There’s much at Shibden Park in Halifax: a children’s adventure play area, cafe, boating lake, miniature railway, land train, children’s rides, ducks to feed, and huge gardens so all ages can explore or enjoy picnics. Of course, there’s also its history dating back to 1420 with Shibden Hall, Gentleman Jack – Anne Lister and Ann Walker.
What is at Shibden?
Free to enter and with inexpensive car park charges, there is something for everyone of all ages at Shibden Park including mothers with pushchairs, wheelchair users, energetic children, dating couples, wedding planners, history buffs, Dry Stone Wall Learners, Gentleman Jack enthusiasts, TV and film set aficionados, the LGBT community, walkers, coffee drinkers, breakfast eaters and diners throughout the day.
We show you here the best place to park, the stylish cafe, boating lake, picnic areas, wildlife, miniature railway, land train, children’s rides, adventure playground, gardens, woodlands, and tunnel.
We explain Shibden’s heritage, plus highlight Shibden’s baby changing and disabled facilities so you can really enjoy your time and Shibden Park in Halifax.
Whether you go to Shibden Park for recreation, history, or heritage we’ll help you get the most out of your visit.
Where is Shibden?
Shibden Park sat nav HX3 6XL and Shibden Hall are in historical Halifax, located in the geographical centre of the UK, approximately 200 miles from London, 200 miles from Edinburgh, 50 miles from York, 30 miles from Manchester and 20 miles from Leeds. For directions and travel options, use our interactive map below.
Shibden Park Sat/Nav Parking
For Shibden Park SatNav Parking use Shibden Park Mereside Car Park, 3 Red Beck Rd, Halifax HX3 6XL, England. This large lower car park is best for the café, boating lake, playgrounds, miniature train and disabled access to Shibden Park grounds. For direct disabled access into Shibden Hall’s interior rooms, use the Upper Car Park.
Shibden Park Baby Changing Facilities
Shibden Park baby changing facilities are available in the toilets at the Mereside Car Park / Mereside Coffee Culture Cafe Red Beck Rd, Halifax HX3 6XL and Shibden Hall Upper Car Park Halifax HX3 7XA. Additional toilet facilities are located by Shibden Park’s children’s playground/boathouse.
Buses from Halifax to Shibden Park
Shibden Park from Halifax is only a 4-minute bus ride. Buses run very frequently from Halifax bus station – most services run every 20 minutes. Services include 548, 549 and 508.
For Shibden Park Sat Nav Parking use Shibden Park Mereside Car Park, 3 Red Beck Rd, Halifax HX3 6XL (the car park bottom right, by lake and cafe)
There are 32 hectares (79 acres) of informal park and woodland, which have won the Green Heritage Award.
The Mereside Cafe
The Shibden Mereside Cafe – Coffee Culture – is set in a stylishly furnished contemporary eco-friendly building in a beautiful position overlooking the boating lake, miniature railway and parkland. The cafe at Shibden Park is immediately next to the Mereside car park, sat-nav HX3 6XL.
Coffee Culture Cafe at Shibden Park is near the boating lake and miniature railway:
Coffee Culture Cafe at Shibden Park and Land Train
The Café offers an opportunity to enjoy breakfast, a meal, a snack, or just a cup of coffee while enjoying the beautiful view of the park and boating lake. The cafe at Shibden Park is dog friendly. The land train also passes by on its tour of Shibden Park.
The Shibden Park cafe also has plenty of outdoor benches available on the decking and grassed areas overlooking the miniature railway, boating lake and parkland.
The cafe at Shibden Park also has flexible and adaptable Function Rooms with perfect settings for events of all kinds including work or hobby meetings, conferences, children’s parties, wedding receptions, christenings, and other celebrations. In December the cafe at Shibden Park provides Christmas meals for groups of all sizes.
Shibden Park Cafe sat nav HX3 6XL – To reserve a table inside or enquire about functions Tel: 01422382959.
Shibden Park Cafe Opening Times
Monday – Friday 9.30-4.00pm
Saturday and Sunday 9.00am – 5.00pm
Shibden Park Miniature Railway
Weather permitting, the Shibden Park Miniature Railway is open on weekends and bank holidays throughout the year, and daily during school holidays. Children under one year ride free. Shibden Park’s miniature railway is located by the Mereside Car Park (sat nav HX3 6XL), the boating lake and the cafe. Contact Tel:07854658635
Shibden’s Locomotives are called Emily Grey (built 2014) and Jake Thomas (built 2012) Children under one year ride free
Shibden Park – Miniature Railway
Shibden Park’s Miniature Railway trains run through the picnic area and woods and over two bridges that cross the Red Beck and through a tunnel. Children and adults alike enjoy the fun!
