Oxenhope, the West Yorkshire village famous for its straw race

PUBLISHED: 08:33 21 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:14 20 February 2013

Horse riders pass through the village

Horse riders pass through the village

The West Yorkshire village of Oxenhope is becoming even more environmentally friendly, as Amanda Griffiths reports Photographs by Kirsty Thompson

The sum of its parts

Oxenhope incorporates six old settlements, Uppertown, Lowertown, Leeming and Hawkingstone and the historic hamlets of Marsh and Shaw.

The village got the name Oxenhope because thats what the railway called the station when the line opened in 1867.

The Millennium Green was once just a field used to graze horses. One of its features is the weir that once would have fed the mill which was a major employer here.

There are plenty of facilities in the village; five pubs, two main churches and two smaller chapels, community centre, cricket club, school, post office, co-op, a beauty salon that once was the butchers and even a chip shop which people visit from miles around.

Where is it? Oxenhope is located in West Yorkshire, between Hebden Bridge and Haworth, near Keighley.

Where to park? Theres no village car park, the pubs all have their own parking facilities as does the railway station.

What to do there? Watch the straw race or attend the village fete or garden party. Oxenhope is the terminus for the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. The station has steam engine events throughout the year and also has an exhibition of engines, including one used in the filming of The Railway Children, in an adjacent station building.

As the early summer sun glints on the hills, the countryside around Oxenhope looks like an emerald blanket draped across a sleeping giant but some people are working to make the area even more green and pleasant.

A number of schemes are underway to add to the natural splendour which surrounds the West Yorkshire village.

The Oxenhope Conservation Trust was formed after a parish plan identified the need for a group to coordinate environmental projects.
Robert Mackley, the groups chairman, said: Our main project is working with Oxenhope CE Primary School, developing their environmental area and helping them in their goal to achieve eco-status.

The schools environmental area has been there for some time but wasnt really being used. One of the first things we did was plant a number of trees; we put a brash hedge up to stop people cutting through and replaced the hard core on the pathways which was donated by the local quarry. Weve built compost areas and replaced the old benches to create an outside teaching space and were currently building six raised beds to grow vegetables in.

Theres a bug trail for the younger kids with piles of wood they can disturb to see what lives beneath and theres plenty of other wildlife to be seen. As if on cue, a rabbit bounds through the garden as Robert tells me about a long eared owl that was caught in an old kite line beside the cricket ground here.

The under fives at the school contacted the RSPB and the owl was rescued, checked over and released back into the wild, causing some excitement at the school.

Weve been working closely with the school from the start, says Robert, whose children attend the school. Parents had already started asking for similar environmental activities because their children were developing an interest in the subject.

OCIs other main project is Marsh Common. It used to be a quarry, then a tip, now weve created a picnic area. Weve planted a few trees and wild flowers, trying to make it a nice quiet, relaxing area for people to stop in.
Robert, who moved into the village after leaving the RAF, describes it as a lovely, quiet place to live, with great community spirit. Local historian Reg Hindley agrees, although hes seen some huge changes in village life since he moved here in the 1960s.

When I first came here the bulk of the population had one of 20 local names, good proper West Yorkshire names like Holmes, Whitaker, Bancroft and Feather, he says.

It was a mill village then. I always woke up in the morning with the mill hooter. It always used to go at 7.15 to say you should be on your way and again at 7.30 to say you should have arrived!

This is a beautiful place. When I first came to work for the University of Bradford I was told I didnt want to live in Oxenhope, it wasnt considered the right sort of place to live. They told me I should be thinking about places like Ilkley or Ben Rhydding. But I came here, raised four kids here and Im still here. The popularity of the village has risen and so have house prices.

The arrival of the motor car had a significant affect, as it became easier for people to travel around, they could move out into quieter villages rather than having to live near work.

It is more of a commuter village now, but its still a very active village and many of the really good local organisations have been started thanks to incomers.

Theres been a lot of positive changes in the village, too, he says. Theres three times as many trees here as there was when I first came and not because of planting schemes but because the land has been left alone. Weve even got trees growing on top of the moors now. They had been eaten away by sheep and cattle but when foot and mouth hit and their numbers dwindled the land was allowed to recover.

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