Sustainable Weddings with the National Trust: Our Wedding at Gibson Mill, Hardcastle Crags

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On 28 May 2022, after 13 years together, 3 years engaged, and 1 Covid-postponed wedding, myself and Liv finally tied the knot at Gibson Mill, Hardcastle Crags, in what was without a doubt one of the best days of our lives. 

I proposed almost 3 years earlier in Central Park in June 2019. As soon as we returned from an incredible week in New York we began the mammoth task of planning our wedding which, at the time, we had no idea would have so many twists and turns with the impact of Covid just 10 months after we got engaged.

Sustainable Weddings at Gibson Mill, Hardcastle Crags

Both myself and Liv are very laid back and we really didn’t want a ‘traditional’ wedding that didn’t necessarily reflect who we were, so after we returned from New York we began to search out venues that really resonated with us. As I obviously have a love for travel, I was originally very sold on holding the wedding abroad. We had holidayed at a fantastic hotel along Portugal’s Algarve the year before and had seen some gorgeous weddings taking place on the property, so we explored this option with the hotel which would have actually been quite a bit cheaper than getting married in the UK. However, we decided in the end that the logistics of getting all of our family and friends there wasn’t something that we wanted the additional stress of, so we disregarded this option. 

We then began to look at venues around the North West of England that were a little more unique. The majority of these consisted of rustic countryside venues that we could really make our own. We considered everything from fully catered rustic barn venues, to empty fields that would need everything planning from scratch. There were a couple of venues that we absolutely loved, including Duddon Mill Farm and The Oak Tree of Peover, but for one reason or another these just didn’t work logistically for us. 

One day in early November I was browsing wedding venues during my work lunch and found that the National Trust offered up some of their incredible venues for weddings. When looking through their available venues I was excited to see that Gibson Mill in the wonderful woodland of Hardcastle Crags in Hebden Bridge, just 30 minutes from where we live, was included. Hardcastle Crags was somewhere I had visited often when I was younger with my family, and as it turned out Liv had often done the same. We booked in to visit the venue on 16 November, and as soon as we were shown around it we were in love.

Less than a month later in December 2019 we had signed the contracts and were excited to start planning our June 2021 wedding. Unfortunately, Covid hit in March 2020, and by February 2021 we had to postpone our wedding for almost 12 months due to ongoing restrictions. Throughout all of this time, the team at National Trust were nothing but helpful and supportive, easily rearranging our date with no issues or additional costs.

History of Gibson Mill

Gibson Mill has played a pivotal role in the local community for over 200 years. The mill was originally built as one of the first cotton mills in 1805 during the North West’s burgeoning industrial revolution, and spent the next 85 years producing cotton. 

Just a year or two after closing as a cotton factory, Gibson Mill reopened as an entertainment emporium, offering dining, roller-skating, dancing and more. According to National Trust, more than half a million people visited Hardcastle Crags every year by the 1920s.

After World War II, Gibson Mill fell into disuse and disrepair. Despite the fact that National Trust were donated the land around Hardcastle Crags in the 1950s, the mill remained largely unused until restoration began in the 1990s thanks to a National Lottery grant. Staying true to the heritage of the Grade-II listed building, renovation work was undertaken to transform the venue into a fully sustainable visitor and education attraction. 

The venue is completely off-grid, relying on solar and hydro power for hot water and electricity, along with numerous energy efficient innovations and devices. The mill today houses a café and second-hand book shop for those enjoying the wonderful Hardcastle Crags woodland, as well as exhibitions and events across the three floors of the venue.

Weddings at Gibson Mill

After the careful renovation of Gibson Mill, National trust began to offer the space as a sustainable wedding venue. When we chose Gibson Mill as the location for our wedding, we were offered a choice of three packages, from a simple ceremony to a full takeover of the top 2 floors for the whole day. We chose the Emporium Package, which allowed us to have the venue for the whole day, including the ceremony, wedding breakfast, and evening reception. Gibson Mill is fully licensed for weddings, and you have a choice of saying ‘I do’ within the mill itself, or surrounded by the beautiful woodland outside.

The Emporium Package gave us full control over our wedding day, allowing us to put our own stamp on it which was just what we wanted. However, we were also provided with some of the essentials as part of the package which certainly helped along the way. The package not only included the hire of the venue on the wedding day, but also access the day before in order to set up. As the venue is fully off-grid, National Trust also provided a generator in order to handle the additional power needed to run a wedding. Basic tables and chairs are also available for the ceremony and wedding breakfast, whilst a complimentary glass of champagne for all guests and a cash bar is also offered. 

Throughout our time planning the wedding, we also had a dedicated wedding coordinator who knew the venue inside and out, and were always on hand to answer questions. Unfortunately due to Covid there was some turnover in the wedding coordinators, however each one was helpful and supportive for us. We had multiple meetings with the coordinator to run through all aspects of the day, explore the venue, and discuss suppliers and recommendations.

For our accommodation, we booked The Lodge at Hardcastle Crags, available through National Trust Holidays. Based just 1 mile from Gibson Mill at the end of the track leading to the venue, it’s by far the closest place available, and it really is a gorgeous and cosy Victorian cottage, perfect for a wedding stay. For other staying guests, there are numerous options available to book in Hebden Bridge.

Our Wedding Day

We spent the day before our wedding setting up the venue and running various last minute errands. We luckily had the fantastic Lodge for 3 nights from Friday-Monday and so after finishing the room setup, we dropped everything else off at the cottage and Liv headed back home whilst I stayed in the cottage for the night. I spent the evening with friends in Hebden Bridge, and it was great to see how many people from our wedding party had booked accommodation and were out and about in the town!

