We are lucky enough to live down the road from a fairly bonkers hippy-filled place called Hebden Bridge where they really know how to put on a quirky local arts and crafts festival. Last night was their first ever ‘Valley of Lights’ event, with an impressive light floatilla on the canal, a night market for local crafters, fire dancers and an inspiring handmade lantern parade. Festive music from local bands, fire-related entertainment in all directions and the enticing smells of an eclectic array of local foods wafting through the air all helped to create an exciting community atmosphere and I felt so proud to be involved with my little bike…
As part of the celebration, there was a convoy of 200 cyclists, all with our bikes, coats and helmets decked out in bright neon lights, LEDs, glowsticks and even disco balls! We cycled with a rolling police road block through 3 local towns (from Todmorden, through Hebden Bridge to Mytholmroyd) as a symbolic act to connect the three towns in response to huge flooding that hit the Valley earlier this year.
I’m sure the motorists didn’t appreciate it, but having the whole road to ourselves was fantastic. It was the first time I’ve ever cycled with a group of people and the first time I’ve ever felt completely safe cycling on the main road! With temperatures of -5 degrees and doing a steady pace of about 10mph, the 6 mile or so journey was pretty slow going but it was all worth it for the incredible greeting we got when we cycled into Hebden. We felt like (bicycle) royalty. Hundreds of people lined the streets, waving and cheering us on, with music playing, a carnival atmosphere and cameras and phones flashing all around us as we cycled past. I’m pretty sure that on every single picture my gob was wide open as the whole scene around us really was jaw dropping!
The Upper Calder Valley is so proud of its heritage, arts, creativity and beautiful scenery, and with good reason! After all the struggles of the summer, it was great to see the towns get back on their feet with the reopening of pubs that had been struck by flooding and many local traders showing that they would not be deterred and were now firmly open for business. What really shone through at the Valley of Lights event was the generous community spirit and strength of character of every single person who got involved, made lanterns, ran stalls, cooked food, performed, played, got on their bike, or even just turned up to take part!
After all the excitement and huddling about on bikes in freezing temperatures, I am now sporting an irritating but typically festive cold and a twinge of RSI in my left thumb from all my overly enthusiastic bell ringing! Totally worth it though!