Picnics at Shibden Park
Can I bring my own food to Shibden park? Yes! There are seats throughout the extensive parklands and picnic benches by the miniature railway in the wooded area, with takeaway drinks and ice creams available from the nearby cafe.
Shibden Park Children’s Playground
There’s an extensive adventure playground at Shibden Park, Halifax. Playground facilities at Shibden include a castle with climbing nets, house dens, a swinging bird’s nest basket, slides, rocking animals, a wobbly car, a zip wire, a climbing frame and traditional swings.
There’s also a small fairground-type attraction site near the boating lake with a small teacup ride and a bungee trampoline. Of course, there are also acres of parkland at Shibden for all ages to play and run around on.
Shibden Park Boating Lake
Shibden Park – rent a rowing boat or pedalo
Things to do at Shibden Park’s Boating Lake
- See the ducks, ducklings and coots. Take bird-friendly food for all the waterfowl, not bread
- See Lucy the swan and her signets
- Hire a rowing boat or pedalo (some pedalos are suitable for one child)
- Stroll or exercise around the lakeside path that loops Shibden Mere
- Have a picnic, people watch and see the ducks, ducklings and swans and signets
- Learn about the Shibden Mere’s history
Hire a Rowing Boat or Pedalo
Shibden Hall’s Boating Lake has rowing boats for up to 6 people – prices start from £4 and increase by £1 per person. They also hire large pedalos for £6.
Shibden Boating lake has small pedalos for children aged 4to 10 years that cost £2.50 for one child, and £3.50 for two sharing, – the kids have their own secure section of the lake and the boats are hand pedalled.
Shibden Park Boating Lake takes both card and cash payments.
Shibden’s larger boats are hired for 30 minutes and the peddle boats for 15 minutes.
From left to right: A female mallard (brown) and two male mallard ducks
See the Types of Birds on Shibden Park Lake
What birds are there at Shibden Park Boating Lake? The lake at Shibden is home to a variety of birds at different times throughout the year, so see if you can spot any of the following when you visit:
Mallards are known as the ‘dabbling duck’ because they feed upon the water surface and do not often dive. The Mallard is probably the best-known and most recognisable of all ducks.
The tufted duck is a medium-sized diving duck – it has a black head neck breast and back whitesides a small crest and yellow eyes.
The moorhen is a medium-sized ground-dwelling bird usually found near the water. It has a red bill with a yellow tip and likes to eat water plants, seeds, fruit, grasses, insects, snails and worms.
The coot is all black and larger than its cousin, the moorhen. It has a distinctive white beak with a shield above from which it turns the title bold it can be quite aggressive towards other birds. Coots eat vegetation, snails and insect larvae.
This is a large goose with a distinctive black head and neck and a large white throat patch. They often form noisy flocks. They like to feed on roots, grass, leaves and seeds.
Swans glide majestically when swimming and fly with slow wingbeats, with their necks outstretched. No other waterfowl moves as fast on the water or in the air. The female swan at Shibden is called Lucy.
12 Duck Facts For Kids
- Ducks have webbed feet to help them swim
- Ducklings younger than 10 days tend to swim and walk as a group close to their mother, to help avoid attack by predators
- Mallard ducks live 5 to 10 years in the wild and over 8 years in captivity
- Ducks eat grain, seeds, nuts, fruit, insects, water plants and even small fish
- Ducks have very good eyesight and can see through almost 360°
- Ducks are social creatures, they live in groups called rafts or teams
- Ducks have highly waterproof feathers which interlock together and they have a waxy coating
- Ducks don’t have teardrops which is why they have to live near water
- Duck feathers are covered in oil which comes from a gland at the base of their tail
- Look out for curly tail feathers to help sort out the ducks from the drakes – the male drakes tend to have curly tail feathers
- Ducks have been used to create many cartoon characters including Walt Disney’s Donald Duck and Warner Brothers’ Daffy Duck.
- Unlike chickens, where the males are the noisy ones, the female ducks are normally the noisiest
A mother duck with her raft of 10 ducklings at Shibden Park, Halifax
Anne Lister and Shibden Boating Lake
Shibden Park boating lake or ‘mere’ is nearly 150 metres long and 37 metres wide was created by John Harper, Anne Lister’s (Gentleman Jack) architect in 1836 by diverting water from the Red Beck to form the lake that resembles a wide river when viewed from Shibden Hall.
