Colne Valley vicar Graeme Holdsworth has written a great blog about cycling in the Colne Valley. Last week he revealed all the great restaurants, bars and cafés the area has to offer. Now, in the second of this two-parter, he looks at the cycling and wonders if those hills are always as tough as they look.

Graeme Holdsworth is known as the cycling vicar and when he’s not holding sermons he’s preaching about the wonders of the Colne Valley … especially as seen on a cycle.

He’s the 52-year-old vicar of Slaithwaite and Marsden and last week we revealed how well he knows his patch, sharing his thoughts on the area’s growing popularity with a warning that it shouldn’t get like Hebden Bridge. He fears local people could end up being priced out of the housing market.

Graeme cycles just about everywhere and today he reveals some great cycling routes in the Colne Valley, the steepest hills and places for those who like their cycling, well, a little less challenging.

Although he highly recommends cycling on the towpath next to Huddersfield Narrow Canal he stresses that it’s up to cyclists to give way to pedestrians as it’s a popular spot for anglers, families, pushchairs and dogwalkers.

He says: “If you are not in a race does it matter if you stop? If you’re on a full-suspension e-bike do you need to ride at 25kph everywhere? I like it when motorists give me space on the road so, in return, I give walkers space on the towpath. Do me a favour and please cycle patiently.”

The path is closed for the foreseeable future in the Longroyd Bridge area due to a dangerous wall but the stretch from Milnsbridge up to Slaithwaite has a hard surface with the rest from Slawit to Marsden mud, dried mud or frozen mud depending on the weather.

Or, as Graeme puts it: “The section from Marsden to Slaithwaite is unsurfaced. In the summer it’s hard-packed dirt and rideable on skinny tyres. In the winter a fat-bike would struggle.”

He recommends that off-road cyclists should try the bridleway and single track route from Marsden up to Wessenden, passing the four reservoirs of Butterley, Blakeley, Wessenden and Wessenden Head and eventually coming out on the A635 Isle of Skye road that runs from Greenfield to Holmfirth. Then cyclists can freewheel back down the steep Wessenden Head Road into Meltham while taking in the stunning views.

For dedicated off-roaders there’s the annual Colne Valley Mountain Bike Challenge that gives a choice of demanding 20 or 30 mile routes which are not for novices. This year it will be held on Sunday, May 12, with more details on its website at

Another tough one is the 146-mile long circular Calder Divide Trail which takes in 12 valleys, six moors and even one floodplain and includes Marsden and Hebden Bridge. The route drops down into Marsden from Wessenden and heads north from Marsden via Eastergate and March Haigh Reservoir. More information on this at

Graeme reckons the best views in the Colne Valley are between Marsden and West Slaithwaite, but it’s hard going to cycle there.

He says: “On the north side of the valley is Marsden Lane, running from Marsden to West Slaithwaite and, ultimately, Zapato brewing and Dark Woods Coffee. I’ll not pretend it’s easy, it isn’t.

“It’s brutal but I love this road because it forms part of my prayer cycle around the Benefice, riding on an undulating road from Marsden and criss-crossing the railway under and over. This road has the best views of the valley from a series of balconies on steep sided hills.”

There are so many tough hills to cycle up in the Colne Valley and surrounding areas they were compiled together in a book called The Only Way Is Up – My 50 Climbs In The Colne And Holme Valleys by Richard Facey and you can read a synopsis of those climbs at

Graeme recommends four circular routes and has maps of them on his blog. The routes are:

Merry Dale Clough Circular. Starting at the Little Bridge bar in Slaithwaite, a loop around Slaithwaite Reservoir, great views from Booth Bank and a return along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal towpath from Zapato Brewing.

Benefice Loop. A ride around the Benefice of Marsden and Slaithwaite, one Graeme likes to use when he’s praying because it gives him a good view of most homes and businesses. Starting at the Commercial pub in Slaithwaite, nipping up the lovely little Kitchen Fold and then taking in the climbs of Linfit Lane and Marsden Lane. Worth a coffee and cake stop in Marsden halfway round.

Pule Hill Loop. A ride with views up Wessenden valley and across Marsden Moor and passing tunnel end at Standedge.

Marsden Moor Road Loop. Starting and finishing at Zapato Brewing. Head up Manchester Road and over the top of Standedge via Delph and Denshaw. The climb back past Dowry Reservoir brings cyclists out on top of Marsden Moor with a balcony road view of March Haigh Reservoir and the Colne Valley landscape.

Graeme concludes: “I would love to encourage active travel in the Colne Valley, but I think it isn’t easy to promote.

“Confidence can evaporate in the face of our local hills because if it looks hard, it must be hard. On the other hand, if a slightly tubby old vicar can do it then why can’t you?

You can read Graeme’s blog at

Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.