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Holmfirth prepares to welcome the Tour de France Grand Depart

PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 December 2013

Holmfirth.

Holmfirth.

Joan Russell Photography

Excitement is already growing as Holmfirth prepares to welcome the Tour de France Grand Depart next summer

Cycling in Holmfirth.Cycling in Holmfirth.

It’s going to be the biggest thing ever,’ said Kerry Sykes as she considered the events now being planned in the run up to the Tour de France Grand Depart which will travel through the town of Holmfirth. She runs the Holmfirth events website and is helping to put people in touch with each other who are preparing for the event in July next year which she says will shut down the town. ‘I think people are more excited about the Tour de France than Christmas at the moment.

Thousands of people will come to Holmfirth. They will line the streets as the cavalcade of support vehicles comes through, there will be a festival in the centre of town, and streets will be closed.’

Cyclists, she said, were already arriving in the town to tackle part of the route which includes the climb up to the 524m (1,719ft) summit of Holme Moss. ‘Everyone is buzzing about it,’ added Kerry. ‘Holme Moss is one of the steepest climbs of the Grand Depart. I am so excited, I can’t wait for the event. We’ve been told to class it as a snow day, there will be no movement at all as the town shuts down for a festival, it will be amazing. People are excited, we have noticed already a 60 per cent increase in the number of cyclists.

‘All kinds of people are creating accommodation to welcome visitors, after all this is Yorkshire, we are very proud people and really want to be good hosts, I think it’s a great honour. The legacy the race leaves behind is very important too. The great experience we hope people enjoy during the race will encourage them to visit Holmfirth again. And there are all the health benefits of cycling, keeping fit, staying active, even I have a bike this year.’

Holme Valley Vision, an organisation which brings people together to make the Holme Valley a great place to live, work and visit have already had successful community clean-ups to improve the environment and more are planned next year to make sure the valley looks its best for the Tour de France.

The television series Last of the Summer Wine was undoubtedly good for Holmfirth’s tourist trade but with the BBC cameras now gone the town is moving on. It still has much to attract visitors, including ironically, a vineyard.

The often unforgiving Pennine hills surrounding the town are not the obvious location for a vineyard. But there are seven acres of vines worked by the award-winning Holmfirth Vineyard. The vines were planted in 2008, using varieties selected for their ability to thrive in cooler climates. The grapes are processed on site to produce wines, winning recognition for their quality, with the vineyard’s whites and roses picking up awards. The business has thrived.

Tours of the vineyard are popular; the site has its own restaurant and cafe and now provides holiday accommodation too.

The venture was started by Ian and Rebecca Sheveling, who moved to the site in 2006, refurbished the house and then took the bold step to plant vines. Darren Samuels, a guide who leads tours around the vineyard, said: ‘We are outside the usual territory for growing vines. We are higher and cooler and so it was something of a gamble. The secret is to have tough, hardy vines that can cope with the conditions. Last year was pretty difficult but we still made wines. This year has been much better and we are confident of producing some excellent wines.’

Art events and arts festivals are among the highlights on the town’s cultural calendar. Holmfirth Artweek has a national reputation. Most of the exhibitors are local and people come from across the country to view and buy the work shown. A commission charged on sales goes to support the vital work of Macmillan Cancer Care. Portrait and landscape painter and illustrator Trevor Stubley worked in Holmfirth for many years until his death in 2010.

A former Artweek director, he was instrumental in a scheme to turn the top floor of the civic hall into a gallery, which now bears his name.

Holmfirth Arts Festival takes place over 10 days every June. It includes music, dance, comedy and literature events held on the hills, in woods, village halls, cafes, the town’s Picturedrome – which enjoys a growing reputation for the quality of its live entertainment – and many other venues.

For those who prefer the great outdoors, the surrounding countryside offers bird watching, walking, cycling and sailing. Huddersfield Sailing Club was launched in 1958 and attracts enthusiasts to Boshaw Whams, a 15-acre stretch of water above Holmfirth. There are about 70 boats registered at the club, which has between 150 and 200 members.

The club closes in December and reopens in March. During the season races are held on Saturdays and Sundays and Wednesday evenings in the summer. Jim Robinson, the club’s Kansas-born commodore who originally came to West Yorkshire to teach for a spell and is still here 38 years later, said: ‘It’s an excellent sport and there is a great deal of camaraderie.

It’s something that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and some of our members’ grandchildren now come along. We like to think the club is welcoming and friendly with lots going on.’

That’s a description that could equally apply to Holmfirth and the Holme Valley.

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