Todmorden Beach: The history behind Yorkshire's hidden beach - 1,100ft above sea level

Todmorden in Calderdale is a 50-mile drive from Blackpool, while the fastest route to Scarborough requires an additional 60 miles of driving in the other direction.

Little wonder, then, that on hot summer days those who live in the town (population 15,000) are prepared use a reservoir for which there is no car park and involves a climb to 1,148 feet above sea-level in search of a seaside-like experience.

Known locally as Todmorden, or “Tod”, Beach, sand stretches round parts of Gaddings Dam, on Langfield Common to the south of the town. Locals claim it is the highest bathing beach in England.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The most popular part is a triangle of sand occupying the north-east shore. The reservoir was initially a mill pond serving the cotton-spinning and weaving mills in the valley below.

Todmorden Beach. (Credit: Roger Ratcliffe)Todmorden Beach. (Credit: Roger Ratcliffe)
Todmorden Beach. (Credit: Roger Ratcliffe)

It was enlarged in 1883 but as the industry declined Gaddings’ importance as a water supply diminished and it fell into disuse.

Accessing it requires a 30 to 40-minute climb up a steep and in places eroded footpath. Whilst it can get crowded on summer weekends, the reservoir is also popular as a wild swimming location.

Some locals claim to take a dip every day of the year and there is a regular Saturday morning swimming club.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In 2001 a plan to drain Gaddings was fought by a community group, which bought the reservoir for £1,500.

However, there are numerous warning signs for bathers about the dangers of cold water, the absence of toilets, the risk of cars parked on the nearest country lane being towed away, and on-the-spot fines of £100 for lighting barbecues.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.