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New Delights and Old Favourites....

After a few weeks of travelling up and down the country, it's back to the local scene taking in a walk on the Pennine hills....

Last Saturday, I went on a long-planned Saturday walk with a group of my walking friends. Fortunately, after some very hot weather during the week, there had some welcome early morning rain, so that the temperature dropped to a much more comfortable level, and indeed, when our group of 12 humans and 2 dogs set off from Hebden Bridge, there was a pleasant breeze which made it ideal conditions for walking. And if you are walking in this area, unless you are going along the canal bank, you have no option other than going up one of the many steep hillside paths that leave Hebden and the narrow wooded valleys that meet at this increasingly-visited town.

We set off up the side of the valley just at the edge of the town on the Todmorden side, with the beautiful and historic village of Heptonstall way above us on the hilltop. It was a steep pull - of course - up the wooded slope, but eventually, we arrived at the top of the tree line with commanding views out across the valley. Rain had been forecast, but when we stopped for our butties beside a bubbling beck, the sun was fair beating down. Moving on, we arrived at a road, and shortly down the hill, at Jack Bridge, we came across the New Delight, where we decided to break our journey. I remember when I first visited back in the late '70's it was one of only two outlets in Yorkshire for the long-lost Burtonwood Ales from Warrington (the Griffin at Barkisland was the other). Nowadays this comfortable and friendly, but unpretentious, pub, which also boasts its own campsite, serves as the tap for the nearby Bridestones Brewery, with at least one of the beers always on the bar. On this occasion, it was a very pleasant Pennine Gold, along with guests from Thwaites, Moorhouses, and Exit 33. As we sat enjoying our drinks, it started to rain, but by the time we left, the short shower had almost stopped. The New Delight makes a great stopping off point when walking, with both the Pennine Way and the Calderdale Way passing close by, but for those who are not walking, or on horseback (the Pennine Bridleway is also nearby), a bus service also runs past the pub.

The New Delight, Jack Bridge, Colden
We re-traced our steps for a few hundred yards, and then headed off up a track to the brow of the hill, with increasingly open views. The topography around these parts is such that once you climb out of the valley, there tends to be a wide sloping shelf, following which there is another steep upward section. Stoodley Pike appeared in the distance, with the unseen Calder Valley down below. The views were stunning as the sun re-appeared, this is a beautiful part of the Pennines, but yet very close to home, and I have to say I have come to appreciate this area far more as I have got older.

Big skies, big views: typical Pennine vista
We started to descend the hillside, passing farms and tucked away cottages, every now and again there would be an old barn being converted, or a cottage being renovated. Back once again amongst the trees, we followed an incredibly steep road downwards, before crossing another to head down a path to meet another road, which led down to the valley bottom. Back on the main road, it was a short walk back up to the Fox and Goose.

It was the first time I had been here for a couple of years, but in the intervening period this popular, co-operative-owned pub has had something of a makeover, including extending the bar so that it is easier to get served. I bought myself a pint of the excellent Avalon from Turning Point, and headed up to join the rest of the crew in the beer garden, set in the hillside above the pub. As the conversation and banter flowed, it started to rain, but fortunately our table had a large umbrella over it so we managed to stay dry. The Fox and Goose is a must-visit place, and I thoroughly enjoyed my re-visit.

View from the Fox and Goose's beer garden
Some of the party departed, and shortly afterwards the rest of us decided to head into town. To Calan's, to be specific. And it seems to be settling down nicely with Nadine and Damian having now been running the place for a month or two. Not much seems to have changed from when Alan and Alyson were here, just the odd tweak, such as the to-die-for pork pies now being sold in paper bags rather than clingfilm, whilst the beers have a wider variation in price, not the standard £3 which had been maintained ever since Calan's had opened. I enjoyed an excellent pint of Salopian, and as ever, accepting that at weekends it is always very busy, Calan's is still an excellent place to spend some time. Next up was Drink?, where as is usual when we call in, once we had bought our drinks, we took over the upstairs room. A great place to chill out after a few miles on the hills.

Our final port of call before catching the train could hardly have been more different. This was the Railway, further along the main road. It was loud, it was lively, it was rocking. We managed to find a couple of tables. The beer, from Cross Bay, was OK, and to be fair to the Railway, it is satisfying a demand that few other places in Hebden are able to fulfil. After a short while, it was time to go, and three of us headed off to the train station for the train back to Brighouse.

We may only meet up every 2 or 3 months or so, but it is always a great day of walking and conversation, with excellent company. Here's to the next one!

Another Pennine view
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And now a few other bits and pieces.

Some of the gang I walk with are from Elland, and they are very pleased with the news that Elland Brewery have applied for planning permission to convert an old shop on Southgate into a micro pub. Hopefully, permission will be granted, as after years of decline, Elland town centre desperately needs a boost. As a former resident of the town, it is an exciting prospect, and very fitting and pleasing that it is the local brewery that is behind this move.

Next weekend, from Friday 10th to Sunday 12th, the Cross Keys at Siddal is holding its annual Beer Festival. As well as over 26 ales and ciders, and live music, for the first time, there will be craft keg on offer as well as a gin bar. The festival is always worth a visit, and I had a most enjoyable hour at the Keys the other week, sat in the sunshine with an excellent pint of Goose Eye Chinook.

A bit further down the line is the Rastrick Beer Festival at St John's Church on September 21st and 22nd, whilst back in Hebden Bridge, the local Halifax and Calderdale CAMRA Beer Festival is taking place at the Town Hall from Thursday 27th to Saturday 29th September. Over 50 beers, ciders, and perries from the north and around the UK will be on offer. The festival has been based here for a few years now, and has bedded in well at this well-appointed and airy venue overlooking the river Hebden.

And finally, the Vanarama National League kicks off today, with Halifax Town in action at Braintree. I have passed on paying a visit to Essex, but no doubt the opportunity to visit some fine pubs in other parts of the country will arise over the course of the season, however the football pans out....

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