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24 September 2014
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Stroll around Bingley, the 'throstle's nest of England.'

bingley

Bingley
Motorists queue through Bingley on their way to the Dales or the Lakes. We decided to take a stroll around the town to see what they might be missing.
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FACTS

How to get to Bingley

Road: A650 from Bradford to Keighley

Rail: Trains from Bradford, Leeds and Skipton.

Bus: Frequent buses between Keighley and Bradford Waterbus: Telephone Apollo Canal Cruises on 01274-595914.

For more detailed information on public transport visit the West Yorkshire Metro website at www.metro-wyorks.co.uk/

Where to stay in Bingley

Four-star hotels, smaller hotels, guest house and self-catering accommodation are all available in the area. There is also a camping and caravanning site. More information can be obtained from the Yorkshire Tourist Board at www.ytb.org.uk/

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Bingley is an old market town on the banks of the River Aire, five miles north of Bradford. Its centre is overshadowed at one end by the tall chimney of the Damart mill and at the other by the headquarters of the Bradford and Bingley, now a bank.

damart
The Damart factory
A short walk along the towpath from the Damart factory takes you to the Five Rise Locks, Bingley's most famous monument and a wonder of the canal age.

The Leeds-Liverpool Canal was the M62 of its day and the energetic can follow the towpath al the way to Liverpool, another 111 miles according to the sign.

There is a good view across the town from the top of the locks. Linger at the pleasant Five Rise Cafe to enjoy home-made cakes and browse amongst canal ephemera.

5 rise locks
The Five Rise Locks

Sit outside and watch the narrow boats prepare to descend the canal rise, a height of 59 feet which took the first boat twenty minutes back in 1774.

The oldest part of the town is centred around the parish church of All Saints. The church may date from Norman times but what we see today is essentially sixteenth century or later. The church has a stained-glass window, crafted by William Morris and Burne-Jones but the organ prevents visitors easily seeing the window from the interior.

old bingley
Old Bingley

Opposite the church is the Old White Horse, a coaching inn dating from the days when travellers had to stop to change horses.

Ireland Bridge, built in the seventeenth century, takes you across the River Aire to the Brown Cow pub. The scene of a Chartist riot in 1848 (the present building appears to be more recent), it is now known for its 'real' ale and Monday jazz nights.

Follow the Riverside Walk back to the centre. A stone along the way shows the nest of the throstle, or thrush, no doubt because the town is sometimes referred to as the" throstle's nest of England."

Bingley has many small shops but sadly some of those going down towards the parish church now stand empty. If you feel you need the usual high-street names you will have to get the bus to Bradford.

Damart has a well-stocked mill shop - the place to go for good, sensible underwear. Amongst the handful of charity shops is Jubilee Outreach shop which also stocks Romanian crafts. There are a number of antique shops both in the town centre and surrounding district.

Opposite the Bradford and Bingley is the Myrtle Walk shopping centre, built in the 1970s and centred around a supermarket. Walk through to reach the market stalls and library.

old library
The Old Library

Don't be put off by the library entrance - upstairs you will find a bright interior with very helpful staff and a good selection of tourist leaflets.

John Braine, "angry young man" and author of Room at the Top was a librarian here. The library building that Braine knew is now used as a pub and a club.

The remains of a market hall, built in the 18th century, have been moved to a grassy area on the opposite side of Main Street. Here too are the village stocks and the old Butter Cross which may have marked the site of the medieval market.

The town does have a good choice of places to eat. We asked people in Bingley where they went to eat and drink. Ziggy's, a French restaurant on Main Street, was singled out for the friendliness of its staff and intimate atmosphere. The Memphis Belle, near the station, was recommended for its home-cooking.

Myrtle Grove, the new J.D. Wetherspoon pub, was thought to be a good place to both eat and drink. The Brown Cow is popular because of its atmosphere and real ale.

Attractions for younger people are not quite so apparant. One person did comment that the best place for them was on the bus out of town. The Daily Grind is an indoor skating area.

Bingley Arts Centre is the home of the Bingley Little Theatre, regularly hosting amateur dramatics as well as Gilbert and Sullivan and other musical events.

In the summer music can also occasionally be heard in nearby Myrtle Park. You can also picnic in the park or try the café next to the bowling green. The green formed the walled garden of an old house which is now the town hall. White rabbits and exotic birds, including a pekin robin, are kept in cages next to the café.

But what of the humble throstle or thrush? Unable to find any connection to the bird we turned to the secretary of the local history society who told us that the phrase came from a local poet. We do know, however, that the Airedale terrier was first bred here 150 years ago.

an old school building
An old school building, now being converted into apartments

While we found much to see on our stroll around the town. Bingley's best attraction may lie in just being a good place to live.

It is surrounded not only by attractive countryside, with the moors not too far away, but by substantial stone houses. Now derelict mill buildings are being converted into bijou waterside apartments.

And as for the queuing motorists, it looks as though the heavy through-traffic may soon disappear from the town centre as clearance work begins for the town's long-awaited relief road.

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