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Oxenhope and the Worth Valley Railway

A moorland round and a return to the age of steam.

Distance 6 miles (9.7km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 492ft (150m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Good paths and tracks, 6 stiles

Landscape Upland scenery, moor and pasture

Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 21 South Pennines

Start/finish SE 033354

Dog friendliness Keep on lead along country lanes

Parking Street parking in Oxenhope, near Keighley and Worth Valley Railway station

Public toilets None on route

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© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 From the entrance of Oxenhope Station take the minor road to the left, up to the A6033. Cross the road and take Dark Lane ahead, a sunken lane that goes steeply uphill. Follow this track to a road. Go right here, downhill, to join the Denholme road (B6141). Walk left along the road, up to the Dog and Gun pub, where you turn right on to Sawood Lane.

2 At Coblin Farm, your route becomes a rough track. Go through a gate to join a metalled road to the right, uphill, signed Brontë Way. After 100yds (91m), when the road accesses Thornton Moor Reservoir, walk straight ahead on an unmade track. Go through a gate into rough pasture, ignoring the Brontë Way sign to the right.

3 At a fork, just 50yds (46m) further on, keep right as the track goes downhill towards a transmission mast on the mid-horizon. Pass a clump of trees, and cross a watercourse before descending to a minor road.

4 Go right here to pass a cattle grid and the mast. 150yds (138m) beyond the mast, as the road begins a steep descent, take a wall stile on the left. Go through another wall stile, to walk left, uphill, on a broad, walled track that deposits you at the Waggon and Horses pub.

5 Cross the road and take a track between gateposts, which bears right, steeply downhill. Where it bears sharp right again, after 300yds (274m), take a stile to the left, by a gate. Follow a wall downhill to take three stiles in succession; at the bottom you meet a walled path. Go left here, cross a stream, and continue uphill to arrive at the entrance to Lower Fold Farm.

6 Follow the farm track to the right; turn right again, 20yds (18m) further on, at the end of a cottage, to join a metalled track. The track soon bears right above Leeshaw Reservoir and makes a gradual descent. Pass a mill to meet a road.

7 Cross the road and take the track ahead (signed to Marsh). Keep right of the first house, on a narrow walled path, then a paved path. Pass through the courtyard of a house as the path goes left, then right, and through a kissing gate. Follow a path between a wall and a fence to meet a walled lane. Go right here, passing houses, then on a field path to meet a road. Go right here and back down into Oxenhope.

Oxenhope is at the end of the line in more ways than one. As well as being the terminus of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, Oxenhope is the last village in the Worth Valley. To the north are Haworth and Keighley; going south, into Calderdale and Hebden Bridge, requires you to gear down for a scenic drive over the lonely heights of Cock Hill.

Oxenhope was a farming community that expanded, like many other villages in West Yorkshire, with the textile industry. The mills, however, have mostly disappeared, leaving the village to commuters who work in nearby towns. Apart from the railway, the village is best known for the Oxenhope Straw Race, held each year on the first Sunday in July. Competitors have to carry a bale of straw around the village, while drinking as much beer as possible. Whoever finishes this assault course first, it is the local charities that benefit most.

The Keighley and Worth Valley line, running for 5 miles (8km) from Keighley to Oxenhope, is one of the longest established private railways in the country, and the last remaining complete branch line. It was built in 1867, funded by local mill owners, but the trains were run by the Midland Railway to link to the main Leeds-Skipton line at Keighley.

When the line fell victim to Dr Beeching's axe in 1962, local rail enthusiasts banded together in opposition to the closure. The preservation society bought the line: a pioneering example of rail privatisation. Thus began a major restoration of the line and the stations. Ingrow station, for example, had been so badly vandalised that a complete station was 'trainsported' to the site stone by stone from Foulridge in Lancashire. Built to the typical Midland style, it now blends in well with the other stations on the line.

By 1968 the society began running a regular timetable of trains that has continued ever since. Steam trains run every weekend throughout the year, and daily in summer. But the line doesn't just cater for tourists; locals in the Worth Valley appreciate the diesel services into Keighley which operate on almost 200 days per year.

The line runs through the heart of Brontë country, with stations at Oxenhope, Haworth, Oakworth, Danems, Ingrow and Keighley. The stations are a particular delight: fully restored, gas-lit and redolent of the age of steam. So when Edith Nesbitt's classic children's novel, The Railway Children, was being filmed in 1970, the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway was a natural choice of setting. And Oakworth station - a splendid example of an Edwardian station, complete with enamel advertising signs - is the one used in the film. Everyone who has seen the film (it's the one with Jenny Agutter in and it seems to be etched deeply into the national psyche) will enjoy revisiting the much-loved locations.

Where to eat and drink

At about the half-way point, this walk passes the Waggon & Horses, an isolated pub on the Hebden Bridge Road out of Oxenhope. The pub enjoys great views over the valley towards Haworth and the moors, and has a good reputation for its food. If you decide to take the train there's an excellent café at Oxenhope Station, appropriately enough in a stationary British Rail buffet car.

What to look for

Visiting Oxenhope Station is like going back a hundred years. It has been lovingly restored, with enough period detail to make steam buffs dewy-eyed with nostalgia.

While you're there

Take a trip to Haworth and back on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, and relive the great days of steam. You can return on foot along the Worth Way.

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