Walk 96: Haworth Circular: The Railway Children Walk – Don’t upset the “bloomin’ missus!”

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 6.1 miles (9.78km)

Time to walk: We did this walk in just under 3 hours &, as it was early evening, this was without stopping apart from for taking photos

Difficulty: A mixture of marked path, fields & hard paths. This is naturally hilly countryside so there are a few climbs which we’ll point out as we go, but nothing too strenuous. There are few stiles, but some tight gates

Parking: On the street near Haworth Station. If you do this walk in the summer it’s likely to be very busy as it’s a major tourist spot

Public toilets: Various cafes, bars etc in Haworth, but not many on the walk itself

Map of the route:

We were working in Bradford in the summer of 2017 & came across a City of Bradford leaflet describing “The Railway Children Walks”. These are two loops, as can be seen from the above map, which we decided to combine together into one larger walk. It is therefore possible to do the walk in stages

The Railway Children is a 1970 film based on the novel of the same name by E. Nesbit. The film was directed by Lionel Jeffries, & stars Dinah Sheridan, Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett & Bernard Cribbins in leading roles. The film turned out to be a critical success, both at the time of its release & in later years

The story follows the adventures of the Waterbury children, who are forced to move with their mother (Dinah Sheridan) from a luxurious Edwardian villa in the London suburbs to “Three Chimneys”, a house near the fictional ‘Great Northern & Southern Railway’ in Yorkshire, as their father (Iain Cuthbertson), who works at the Foreign Office, has been imprisoned as a result of being wrongly accused of selling state secrets to the Russians

The three children, Roberta (Bobbie) (Jenny Agutter), Phyllis (Sally Thomsett) & Peter (Gary Warren), find amusement in watching the trains on the nearby railway line & waving to the passengers. They become friendly with Albert Perks (Bernard Cribbins), the station porter, & with the Old Gentleman (William Mervyn) who regularly takes the 9:15 down train. Meanwhile, to earn money to survive during her husband’s absence, Mother writes & sells stories to magazines

They have many adventures, including saving the lives of dozens of passengers by alerting a train to a landslide, rescuing a Russian dissident, Mr Szczepansky, & uniting him with his family, & caring for Jim, the grandson of the Old Gentleman, who is injured whilst participating in a paper chase. Finally, Bobbie discovers the truth of her father’s absence & appeals to the Old Gentleman for his help. He is eventually able to help prove their father’s innocence & the family is reunited

This walk visits many of the locations in what is stunning countryside. In fact it’s one of the best we’ve done in 2017. So….ready??

Let’s Walk!

1. So today’s walk is based all around the stunning Yorkshire town of Haworth & it’s railway. We’ll talk more about the town when we reach the upper part

Park up for free in the side streets, or in the Pay & Display car parks & walk down to the station

Haworth railway station was opened in 1867 along with the rest of the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway & closed in 1962. Preservation led to the line being reopened in June 1968. The station, its immediate environs & the railway workshops are all designated as part of the Haworth Conservation Area by Bradford Council

Wander out across the bridge & onto the platforms – you could actually spend an hour here watching the steam trains as it’s just beautiful

2. Come on, we have a walk to do. With your back to the station turn right & walk along Station Road past the railway sheds…

3. At the end’s the War Memorial where we turn left up Brow Road…

…where, just past the old fire station, on the right is a signpost up some stone steps towards Oxenhope

4. The next part of this walk’s truly delightful as it passes along the hillside through fields & following the stream that’s gurgling away in the bottom…

Pass the quarry on the right & go through the iron kissing gate & cross the bridge

5. The path drops quite close to the stream now as it changes from meadow to woodland & then back to flower-covered slopes

Keep straight on past a derelict barn which was Far North Ives Farm. This was used as the children’s home in the BBCs 1968 adaptation of The Railway Children, which also starred Jenny Agutter

Cross over the stone wall…

6. Climb slightly & pass through a gate into the driveway of a private house. The owner was cleaning their driveway & was extremely friendly, talking about The Railway Children Walk & explaining how they get snowed in sometimes in winter as their drive, which we need to walk up, is quite steep

7. Bidding farewell, start to walk up the drive & then take the small path on the right which heads back down through a small copse to the river once more. Do not take the path going off to the right which crosses the river – keep the river on your right & pass the old stone packhorse bridge…

It really is a beautiful stretch of walking & the hillside on the left was giving a stunning display of heather

8. Continue beside the river, crossing a small bridge & then through a small gate – be careful here as the footing is quite rocky…

After squeezing through this gate, there’s another even tighter one ahead – we jest not!!

