A new waymarked path is set to link up Hebden Bridge with the famous Pennine Way on its 50th anniversary, possibly bringing an extra £500,000 into the local economy, thanks to a new partnership.
Back in 1965 Pennine Way planner Tom Stephenson could not have seen the point in directing people though Hebden Bridge, at that time a depressed, polluted, half-empty former weaving town, much the same as the homes the walkers themselves hailed from.
At the same time, says Richard Peters of Hebden Bridge Walkers Action, which is developing a new way-marked link route between town and Pennine Way in partnership with Hebden Bridge Hostel, there were plans to demolish half of Heptonstall.
But, he said: “Fast forward 50 years and the situation has changed totally, with Hebden Bridge becoming the first ‘Walkers are Welcome’ town and a known centre for excellent walking - as well as being an interesting, vibrant and quirky town in its own right.
“The fact that the Pennine Way doesn’t come through Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall now looks quite perverse. We are very excited about the new link route and expect it will be of real benefit to visitors to Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall.”
And Nick Shields, leader of Hebden Bridge visitor economy group, said of the new Hebden Bridge Loop that: “It is reckoned that the average spend of someone staying a night in the town is a minimum of £60. If Hebden Bridge gradually becomes the main route and everybody stayed it could bring maybe half a million pounds into the town, and that’s not counting people who only walk a short section.”
The proposed new way-marked link route will be launched on Saturday April 25, at 10.35am from Hebden Bridge railway station - the day after the 50th anniversary of the Pennine Way.
To establish the new route will take around £2,500 in total, said Mo Ludlam, HBWA secretary.
“Hebden Royd Town Council has agreed a grant of nearly a thousand pounds which is a great start to the project. Hebden Bridge Rotary, Hebden Bridge Walkers Action, Love the South Pennines managed by Pennine Prospects and Friends of Calderdale Countryside have also agreed to financially support the initiative. Hebden Bridge Hostel will contribute their website expertise and CROWS (Community Rights of Way Services) volunteers will carry out the waymarking and upgrading works, being reimbursed at a later date. Discussions with Heptonstall Parish and other local organisations are all underway.”
Richard Peters, treasurer of HBWA explained how it was hoped the rest of the money would be raised. ”We are going to contact all the accommodation providers, pubs, cafes, restaurants and walking shops who will directly benefit from an increased number of walkers visiting and staying.
“We will ask them if they will invest a minimum of £20 to the project, knowing that this will easily be repaid in future years by increased custom. We hope that other businesses and individuals will also contribute to this great idea, just to promote the town.”
Business contributions to the new Pennine Way route can be made in two ways: Drop a cheque (made out to Hebden Bridge Walkers Action) into Mountain Wild on Crown Street or Hebden Royd Town Council at the Town Hall; or make a direct transfer to Hebden Bridge Walkers Action sort code 050959, account number 39348393.
The HBWA website will acknowledge any contributions made.
Individuals may also like to contribute by sponsoring a waymark - CROWS estimate the average cost is £5 with about 60 needed. To sponsor a waymark, people can just text CROW42£5 to 70070.
Dave Brooks of Hebden Bridge Hostel said: “Several thousand people walk the Pennine Way each year with many more doing day walks. A small number visit or stay in Hebden Bridge and they often ask how they get back on the Pennine Way. If a good percentage of these Pennine Way walkers stayed or visited Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall, it would have a significant impact on the local visitor economy.”
Pam Warhurst, Chair of Pennine Prospects, said: “It is expected that the improved paths will encourage more walkers to come and spend time in the town, boosting the local economy.”
A list of contributors, further details about the new route and how it is progressing can be found on the Pennine Way page of Hebden Bridge Walkers Action website www.hbwalkersaction.org.uk and the new Hebden Bridge Loop on the Pennine Way website, www.hebdenbridgeloop.org.uk