A hot and totally clear day, and a mad idea to explore to the west of Dewsbury saw me setting out from Dewsbury station. The route was initially along the the Spen Valley Greenway, which took me along the river for a while. Then, I had to cross the river on a fine old railway bridge which was also part of the greenway. Then I doubled back along the canal to the locks where it branches from the river.
The next section along the river past the power station was hard work, and I'm not entirely sure if it's a right of way for bikes, not that anybody seems to care. If you wanted to avoid this, there is a bridleway running by the railway line. Eventually, I joined a small quite road which took me to Mirfield. I then joined a newish cycleway which was both pleasant and busy with other cyclist (and much faster going than the towpath), which arrived on the Huddersfield Broad Canal near the junction with the Calder and Hebble.
Please note: It seems that offically cycling is not permitted along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Plnety of people do cycle along it, and there doesn't seem to be a problem. Just be sensible and polite when on the canal, especially the busier sections.
Some easy and pleasant cycling along the canal brought me into the Huddersfield, where old mills replaced the countryside. In the centre of Huddersfield, the canal runs through a tunnel, which required a short diversion onto a busy road. Once back on the canal, I got up to speed. The canal was very busy with walkers, anglers and other cyclists, enjoying the very rural setting of the canal, which slowed things down. The canal was flat between locks, but the frequent locks every 1/4 mile or so and short inclines on the two path meant I was steadily gaining altitude.
At Marsden the canal plunges into a long and deep tunnel under the Pennines. For a 200 year old structure it's quite an engineering marvel. Oddly enough the train line I'd use to back passes through a tunnel which runs alongisde the canal tunnel. After a brief rest to gain energy, I set off up the road which then joined the A62. The road wasn't that busy, although the was a constant buzz of high speed motorbikes going over the summit. The climb wasn't particularly steep but long with a altitude gain of near 200 metres. Once clear of the summit, I headed down the bridleway (part of the Pennine Bridleway) towards Diggle, The surface was quite rocky and fun to ride in places, making it a nice relief for seasoned mountain bike riders, but unsuitable for hybrid bikes., although there is a road based alternative to this section.
At Diggle I rejoined the canal. The upper section of the canal was open, busy with walkers and flowed nicely downhill as it passed a series of locks. Below Uppermill, the canal towpath was closed, so I ended up making a rather poorly executed diversion onto a local cycleway. I didn't have a map, nor was the diversion signposted. The correct way is marked on the route map, if the canal towpath is still closed. After a nice section of cycleway along an old railway, I rejoined the canal. The canalside was still green and rural, although the surrounding valley was becoming visibly more urbanised. At Stalybridge, I decided to press on to Manchester. If you were pushed for time you could head for the station and a train back to Dewsbury at this point.
Beyond Stalybridge the canal carried on much the same. Flat sections, interspersed with locks. The surroundings of the canal had become a mix of residential and industrial buildings, both new and old. Although less pleasant than the countryside, it was an interesting ride all the same. The Huddersfield Narrow Canal ends in Aston, at a junction, but you only need to carry straight on over the canal branching to the right to carry on towards Manchester centre. As central Manchester came into view, new buildings from the regeneration of Manchester came into view, including the large Manchester City Stadium, the velodrome and numerous apartment blocks, although the canal. It's interesting to see the photos from Virtual Earth which are a few years old, and don't show any of the new buildings, just bare cleared ground. Once past the stadium, it's only a 1 1/2 to were the canal ends in a canal basin, and if you follow the signs, you find Piccadilly Station not far away.
Trains from Manchester to Dewsbury are pretty frequently, although sometimes if have to change in Huddersfield, as not all trains stop at Dewsbury. Theoretically you have to book the bike onto the train 24 hours in advance, but I didn't have a problem just turning up. If you find yourself in Huddersfield station waiting for a connecting train, a nice refreshing beer at the Head of Steam is well worth crossing the platform for.