Saturday 23 October 2010


I’ve always been convinced God is a Yorkshire Man as the weather is always good there. Although the Saturday I went it was rather overcast and misty which is a complete shocker for me as it was nice in Lancashire. I may have to review my opinion, although God might have been having a bad day.

Anyway before getting to Holmfirth it is worth mentioning the journey. The last time I went I took the M62 and exited at junction 22 and took the route over Saddleworth Moor. It was a very misty day driving over the moors that added to the mystery and drama that pervades the tragic history of the moors. Being born and bred in Manchester Saddleworth Moor shares a nightmarish place in the collective memory of the residents. Even like myself who was born after the events, you cannot escape the collective fear and horror that haunts the memories of 60s Manchester. The bleak moorland landscape eventually gives way to the villages of Delph and Uppermill with its pretty stone terraced houses, which for a city type like me is a blessed relief from the rows of red brick terraces of Manchester and Salford urban areas. 

The other roads from Manchester I’ve taken to Holmfirth have been A635 that goes through Mossley, which is amazing route with eerie landscapes. Also the A6024 from the A628 is another cracker of a road. Although coming from Huddersfield from Junction 23 is not recommended, as you have to go through Huddersfield to get to the A616. Huddersfield is not the most aesthetic town in the world and is best seen driven at high speeds.

Once you get to Holmfirth you will find it very familiar, especially as it has been featured heavily on Sunday teatime telly for decades as the back drop to ‘Last of the Summer Wine’. This year the show has thankfully been decommissioned by the BBC this year - I really hate that programme. Despite my loathing of the programme, Holmfirth is a lovely little Yorkshire town built in Yorkshire stone. Not quite chocolate box as Hebden Bridge, but a nice compact town.

We normally park in the Co-op car park by the little stream running behind the stone wall. It is well worth having a peek at the ducks that swim in the stream, as they are a constant source of amusement. When we went here in May there were only male ducks in the stream as they lady ducks were looking after the baby ducks. This time the male ducks were preening themselves while the lady ducks were looking rather disinterested having a well-deserved snooze. Upstream there were a group of ducks being fed by kids, whilst down stream was a greedy duck I named Neil, who was having a whale of a time feasting on the bread that had floated down stream. There is a lovely path you can go down by the stream that will take you to a little park and further along to the bus station.

There are plenty of shops to take your fancy: the home made chocolate shop; sewing shop with lots of nooks and crannies packed full of stuff I love; a gift shop cum baking accessory shop with all the Cath Kitson products you could ever desire; a covered market of the artisan bread and handmade soap kind; a mini arcade with crystals, designer bridal ware and the obligatory café.

There is one thing you will never do in Holmfirth and that is starve. There are lots and lots of cafes and restaurants of all shapes, sizes and cuisines. Obviously there is the famous teashop that featured in Last of the Summer Wine, but it is worth mentioning Longley’s tea and ice cream shop. Longley’s is ace with fab ice cream and apparently according to one of the customers it has recently been refurbished and extended. If Neil, my boyfriend and not the duck, had known they did ice cream sundaes we would have had it. Instead we had a double scoop ice cream, which was lovely. I think it is related to the Longley milk products as they were stocking it in the shop. Seeing the Longley cottage cheese I had flashbacks to the 80s when my Mum was deep in her cottage cheese addiction.

The other place to mention is the local church. On a weekend in the local church has a bookstall and café upstairs. This is where all the old ladies of Holmfirth hang out drinking tea and eating homemade cake. The church has the most ancient Stannar stair lift that confused everyone even the least senile. They had to have people at the bottom and top of the stairs to help people off and on. To be honest this place had the liveliest atmosphere in Holmfirth despite the age of the clientele.

There are plenty of charity shops to visit in Holmfirth that is full of dead old ladies knick-knack. Books were of the usual ilk of bestseller fiction. On our first visit Neil, the boyfriend, had found some interesting records, but on the second visit there was nothing exciting.

There is an off licence called Rhythm and Booze. It is a chain in Yorkshire as I have seen one in Skipton. I like the fact it has cask beer on a pump, which they sell by the pint in cartons.

There is the Picturedrome Cinema that hosts the touring bands that criss cross the country. Recently Badly Drawn Boy played there along with all the usual suspects of covers bands. They also have Thursday pork pie night – only in the north this happens. In Manchester at the Press Club they used to have a cold meat buffet on Thursday nights that consisted of primarily pork products – completely alien to veggies amongst my friends.

