MTB guide and hirsute purveyor of Great Rock Ed Oxley writes about his beloved South Pennine home.
I live, work, ride bikes and play in Hebden Bridge. You've probably heard about it. It's a bit like San Francisco: there are lots of creative people, it rains now and again and both places have cool bridges (although ours is better because it's made of Yorkshire gritstone and is 500 years old). My job is mountain bike guiding and running off road skills courses. It's a fun job that allows me to work outdoors with people who want to have fun on bikes. My brief was to list 10 things that make Hebden Bridge a great place for me to be, but my town takes it up to 11.
1. It's in Yorkshire so the chips come with gravy and strangers will talk to you.
2. Because the area was developed in the early days of the industrial revolution we have paths and tracks all over the steep hillsides, which originally were trading routes for pack horses and the ways that working people walked to and from the mills. The industry has gone and the trees returned and these routes have become ace technical trails perfect for mountain biking on. You can go for a walk as well if you don't have a bike or you feel a bit poorly.
Ed descends dressed in his Vulpine Blazer
3. Hebden Bridge is made of hills. You're always going up or down and you get a constant cycle of hard work and rich reward. These are good balanced virtues. You need hills to be able to see things far away and give your mind a good stretch.
Methodists and hippies; both like Hebden because of the good vibes.
4. The area has a history of non conformism, from the building of small Methodist chapels as an antidote to elitist religion in the 18th century, to the arrival of the hippies seeking good vibes and cheap houses in the 1970s. What this means is that it's an accepting place where you can be a bit odd and still fit in.
5. We've got a lovely old Picturehouse, one of only 2 council owned cinemas in the country. We're proud of the ample legroom and you can even get tea in a mug to drink while watching the film.
6. If you like beer then the Old Gate pub is where you want to go. A great pub that welcomes you even if you're covered in mud from your mountain bike adventures. You can get good food here and try A LOT of real ales, including usually 2 different beers by legendary Huddersfield brewers Magic Rock.
Ed hangs out (that’s him in the Vulpine Rain Shorts) with a sheep in a cage and man in a wrestling mask.
7. Hebden Bridge is also near that other example of mill town regeneration: Accrington. Don't laugh at the back, it's not the butt of jokes about Accrington Stanley anymore. Now it's developing into a cool place to be. Rivalling Manchester's famous Afflecks Palace is 'Accy- flecks Palace' where you can get tattooed at Black Anchor Tattoo. As featured in Vain Vagrant. Also you can have a hair cut at North West Barber Co or buy a fine set of antlers or maybe a Death's Head Moth (in a frame) from The Weird and the Wonderful.
Ed’s superb and award winning film
8. When you've had enough of mountain biking and weirdness you can jump on a road bike because we've got lots of good hills to climb and quiet lanes to bomb about on. You can soon find yourself in the Yorkshire or Lancashire Dales or the Peak District. The French heard about Hebden Bridge and came to do a bike race through here last year.
A French bike race came right through Hebden last year. Thanks to Lucy from Victor & Liberty (Vulpine retailer
based in Mytholmroyd just up the road) for this snap.
9. We have a cafe for dogs. The excellent Lampost Cafe is run by the 2 kissing ladies in the Vain Vagrant film and as well as serving good coffee and cakes to humans, you can bring your dog in here and get it a bun or even a dog beer or ice cream. It's true.
10. Because of all the creative residents there are many festivals in the town. The Handmade Parade is run by talented artists for parents and children, to make amazing costumes and gigantic puppets which are eventually paraded around the town. There is a big arts festival, jazz and piano festivals and even a Burlesque festival where you can be saucy with your tastefully adorned nipples.
Don’t mess with “The Buttress”! Cobble close up courtesy of Lucy at Victor & Liberty
11. We have an annual hill climb race that you can do on any bicycle. It goes up the Buttress, a very steep one in four cobbled lane, that keeps hurting you for 400 yards. I did it one year on a cargo bike with a sack of coal on the back to make it interesting. Bad move.