Travel North - 23: Summer Wine Country, Keep Step With Compo, Cleggy and Foggy Around Holmfirth's Green Acres
Welcome to Holmfirth - never mind Norah's mop, she's friendly... really
One of the great clowns of his age, Norman Wisdom joined the gang for a while to add a new range to the comic aspect. Roy Clarke's script writing as ever, the Dales scenery around Huddersfield's south-western rim adding to the charm as before. Not exactly Grand Canyon, but what do you want - Everest?
'Recce' the area first, see how the land lies
In their later years, retirement behind them, nothing to do and all day to do it in, that's our trio of characters,
(Precious little to do with fermented grapes, as the favourite tipple is beer - the falling-down-when-you've-had-too-much-of-it stuff - and lots of it. The 'Summer Wine' is more to do with the antics of men in their senior years, who should know better than to court disaster at - nearly - every turn).
This is the background setting for pensioners Bill 'Compo' Simmonite, Norman Clegg and former corporal 'Foggy' Dewhirst, the trio has changed over the years before and since 'Compo' and 'Foggy' bowed out. In the last series the 'crew' numbered more than three, interchangeable but still lovable scamps with bus passes.
What is constant is the scenery you'll witness on your way around this part of the West Riding's part of the Yorkshire Dales.
Leave behind Nora Batty with her menacing mop and hair curlers, and a posse of strong, men-worrying women behind and lose yourself on a brisk walk out from the cafe in the square near the bridge, via a few welcoming public houses (mind you don't get up to any tricks like 'Compo' and Co, or you'll find yourself being thrown out like them)!
Where are you walking? Well, this is part of the southern Pennines, the 'spine' of England. The range is from the Derbyshire Peak District to the Scottish Border country. We're just interested in the 'middle bit' - well, south of middle.
Make your way to the dam on Digley Reservoir, that you see in several episodes of the series, without actually crossing it. Carry on a couple of hundred yards to a leftward bend. Go through the gate and turn left up the steps. Climb to pass between garages or workshops and housing. You come onto pasture here, where you go through a gate and take a half-left course for an open gateway. A stiled path on your right takes you to the right of a farmhouse, and soon you come onto a lane where you cross to a track behind a house. Scale a stone 'step stile' between gates. This leads to a succession of stiles on a walled track. Pass through old gateways (you get a feeling of deja-vu here, with all these gates... Remember Hornsea?) that finishes to the left of some trees above another house. Turn right at the far side and pass close around the woodland ravine to a 'metalled' lane. Turn right, then left on the path by a garden. Pass through a sloping pasture, and when at its foot use the right-hand gate. Drop down to the main road.
This brings you out at the 1 1/4 mile stage. Cross into the minor road and veer left. At another crossroad cross diagonally and pass a terrace of houses into a rough-surfaced car park. At the farthest end cross the footbridge and turn left along the River Holme. You enter pasture again, staying close to its foot past an unused stone stile, and go right, climbing the grassy path to a stile into woodland. Climb through the woodland to steps and a crossing path. Bear right and straight away left up a steep path to the edge of the woodland. Make for a stone farmhouse and pass through its gravelled yard. The drive climbs, follow it and turn left into a lane. At the junction take the left turn down Goose Green. Right at the bottom turn left, signposted for 'Hollowgate', to reach the bridge near Nora Batty's house.
You're now at the 2 1/2 mile stage. Turn right on the A6024 (A635) past the Tourist Information Centre and traffic lights. Turn left up the steep Cooper Lane and at its top end look right for a footpath signposted left off Holt Lane. The path turns very steep and stepped before it reaches a driveway, and soon after, a lane. Turn left and go on on to the walled track past a barn. Hill Lane, as it is here, winds to Upperthong, a community near Holmfirth that hosts the World Welly [rubber] Wellington Boot Wanging Championship every June (you need Wellies to get about in the damper areas of Yorkshire)!
