(Sands to Magdale)


WHERE IS IT?: West Yorkshire, south-west of Huddersfield. The Holme Valley runs from the Pennine ‘Dark Peak’ area northwards until it joins the River Calder. The river gives its name to Holmfirth – the ‘’Last of the Summer Wine” town and the starting point for this paddle.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Sands playing fields are on the outskirts of Holmfirth next to Holmfirth Swimming Baths on the A6024 (SE147095). There is a large free car park right next to the river here. However, this may be busy on winter Sunday mornings due to the adjacent football pitches. The adventurous can put in above the footbridge and tackle the almost immediate 1.7m vertical drop. For the more sedate, (and those of us who have noticed shopping trolleys in the weir before now), it is very easy to cross the footbridge, walk a few metres downstream and put in in the adjacent woodland. Look out for the Herons which often feed here.

The take-out is at the confluence with Mag Brook just before Steps Industrial Park to the north of Honley (SE139126). Take the A6024 from Holmfirth. About half-a-mile after this joins the A616, there is a road to the left which is signposted “Magdale”. On-street parking is available here before the bridge. The take-out is reached via the public footpath which runs along the front of the houses on the Western bank. Get out on the left bank at the junction of the two rivers. 

APPROX LENGTH: 4.8km / 3 miles

TIME NEEDED: 1.5 hours including playtime in the rapids

ACCESS HASSLES: None encountered so far

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: The nearest gauge is the EA one at Queen’s Mill in Huddersfield.

This needs to be at 0.6m as an absolute minimum. 0.7 provides good fairly scrape free paddling. 0.7 to 0.8 is “bouncy”. Don’t know what happens over this! The levels are normally well below the minimum required and the river only becomes navigable after a couple of days heavy downpour. It also drops exceedingly quickly meaning that this trip has to really be a spur-of-the-moment thing.

GRADING: 1-2/3

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Several weirs of varying difficulty. In addition to the one at the put in (see above), there are many which are easily shot and one near the take out to be approached with caution.

About 300m after passing beneath the road bridge at Honley there are two vertical weirs about 100m apart. The first demands respect. It can be up to about 2.5m deep and has horizontal slabs protruding to each side at the foot. These may not be visible.  If brave enough to have a go at this, take a central line to land between them. Alternatively, portage via the left bank and just do the second weir. You are on a public footpath at this point. The second weir is only about a metre but has a very strong towback which shortly after gives way to some twisty / fun rapids.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The Holme is rarely paddled – probably due to the scarcity of a decent amount of water. However, if deep enough, it offers a picturesque paddle with a frequent variety of features. Its course is heavily wooded for the most part and you will be unaware that in some sections you are passing through a small town. The occasional bankside mill and the number of weirs give a clue to the industrial past of the area. At lower levels, some parts can be a little ‘scrapey’ but the most notable and enjoyable features are the rapids which occur in several short sections. The best of these is at Smithy Place in Brockholes just after the road bridge which links the A616 and A6024. There are another potentially quite gnarly set at the take out directly below the second vertical weir described above.

OTHER NOTES: There are one or two recordings on YouTube of this trip. One of the best can be seen here:

Theoretically, it should be possible to continue downriver to Lockwood and egress at the Huddersfield Rugby Union training ground. However, I’ve never heard of anyone doing this or what it may entail.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Chris Halligan