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Holmfirth is a rewarding little town to peruse, with plenty of old-fashioned stores and trendy boutiques and craft shops © travellight, Shutterstock
Last of the Summer Wine country and doorstep to some magnificent moorland wildernesses.
Little Hollywood, Last of the Summer Wine and yellow bicycles – they’re all part of Holmfirth in the Holme Valley. This little Yorkshire town, tucked into a wooded dale on the eastern fringe of the Peak District, couldn’t be more removed from the bright lights of Hollywood – but it does share a history in movie making. Most people have heard of Last of the Summer Wine (Britain’s longest-running television sitcom), portraying an old-fashioned if slightly barmy idyll. But not many know that Holmfirth was home to one of the earliest film studios in the world, with Bamforth & Co producing comedy films here as early as 1898. Son of a Holmfirth painter and decorator, James Bamforth continued the family tradition in painting – but pictures rather than houses. He went on to produce painted lantern slides, eventually replacing them with photographs. It was a natural progression for Bamforth to move from photography to film, grabbing unsuspecting townspeople to star in a string of successful movies.
It was the cheeky seaside postcard, not the silent movies, that made Bamforth’s name, however. By 1960, the company led the market in comic postcards. Holmfirth Library on Huddersfield Road displays a small collection of the naughty postcards on its stairway, with their double entendres, outsized women and henpecked men. The schoolboy humour and barely veiled sexism seems somewhat old-fashioned now, but the cards were hugely popular in their heyday.
In the Information Centre next to the library, you can pick up the Holmfirth Blue Plaque Trail and a Last of the Summer Wine leaflet to guide you around town. The Last of the Summer Wine legacy is more visible than the Bamforth one and includes everything from Sid’s Café at Towngate to Nora Batty’s Steps (a holiday cottage on Scarfold) just along from The Wrinkled Stocking, an old-fashioned café with good-value and tasty food. The Last of the Summer Wine Exhibition on Scarfold is filled with photographs, Summer Wine paraphernalia and some of Compo, Clegg, Foggy and Seymour Utterwaithe’s daft inventions. For real devotees, the Summerwine Magic Tour starts from Sid’s Café, winding ten miles through hill and dale to various film locations.
Just potter through the streets, taking a random left or right. Holmfirth is not just a film set, but a traditional northern working-class town. Standing side by side with the boutiques and cosy tea rooms are old-fashioned stores, little changed since Holmfirth’s mill days. Call into the Ashley Jackson Gallery on the Huddersfield Road, the paintings here capturing the haunting beauty of the Dark Peak surrounding the town. It’s not just the larger-than-life Summer Wine characters that have left their mark on Holmfirth; the yellow bicycles, synonymous with the 2014 Tour de France, still hang brightly above shop windows, and even though the Yorkshire Grand Départ is fast becoming a distant memory, the buzz in town remains with the bicycles. Holmfirth also has its share of excellent festivals, from the Festival of Folk (with music and dancing) and Film Festival in May to the Arts Festival in June, Holmfirth Art Week and Duck Race in July, as well as the Food and Drink Festival in September.