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On track for a great day out
If you’ve ever tried getting a squirrel to pose for a photograph, you’ll know it’s not easy.
Armed with his new camera, my six-year-old nephew Jack was snapping away at everything, from a large twig to his mud-splattered wellies, as we took a Sunday afternoon walk around Shipley Glen.
Spotting a squirrel scurrying up a tree, he pointed his camera vaguely in the right direction. The squirrel stopped, teasingly, then disappeared behind a branch, just as Jack clicked.
He’d just added ‘stark tree trunk’ to his collection of photographs.
Shipley Glen is great for a bracing walk. We walked from the back of the Old Glen House, along winding woodland paths and back up again. It’s a popular route – we passed other walkers, a horse rider and a couple of exhausted-looking cyclists taking a breather from an uphill stretch – and there are paths leading off in various directions, depending how far you want to walk. We blew the cobwebs away with a 40-minute walk and a scramble over the rocks before making our way down to the Shipley Glen Tramway.
There’s something dreamlike about walking towards the tramway. With its gateway festooned with fairy lights, it’s like entering a woodland grotto, an enchanting place where a sudden rustle of leaves might just be a pair of imps darting about. Now that would be something for Jack to capture on his camera… He and his brother Sam, seven, love the tramway. An hour or so earlier they’d been playing virtual ten-pin bowling on the Wii, so it was heartening to see them all excited about a funicular railway which has been enjoyed by generations of children over the past 114 years.
The oldest working cable tramway in Britain, it’s run by a dedicated team of volunteers who sell tickets, serve in the sweet shop, staff the museum, maintain the platforms and help with engineering work. Six trained drivers operate the tramway.
I used to enjoy visiting the little funfair at the top of the tramway; it was a sad day when that closed down. I think I once braved the bone-shaking aerial glide.
The fairground rides were installed by Baildon entrepreneur Sam Wilson, who opened the tramway in May 1895 to bring visitors up the hill. It proved popular with Victorian and Edwardian day-trippers – on Easter Monday 1915 there were said to be 17,000 visitors!
“There used to be a bear up here, and a lion,” said Sam, as we queued for our tickets. I looked at him blankly until I realised he was referring to the Pleasure Grounds menagerie that was here in the early 20th century. On our last visit we’d seen old photographs of it in the museum.
Clutching our tickets, we waited for the tram to climb the hill. Initially powered by a gas engine then oil, it was converted to electric in the 1920s. It’s a funicular railway, but the style of cars makes it more of a tramway.
As one tram descended, the other passed it coming up. “It’s here!” cried Jack. It was pretty busy but we managed to get seats at the front and, after a cry of “Hold tight!” we were off. It’s a lovely little ride through a pretty woodland which is covered in a carpet of bluebells each spring.
At the bottom station is a lovely Edwardian-style bric-a-brac shop and there’s a museum housing an Aladdin’s cave of artefacts from the days when the tramway was known as ‘Bradford’s Golden Mile.’ The boys enjoyed playing on the model trolleybus and watching the original 1895 surge wheel pulling the trams downhill.
A short walk from the bottom station takes you to Saltaire, via a pleasant walk through Roberts Park. Back at the top, you’ve got the Shipley Glen walks and you can call in at the Old Glen House which has a restaurant, gardens and children’s play area, or a cuppa and a flapjack at the pleasant tea rooms. A trip to the Shipley Glen Tramway is good for the soul.
Once Victorians flocked here in droves to breathe in lungfuls of fresh air and stretch their legs – now there are Lycra-clad cyclists and families in matching fleeces spilling out of 4x4s. A century of daytrippers treading the soil.
“I wish there was still a bear here,” said Jack wistfully as we walked towards the car. “I could take his picture.”