On the whole, it has to be said Holmfirth is a not only a lovely place to visit but is also well worth the journey across the Pennines (although don’t go through Huddersfield).

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Chorley - not one of my better ideas

It wasn’t one of my better ideas. I thought having checked out wikipedia and googled ten charity shops in the town, it should be all right to visit – sadly the wikipedia entry failed to mention THIS TOWN WILL MAKE YOU LOSE THE WILL TO LIVE. When I mentioned I visited Chorley at work today, my colleague asked “WHY?” Maybe, in the future, I should tell people before I go visiting northern towns so I can be forewarned and change my plans.

First of all, driving towards Chorley you will be fooled into believing it will be a nice town, with all the pretty outlying villages. As you get closer, it gets a little down at heel and by the time you’ve hit the town, its rough. Secondly, once you’re in Chorley, it’s a bugger to park and you end up on the merry-go-round that is the one-way system. This is not helped by the fact there are rows of terraced houses bordering the shopping area with resident only parking. Finally when I parked, I was stunned that Chorley Council had the cheek to charge people for the privilege of parking in this godforsaken town. It wasn’t a good start to my visit.

Market Street was grim confection of cheap shops, pubs and peeling signage. The one thing to note about Chorley is that if you are an alcoholic you will never go short of a pint. There are plenty of pubs in Chorley and given the uninspiring surroundings the locals need it. Outside one pub was a bizarre sight of a bloke with an eye patch smoking with a pint.

There was a pedestrianised shopping area with the usual suspect of shops, although no Debenhams. That fact alone is usually a good point to me; although in this case I’m not surprised Debenhams has not decided to invade this chav town. This town is full of pound shops, although I was pleasantly surprised to see two independent record shops.

There is also a market, however due to my longstanding phobia of markets as I spent most of my Saturday’s during childhood being dragged round them by my parents, I didn’t take a closer look. Although I can cope with markets if there is a whiff of free range, organic sausages on a barbecue and a promise of cupcakes – sadly this market didn’t possess either of these qualities.

The ten charity shops were a disappointment too. No decent music sections of note, although one shop did a fantastic range in acoustic guitars and ukuleles. The knick-knacks showed no promise and the book sections were a tribute to Dan Brown’s publishing phenomenon. There were three chavvy lads who dogged our tour of the charity shops. They seemed to be looking to pick up cheap DVDs and annoy me by getting in the way at every opportunity. Although an honourable mention has to go to St Catherine’s Charity Bookshop with its well organised sections and its fab red leather sofa inviting you to read the literary treasures in the shop.

The population of the town this Saturday veered between pensioners and young kids with harassed parents. The men seemed to sport either bald heads or highly coiffeured hairdos – the hairdressers must do well here. There were some groups of chav kids congregating on the street corners. Clearly they didn’t have enough money for the bus fare to escape to the delights of Preston or Manchester.

The only bright spot in this town was the super-duper-state-of-the-art bus interchange. This is clearly the lifeline for any would be teenager who had the misfortune to be brought up in this soul destroying northern town. They will no doubt stare at the destinations of Manchester, Preston and Wigan with envy. I know Wigan is full of nutters, but it’s definitely better than here. Any bright teenager armed with a handful of A’Levels and their record collections would be on the first bus out of this town and never look back. I know, I would have done the same thing.

By the end of my short trip to Chorley my nerves were shattered and my temper frayed. I certainly won’t return to this northern town in a hurry. If I were to say one good thing about the town, it would be “it’s not as grim as Morecambe”.

Wednesday 21 July 2010


The next time my Dad says “such and such is a nice town to visit” double check on wikipedia. If said town comes up as the 3rd most crap town in the UK, like Morecambe did, don’t go. Don’t check like I did whilst eating in KFC after a desultory half hour walk round the town. It is too darn late and the other half is already complaining about being taken to a godforsaken town.

Morecambe is an essentially down at heel northern seaside town, who's golden days are well and truly gone. It’s not gaudy like Blackpool and it’s certainly not like Rhyl. Now Rhyl is scary and can only be described as post nuclear hell version of Blackpool where you should drive through - very quickly. Anyway back to Morecambe, it’s clear the council have been trying regenerate the area, but to little effect. They need to pull down the 60s shopping precinct and do some shop frontage updates on the prom shops.

It really didn’t help it was a cloudy, windy July day – so it wasn’t exactly going to draw in the tourists by the coach load. The elderly, the obese on mobility scooters and pregnant single mums pushing prams populated Morecambe that day. It was certainly not the Brighton of the north. Having been in Brighton I can testify to that fact, although something has to be said for the place not being full of hipster wanker types that inhabit Brighton.