9. Successfully through cross the attractive bridge to the other side…

…where the rough path becomes more of a hard surface passing by another attractive property

10. Walk past the sewage works & then look for a kissing gate on the right leading to a narrow path with the river still on the left

At the end of the narrow alley climb up the steps & over the wall on the right – the Railway Children Walk is clearly signposted

11. Walk up the steps to the railway line – be careful as this is still an active track…

To the left is Oxenhope StationOxenhope village was not included in the Midland Railway’s original plans for the branch line, with Haworth being the proposed terminus. However, a local mill owner successfully campaigned for the railway to be extended to Oxenhope, & the station opened on 13 April 1867, as the railway’s terminus

As with the rest of the line’s facilities, the station was closed in 1962 by British Rail due to road competition, but was re-opened when the line was preserved in 1968

The site complex now houses an exhibition shed, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, where some of the locomotives that are not currently used on the line are stored. There is also a station shop, buffet & links with local bus services to Bradford & Hebden Bridge. When the railway was reopened, it was envisaged that as the terminus of the line, Oxenhope would be the ideal place to base the locomotive department. To this end, the goods shed was extended with a two road building including an inspection pit

However, the locomotive department never moved from Haworth, so the locomotive shed is now the headquarters of the railway’s Carriage & Wagon department, having workshop facilities, carriage-lifting jacks & extensive stores

Also located at Oxenhope is the railway’s ‘Beer Store’. When the railway reopened, it had the facility to serve ‘Real Ale’ on board trains as a jibe at British Rail, who were unable to do so on their new Inter City buffet cars. Because normal cask ale cannot be used on a train (the movement would shake up the sediment in the barrel & result in an undrinkable pint), the beer is stored at Oxenhope & decanted into containers for use on trains

Recently, this part of the railway has grown almost explosively, with an annual ‘Beer & Music Festival’ now a firm fixture in the railway’s calendar. Held in late October, what started out as a weekend event is now a three or four day extravaganza, with four days’ worth of live music, consistently offering over 100 different beers to choose from

12. Carefully cross the railway & walk up the short path where there’s a rather excellent bench to have a seat & watch the world go by for a while…

Right suitably rested it’s time for our first film location. Walk up the steps into the field & walk up the left side towards the house at the top

The wall wasn’t there at the time of the film, but behind it is Bents House, known as the family home “Three Chimneys”…

Here’s how it looked in the film. Today it’s been extended on the right & also to the rear as we’ll see in a moment

The view from the house down the hill to the railway line is quite spectacular

13. Walk round to the right of the house & pass through the brilliant old wooden gate…

…turning left to see the rear of the house

At the side of the house is the stone gap stile which “Perks” had problems getting through when making deliveries to “Three Chimneys”

14. Turn right & walk up the long lane to the main road & turn left…

Once again there are superb views across the valley

15. Turn right up Old Oxenhope Lane…

…passing a manor house on the left. Walk past the farmhouse & turn right into the farmyard itself

16. Keep to the left & walk out of the farmyard up the hill & into the open fields once more…

…where we get great views across to Haworth

17. The path now runs straight towards the small hamlet of Hole. Initially walk with the stone wall on your right & then, near some trees, look for a gate to pass through…

…to continue between the wall & the trees – Hole can now be seen ahead

18. At the end of the ‘alley’ cross the lane & into the next field which takes us up to the hamlet

On reaching the wall go through the gate with the lamppost to join the path which will take us back down into Haworth

