The Launch of the Loop on Saturday by Hebden Bridge Walkers Action was a huge success.
HBWA was helped by the Calderdale Ramblers and group supporters in the stewarding of the event.
The route has been signposted in both directions, north and south, with information boards at key points. CROWS (Community Rights of Way Service) have upgraded all the footpaths along the way. The day was chosen to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the Pennine Way.
More than 200 people through the day walked from Hebden Bridge Railway Station to Swillington, joining the Pennine Way then heading to Beaumont Clough at the start of the Loop. Then they came down through Horsehold to Hebden Bridge.
People stopped on the way to appreciate the home made ice cream at Old Chamber and on arriving in Hebden they were greeted by Calder Valley Voices singing a specially commissioned song about the Pennine Way.
Thanks to Helen Yeoman the singing workshop leader for putting in such an effort to compose the song, then teach it to the choir on the morning of the Launch. Dave Brooks from Hebden Bridge hostel said: “What a great way to greet people as they come into Hebden Bridge.” Dave was hosting his 50th birthday party on the day and he had invited friends from far and wide who loved it.
It was originally Dave’s idea to create the Loop because he felt more people should be encouraged to leave the Pennine Way to come in to Hebden to stay or to stock up.
They might be so taken with the town that they would want to come back and stay longer to appreciate our hundreds of miles of glorious footpaths.
After a break for lunch and a look at the photos of Hebden Bridge in the 60s in the shops on Crown Street, people headed up to Heptonstall for a special version of the Pace Egg play, normally only performed on Good Friday. During the performance they made several references to the Pennine Way to make people feel at home. It was a superb performance, better than usual, some would say. The Peace Artistes band then led the walkers out of Heptonstall towards Hebble Hole, the end of the Loop as it rejoins the Pennine Way.
Their music had people dancing and laughing as they proceeded through the cobbled streets of Heptonstall, a great atmosphere.
John Dunford, the current Chair of HBWA, and a resident of Heptonstall, said “what a smashing advertisement for the village”, as he rattled his bucket to collect money for the group.
The event had been well advertised both locally and nationally, including a full page spread in the Times weekend magazine.
This meant that walkers came from all over England to attend the event.
There were people there from Bromley and Kent ramblers, Tyneside ramblers, North Yorks fell club, Manchester and Salford ramblers, Manchester weekend walkers as well as more local groups from Blackburn and Kirklees and our own Calderdale walking groups.
Walkers from the Manchester Ramblers were so impressed by the area that they were anxious to stock up on walking books of the area to return.
One said: “I didn’t realise Hebden Bridge was only a 40 minute train ride from Manchester.”
Everyone who came said what a great day they had had. The weather was a bit mixed but it stayed fine enough in patches not to spoil the day.
For more information on the work of HBWA look on the website www.hbwalkersaction.org.uk and specifically for the Loop www.hebdenbridgeloop.org.uk