Old worlds collide at the fringe of the wuthering moors of West Yorkshire, where the feisty siblings of Edith Nesbit’s The Railway Children meet the long-suffering characters of the high-Victorian novels crafted by the Brontë sisters.
The Worth Valley is a deep gash in the flank of the South Pennines, which here are dappled by archetypical old weaving villages, interlinked by winding packhorse trails and age-old causeys, paved field-paths worn smooth over the centuries by the clogs of millworkers and labourers.
This realm of reminiscence is re-emphasised by the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway (K&WVR), which rattles steeply up from the mainline interchange station at Keighley to Oxenhope. There’s no finer way to appreciate this countryside than from a steam train on this line, nestled below gritstone edges and encircled by heather moors.
The Railway Children
The K&WVR was in the vanguard of the railway preservation movement. It was closed in December 1961 to the consternation of locals, who channelled their anger to form a preservation society that leased the entire five-mile line from British Rail, reopening in 1968.
By happy coincidence, in 1968 the BBC had scheduled a dramatisation of The Railway Children and leapt at the chance to film branch-line life here. Much more famous is the 1970 film version by Lionel Jeffries, which again was rooted to the K&WVR. This period piece drew heavily on the enchanting mix of character and countryside, much of which is linked on a rail trail based on the preserved line and filming locations.
This waymarked ramble threads between the villages and period stops on the railway alongside the River Worth and tributaries. An easy three-mile section of the full six-mile trail commences at Oakworth’s atmospheric station, where Mr Perks (Bernard Cribbins) was porter and where Bobbie (Jenny Agutter) was reunited with her father. Passing by vast old riverside mills below Haworth, the family cottage The Three Chimneys is soon visible a little above Oakworth station.
Hop on a train back to Haworth, a village of steep cobbled streets that was home to the Brontë sisters, Anne, Emily and Charlotte. Their remarkable gift for storytelling ensures that Haworth’s Parsonage is one of England’s most visited literary shrines and the whole area feasts on their gripping visions of Victorian society. A web of tracks and paths radiate into the nearby moors and cloughs where the sisters’ imaginations were inspired and fired – follow the Brontë Way locally from Haworth church. Catch the train back to complete this captivating railway day out.
HOW TO GET THERE
Keighley is halfway between Skipton and Bradford on the A629/650 corridor. The station (connecting with Leeds, Bradford and Carlisle) is east of the town centre.
FIND OUT MORE
Haworth Visitor Information Centre Haworth BD22 8EF
Keighley and Worth Valley Railway
Check the website for timetable details. Rover ticket £15, family £35.
Cobbles and Clay
Haworth BD22 8DP
The Old Registry Haworth BD22 8DA