Those of you who follow my blog will know that I have recently returned from another backpacking trip, this time to Yorkshire to walk The Dales High Way. This is a 90 mile, high-level route running from Saltaire in the south to Appleby in Westmorland in the north. Before leaving home, I had already added another 30 miles to this because I wanted to climb all three of the main peaks, whilst also taking in other parts of Yorkshire not included in the set route. I had intended that my 120 mile backpack would take 7 days, and this blog entry covers the first day.
So, why the title Day 0? Well that is because, apart from a short 2/3 mile walk to my camping spot near Saltaire, this was a non walking day. I would be spending most of it travelling up but I also allowed some time to explore Saltaire itself.
The journey up was uneventful although somewhat laborious. It involved a train to Waterloo, using two tube lines to cross London to reach King’s Cross, a train north to Leeds, and a bit of a rush to make my final train for the short trip across country to reach Saltaire. I arrived at my walk starting point at around 2.45pm, leaving me sufficient time to look around the town, and its famous Salts Mill.
Saltaire took its name from Sir Titus Salt, who built a mill there, and the River Aire on which it stands. Titus had followed his father, Daniel, into the textile industry at Bradford but at the time it was a grim place to live, with pollution from many factory chimneys giving a life expectancy of just 20 years. Sir Titus had in fact built his textile business up to five separate mills when he decided to move all of his operations into one large mill which he completed on a greenfield site at Saltaire in 1853. With a nearby river, canal and railway, the position was ideal and the air was healthier.
Over the coming years, Titus built up the town around the mill by adding comparatively high quality housing for his workers and all necessary amenities such as bath houses, hospital, educational establishments, shops, churches, libraries and so on. Saltaire became a model village with many residents. At its height, 3,000 workers were employed at the mill, operating 1,200 looms that produced some 18 miles of cloth every day.
Although in many ways, life in the town was an ideal, especially when compared to life in Bradford at the time, the workers’ lives were virtually controlled by Salt since he owned everything in the town. People had to live by his regulations! Nevertheless, it seemed a much better lot than their previous existence!
Sir Titus Salt died in 1876 and his son, also called Titus, took over the business which continued to thrive. Just 11 years later, however, Titus junior also died at the young age of 44. Although the company continued for some time, ultimately, the bottom began to drop out of the previously buoyant wool and cloth industries, leading to industrial unrest in some places due to wage cuts. By 1891, the once successful Sir Titus Salt and Sons Ltd had gone into liquidation.
The mill itself was taken over and in fact continued to produce cloth right up to 1986, when it finally closed its doors for the last time. The building then went into decline as it sat empty and silent.
However, a new lease of life came in the shape of Jonathan Silver, a millionaire visionary who purchased the old building and set about breathing life into it again by converting it to other uses. These days, the old mill includes a large art gallery with much space dedicated to Bradford born artist David Hockney, coffee shops/restaurants, a book shop, a home shop, an outdoor shop, museum space, and much more. And all this is set in a wonderful old building with original features and architecture still visible.
The re-opening of the railway station in 1984 after its closure under the Beeching axe in the 1960’s undoubtedly benefited the town too, making it much more accessible to commuters and to visitors like myself.
I spent a lovely hour or two just wandering around the mill, and particularly the David Hockney exhibition.
Sadly, Jonathan Silver also died young, but his legacy still lives on and in 2001, Saltaire was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. I thoroughly enjoyed my time exploring the town and mill and I would encourage anyone doing the Dales High Way to allow time to do the same before stepping foot onto the trail itself.
By early evening, it was time for me to move on and I set out on the first short section of my walk, following the canal out of the town. With the dappled sunlight filtering through the trees and throwing dancing shadows along my path, this was a delightful start to the walk.
Leaving the canal, I continued to follow water as the trail tracks along the Loadpit Beck through some lovely cooling woodlands – this was a hot day! I didn’t know it then but all of my days on this trek were to be hot days in the extreme, and this would have an impact later!
After a very short distance, it was time for my first detour as I left the main track and climbed Hope Hill to find my first camping spot of the trip. Before reaching the summit, I pitched my tent and prepared to cook dinner…….well, I use the term ‘cook’ loosely as it was to be ‘camp food’ of noodles 🙂 !
The evening was beautiful, balmy and still as I sat sketching by my tent. My only concern was the loud, synchronised cawing of the resident peacocks – I wondered if that was going to go on all night 🙂 !
Later, I sat outside my tent reflecting on my day as I watched an amazing sky light up before me. The day couldn’t have gone better, nor ended better!
As I climbed into my sleeping bag that night, I wondered what tomorrow, my first day proper on the trail, would bring and I couldn’t wait!
Thanks for stopping by.
Until next time,
The Dorset Rambler
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