Morecambe is obviously known for the Eric Morecambe statue, which was rather incongruous on the prom with the dog walkers and the elderly on their afternoon stroll. There was a stone jetty jutting out into Morecambe Bay, which would have had fabulous views of the south Lakeland hills if it hadn’t been so overcast. On the jetty there were rather surreal ornamental birds perched along it looking out to sea. This was rather disconcerting for the evil seagulls (all seagulls are evil by the way they are killers and cannibals – it another story) as they were confused by them and flew off. This had a positive effect of keeping the jetty free of bird poo.

I’d like to find something positive about the place. On a clear day the views would be stunning. The Midland Hotel is a beautiful art deco hotel and is clearly the nicest place to go in Morecambe and it puts anything Brighton has to offer in the shade. Also the Lifeboat Station is a rather lovely modern build, which compliments the hotel.

However on the charity shop front there were very poor pickings. Everything donated appeared to be from the little old ladies who populate the town or the families of recently deceased little old ladies. No one appears to read books or listens to music as those sections were very bare. Although in one charity shop there was a rather giddy lady, which was a change from the ladies that stare and glare from behind the counters at prospective customers who then often hot foot it out of the shops without making a purchase.

After our trip we mentioned it on Facebook and there was one person who tried to valiantly defend the charms of Morecambe. They mentioned the delight of the Midland Hotel (agree), a 1920s style ice cream parlour (didn’t find), gorgeous views (on a good day for certain), lots of charity shops (yes, but they were crap), a large second hand bookstore (saw it but had already lost the will to live at that point to take any interest) and a fab tapas bar (I’ll take your word for it.) However there were many others who mentioned how drab and depressing the place had become.

On the whole, if you are planning to take a day trip, Morecambe is not the place to go. Maybe it’s worth a pit stop to take in the views and have a nice ice cream (if you can find the nice shop), or spend a night in the Midland Hotel, however for sanity purposes make your stay brief and head to Lancaster instead.

Thursday 14 January 2010

Hebden Bridge

A few months ago we took a trip to Hebden Bridge nestled in the Calder Valley in the heart of the Pennines. The drive through the valley was lovely - it was a bright sunny day and the sheep on the hillside doing the usual sheep thing. In my world little lambs would be at school like in 'Timmy Time' learning to paint and play drums. However, in the real world, they were chewing the grass and soaking in the sunshine.

We parked near the Co-op, where all the walkers were picking up their supplies. Unfortunately my other half had a bout of travel sickness and was not in a good way - so this blog is based on a hour we spent in the town.

The town is built in a valley with a canal running through it. The buildings are built out of traditional york stone. It was a very pretty little town, in a chocolate box sort of way - obviously in a Yorkshire stylee.

I'd heard many things about Hebden Bridge and it's alternative lifestyle, what I saw was a rather prosperous - despite the recession - middle class town. It's the type of town that Chorltonites aspire to but will never achieve in Manchester, unless they sell up and move over the border to Yorkshire.

There lots of pretty, but essentially useless shops selling soap, cheese and traditional toys. I felt really sorry for the kids who were dragged around the trad toy shops - the toys were well boring - wooden, educational and non violent. No self respecting child of the 21st century would be caught playing with these dull toys. Clearly it is what middle class parents think children should be playing with. You almost want to give a Hebden child an 'Action Man' just to piss off the parents.

You will never starve in Hebden Bridge as every other shop is a cafe or restaurant. Practically everyone is catered for - veggies, vegans, wheat & lactose intolerant. Not that I got to try any, as the other half was unwell. At least I could rest assured that I could get a decaf, soya latte if I wanted one.

There was to recommend on the shop side Muse Music selling vinyl and cds. It doesn't quite have the ramshackle charm of Kingbee Records, but selling good music all the same. It was virtually empty, which was a shame. I just hope it survives. There were also bookshops - naturally the witchcraft section was prominent for a town with an alternative scene.

What else? A nice furniture shop; a mad rambling gift shop cum cafe; the pottery shop (why! for goodness sake!); and the little cobbly pedestrian touristy bit.

I am sad to report the charity shops were bobbins. Nothing exciting and you will have richer pickings down the road in Halifax.

It was very quiet for a Saturday afternoon. Hebden Bridge was not full of lesbians as I had been led to believe by the popular press, instead the middle class families populate this little pretty place. Would I go back? Probably - it's very pleasant.