The hijacking of the Transpennine Rail Ale Trail.

ale-trail-meeting-Sept-2012I completed the Transpennine Rail Ale Trail on Saturday in the company of the lads from the brewery, on our Christmas do! It was a good day but a Saturday wasn’t the best day for us to lose our Rail Ale Ears, as our trip was blighted by the sheer number on this ale excursion.

The Station bars were all excellent, the pubs and plastic glasses not so and the ale quality varied, (that is when we finally got served). Perhaps I’m just getting old but it really isn’t that much fun, standing, sardined in a train carriage, the air thick with farts and booze, with fat, half-dressed mutton and boorish women drinking Koppaberg and such like & can drinking tribal men been there usual stupid fucking selves.

The Trail was originally designed so Real Ale drinkers could sample some of the area’s best brews without having to drive. However thanks to the first episode of the 2009 BBC TV series, Oz and James Drink to Britain, in which, Oz Clarke and James May followed the Ale Trail, the route has since exploded in popularity and been hijacked, mainly at weekends, by binge non-ale drinking tribes and hen, stag, office and birthday parties, who are now spoiling the experience for the majority of decent Real Ale enthusiasts.

At 5.45p.m on a mid-Winter Saturday night, on Marsden’s west bound platform, three years ago, you would have been lucky to see one man and his dog alight from the Manchester bound train. On Saturday, at this time, say 100 people, mostly men, but with a good cohort of women, spilt out onto the short, narrow platform and boisterously and nosily swayed down the slope and hill to Marsden’s pubs. For they’re on the Ale Trail, a rail tour of trackside bars and pubs from Stalybridge to Batley or in reverse and determined to have a drink laden good time.

The trail has clearly brought a welcome boost to what were primarily village pubs in Mirfield, Marsden, Slaithwaite and Greenfield but at what price. I read local residents are now regularly complaining about the noise, litter and drinkers urinating in public view and last year meetings between agencies, including police, rail operators and Kirklees Council, were called to tackle the increasing problem. Now British Transport Police are tasked every weekend with riding the Ale Trail and there was also on Saturday a noticeable Police presence at Huddersfield Station. That is what it has come to.

Whilst I can understand the appeal to people from the surrounding areas, the fact that stag and hen parties from Southern England now make the journey up north just for this train ride, is frankly incredible. Though the bars and pubs on the line are good they’re not so special they deserve that much effort to see them. Simply it must be the lemming approach as I’m sure many local stopping services across the country could provide a simple beer trail. And if one is happy to drink anything, like many of those now on the Trans Pennine Rail Ale Trail then it most definitely can be done from most local trains.

I’d do the Ale Trail again for sure but only on a weekday to hopefully get served in proper glasses and with no crowds.


13 Responses to “The hijacking of the Transpennine Rail Ale Trail.”

  1. Simon Greenwood Says:

    Huddersfield Town were away to Derby on Saturday, which was probably the reason for the police at Huddersfield station rather than the rail trail. However, my experience, particularly of the Riverhead in Marsden is that weekends are ridiculous and every train does bring another carriage full of drinkers down to the place.

  2. Mike Roebuck Says:

    I sympathise; it’s got so bad that most of us regulars at the West Riding Licensed Refreshment Rooms in Dewsbury drink elsewhere on Saturdays. I’ll be doing the trail this coming Saturday with a group of real-ale drinking friends, but I’m not really looking forward to it.

    On the up side, though, the crowds have provided much-needed income for the pubs and has almost certainly saved at least one of them from probable closure.

  3. Tom Says:

    Totally agree with this. I did the Ale Trail in summer 2010, on a Saturday and it was pretty busy but it did seem to be people who were there to appreciate the ale on offer, even if some were dressed up.

    I went again last year and it was like being in Blackpool, just awful. However, as you say, I would very much like to do that during the week – or select an alternative route, like staying east of Huddersfield, or the Caldervale line (Tod, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Sowerby Bridge etc).Even if an Ale Trail on those routes became popular it’d be better because the trains are more frequent. It’s the hourly train and resulting lack of flexibility about when to go to the next pub that make it terrible!

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  5. Simon Jackson Says:


    I used to do this Ale Trail before it became popular and I didn’t realise how lucky i was, it was a great day out, until it was on the TV with James May and Oz Clark, that has totally destroyed what was a good Ale Trail.

    I have done it during the week and it is actually still worth doing as you visit some great pubs and it easy to get served and you are not surrounded by teens getting wasted on stella. I too might be getting too old, but if I wanted ‘Blackpool’ I would go there.

