Sunday, 18 November 2012

Todmorden

Todmorden is nestled in the Pennines on the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire.  Over the years it has been in both these counties at some point.  After the last boundary change Todmorden is now in West Yorkshire under Calderdale Council. 

Over the years I’ve been known to pop by Todmorden when in the neighbourhood.  I have had ambivalent feelings towards it, but finally I’ve begun to warm to the place.  Its neighbouring town is the rather quaint and middle-class Hebden Bridge.  The gentrification effect of Hebden Bridge has begun to make inroads into Todmorden and it has begun to polish up its act.  Whilst it doesn’t have the quaint prettiness of Hebden Bridge, it has an eccentric element to it which may explain why the locals nickname it ‘Oddmorden.’ 

One thing which is distinct about the town is the large railway bridge that cuts through the town. Apparently it used to have lots of railway stations around the town as it was a hub for a few railway lines. The town itself is built from the local stone, so it has that Pennine town character which is distinctive.

Todmorden has a market which is both indoor and outdoor.  If you have read previous blog entries, you may know I have ambivalent feelings towards markets.  This one is a nice mix between the cheap tat, interesting vintage, alternative and farmers market style.  The indoor market is nice; whilst it’s not huge it has a good mix of stalls.  As you enter the market there is a smart looking coffee stall selling proper coffee and also a little florist too.  There was a wool stall where I managed to pick up some cheap wool for my epic knitting project.  Outside amongst the cheap tat stalls you can find some nice homemade cakes, weirdy beardy mystical stuff and craft stalls.  A rather bizarre sight was of a toy Collie dog tied to the railing advertising dog beds for £2.99. Top marks to Todmorden for this market.
Clearly as Hebden Bridge is the nice shiny, high achieving and middle class cousin to Todmorden’s slightly scally, working class roots, the town has bucked up its ideas.  There was a little cobbled street in Todmorden which now possesses an art gallery, nice gift shops and Thai restaurant-cum-pub.  We also found an antique shop round the corner that had a mad, mounted badger head.  I dare not think whether it was real or not – as you can see it was truly scary.

Next to the antique shop is the Bear Café, a nice vegetarian café that also doubles as a whole food and health shop with lots of natural lotions and potions.  I managed to get some tea tree oil and Dead Sea mud stuff for my troublesome scalp.  The frontage to the shop was lovely with its double fronted Victorian windows and restored original sign above the shop. 

There are a few charity shops in the town and whilst there is nothing wildly exciting to report it’s nice to have a potter round them.  If you are into vintage you’re bound to find something to catch your eye.

Oddly enough the local off-licence does some nice wine.  I always remember we picked up a good bottle of wine called Giddy Goose Sauvignon Blanc from here years ago.

On previous visits we have found quite a good second hand bookshop on the edge of town.  You can’t miss it as it has that old style transparent yellow blind which is to stop the stock fading in the sun.  I hope it’s still there.
On the outskirts of the town, up a little road and on the side of the hill is the Top Brink pub.  It has been going for years and seemed to do well.  We’ve eaten there a couple of times and it does nice food – not quite your gastropub stuff just well-made food without the fuss.  It’s a lovely pub in the middle of nowhere with fab views of the Pennine Hills and sheep.

Whilst Todmorden is not as slick and smart as nearby Hebden Bridge, it has bags of character with lots to interest visitors.  There is a micro-brewery and art gallery called Bare Arts - I love the odd fusion of beer and art.  The fact it has been going 12 years shows there must be something in it. The town also has its own community theatre called the Todmorden Hippodrome, which holds regular amateur shows and has a youth theatre.  Once you get under the surface of a town you find these little gems that makes the place vibrant.  I’ve definitely warmed to this little town, although it was a shame the weather was so dull the day we went.  So when you’re next passing through Todmorden on your way to Hebden Bridge, take a pit stop here and have a wander – it’s definitely worth a visit.