Last of the Summer Wine country

PUBLISHED: 13:10 28 September 2012

Nora Batty's tearoom in Holmfirth

Nora Batty's tearoom in Holmfirth

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THERE were no septuagenarians careering down the hill in antique bathtubs, bucket-wielding battleaxes casting their moral outrage at sexual innuendos, or trios of elderly gentlemen offering their opinions on the world at large as they ambled down cobbled streets or country lanes.

In fact, the real-lifeYorkshire village of Holmfirth couldn’t have been further from its counterpart in the long-running BBC comedy Last of the Summer Wine, as far from the backward, sleepy idyll which features on our TV screens, it is a bustling, lively market town very much a part of the 21st century.

That said, following in the footsteps of Compo, Clegg, Foggy and their friends is easy to achieve, whether by calling in for lunch at Sid’s Café or staying at Nora Batty’s, the most famous house in TV comedy, fans of the series can immerse themselves in the show’s world.

There’s even an hourly tour around the village and surrounding countryside, including some of the most beautiful scenery found in the foothills of the Yorkshire Pennines, with a running commentary on the history of the local area from coach driver Colin, which also notes the area’s appearance in tiresome ITV drama Where The Heart Is.

Visiting Holmfirth with my partner as part of a trip to the Pennine region, it came across as an eclectic mix of traditional and modern, a village at home with its past but not afraid of embracing the future. Its cobbled streets are packed with quirky speciality shops, arts and crafts galleries, and a tasty array of restaurants and cafés.

Make sure to visit The Wrinkled Stocking Tea Room, next to Nora Batty’s, which is also home to the Last of the Summer Wine Exhibition, and if you have time then it’s also worth grabbing a cuppa at Number 11 in Huddersfield Road, where Holmfirth Tea is brewed on the premises.

We took advantage of the chance to sneak a look inside Nora Batty’s cottage, where a looming lifesize cutout of the sourfaced old goat greets you in the kitchen, accompanied by a gallery of unique images and signed photographs from the TV show running the length of the hallway. The tastefully-designed house is particularly popular with American fans of the series, but also offers perfect family accommodation for anyone looking to stay in the heart of Holmfirth.

This part of Yorkshire is all rolling hills and valleys bisected by hedgerows and dry-stone walls, sweeping countryside which is perfect for long walks, cycling or horse rides, with waymarked trails traversing the Holme Valley and its stunning moorland.

Call in at a village pub for lunch after a morning spent wandering the moors and you’ll savour every bite – it’s not for nothing this part of the world is known as God’s own country.

We were staying at The Woodman Inn, a charming pub built from Yorkshire stone in the 19th century when it was used as weavers’ cottages, surrounded by nine acres of mature woodland, with a running brook opposite. Combining modern accommodation with a traditional feel, it boasts luxurious ensuite bedrooms and has been awarded four star status for country inns by both the AA and English Tourism Council.

There is a choice of eating in the lively bar, or the more sedate restaurant, although the same menu is served in each. The choice of locally sourced food included steak and ale pie, fresh Irish mussels in white wine or Thai sauce, butter roasted venison steak and roasted monkfish wrapped in Parma ham, with a very reasonable selection of wines to complement. Breakfast includes a wickedly appetising full Yorkshire breakfast, which is perfect for setting you up for a long day of sightseeing.

When you’ve had enough of celebrating the delights of Holmfirth, there are a wealth of other attractions within a short drive. Having experienced some of the features of nearby Sheffield on a previous trip, my partner and I chose to call in at Oakwell Hall in Birstall, originally famous as Fieldhead in Charlotte Bronte’s novel Shirley, but more recently having a much more mainstream connection to her sister Emily’s work.

Dating back to 1583, and with strong links to the English Civil War, this remarkably well-preserved manor house was later a young ladies boarding school in the 1840s before being used as the interior location of Wuthering Heights in the recent television adaptation.

The classic tale of romance and revenge used many of the rooms in the hall during filming, and includes a special display showing how parts of the building were transformed into the bleak and gothic site of Heathcliff and Cathy’s doomed romance, including the engraving-scarred headboard used in the series to reflect their childhood love.

If you’re still in a Bronte mood after taking in Oakwell’s authentic period rooms and garden, then just down the road is the Red House Museum and Bronte Gallery, the home of Charlotte’s close lifelong friend Mary Taylor.

The region enjoys excellent access via the M1, and has its merits at any time of year, offering the perfect getaway in an area of incredible natural beauty and fascinating history.

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