Water flows back into the red beck via a cascade at the boathouse end of the lake – the drop in level allowed Anne Lister to harness the water power to run machinery at Mytholme, further down the valley towards Hippeholme.
Shibden Park Garden, Cascade and Lily Pond
This area is known as the wilderness garden and was a major and important part of Anne Lister’s developments of the grounds at Shibden. In contrast to the Formal Terrace adjacent to Shibden Hall, this strikingly different Informal Garden and Cascade very much reflect the fashion of the period for rugged yet romantic and picturesque landscaping – reminiscent of a Scottish landscape. Anne Lister often referred to the wilderness garden as ‘The Glen’.
The wilderness cascade was designed and constructed by Samuel Gray in 1836. Gray’s expertise in garden design and construction was well recognised – he was widely praised for his work on the grotto at the Coliseum in London’s Regent Park, and the cascade and fountains at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire.
Shibden Park Cascade
The cascade at Shibden Park was designed to enhance the valley and the view from the front of Shibden Hall. Water from the cascade was channelled through a tunnel from a feeder pond in Cunnery Wood.
Although not an unusual project of its time, it was an immense task, constructed from huge pieces of stone varying in size from 5 to 7 tonnes which had to be lifted into place using a tripod and pulley system – Anne Lister’s diary records her nightmare about a great stone falling down.
Shibden Park – Lily Pond
The Lily pond was a later addition to the landscape at Shibden by Dr. John Lister in 1855. He planted the edges with ferns and foliage, which were fashionable at the time, and other water plants. The pond is home to sticklebacks, tadpoles, frogs, toads and water boatmen.
Shibden Estate’s Cunnery Wood was home to a rabbit warren providing a source of meat for Shibden Hall. Cunnery Wood was the home of the estate kitchen garden and is now a local nature reserve and is in the process of being restored by volunteers. Cunnery Wood also had a pit shaft for one of Anne Lister’s coal mines, which has now been filled in.
Access to Cunnery Wood from Shibden Hall and Shibden Park is through the tunnel near the cascade and lily pond at Shibden park (called the Dry Tunnel) when unlocked, or by crossing Lister’s Road by Shibden Hall’s Upper Car Park.
The surface entrance to Cunnery Wood and the ancient Wakefield Gate (Magna Via) route via Southowram is opposite Shibden Hall’s Upper Car Park exit
The Formal Garden Terrace at Shibden
The formal garden terrace in front of Shibden Hall’s entrance and overlooked by Anne Lister’s bedroom dates back to 1836. The formal garden terrace is one of the key developments designed by John Harper, the York architect commissioned by Anne Lister to undertake improvements at Shibden.
Formal Garden Terrace at Shibden – photo taken prior to spring planting of the Paisley Shawl Garden
From the original sloping landscape, the terrace was raised and levelled to provide an elevated platform and panoramic viewpoint. The parapets were decorated with impressive millstone grit urns and a lion (the Shibden emblem). The huge urns added considerable scale to the terrace, visible from a long distance.
Shibden Bastion with gardeners’ tunnel-
gives the impression of a castle
The construction of the Formal Garden Terrace also served to create the impression of a castle. A spiral staircase was built into the bastion tower on the southeast corner of the terrace walls to provide access to the parkland below. A tunnel was installed, running from the bastion and providing unseen access for gardeners between the estate kitchens and the grounds. At the west end of the formal garden terrace, a flight of stairs connects the lawn with a path leading to the Wilderness Garden area.
In 1855, Dr. John Lister employed William Berry of Halifax to layout an ornamental flower garden, using a design by Joshua Major, a renowned plantsman who rose to fame after winning a competition to design the Manchester parks in the 1840s. The result was known as the Paisley Shaw Garden. This is an intricate serpentine bed with four hearts in the corners and an ornamental central fountain. Paisley designs were based on Kashmiri shawls that featured a distinctive Teardrop pattern that was adapted by weavers in Paisley, Scotland, in the late 1700s. Dr. John Lister also built a lean-to-conservatory which became the Orchard House.
The Shibden Lion
The Shibden Lion was carved from millstone grit. It was made for Anne Lister in the 1830s during her period of alterations and improvements. It incorporates the Lister family coat of arms with 3 stars.
