Cycling Huddersfield Canal and the Calder Valley Greenway – and back!

I must start by saying, my beloved bike might be the second oldest possession I have, but it hasn’t really been out for the last 15 years (if you don’t count cycling at Kielder 3 years ago). But, this weekend I decided to make friends with my bike and headed off, with Dewsbury as my goal.

Ok, Dewsbury is not a glamorous destination I’ll admit. But I knew that from the Colne Valley to the west of Huddersfield, it was possible to cycle there via the canal towpaths and the Calder Valley Greenway and so should keep me away from two barriers to me cycling – traffic and hills. And should you decide to follow this route too and perhaps doubt how far you might get – fear not. You are also following the train line so you can always catch it back, which was my initial plan (and which I wished I’d taken as I got within 1 mile of home and my legs started to seize up).

The towpath of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal is generally accessible to bikes with only one barrier to negotiate, being just before reaching Slaithwaite.DSCF5782

The towpath from here crosses a few very quiet roads but otherwise is simple to follow as it meanders through Slaithwaite and skirts the centres of Linthwaite and Milnsbridge. The best bit is that in this direction the route is entirely downhill towards Huddersfield. (Note to self – that means its uphill home)

The slow machine that England was
‘Straightened, straitened, boxed and sluiced’

The towpath narrows as it heads towards Huddersfield, just as the navigable section of the canal seems narrower. Just before the town you pass under the Longroyd railway viaduct and then dip under Huddersfield Road. From here the surface suddenly improves, presumably due to the new Kirklees College development.


Unfortunately at this point the towpath disappears and you need to follow the pedestrian signs to reach the Huddersfield Broad Canal. However if you’re on a bike, once you have crossed the main road you might as well continue straight through the university area instead of trying to rejoin the towpath, as bikes need to come off again, as the tunnel under Wakefield Road isn’t bike friendly.

I joined the Huddersfield Broad Canal at Aspley Wharf and followed it all the way to Red Doles lane where I was looking for the Sustrans route 69 Birkby Bradley Greenway. Sustrans and Kirklees Council have done a great free map which help plan routes from Huddersfield to Dewsbury, (although some minor roads are not marked on it) but frankly the route is really well signposted so you should be ok.

Turn off the Broad Canal to the Birkby Bradley Greenway here
Turn off the Broad Canal to the Birkby Bradley Greenway here

The Greenway route heads through woodland and housing towards the A62 Leeds Road. At this point you need to cross the A62 to head through a small industrial estate to pick up the Calder Valley Greenway (route 69).


Follow the route to Mirfield as the path winds uphill to a surprisingly nice view across Huddersfield.


Follow the route around the hill and enjoy the long cycle downhill towards Mirfield, next to the railway and crossing the river. (note to self, again uphill coming home!)


As you emerge onto roads in Mirfield you need to stay on them, following the route signs as you head firstly along the A644 Huddersfield road and then through the back streets to reach the point where the Greenway route splits and you could pick up the Spen Valley Greenway.

The Calder Valley Greenway route eventually drops down to the A644 again. However, I had another destination in mind. Knowing there was a good pub at Savile Town wharf accessible by a nice towpath along the canal I diverted off the cycleway at this point. Here I should add that not all of this route from here to Savile Town wharf is recommended on a bike, or at least an old bike. Or at least by someone who hasn’t cycled hardly for the last 15 years. I headed over the bridge.

A lovely metal map which lacked the kind of useful detail to make it useful for navigation
route 66 heads downhill to the road

The towpath around the Calder Hebble Navigation is a lovely route, but not if your bike doesn’t have good shock absorbers or your bum isn’t attuned to riding such distances!


Eventually I reached the point where the Calder Hebble navigation splits and heads off either to Wakefield or for a mile or so to Savile Town Wharf.


While being essentially a deadend, this arm of the canal is very popular with men fishing, there is also some great art along the way.


I have to admit to being a bit disappointed with myself when I arrived too early for lunch at the Leggers Inn, mostly as it meant I had to carry on into Dewsbury.

Savile Town Wharf
Savile Town Wharf

Except, perhaps buzzing with adrenaline for having managed the 17 miles to Dewsbury in one piece on my first foray back into cycling – I foolishly didn’t stop and turned around and headed back along the Greenway from Dewsbury to head home. The Greenway is a considerably shorter and more bum-pleasing route to Dewsbury as I found on my return.


Whilst I did eventually stop for coffee in Mirfield, for whatever reason I decided to cycle all the way back (yes uphills as well) instead of bailing out and taking the train. As proud of myself I might now feel for managing 36 miles that day and not pushing my bike once, my bum still hurts!

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