I would have liked to take a stroll around Bradford months before the city was chosen as the UK 2025 City of Culture. I am thrilled with the town of Cinderella in West Yorkshire and hope a year in the sun will allow it to showcase its industrial history, architectural heritage. , youth and multicultural mix. The last time Bradford culture made headlines nationwide was when the London V&A stole the National Media Museum’s photography collections.
When it came to planning a walk, there was an overflow of options. Haworth to the city center was an obvious contender, but I recently took a wilder walk near Brontë Country, and the path to the city passed through fields of farmers and a golf club. A walk from Leeds would remind me of the trips I had taken when I lived in Armley in the 1990s, but it could be heavy with traffic as well as nostalgia. When I came across an online database of 92 walks to and from Bradford, they all looked beautiful.
The answer came when I visited Saltaire to see David Hockney’s A Year in Normandie, 90 meters long. It’s a fabulous place – a model village and an example of caring capitalism – and Salts Mill has been revisited with particular attention. A glance at a map revealed that Saltaire, just four miles north of the city as the crow flies, would also be a great place to start a stroll.
I normally walk alone, but I did so with an old friend, Post Office (a college-time nickname since he had previously worked for the GPO), who had been hired by Bradford Council for the City of Culture offer. Like me, he believes the city is hugely undervalued, not least by its inhabitants.
As we exited Saltaire towards Northcliffe Park, I looked back at the view. The steep valley of the River Aire, with its densely wooded flanks, defies any sense of being on the outskirts. Bradford covers 141 square miles and includes many hills and moors. I can’t imagine a more picturesque topography for a city.
The city was built on wool but exploited other raw materials before the factory system made the textile sector the most profitable sector. From the early 17th century, the area now occupied by Northcliffe Park was mainly coal mines and quarries from which the hammer-coated sandstone you see adorning the local terraced houses was obtained. Its meadows and woods are located on a slope, along which we rushed towards Frizinghall (named after the rough woolen cloth called frieze). We drove through streets, ginnels and residential fringes to keep off the A650, until we came across a long path that took us to Lister Park.
Bradford was the center of global worsted trade. The streets of Manningham were as grand as anywhere in the country
This large Victorian park was created in 1870, when the Bradford Corporation bought it for half its royal value from mill magnate Samuel Cunliffe Lister. He was an avid patron of the arts and there are important works by Victorian and more modern artists – including a section of Hockney – in the park’s Cartwright Hall civic art gallery, which honors the memory of Edmund Cartwright, inventor of the electric loom.
Around the edge of the park in the Manningham area are towering wool merchants’ houses, elegant townhouses and townhouses where the mills once lived. The former are a powerful reminder that when we talk about Bradford’s past record, we are not talking about anything relative; it was the center of world trade in worsted yarn, the best long staple yarn. The streets of Manningham were as grand as any of the country’s.
Post tells me that champagne company Pol Roger asked the city council to look for vintage corks while undertaking remanufacturing work, because Bradford was the UK’s main market for Churchill’s favorite fizz at the time. A £ 650,000 refurbishment project has transformed Lister Park into an urban idyll and the stepped landscape makes the most of West Yorkshire’s contours.
New mosques compete with old mills in Bradford’s messy outer edges
There is a dramatic feeling of descending into a town as you leave Manningham. New mosques compete with old mills on the messy outer edges of Bradford proper. Victorian terraces lean on modern developments that mimic the color of older buildings, if not their cornices and embellishments. I saw the tubular roof trusses of Valley Parade, Bradford City’s stadium, at the far end of a messy view. The cobblestones survive along the alleys that lead to light industrial workshops and garages. It was the most ordinary of arrivals, yet it had a romance quality.
Inner-city Bradford is a work in progress. It is not a criticism. There is a tangible spirit of energy, in the encounters of people walking, shopping and sitting around chatting, and in various ongoing developments, most notably the Bradford Live project (a 3,800-seat music venue in the former Odeon cinema ) and the new Darley Street Market, scheduled to open in September 2023.
Post showed me the office where he worked at Bradford City Hall, a stunning tenement house that blends Queen Anne’s Gothic, Romanesque and Gothic styles into what is among the UK’s most interesting civic buildings. It’s great to see work is underway to expand the esplanade in front of the City Hall, transforming a center that once looked like a huge traffic island into an airy, car-free space. The first phase, Piazza del Centenario, already seems – on a sunny day – almost European.
We ended our main walk at Sparrow, a decidedly contemporary bar on the trendy North Parade. But afterwards Post insisted on showing me two more places: Bradford’s famous Waterstones, housed in the old Wool Exchange, and the Little Germany protected area, which looks more Italian than German.
The streets were used as a backdrop in Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders and Gentleman Jack. When we arrived, a large crew was busy shooting an adaptation of Si Spencer’s time travel graphic novel, Bodies, set in London. You can pinch photos of him, but you can’t take away Bradford’s enduring and evocative built environment.
Google map of the route
Start Saltaire train station
end The sparrow
Distance 6 miles
Total climb 245 meters
Time 3 hours with stops
The Sparrow epitomizes the new Bradford and is part of a thriving strip of trendy cafes, bars and restaurants on North Parade. Opened in 2011 by Les Hall and Mark Husak (who later opened the chain of Indian street food restaurants Bundobust) to showcase craft beers and specialty beers, it soon attracted the attention of Camra and the Good Beer Guide. It is now owned by the Kirkstall Brewery, which worked with the previous owners and carried out a complete renovation in 2018.
There is a Three Swords extra light beer (4.5%), ideal for summer afternoons, and a 3.7% Sparrow amaro, and many cask and keg rotating beers and bottled Belgian beers. The walls are laden with Bradford City memorabilia and beer-themed mirrors and scarves – match days are busy. The food is bites for now, including meat and cheese dishes. Pork pies are very popular.
By 2025, Bradford will have to offer visitors more than the current dozen faded chains and large hotels; reports on a project to transform part of the Wool Exchange into an “art” boutique hotel are promising. For now, Bradford Digs, an uniquely decorated guesthouse southwest of the city center, is cozy and offers great value for money. Owner Irene has traveled extensively (as her colorful plaids, lamps and ornaments indicate) and very welcoming. There are only two double bedrooms (shared bathroom), with wifi, TV and kettle, plus a self contained two bedroom apartment with kitchen, living room and bathroom.
Double from £ 46 B&B