With blue skies beckoning we seized a rare opportunity to get on our bikes.

Having visited the Spen Valley Greenway before, previously on foot, it seemed the perfect place to take our wheels for a spin.

Since the Olympics and the Bradley Wiggins effect spurred on by the cycling supremo’s success in the Tour de France and London 2012, cycling clubs have been experiencing increasing interest from new riders.

We are being encouraged to get on our bikes at every opportunity through cycle schemes, and Bradford is certainly well-served by these facilities.

The city is becoming a real ambassador for promoting getting around on two wheels through events such as the Sky Ride, a national scheme encouraging people to participate in a family-themed cycling events.

Over in the Spen Valley lies a swathe of pathways linking some of the towns and villages where locals can run, walk or cycle away from busy, congested roads.

This disused railway line runs near the River Spen between the towns of Cleckheaton, Dewsbury and Heckmondwike, eventually linking to Bradford.

We joined the route in Cleckheaton, passing distant landmarks such as the town hall and Spenborough Swimming Pool as we headed out towards Dewsbury.

Navigating the seven-mile stretch on a busy Sunday afternoon, with prams, pushchairs and pooches to avoid, you are conscious of keeping your eyes on the path – but on the occasional stop we were able to savour the far-reaching rural views which all add to the Greenway’s popular appeal.

We came across quite a few characters, too – of the woolly kind! Sally Matthews’ flock of Swaledale Sheep fashioned from recycled industrial scrap have taken up residence along the Greenway, much to the delight of our daughter, Katy.

Cycling through Trudi Entwistle’s 40 giant steel hoops was another added attraction, and echoing our way along the dark and disused railway tunnel was a boon.

Having been cooped up indoors during winter, it felt liberating to be out in the fresh air and it was wonderful for us to cycle with our daughter in safety without the potential dangers posed by cycling along the roads.

Our journey took us on a transition between industrial towns and urban spaces interspersed with open views and rolling green scenery.

We cycled parallel to terraced streets where, on an unusually fine but chilly day, folk were tending their gardens in anticipation of spring approaching.

It’s a social place, too, as smiles and nods were exchanged between us and the many people we came across on this pleasant trip we will certainly repeat. Pedalling away, it was surprising the distance we covered in a short time, and the benefits of this exhilarating exercise are immense.

The Greenway’s popularity is evident in statistics provided by Sustrans. The national charity, which works with families, communities, policy-makers and partner organisations to encourage people to make smarter travel choices, has recorded a 23 per cent increase in trips along the Greenway, with cycling making up for 30 per cent of the usage. Walking accounts for 11 per cent.

Acquired by Sustrans in 1998 with funding from the National Lottery and Kirklees Council, the Greenway – identified as Route 66 on the National Cycle Network in Kirklees – is commonly used for commuting and shopping. Now 85 per cent of the Greenway’s users say the network has enabled them to increase their level of physical activity.

The Greenway, a partnership between Kirklees Council, Spen Valley Greenway Forum and Sustrans, is certainly by no means taxing, with only a gentle climb from Dewsbury to Oakenshaw but it is fantastic exercise all the same and an opportunity to get out in the fresh air.

Those who take Spen Valley Greenway to Oakenshaw can continue to Bradford using signposted cycle lanes and paths.

The estimated completion time for cycling is one hour. To walk it takes about three hours, 40 minutes.


  •  The Spen Valley Greenway can be accessed at various points along the route – some access areas are for pedestrians only and some are not wheelchair accessible.
  • Access points include: Green Lane, Oakenshaw, Snelsins Lane, Whitechapel Road, Vine Street, Mount Street, Tesco, Tofts Road, Royd Wood, Pyenot Gardens and Rawfolds in Cleckheaton. You can pick the route up at other access points along to Dewsbury.
  • For more about the route and where you can access the Greenway, call Sustrans on 0845 1130065 or visit nationalcyclenetwork.org.uk.