It’s well marked & surfaced as it winds its way down towards the churchyard

19. Walk through the kissing gate to arrive at Haworth church, the third church building on the site, built between 1879 & 1881 although parts of the original medieval church building, notably the tower, survive from earlier periods. The church is best known for its historic association with the Bronte sisters whose father Rev Patrick Bronte served as minister of the parish between 1820 & 1861

Patrick Bronte came to Haworth with his wife Maria & children in 1820 from Thornton. He had been offered the perpetual curacy of the church at Haworth by the vicar of Bradford in 1819. He was the Reverend at St Michael & All Angels for 41 years & was assisted by his later son-in-law, Arthur Bell Nicholls

The church is well visited by tourists eager to see the Bronte Memorial Chapel in the church & the Bronte family tomb where all members of the Bronte family with the exception of Anne are interred

The graveyard is estimated to contain between 40,000 & 42,000 bodies. Some graves contain entire families & because of overcrowding the graveyard closed in 1883 with a new cemetery opening in 1893 just off the road to Stanbury. Patrick Bronte campaigned for the graveyard adjacent to the church to be cleaned up & have the headstones placed vertically as the drainage was poor & was not helping decomposition

20. Walk up the steps & exit the churchyard, turning left. The large Georgian building on the left is Bronte Parsonage Museum which also doubled up as “the Doctor’s House” in the film

The Brontë Parsonage Museum is a writer’s house museum maintained by the Bronte Society in honour of the Bronte sisters – Charlotte, Emily & Anne. The museum is in the former Bronte family home where the sisters spent most of their lives & wrote their famous novels

In 1820, Patrick Bronte arrived at the parsonage with his wife Maria & six children. It was the family home for the rest of their lives, & its moorland setting had a profound influence on the writing of Charlotte, Emily Jane & Anne

In 1846 Charlotte, Emily and Anne used part of their Aunt Branwell’s legacy to finance the publication of their poems, concealing their true identities under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis & Acton Bell. Poems was published but only two copies were sold. Charlotte’s first attempt at writing a novel for publication, ‘The Professor’, was rejected by several publishing houses. Charlotte’ next work was ‘Jane Eyre’ which was published on 19 October 1847. ‘Wuthering Heights’ & ‘Agnes Grey’ followed. After Anne’s second novel, ‘The Tenant of Wildfowl Hall’, Charlotte & Anne were forced to reveal their true identities.

Their brother, Branwell, who had become dependent on alcohol & opium for solace, had developed tuberculosis & died suddenly on Sunday 24 September 1848, aged 31. Emily was also dying from the disease & never left the house after Branwell’s funeral. She died aged of 30 on 19 December 1848. Anne too had tuberculosis & was taken to Scarborough to try a sea cure, but died four days after arriving on 28 May 1849, aged 29 years

Charlotte died on 31 March 1855, in the early stages of pregnancy, three weeks before her 39th birthday. Patrick Bronte lived at the parsonage for six more years, cared for by his son-in-law, & died there on 7 June 1861, at the age of 84

21. Walk back down the beautiful cobbled Church Street…

…where, on the left, is the Old School Room which Patrick Bronte built. Charlotte, Bramwell, Emily & Anne all taught here & it was also the site of Charlotte’s wedding reception in 1854

22. Oh this is truly a fabulous place. Keep left past the church…

Ahead up the steps is another location from the film…the Post Office & General Store where the three children were given a pram as a gift on Mr Perks’ birthday

23. Keep left down the alley passing the King’s Arms pub which has recently been restored to what it would have looked like inside in Victorian times. Sadly we didn’t have time for a stop as we were in a race against the sunset

24. Emerge into the square at the top of Main Street. This place must be extremely crowded in the summer with all the tourists, but tonight we have it to ourselves

Turn right & walk down beautiful Main Street which also has magnificent views…

25. Main Street plays a major part in the film when the children were collecting presents for Perks’ birthday. Today there’s some rather quirky places..many tongue in cheek!