In 1996 the Lister Lion was stolen. Eventually, it was tracked down to Sotherby’s Auctions in Sussex and returned to Shibden Hall. The Lister Lion statue was restored and on the 8th of May 2008, it was unveiled by the Duke of Kent. It now stands on the west side of the Shibden Hall near Anne Lister’s gothic tower.
There is also a splendid carved example of the Lister Lion incorporated into the Housebody room’s staircase inside Shibden Hall.
Interestingly, also with 3 stars, Yorkshire’s Selby Abbey’s Washington Window has the heraldic arms of President George Washington’s English ancestors depicted in stained glass.
President George Washington’s family originally immigrated from England in 1657, starting with John Washington, the great-great-grandfather of President George Washington, who served as a ship’s second officer.
Stars were comparatively rare in European heraldry during the medieval period. Because of the Washington connection, Selby Abbey (38 miles by car to the east of Shibden) is on the ‘American Trail’ of attractions around the UK with strong American historical connections.
Bankfield Museum in Halifax houseshttps://www.planplacestovisit.com/weekend-in-halifax-town-centre-where-to-go/ the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment Museum which has connections with the American Civil War including New York (1776-1779) and the Carolinas (1790). Anne Lister’s father Captain Jeremy Lister was a British officer during the early days of the American Revolution.
Shibden West Terrace
The West Terrace at Shibden was constructed by John Harper as part of the improvements in 1836. Surrounded by mature trees, the terraces are cut into the natural slope of the landscape and have stone retaining walls.
The terrace has been replanted to recreate an orchard and features some historic varieties of fruit trees including Golden Pippin, Lemon Pippin, Golden Russet and Hereford Pearman apple trees and Catillac and Black Worcester pear trees.
The orchard is also home to other varieties of fruit trees which were common in the 1700s, especially those with Yorkshire origins such as Flower of the Town and Fillingham Pippin apples, plus Portugal Quince, and Red Filbert (or Hazelnut) trees.
Today, there is also bench seating in this quiet area, and you can look over to the Parkland, Shibden Hall, Wilderness Garden and Cascade.
Drystone Walls at Shibden
The top entrance to the Drystone Walling Exhibit is by the Upper Car Park on Lister’s Road, where spectacular conical cairns mark the entrance. The lower entrance is marked by closely dressed square-topped pillars.
It is a permanent exhibit at Shibden Park and demonstrates all the skills of the Master Craftsman dry stone waller and interprets the characteristics and the practical applications of the craft of dry stone walling in the landscape.
For those interested in seeing expert demonstrations of the craft, the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes puts on events. To see our comprehensive article about the Dry Stone Walling Exhibition at Shibden Park, click here.
Shibden Park Adney Bridge and Shibden Park Gatehouse
Adney Bridge, built and named by Anne Lister, is a small bridge in Shibden Park allowing access via the carriage drive to the Gatehouse from Shibden Hall.
Adney was the nickname that Anne Lister (Gentleman Jack) gave her wife, Ann Walker. The first time we know that Anne called Ann Walker ”Adney” was in a letter written to her aunt Anne lister on 13 June 1834. Anne Lister mentioned the name of Adney throughout her diary entries, which cover their intimate relationship.
Adney Bridge at Shibden Park
Access via Radcliffe Way to the Gatehouse
Anne Lister and Ann Walker, nicknamed Adney, took the sacrament together (a religious ceremony they regarded as imparting divine grace) on Easter day in 1834 at Holy Trinity Goodramgate, York and so considered themselves married to each other. Their union is widely considered to be the first known lesbian marriage in England.
Although Anne Lister gained considerable dynastic authority by inheriting
the ancient and strategically located Shibden Hall and Estate, Anne Lister was still excluded by way of her female gender from key arenas and formal honours within the public sphere such as networking on the magistrates’ bench or chatting after a masonic meeting.
However, Anne Lister’s economic power as landowner, and employer and her social status as Miss Lister, plus her force of character often compensated for such exclusions.
For more fascinating information about Anne Lister and Anne Walker see our guide titled Anne Lister, Gentleman Jack of Shibden Hall, Halifax
Weddings at Shibden Park
Many couples plan their wedding, civil partnership or renewal of vows ceremony at Shibden Hall, perhaps then followed by a Shibden Park champagne picnic and boating on the lake or event at the Mereside Centre. Further details can be seen in a brochure available to view and download here. For professional photographs by Nicola Mackrill of a same-sex wedding held at Shibden Hall and Shibden Park, click here.