Hardcastle Crags is a wooded Pennine valley in West Yorkshire, England, owned by the National Trust. Historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, it lies approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the town of Hebden Bridge and 10 miles (16 km) west of the town of Halifax.
Approximately half a mile along the valley there is a 19th-century cotton mill called Gibson Mill. The mill was water powered and has been renovated to demonstrate renewable energy sources and a sustainability strategy. It is surrounded by 400 acres (1.6 km2) of unspoilt woodland and crossed by 30 miles (48 km) of footpaths. The former cotton mill was one of the first powered mills built at the start of the Industrial Revolution.
Water powered turbines, photo voltaic panels, composting toilets, a wood-burning boiler, a wood-burning cocklestove and locally sourced reclaimed interior materials have gone into making the venture sustainable. The mill reopened to the public on Saturday, 24 September 2005, and there are exhibits about the mill and its workers.
*** – Gibson Mill – ***
Lord Holme Mill — to give it its official title — was erected in the early 1800s by Abraham Gibson, a Heptonstall farmer and cotton spinner, of Greenwood Lee. Following his death in 1790, it was his son, another Abraham, who set in motion the changes which were to transform the family's cottage industry into a much more ambitious concern; a factory was erected in the heart of Hardcastle Crags and manufacturing began in earnest.
Gibson Mill was one of the first generation mills of the Industrial Revolution. The Mill was driven by a water wheel inside and produced cotton cloth up until 1890. In 1833, 21 workers were employed in the building, each working an average 72 hours per week.
After it shut down as a working mill, the building became a mini holiday centre or “entertainment emporium” with a cafe, dance hall and skating rink catering mainly to day trippers who visited what became known as “Little Switzerland” until what seemed like its final closure in 1945.
“The family line was to survive for only four generations, however. Abraham the second was succeeded by his younger son, William, who in turn produced yet another Abraham, nicknamed "Young Ab," whose death, in 1956, brought the Gibson dynasty to an end. But his legacy was to have far-reaching effects on the area, for it was Young Ab, who not only left a considerable sum of money to local good causes, but, perhaps more significantly, willed his Hardcastle Crags acres to the National Trust.” (Milltown Memories, summer 2003)
Since then the mill and its surrounding cottages, in spite of their setting in some of the loveliest countryside in Yorkshire, have fallen into disrepair although they have proved to be useful venues for promenade plays and in recent years as the set for Dotheboys Hall in a film of Charles Dickens's novel “Nicholas Nickleby”.
There are two water turbines, a large and a small one. Only the small one was operating as the river was still low from inadequate summer rainfall. The larger one was rebuilt from the original Gilkes turbine which used to power the mill from 1927. Water is fed to a large tank of water from the adjoining millpond. The small turbine takes 50 litres a second (half a bathful).
All power is stored in the batteries. If the large turbine is running and there is excess power generated then this is converted into heat and distributed through a sequence of dump heaters situated throughout the mill. The large array of batteries, all proudly on display in the exhibition part of the mill.
The exhibition covers three floors. The ground floor describes and displays the sustainable energy which goes to make the complex totally independent of the national grid. If some emergency were to cut off power in the upper valley, Gibson Mill could carry on regardless.
There are activities to test how energy efficient you are. The lifts are entertaining but only for the reasonably fit. To get from one floor to the next, you have to pull on a rope to pull the lift up and down - much harder than it sounds but good fun. And of course, the lift will be essential to enable disabled people to take part in first floor activities.
The first floor is empty because it is a community room designed for educational groups, youth clubs and conferences. The idea is to keep it flexible and not to stuff it with exhibits, and perhaps to better appreciate some fine views of the Mill Pond.
The third floor shows how the Mill was used as an entertainment emporium after it was re-mortgaged in 1894. You can try on the clothes from the era, wind up the gramophone and even follow the instructions to waltz or foxtrot.
*** – One Thus Gone – ***
‘One thus gone’ is a series of short poems, written specifically for Hardcastle Crags. The poems are designed to guide you on a mindful and contemplative journey along a woodland trail.
Walking up from the car parks at the end of Midgehole Road, you will see an information board on the gate post. Follow the instructions and take the Estate track for about a 1/3 of a mile, there will be a large clearing to your left and you will see the first poem on your right-hand side. Follow this path up and you will come across 7 more poems. Each of the 8 poems invite you to take your time and explore sensory and contemplative ways to deepen your woodland experience. The eighth poem is just before the meandering path returns you to the estate track, follow this to Gibson Mill at the weekends for a chance to warm up in front of the café stove and reflect on your time in the woodland.
The National Trust have been working in partnership with the University of Huddersfield to explore different ways to experience the woodland. Deborah Templeton, a freelance writer and director of the Mindfulness and Performance Project at the University of Huddersfield, said "Spending time amongst trees is such a great way to slow down and tap into our reservoirs of natural wellbeing - but sometimes we need a little help in shifting gears! I'm interested in the ways that poetry and other artforms can help us to find our way into more spacious and contemplative modes of being. 'One thus gone' is designed as an invitation to the visitor to explore sensory and reflective ways to deepen their woodland experience."
*** – Access – ***
Please click here for a downloadable map of the property.
Location : Gibson Mill, Midgehole Road, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 7AW
Transport: Hebden Bridge (National Rail) then bus, taxi or 35 minutes. Bus routes : 594, 599 and B3 Bronte Bus stop nearby Hardcastle Crags.
Opening Times Gibson Mill: Daily 11:00 to 16:00; Winter Weekends 11:00 to 15:00.
Opening Times Hardcastle Crags: Dawn till Dusk.
Tickets : Free
Tel: 01422 846 236