The following morning I woke early and walked down the path to the venue to put the finishing touches to the venue. At 10:30am I headed back to the cottage where I met Liv who then took over the cottage with the Bridal party, whilst I headed to my mum’s accommodation to get ready, spending a couple of nervous hours pacing the living room and later the cute, small village of Pecket Well.

Given that there is little parking at the Gibson Mill, we asked the majority of our guests to meet at the wonderful Old Gate Bar & Restaurant in Hebden Bridge, who were also providing the catering for our wedding, from 2pm. After a small whisky and catching up with both sides of the family, I finally felt relaxed and allowed myself to enjoy the day, as it was too late to change anything now anyway! 

We booked return transport for all guests from Hebden Bridge to Gibson Mill with Alpha Minibuses, who arrived with a 16-seater and an 8-seater minibus, making the short 10-15 minute journey to the venue. They were great in ensuring that all our guests were rounded up at the Old Gate and that nobody was left behind, and it was so great to see people’s first impressions of the mill in the middle of the woods as we arrived!

Photo courtesy: Maddie Farris Photography.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather on the day, and so the fantastic team at Hebden Craft Catering, who were also running our bar, set up a bar in the courtyard so that everybody could enjoy the weather and the stunning surroundings of Hardcastle Crags whilst we waited for all guests to arrive. I can’t speak highly enough of the guys at Hebden craft who just ensured that the whole day ran perfectly and our guests were well looked after. 

During this time, Liv had a relaxed morning getting ready at the cottage, joined by her mum Gillian, my mum Cheryl, Sister-in-Law Jo, as well as friend of the family and hairdresser Lisa, makeup artist Danielle Field, and our fantastic photographer Maddie Farris, whilst Liv’s dad Richard was on shuttle duty between the cottage and the venue for the Bridal party. 

Photo courtesy: Maddie Farris Photography.

Photo courtesy: Maddie Farris Photography.

Photo courtesy: Maddie Farris Photography.

At 4pm I met with the Registrars who talked through the necessary legalities whist all guests headed up to the ceremony floor, after which I endured what felt like an hours-long (probably about 10 minutes) wait for Liv to arrive with her Dad. Liv walked down the aisle looking beautiful, we exchanged our vows in a relaxed ceremony, and before we knew it we were signing the register accompanied by The Beatles’ ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ and walking back down the aisle as husband and wife! 

Photo courtesy: Maddie Farris Photography.

The next 90 minutes were a blur of photos and exploring the wonderful nature of Hardcastle Crags under the expert eye of Maddie, as we captured memorable family and couple photos that will forever be a reminder of day.

Photo courtesy: Maddie Farris Photography.

Photo courtesy: Maddie Farris Photography.

Photo courtesy: Maddie Farris Photography.

Photo courtesy: Maddie Farris Photography.

Photo courtesy: Maddie Farris Photography.

Before we knew it we were back in Gibson Mill, where our ceremony floor had been turned around and set up beautifully for the wedding breakfast. 

Photo courtesy: Maddie Farris Photography.

Provided by Hebden Craft Catering, our wedding breakfast was without doubt one of the highlights of the day. We opted to go for a range of sharing platters to continue the relaxed theme of the wedding, ensure that there was enough choice for everyone, and encourage guests to share and get to know each other if they didn’t already. Courses started with antipasti boards with Salami Napoli, Prosciutto, gorgonzola, manchego, olives, sun-blushed tomatoes & cornichons followed by: 


    • Caprese Salad, buffalo mozzarella, beef tomato & fresh basil, dressed with pesto oil 
    • Artichoke & Red Pepper Arancini, romesco sauce, toasted nuts
    • Classic Caesar salad of gem lettuce, croutons, & parmesan 
    • Pesto Chicken penne, tossed with pine nuts & spinach
    • Patatas Bravas, habanero & tomato sauce, aioli 
    • Parmesan & garlic mushrooms, crostini breads 
    • Spiced Beef meatballs, house Romesco sauce
    • Marinated & grilled Striploins, carved & served on wooden boards, dressed with chimichurri

Photo courtesy: Maddie Farris Photography.

Our desserts were petit four style nibbles consisting of chocolate brownie pieces, baileys & white chocolate truffle, vanilla cheesecake bites & fresh seasonal berries. Given the challenges of cooking for 80 guests at a venue with no kitchen, we were over the moon with Sam and the team at Hebden Craft Catering, and the food and drink was one aspect of the day that many of our guests specifically complemented.

For the rest of the night, we danced and spent the night with our favourite people, thanks to friend of the family Clint Boon and Mike Carruthers DJing for the evening. All too soon, the final shuttle buses picked us up and dropped us back off at the cottage after what was undoubtedly the best day of our life. 

It’s an obvious cliche, but your wedding day does go by so so fast, and it’s so important to take time as a couple to enjoy it and take in what is happening. Given the previous couple of years battling through the Covid pandemic, this was the first time the whole family had gotten together, and it was such a wonderful occasion that reiterated to us both how lucky we are with the people we have around us.

National Trust and Gibson Mill gave us the opportunity to create a day that totally reflected us, and we couldn’t be happier with our choice. A huge thanks to our family and friends who made the day so special to us both, along with all of our suppliers who, no matter how big or small their part was, were part of our day. 

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Hello! I’m Ryan Maley, a 30-year-old Mancunian with an insatiable desire to travel the world.

The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. 


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