I've become an enthusiast for walking on former railway lines. It began a few years ago when I discovered the delights of the Spen Valley Greenway, the cycling, walking and horse-riding route created by the charity Sustrans to run from Oakenshaw southwards to Dewsbury.

I've since followed the tracks (or rather the trackbeds) and their linking stretches of footpath from Spofforth to Wetherby and only a month ago Wetherby to Thorp Arch. I've enjoyed the views from the Hewenden Viaduct. I've walked on what once used to be high-level railways in Derbyshire.

So when a leaflet landed on my desk from Sustrans describing the Calder Valley and Birkby Bradley Greenways, which together link the centres of Dewsbury and Huddersfield via Mirfield and also tie in with the Spen Valley Greenway, I was delighted to give it a try.

A lot of the route is built on the former rail corridor of the Midland Railway, with the section linking Dewsbury Moor to the town centre being on a riverside path. In places the track diverts across the side of fields and occasionally it follows quiet stretches of road.

There are eight-and-a-half miles of it altogether, some of it available to horse riders and all of it an easy journey for those on their feet or on wheels. We decided to try just five miles, the stretch between Huddersfield and Mirfield, for a morning's outing.

We set off from Huddersfield's magnificent station, turned left at the corner by The George Hotel, and immediately saw the first sign pointing us along the road in the direction of the Birkby Bradley Greenway.

These blue signs were to guide us along the route, only letting us down on one occasion when a helpful local resident, seeing us looking at the map in a baffled way, came to our rescue.

We followed the signs along pavements initially, through industrial areas alongside Bradford Road, then joined the Greenway proper. It wasn't a happy experience at first, as the paved track led past the houses of a couple of estates.

Every bridge it passed beneath contained evidence that it was a night-time haunt of the local yobbery. There were lager cans and fast-food containers galore and some rather rude graffiti. There was also a burned-out motor scooter.

But things were to get much better as we accompanied the present, busy railway line along an elevated, leafy stretch which allowed us views across the bowl of Huddersfield then took us alongside woodland to Deighton.

There was more walking through green countryside before we arrived at the busy main road and wondered where to go next. A sign for a walkers' path to Huddersfield seemed to point away from the town. We were standing there scratching our heads when a lady walking a couple of small dogs asked, "Are you looking for the footpath to Dewsbury, love?" and pointed us in the right direction. Maybe she's used to coming across walkers in a similar predicament.

Sure enough, we picked up the Greenway sign where she said it would be, except now it was the Calder Valley Greenway which carried us through an industrial estate, into woodland and across the Calder and Hebble Navigation and the River Colne via the splendid Bradley Viaduct, with its 15 arches built of blue brick.

From here the walk got better and better as the track rose into fields. There was moorland to our left, to our right attractive houses and then the busy valley bottom with its mix of domestic, industrial and leisure developments.

Like the Calder Valley, the Colne Valley has to be many things to many different people. The beautiful, the functional and sometimes the downright ugly exist side-by-side. Your eyes are never short of a variety of sights as you stroll along.

Mind you, one of the things we hadn't seen during the first three miles of so of walking this route created primarily with cyclists in mind was anyone on a bike. In fact we'd met only two other walkers.

It was to become marginally busier as we drew closer to Mirfield, nibbling blackberries picked from the embankment as we strolled along in the sunshine. A couple on a tandem, three single cyclists, two other walking couples and a young family with a push chair. Compared with what had gone before it was getting like Blackpool Prom on a bank holiday!

The last leg of the journey was along a lane which took us past a school to another blue sign pointing our way towards the middle of Mirfield.

Instead we joined a path which followed the railway line and took us to Mirfield station, where we caught a rather ancient Northern Rail diesel train back to Hudderfield.

That's one of the joys of this route. It's very accessible for users of public transport, making it green in more ways than one.

Step by Step

  1. From Huddersfield station, walk ahead to main road and turn left by hotel corner. Walk on to pass beneath railway bridge and continue to ring road. Cross and go along St John's Road ahead. Follow blue Birkby Bradley Greenway sign to right, then to left, walking down through industrial estate. Turn right onto Willow Lane then soon go left away from road with another sign to climb path and join disused railway line.
  2. Walk along this as it passes backs of estates and goes under a couple of roads including busy Bradford Road. Stick with the signs, and for a while the marking on the pavement through a private housing estate before accompanying railway line to Deighton, with station down to right.
  3. Cross a road here and continue on waymarked track, leaving railway to cross another road and continue to where track converges with busy main road and some confusing footpath signs. Here, turn left and walk along pavement to where blue Calder Valley Greenway sign points across road.
  4. Cross, turn right briefly, then follow another blue sign left down road into industrial territory. Go right at fence at bottom, then soon left, descending. At fork in path, take right-hand (straight ahead) one to cross Bradley viaduct. Keep ahead as track climbs and passes alongside fields before arriving at a road with an interesting house and garden on left. Cross road and continue with track to emerge into Helm Lane.
  5. Walk down this quiet stretch of road before leaving it soon enough to join a very pleasant stretch of the Greenway. This ends in a dogleg right into a lane known as Woodend Road which leads the way into Mirfield. Turn left just past school, go under railway bridge, then turn right to follow fenced-off path behind houses and emerge into Station Road. Turn right to go under railway again and head to Platform 3 of this unmanned halt to catch train back to Huddersfield.