Oakworth -A village of character and home of The Railway Children legend
00:16 24 December 2010
Wallow in nostalgia and enjoy some of the finest views in the county at the same time, says Penny Wainwright
Oakworth is less than a couple of miles from one of Yorkshires premier tourist attractions at Haworth, yet this Pennine village has kept its own identity and the word Bronte hardly features.
Instead, the name you will see in Oakworth is Holden: Holden Park, House, Manor, Hall. The family was clearly a major player around here. Sir Isaac Holden was a 19th century magnate whose wealth came from a host of business interests. Hes credited with inventing the lucifer or friction match, he owned mills, lived in France, became an MP and was a generous benefactor. All that remains of the house he built at Oakworth is a summer house, constructed of stone branches made to look like wood, and a massive portico, its scale a clue to the grandeur of the Holden mansion.
Oakworth House boasted a hand-basin in each of its 28 bedrooms, plus several bathrooms and a Turkish bath. Cleanliness next to Godliness? Holden must have believed so. He took two baths a day and was a bit of a fitness fanatic, taking regular walks, including occasionally the 15 miles to his work in Bradford, to which he was connected by telegraph. Central heating, double-glazing and (not very successful) air conditioning were also installed.
The house burned down 10 years after Holden died and the grounds were given to the people of Oakworth. Today, Holden Park bears the extraordinary remnants of caves and grottoes that were once part of Sir Isaacs huge winter garden, where he would illuminate an array of waterfalls for visitors with new-fangled electric light. These days you are free to clamber over what remains. Its like an early version of Disneyworld (with a refreshing lack of safety railings).
Oakworth Primary School occupies much of the rest of the old garden, now sliced in half by the busy Keighley road which children have to cross to get to school. A 20 mph limit through the village has been discussed for a long time although, as local
MP Kris Hopkins points out: At rush hour, reaching 20 miles an hour is ambitious! The weight of traffic leaves no doubt that Oakworth is on a well-used route. Its on the road between Yorkshire and Lancashire, says Kris. So people go to a variety of places to work in Lancashire, to Colne and Manchester for instance, and there are good connections to Leeds and Bradford by train from Keighley.
He feels that Oakworth, where he lived himself for 15 years, has its own distinctive character. People who live there are proud of it. It has key landmarks like the primary school and the amazing park Holden was Keighleys first MP. And at the bottom of the road is the famous Railway Children station which is closely associated with Oakworth. People dont realise how beautiful the countryside is.
Local residents are in on the secret though. Working behind the counter at the post office, which is housed inside the Co-op, JC Anderson and Rachel Kane say they wouldnt want to live anywhere else. Were lucky. We tell our children that if they went to a city school theyd be surrounded by concrete. Theres definitely a community spirit here, and the school does a lot to encourage it, says JC. And theres always something going on, like Picnic in the Park and the Christmas fair at Holden Hall.
The village has a few shops of its own, including a pharmacy, takeaways, hairdressers, a couple of pubs and a social club with regular entertainment but, as JC says: In Oakworth, were far enough away from Keighley but close enough for shopping and nights out.
High above the Worth Valley, Oakworth enjoys far-reaching views across to Ovenden. Golfers are treated to some of the best views, from the trig point in the middle of their 18-hole course on Branshaw Moor. Players say they can see across to Lancashire on a clear day. And you learn to cope with the wind!
Theres plenty of variety for hikers who can find moorland, pasture and valley walks in the area, with the bonus of being able to link up with the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.
Its exactly 40 years since the The Railway Children was filmed here and the anniversary was marked by the opening of a new ladies waiting room. Sally Thomsett from the original cast did the honours. In fact its a faithful replica of the Edwardian version in the film, as is everything else at the station, from the ticket office to the milk churns on the platform, where their floral displays won a Yorkshire in Bloom gold award this year.
You can wallow in nostalgia from the moment you buy your stiff cardboard ticket to when you board the train wreathed in steam. One visitor said it was all she could do not to run down the platform calling: Daddy, my Daddy, like Edith Nesbits heroine, Bobbie, but thought better of it.
Diesels run regularly as well as the steam trains, so check out the timetable if you want the full Railway Children effect. Now you can even give the train-mad person in your life the chance to drive one for the day.
How to get there: By car, three miles from Keighley on the B6143. By train from Oxenhope or Keighley www.kwvr.co.uk for timetable. Regular bus services from Keighley www.wymetro.com and www.keighleybus.co.uk
Where to park: Free on-street parking.
What to do: Take a trip on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway website as above. Go walking www.yorkshire-escapes.com gives tips for walks around the railway. The Worth, Pennine, Millennium and Bronte Ways are all nearby.