26. Eventually we come to the Fleece Inn. Branwell Bronte used to drink here & some say his ghost still does…

Opposite the Fleece look for a sign post on the left to the Railway Station…

27. Walk down there & cross the main road at the crossing…

…into the magnificently named Butt Lane – obviously this is a reference to when the rifle ranges were here. Pass the former schools which are now being redeveloped

28. After the schools & opposite the entry to Haworth Park turn left…

…& then at the end turn right down another lane

That’s the end of the first loop & now let’s start the second so at the junction turn left down the path at the side of the house…

29. Pass through the kissing gate & head diagonally right up the hard path across the field…

…where we met one of our favourite animals & one of the most docile creatures we’ve ever come across..a Highland

30. Walk out the gate at the top of the hill…

We met some lovely people & their dogs at the top of the hill. Pass through the gate & walk up the lane to the main road. On the left’s a classic old Yorkshire type street – would love to live in one of those

31. Turn right at the main road & follow it down the hill…

…for approximately half a mile. The countryside with the old old mill tower is extremely pretty. Many locals wanted to know where we were walking to & when we mentioned The Railway Children it was clear that they are very proud of this walk in these parts

32. At the large wall on the right in the above picture look for a signpost indicating a path up some steps

33. Our Railway Children film locations are now going to kick in so be ready with the camera!

The path takes us along a stone-walled path & you can clearly see a railway line down to the right…

At the end look for a kissing gate & pass through it….

…towards another gate leading onto a leafy lane

34. At the end pass through a third gate & turn right down the lane which leads to beautiful Oakworth

At the bottom is Oakworth Station – “The Railway Children Station’ & how stunning it is

The station was built by the Midland Railway & opened with the rest of the line for passengers on 15 April 1867 & for goods traffic on 1 July that year. British Railways took over the UK’s railway system on 1 January 1948 & the line was closed to passengers on 1 January 1962 & to goods traffic on 18 June 1962

The Keighley & Worth Valley Railway Preservation Society took over the line & re-opened it & the station on 29 June 1968. Milk churns displayed on a hand cart & old railway posters bring back images of a former age

The station is famous for being the main location used in the film. The Station can still be seen much as was in the period 1905–1910. It is still lit by gas lights both inside the buildings & on the platform

The station foreman on duty at Oakworth also has responsibility for the level crossing at the end of the platform, which is controlled by interlocked signals

35. Just over the crossing is Station Cottage, home in the film of “Mr Perks” played by Bernard Cribbins…

The stone house next door wasn’t there when the film was made. Continue past the cottages & round the shop bend towards the Vale Mill

36. Pass under the bridge & then climb up the hill to the row of cottages on the corner where we turn right past them along Mytholmes Lane…

The “paper chase” passed along here & the cottages can be seen in the film. Turn left at the footpath sign towards the brook which can be heard gurgling away

Soon the path bears right & follows the brook. We’re also now walking parallel to the railway line & the famous Mytholme Tunnel

37. Cross the bridge to the right & look through the trees to see the entrance to the tunnel…

The tunnel is where “Jim” the schoolboy was injured during the paper chase. The embankment where the landslip was filmed & where the children stood & waved their red petticoats to warn the 11.29 train of the danger ahead was at the Oakworth end of the tunnel

38. Continue along the path & walk up the side of the bridge to the road. This bridge is a later version of the one that the children waved from at the end of the film & “Roberta” wrote “The end” on her chalk board

Turn left along the road crossing the river bridge which is the Ebor Mill Dam…

On the right’s the former Ebor textile mill which suffered a horrific fire on 14th August 2010, leaving nothing apart from a shell…

39. Following the lane up the hill to the main Haworth Road. Turn right to follow it back down to the station & the start of our walk

So that’s it…the end of a walk that’s almost as charming as the film itself. We obviously saw it on a sunny, warm summer’s evening & some of the hill section could probably be pretty bleak in bad weather

It’s therefore worth planning ahead. Even if you’re not a fan, or haven’t seen the film, the walk’s worth the scenery along

Right…better watch that film again & bore everyone by saying “we walked there”. It’s fab so…

Go Walk!