worth the walk.
Next – via an excellent Fish & Chips from the Crown Fisheries on Crown Street…..
Calans Too (Machpelah Mill, Burnley Road, Hebden Bridge – Nr Train Station)
Normally located off Bridge Gate, Calans Micro Pub is still rising from the floods. Having just received clearance confirming that it is officially “dried out” work is due to start to put it back where it belongs. In the heart of town. The bar is tiny and charming. Worth the visit.
I really thought that we wouldn’t see Calans serving beer this weekend. But, true to the spirit in Hebden Bridge, they found a spot to set up a kind of “pop up” bar. In Machpelah Mill, just down some steps off the main road – just around from the Train Stn. On a lovely canal side spot!
Another wee Beer Festival too. HONESTLY, I didn’t know!
I was loving the mirrorball! It was nice to see Calans selling beer – wherever it was located. More Mallinsons in here. Excellent too. Friendly as well, like all the places we went in. This felt like family and friends pulling together to help the business through.
It felt right. Hopefully, the MicroPub itself should be up and running by June. It is well worth the visit – just opposite the St Pol car park on Bridge Gate.
Next….and the final stop in Hebden for the day, this pretty little place…..
Parcel Bar (Hebden Bridge Train Station)
And the end of this little Odyssey. Small. Perfectly formed. A refreshment room that steps into a telephone kiosk at 4pm, does a twirl and come out wearing a cape.
One hand pump (Wishbone – Rascal Pale Ale), loads of interesting bottles and cans. And chocolate. What else do you want?
Another Sandstone building , a single room and cosy as a teapot cover. Initially sat outside – with the sun still shining, we only came inside to get out of the cold!
The Wishbone confirmed that I need to call them too for #ISBF2016. Lovely hoppy pale ale. The initial 10 companions were now down to a hardcore of 4 once CW (aka Jeff) and the lovely Maxine had run for their train – only just catching it! We were a mere single photobomb from being off ourselves…..
(That bloody sun – never thought I’d whine about sunshine!)
A fine day. Everyone enjoyed themselves, the sun was out and Hebden Bridge looked lovely. As it always does.
Hebden has a bohemian feel to it. Lots of independent shops. Very few (if any) chains. Great bars and pubs and a vibrant arts scene.
It has survived yet another natural disaster. You get the feeling it always will. It feels like a community just came together, held hands, and willed themselves through it,
It will take more than Storm Eva to keep it down.
Hebden Bridge is – indeed – rising.
Then – for the hardcore – Black Jack Brewtap. That’s for another day. But I love this view….
Angel Meadow, Manchester, at night.
See you soon.