Stay on track for Town Gate and at the end fork left on Broad Lane, descending about 250-300 yards to a rough, unsurfaced lane to the right. Take this to the main road. At 3 3/4 miles now join the lane opposite into and swiftly out of the steep gully. At the 'T'-junction turn right, then left on Hogley Lane. Bear right on this side road and follow through the stile into pasture once more. Another two stiles later stay close to the field top towards some houses. Follow onto the road here, staying on the right on Flush House Lane. At a crossroad take a left turn that will bring you back to the car park at the five mile stage.
The walk by and large follows field paths, farm tracks and byways. The climb from Holmfirth is steep, and incorporates narrow, steep steps. In winter and after heavy rain this walk will turn nightmarish, with many muddy parts.
Getting there by car: Begin at Digley Reservoir above Holmbridge, 2 miles west of Holmfirth. Turn left off the A6024 onto Field End Lane across from Holmbridge Church, drive to - but not over) the dam by way of Bank Top Lane and stop off at Digley Quarry car park, about 300+ yards above the dam. An alternative route brings you from the A635 Greenfield Road, turning down Green Gate Road opposite the Ford Inn and take the road down to the car park.
By public transport: First Bus services connect Holmfirth to Huddersfield and a network of smaller towns and communities. Phone 0113 245 7676, www.wymetro.com
Refreshments: The Wrinkled Stocking Tea Room (this is a reference to Nora Batty's under-supported thick stockings), 30 Huddersfield Road, Holmfirth, HD9 2JS, phone 01484 681408. There is also Sid's Cafe at 4a Towngate, Holmfirth, HD9 1HA, www.sidscafe.com. (This was where the 'gang' congregated before being usually thrown out by Ivy for misbehaving in her 'reputable catering establishment' before and after the demise of her husband Sid. Bill Owen, alias 'Compo' supped his tea from the saucer in age-old Yorkshire 'pleb' style and couldn't keep his hands off his neighbour Nora).
Ordnance Survey map: Explorer Map 288, Grid reference SE 109 074
Holmfirth Tourist Information Centre, 49-51 Huddersfield Road, Holmfirth HD9 3JP, phone 01484 222444.
Yorkshire Tourism: www.yorkshire.com
Follow the trail of Compo, Clegg and Foggy around Homfirth's area, Upperthong, Lower Thong (and the watering places they were tossed out of for bad behaviour, or just being weird), latterly also Howard's antics with Marina in keeping out of wife Pearl's sight. In later series Howard's still dodging Pearl although the line-up's changed a couple of times. Some treasures in these series, the late Peter Sallis being the one constant up to the end.
A well-matched deck of characters
I've been this way several times...
I've been this way several times on my way further north, a couple of times with the family, looking around town. Came this way with a friend as well, and stopped off at the Wrinkled Stocking cafe, Norah Batty's house in each of the series until the actress Kathy Staff died. It was used as her successor's house for a series - the former pub landlady Stella, Norah's sister played by Barbara Young.
Holmfirth's a quiet, pleasant town to the south-west of Huddersfield. What it's got going for it is the surrounding countryside. A regular bus service links it to Huddersfield along leafy roads, villages scattered along the way.
Leave the M1 at Junction 35A for the A61, leaving this road for the A616. Carry on through a roundabout with the A628 just beyond Langsett. The A616 narrows after the roundabout. Drive on past Crow Edge, Hepworth and Scholes to New Mill and left into Holmfirth. There's a supermarket car park close to the river where you can leave your car for a couple of hours to explore before driving on - unless you take a room nearby. There is a choice of hostelries - that the lads have been seen to be thrown out of for various misdemeanours - in the area around Holmfirth, at Upperthong, Netherthong and so on, with roads to explore once you've done your walking.
North away from Holmfirth takes you to Huddersfield and a tangle of roads and motorways, Bradford and the West Riding metropolis. West takes you to Oldham and Manchester, east to Barnsley ('Kes' country).