He’s known as the cycling vicar but he’s also a one-man tourist information hub who wants to see the Colne Valley booming but not so much it turns into Huddersfield’s answer to Hebden Bridge.
The vicar of Marsden and Slaithwaite, Graeme Holdsworth, is quite unlike any other man of the cloth you may have met.
The 52-year-old came to the church late and brought with him a whole host of off-beat ideas such as prayer mornings in cafés to spread the Christian message.
He loves the villages but has a gnawing fear they could become victims of their own success.
Graeme says: “One thing we’re concerned about in Slaithwaite and Marsden is ‘gentrification’ or, to put it another way, “it’s all gone a bit Hebden Bridge.”
“Holmfirth and Hebden Bridge are victims of their own success – busy with cars and tourists and with house prices beyond local pockets. While we’re all excited to see Slaithwaite and Marsden blossom, locals want to be able to buy a home of their own.
“People who have grown up here want to be in the place they love surrounded by family and friends where house prices don’t go so high they’re forced out of their own communities. That can make people really anxious.”
Graeme is in the second phase of an interim role in the Colne Valley to get people to think more about their faith. He says his mission is going in the right direction with growth in congregations at both St Bartholomew’s in Marsden and St James in Slaithwaite.
“There’s two more years of this project to see what happens next,” he said.
Graeme tries to go everywhere on his bike after a previous career in chemicals and IT saw him jetting all over the world.
“I’m trying to leave a far lighter footprint on the world these days,” he said.
And in the time he’s been here Graeme has certainly put himself out there, trying just about every café, pub and restaurant on his patch.
Now he’s summed it all up in his own blog and here’s what he thinks of the Colne Valley’s entertainment, delivered in his usual no-nonsense style but, as he says: “Who wouldn’t want to be enthusiastic about the Colne Valley? I love being a vicar and being here for people.”
This is what Graeme says:
Om is Where the Heart is: Café bar and yoga studio. My personal favourite is the Three Fiends beer and some fries.
Vanilla Bean: Café bar with great food and outside seating. I love the eggs benedict.
Culture: It has award-winning pastries from Roger’s Bakery. Everything is excellent but try the flat white.
Acorn and Pip: A baby and toddler toy shop that happens to have a cafe that does great pastries and Dark Woods coffee. You can’t beat cappuccino and warm cinnamon buns. I love saying morning prayer here, sitting outside in the bustle of the village.
Commercial pub: Serving dozens of delicious guest beers and the excellent Empire Brewery range. There is always a great stout or porter.
The Cookhouse Cafe: A proper café with breakfast that doesn’t recognise the boundaries of the plate. Popular with cycling groups.
Hideaway: Craft ale house with hundreds of craft ales available and opposite the vicarage which makes it dangerous for me.
Shoulder of Mutton pub: Focused on decent live music, good beer and outside seating. A lively place!
Rumpus Burger: Beef burgers from heaven. Eat and be full.
Northern Sole Cafe: Infra-red heaters and outside seating for this café bar, serving ‘foot stompin’ street food.’ A very sociable place.
The Little Bridge: A place with two personalities. It can be a quiet and intimate location for drinks and food or it can be the party capital of Slaithwaite with music banging out loudly.
Ashby’s Cafe: You will always see bicycles propped against the window. Very good cafe with plenty of space for customers.
Handmade Bakery: An open plan bakery serving Dark Woods coffee and some mouth-watering pastries. Their bread is what we treat ourselves to. On the canal side with outdoor seating.
Restaurants: Staying late and need dinner? Try Anellos for outstanding pizza, Monsoon for an Indian experience which won’t let you down and Destination for awe-inspiringly delicious creative Indian cuisine.
Several businesses have seating and hot refreshments and pastries – the bookshop, the cheese and wine shop and Anna’s Place. They all know that good coffee and tea are essential to hospitality.
Between Slaithwaite and Marsden there is:
Zapato: A brewery with tap bar and a huge outside seating area. Often with street food vendors at the weekend. Popular with families and walkers. Midway between Marsden and Slaithwaite on the towpath. Parking off the A62.
Olive Branch Inn: A pub, restaurant and hotel halfway between Marsden and Slaithwaite on the A62. Popular for family events.
Coach House Healing & Wellbeing Centre: This place will surprise you. A wellbeing centre worth calling into with great cake and an enchanting layout. Just off the A62 outside Marsden.
Rose and Crown: Up in the hills, a pub with awesome Sunday lunches.
Now into Marsden, here’s Graeme’s round-up of places to visit.
The New Inn: A very good pub with food, meeting rooms and accommodation. Large outdoor seating area easily accessible with bicycles.
Sass: A yoga studio and cafe with cycling friendly seating and bike park round the back. Beautiful cappuccino and pastries.
The Shak: A local’s pub. Very friendly in my experience. Good place to enjoy a cold beer in the sunshine.
The ‘Lil Olive: Loads of seating round the back with sandwiches and coffee served quickly.
Katie’s Homemade Kitchen: Oh my goodness, platefuls of vegan and vegetarian excellence. Katie also caters for meat-eaters and her full English is excellent.
The Village Bakery: A very popular place to grab a sandwich if you’re on the go.
Riverhead Brewery Tap: A huge range of excellent beers, many brewed onsite. I’m a big fan of the stouts and porters. Delicious food served in the restaurant upstairs.
Mario’s: Open every day and serving breakfast and hot drinks right when you need them. I say my morning prayers here quite frequently.
Peel Street Social: Café bar with craft ales. Great atmosphere and a unique location overhanging the River Colne in Marsden.
The Little Lock: Although this place has changed hands several times it is always owned by someone who wants to provide excellent refreshments and food. Overhanging the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.
Bistro 11: I love this restaurant and I’m sorry they’re closed at the moment. Keep your eyes peeled because if the owners open it up again the food is outstanding.
The Railway: A solid pub offering live music, beer and food. Under new management by a local lass who really cares about Marsden and wants to see this pub flourish.
Next week: Graeme on cycling in the Colne Valley – the best routes and the toughest climbs.
You can read Graeme’s blog at https://fatherhilarious.blog/2023/12/cycling-in-slaithwaite-and-marsden/
Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.