    I have recently done the Huddersfield to Sheffield Trail, lots of pubs and at present an unspoilt jem.

  6. katie Says:

    I can’t believe how many people do the ale trail now. I have done it myself with friends, but on the last few occasions it hasn’t been very enjoyable. It has become too difficult to get served, too hard to enjoy company of friends, as the louts around you are too busy disturbing everyone else. Even when not on the trail itself, getting the train into Manchester on a Saturday afternoon is really quite an unpleasant experience!

    Not sure if I would do the trail again any time soon…maybe in a few might have died down by then!

  7. Mike Renshaw Says:

    It is interesting to see that the pubs on the route have now decided just to serve beer, serious no more lager, wine, spirits, alcopops… fantastic, they are also not serving anyone in fancy dress or on hen and stag do’s, they are wanting to reclaim it as a real ale trail. I think some of this is to stop the law taking it into their own hands and banning (closing pubs totally / or stopping trains). Better to have 50% of something than 100% of nothing.

    I can see a bit of hassle though when a stag do turns up out of the blue and they get told to go back to shameless land, think they will cause issues. Good effort from the pubs though.

  8. Says:

    I think this is on Saturday’s only initially – see how it goes – can only be for the good.

  9. Walter Says:

    I’ve just come across this article while trying to arrange this trip with a few mates.

    Should I bother?

    It sounds like I’ll come across the sort of people I’d like to drown.

  10. Simon Jackson Says:

    Walter I wouldn’t bother, perhaps in a few years when it’s died down.

    If you want to go on an #AleTrail it’s worth devising your own, although I did do the (Tod, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Sowerby Bridge, Halifax) last week and it was really good, not busy, pubs with good beer and not too busy.

    Be good to hear your thoughts if you go on the Caldervale line, while it’s still not too busy.

  11. Phil Shaw Says:

    I live in Slaithwaite “Slawit”. The ale trail was a fabulous day out a few years ago and much welcomed by the locals as it brought in a lot of money, but it went crazy. A day out plaqued by public urinating, trespassing in residents gardens and full blown nonsense by idiots who have indeed “hijacked” this trail.
    This article is one of the best things I’ve read in regards to the transpennine ale trail. It’s accurate and fair.
    It is nothing but trouble now and heavily policed. There are special officers out working undercover to make arrests now that West Yorkshire Police have decided to throw tons of resource into cleaning up the mess.
    There are a lot of locals who hate it. I take a different view that people are welcome to come to Slaithwaite if they behave. In reality this is really hard as one or two idiots tend to bring down the rest of them. If one of them starts urinating in the street it tends to send a signal that its ok for others to do it.
    I don’t want to run down the village I grew up in and discourage people from visiting but I’ve got to be honest there are so many other good trails out there now that this one doesn’t deserve all the attention it deserves. I believe in healthy competition and I’ve got to say as a real ale drinker myself I tried the Hebden Bridge trail last weekend suggested by this article and had a fabulous day out. Well worth it.
    I got back home at around 7:30pm to find 3 lads urinating on my street. I thought to myself thank god I went over to Hebden for the day to get out of the chaos. Furthermore I finished my day out over there with a shot of Whiskey something you can’t do here anymore.

  12. Adam Says:

    Just go on a weekday, or a Sunday. It’s great.

  13. Matt Andrews Says:

    Great article.
    I and a group of friends/family decided we would like to do the trail for xmas a few years back. I was tasked with arranging it. I read up and found it had been hijacked by stag/hen do’s, office parties, etc etc.
    Because of this I decided to pick an alternative route and organise my own. We all live in and around Leeds so Leeds station provides a good starting point and a few alternative routes.
    2012: Settle, Skipton, Connenly, Bingley, Saltaire, Leeds.
    2013: Malton, York, Knaresborough, Harrogate, leeds.
    2014: Ribblehead, Giggleswick, Settle, Skipton, Leeds.
    All these are full of real ale pubs, friendly locals, welcoming staff, good fun and conversation, plenty of room on the trains and plenty of service. No idiots in sight!
    2015: Probably the calderdale line, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Sowerby Bridge, poss Halifax, (hence how I came across this article).
    It just takes a bit of effort planning the stops because you do have to walk a short while to some of the pubs, but it’s very much worth it, we have sampled some fabulous local ales in some great pubs.
    I’m very happy to pass on any help/recommendations if anyone wants to try these worthwhile alternatives. Not sure if it will let you but my e-mail is :

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