The sun and the heat were blazing down in Marsden.
It made it a perfect day for a trip along the Colne Valley’s real ale trail.
But scenes were more quiet than expected along the line, which over the last couple of years has became the focus of a co-ordinated police and community effort to put the brakes on unruly behaviour, which intensified after the show was given publicity on Oz Clarke and James May’s television show in 2010.
The publicity led to a surge in stag and hen parties and those more interested in the prospect of all day binge drinking rather than appreciation of the ale itself, as well as increases in complaints over noise, intimidating behaviour and urinating and vomiting in streets and front gardens.
Neighbourhood PC Mick Dobbie and two special officers, Sophie Hanley and Martin Fishpool, considered whether the calmer night was due to it being the perfect BBQ weather and summer holiday season or a sign that last year’s efforts were having a lasting affect.
They make up some of the team which patrols the Colne Valley stretch of the route in Marsden and Slaithwaite each weekend. In the past both villages have seen some of the rowdiest behaviour due to their position in the middle of the route.
PC Dobbie said: “It is quieter than expected, which could be down to the holiday season or it could be down to the co-ordinated response we and the community had last year.”
So far this year he says they have not had to make any arrests and have considerably rolled back their presence from 2013, when posses of mounted police became a common sight on Marsden’s narrow lanes, alongside bouncers on the doors of pubs who refused entry to those too worse for wear.
PC Dobbie said: “There were mixed feelings amongst the community about how appropriate the level of response by the police was last year.
“Some thought that the extra presence was good but some thought it was too much.
“So we listened to what they had to say and this time we have scaled our presence back, which we hope is creating the right balance and we’ve not needed the mounted police unit so far.
“We want people to enjoy themselves but at the same time protect the public from raucous behaviour.”
The team walked up to Marsden rail station in time to meet a group of around 30 ale trail revellers who were making their first stop in Yorkshire after travelling from nearby Greenfield.
Many headed to the Riverhead pub, one of the busiest watering holes in the village. It was here last year that, along with other pubs along the line who signed up to the Real Ale Trail Licensees (RATL) scheme, that manager Gary Brammall placed a ban on serving lager, shots and spirit doubles between noon and 8pm on Saturdays.
The sight of dozens of people holding glasses of lager in their hands, however, proved that no such measures have been taken yet this summer.
Gary said: “It does seem to be getting busier with the time of year but it’s still too early to tell if we will need to take more action such as putting the ban back in place, although at the moment we have no plans to.
“Touch wood so far we have had no issues but it is our policy to use the ban should the need arise.
“Working as a united front with West Yorkshire Police, British Transport Police, residents and councillors worked well last year and it did start to quieten down, although I’m not sure whether that was just because it was getting to the quieter season-these next few weeks of this summer will be the telling time to see if what we did last year has had a lasting effect.
“We think it’s important not to rest on our laurels and still need to keep getting the message home to visitors about respecting the village whilst having a good time.”
Shouts and chants were heard from the paved beer garden outside as someone dropped a glass but they were more indicative of high-spirited groups, who were probably suffering more from sunstroke than an inability to make the short walk back up the hill to their next stop.
Richard Hirst, who was with friends and has done the trail previously, said: “It’s not been too heavy-handed this time and the police are quite amicable- to me it seems to have calmed down from last year.”
Paul Smith, from Stockport, who was out with friends to celebrate his birthday, said: “It’s been great and there’s a good mix of people, however, we did spot someone urinating in public at Slaithwaite train station earlier.”
Another, Paul Henry, felt that there was no longer any need for the police presence at all.
But Off the Rails member Garry Johnson, who helped set up a neighbourhood watch with 52 houses, think that the police presence, along with the co-ordinated action, is still needed.
He said: “I don’t think that we’ve yet won the battle with anti social behaviour-I think that we just have to keep managing it and of course, we don’t want to stop it because it brings a lot of visitors into the pubs.”
“I think that so far this year there is a bit of a difference-I think that the numbers are less, especially in terms of stag and hen dos and not as many incidents yet as last year, such as those involving friends of mine who had their cars jumped on, but I think that there’s still a problem with residents not ringing crimes in when they happen, which we need to encourage them to do.”
Colne Valley MP, Jason McCartney, has also emphasised the need to keep up the engaged community response.
He took part in one of the several action days which have been put on by politicians, West Yorkshire Police and BTP already this year.
“Continued engagement by these different parts of the community is what it is all about, at the end of the day.
“It’s important that we don’t go off the boil and accidently let the trail become a big problem again.
“It should be an enjoyable trail but we have to keep trying to make sure that it doesn’t disrupt local lives.”
It seems that only time will really tell whether the community response has called lasting time on the more wayward aspects of the ale trail or not.