Best Foot Forward: A day out and a walk from Shibden Park

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Situated just off the A58 near to central Halifax is a delightful spot which genuinely does provide an entertaining day out.

Having previously visited the museum, I returned there recently to start a walk but became distracted by all that the park had to offer resulting in a curtailed ramble. That said, it is certainly somewhere to return to in order to complete a longer hike.

Dating back to 1420; Shibden Hall has been home to a number of families who each have made modifications to the property; reflecting tastes and purposes of the times. The most notable family to own the property for over 300 years were the Listers; latterly the property passed to Anne Lister, a diarist and ‘the first modern lesbian’ who wrote a proportion of her total 4 million word diaries in a code derived from algebra and Ancient Greek. Anne’s modifications to the property included the building of a passage so that the staff and servants could pass about the house unseen. Anne commissioned the architect John Harper and landscape gardener Samuel Gray in 1830 to create the park which formerly had been farming and mining land. She also added a gothic tower to the Hall to be used as a library, and the park and gardens were opened to the public in 1926, undergoing restoration in 2007-8 funded by both Calderdale Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Parking at Shibden Park is inexpensive [£1.50 for over 2 hours] and I was pleased to find that the many activities on offer are also affordable. It is a great base from which to start numerous walks; a fact that might have delighted Anne Lister herself who was both a mountaineer and traveller. On the Sunday I visited, the park was full of families, couples and people simply enjoying the grounds, of all ages, savouring this beautiful space.

I discovered the joys of pitch and putt [£2.50 for adults on the mini 9-hole course] and, of course, I was as bad as I had expected! The park staff were friendly and helpful; ice creams could be bought; the café was full and there are information boards all around telling you of the park’s history.

Having been distracted by the pitch and putt, we embarked on the walk I had planned. Crossing the miniature railway, follow the footpath up through the woodland to meet the junction of the A58 and the Bradford Road. Cross the road, turn left and walk past the pub on the corner. You’ll find a way-marked path leaving the road on your right, sign-posted “Shibden Fold”. Follow the paved path down to meet a collection of houses, continuing in a straight line

ahead before entering the fields beyond. The noise of the traffic quickly dissipates and you are met with glorious landscape of the valley, Shibden Dale. The land rises steeply either side and it is remarkable to think this is a few minutes’ walk from the town. We followed the clear path along the valley floor before it meets a narrow track, passing through a gate. You will notice a sign indicating the private road belonging to Spa House Farm and the route continues adjacent to the road, at the edge of woodland. The route is very clear to follow; however you do leave the track after the woodland to turn left to cross the fields. The path begins to climb as you ascend the valley slope and winds between the trees. Eventually you will reach a point where the path splits. We turned right, following a descending path which reached what looked to be an outdoor shelter, constructed from tree branches, nestled under the trees. Probably a creation of last summer; this looked like it had weathered the winter since its last use. At this point, however, the path seemed to stop. We pushed on a bit further, realising we were probably following a deer track as we spotted one hopping ahead of us into the longer grass.

The map does show a right of way through the woodland, but the route was not clear. Thus we decided to return the way we had come and after gaining some height, we paused for a picnic with a glorious view looking across the dale, with the patchwork fields appearing beyond the tree tops beneath us. Only a 2.5 miles round trip; this is an excellent addition to a day out at Shibden Park; and an excellent alternative lunch spot! Needless to say; I shall return to

Shibden to complete a longer walk around the dale, but on this day, I wanted to enjoy the park itself.

Returning to the Shibden Estate, we took in another round of golf [no improvements on my skill] and then rowed around the boating lake where you can hire a rowing boat for £3.50 for 30 minutes for two people.

For a low cost day out; Shibden Park is fantastic. There are many activities for children throughout the summer, plenty of ways to explore the park on foot, and the museum with the Hall itself is also fascinating.