Like many valleys throughout this part of Yorkshire, the Worth Valley’s development is intrinsically linked to the woollen industry and throughout the 18th and 19th centuries mills developed at all points in the Valley to take advantage of the climate and abundance of sheep that grazed the surrounding moors. For many years the Valley mills prospered bringing with it growth in the villages that lasted many years.
With the advent of steam traction and the need to bring coal and other supplies into and take the finished products of the industry out of the Valley, local mill owners built a railway from Keighley, where there was the Midland Railway Bradford/Leeds – Skipton line, over 5 miles into the Valley to the village of Oxenhope. the operation of trains ‘franchised’ to the Midland Railway which eventually bought out the KWVR Company. The line became part of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS) in 1924 and British Railways (BR) in 1948.
As the woollen industry declined then so did the fortunes of the Valley and the Railway that served it and so British Railways closed the line in 1962. Yorkshire folk are made of stern stuff, local people and railway enthusiasts joined forces to try and save it. A Preservation Society was formed and after many years of volunteer struggle the line re-opened to passenger traffic on 29th June 1968. The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, as we know it today, was born.
The steep gradient up the Worth Valley from the Keighley terminus has been a challenge for locomotives ever since the line opened on 15th April 1867. The sound of a steam engine tackling this climb echoes from the steep sides of the valley, while great clouds of steam and smoke add drama to the scene. Many of the woollen mills that once stood close to the line have been demolished, but a few remain as reminders that the textile industry was the reason why the line was built. Like the railway, the mills relied on coal, and the trains were able to bring hundreds of tons up the valley each week to keep the looms working by steam power. The five mile journey is a powerful reminder of our industrial heritage, as well as being a unique way of enjoying the beautiful countryside immortalised by Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë.
There is so much to explore in Brontë Country as it spans across the Worth Valley to include Keighley, Oxenhope, Oakworth, Ingrow and Damems. There is no better way to explore what the Valley has to offer than by taking the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway to carry you along the line and into the heart of the beautiful and inspiring Brontë Country.
Oxenhope is a Pennine village set in beautiful countryside and surrounded by windswept moors and rolling hills. You can explore this Victorian mill village, famous for its annual straw race, by following the town trail and then stop for lunch at one of the local pubs.
Haworth sits in the Worth Valley surrounded by dramatic moorlands. The village is most famous for being the place which inspired the Brontë sisters to write their world famous novels. The Brontës wrote whilst living at the Parsonage when their father was the parson at the church of St Michael and All Angels. Attracted by the aura created by Brontë’s the village is now a hive of visitor activity, a long way from its humble roots.
Stanbury is slightly off the main track but is the ideal place for those wanting to explore the outdoors and enjoy some of the excellent walks in the area. It is an ideal place to start popular routes including those to Top Withens and the Brontë Waterfalls.
Nearby Ponden Hall (now a private house) dates from 1634 and is thought to be the house Emily called Thrushcross Grange in Wuthering Heights. Once back in Stanbury you will find the aptly named Wuthering Heights Inn ready to welcome you with real ales and homemade food.
Oakworth is most famous for being the railway station featured in 1970 film The Railway Children, there is an enjoyable guided walk taking in all the locations from the film. The village is a beautiful location in the Worth Valley and a perfect base for enjoying the outdoors with a selection of walks starting here.
Damems station was opened in 1847 to serve the mill close by. It is the UK’s smallest station and is only one coach in length. The station has featured in the BBC’s Born and Bred and is a request stop on the railway.
Ingrow West is situated a short ride from Keighley and is home to two fantastic transport museums. The Ingrow Loco Museum has an amazing selection of railway memorabilia and the Ingrow Museum of Rail Travel has provided railway carriages for over 70 films and television programmes.
Keighley is the start of the railway and a gateway to Brontë Country. The town has two renowned museums, Cliffe Castle and East Riddlesden Hall. The town is home to the Airedale Shopping Centre and Indoor Market so perfect for a spot of retail therapy.
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