Sunday 30 December 2012

Haworth

Haworth is nestled in the hills of West Yorkshire and is a gorgeous suburb of Keighley.  We’d been before but Neil hadn’t been that impressed.  He mustn’t have been feeling too well that day as I’d liked it.

First thing first, Haworth is really awkward to get to from Manchester.  We’d been here before and had taken the M60, exited junction 23, drove through Hebden Bridge and picked up the road to Haworth.  It was a ball ache, although the road from Hebden Bridge to Haworth is absolutely lovely as the road hugs the hillside with beautiful views of the valley.  This time I had a ‘bright idea’ to take the M60, M66, A56, M65, A6068 and School Lane.  Firstly we got delayed where the M66 goes into the A56 as there was some road works going on.  Then we hit Colne.  I’d forgotten we had to go through Colne and I’ve never managed to get through Colne without some delay.  The problem is at the lights into Sainsbury’s as traffic always gets snarled up.  If there was a town crying out for a by-pass this was the one.  Once through the town we picked up School Lane for Haworth.  School Lane to Haworth is a lovely drive and almost worth all the cursing I did to get there.  It’s quite a tight drive down the road.  However the scenery is lovely and I guess that’s why the Brontes were inspired by the landscape.

This time I’d learnt not to park at the railway station as there’s a steep hill to hike up to the town centre.  Instead we parked on Rawdon Road (B6142) that had some free parking.  Although I do have a public service announcement to make: if you have dodgy knees or are a wheelchair user, Haworth town centre is scarily steep.
Main Street is where you will find all the shops.  The street is packed with characterful buildings and has cobbled streets.  This place really works its Bronte connection and the Bronte’s Dad Apothecary is now a gift shop.  It looked great with the old signage and the vintage advertisements for Coleman’s Mustard and Lyons Tea.  The first time we came there was a really fat cat flaked out by the window, however this time we couldn’t find it. 
 
Howarth is a good place to do your gift shopping: antique, vintage, crafts, books, collectables, farm foods, alternative and witchy.  You can also eat well with lots of little cafes, a fish and chip shop and pub grub.  We bought a nice rocky road from a local bakery.
I loved the sign of the alternative witchy supplies shop called ‘Spooks’.  So simple, but said it all.  I’m a fan of Venables and Bainbridge Book shop which is packed full of second hand books.  Neil managed to find an old NME annual.  Yorkshire Relics is good for collectables.  However they do know their stuff and you won’t find a bargain, but you might find what you are looking for.  There was a woman who kept pestering the guy who ran the shop about how he knew about the stuff he sold.  I just wanted to butt in and say ‘experience’.  
 
As it was Halloween time it was fun to see Haworth gets into the spirit of things.  There was a stilt walker dressed as if she was riding a dragon.  Some of the houses had Halloween decorations and the shops were decked out with pumpkins and scary stuff.  Ye Sleeping House B&B looked spectacular decked out as a house of horrors.
There is only one charity shop in town – Sue Ryder.  It’s just out of the town centre on the road down to the station.  It’s worth a visit as not only are the staff very friendly, but upstairs they have a nice vintage section.  Although be careful when you go up and down the stairs, if you’re tall you can easily hit your head as Neil did.
Behind Main Street there are allotments perched on the side of the hill, which was surprising to find.  There were lots of dogs in the town too and we had a stroke of a placid Golden Retriever.  Although I did spot a little blond girl dressed head to foot in peach – peach furry coat, peach tutu, peach shoes.  To top it all she was called Kylie – who in this day and age calls a kid Kylie?  Clearly someone who likes dressing a child head to toe in peach as a three year old version of Sarah Jessica Parker.
 
Just as we were going back to the car we spotted a black cat acting slightly strangely. It appeared to be on a mission or it was full moon.  On a whim we decided to follow it.  It stopped on a side street, but it wasn’t interested in being stroked.  Then out of nowhere a big black and brown furry cat came up to us.  It was so friendly and we had a stroke.  Then without warning it bitch slapped my hand.  I was quite shocked as it didn’t growl at me or give any signs of irritation.  The cats then wandered off together to a local cottage.  I did get some video footage of these cats – follow this link to You Tube.  They were cute though.
I really like Haworth and would happily spend a weekend here, either in a B&B or rented cottage.  It would certainly make the journey worthwhile as it’s such a nightmare of a drive. 

Sunday 23 December 2012

Kirkby Lonsdale

I’ve been meaning to go to Kirkby Lonsdale for some time.  It’s in Cumbria and borders both Lancashire and North Yorkshire.  Handily it’s just a few miles from junction 36 on the M6.  I’ve been recommended this place by colleagues and since it was on our way home from our weekend in the Lakes I thought we should pop along.

We parked on the edge of the town in a one hour parking zone, so our trip was going to be brief.  I really didn’t know what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised.  It’s a picture postcard English town built from Lakeland Stone with tea rooms, gift shops, restaurants, pubs and an art gallery. 
Kirkby Lonsdale is very much geared up for the tourist market.  The town was covered in hanging baskets and flags – both St George’s flags and the Union Jack.  If I was to give a guess there must be some military link to the town especially as they have an army surplus store called GR & RD Taylors.

In the heart of the town square is a pretty crown like, stone seating area, with a parking area around it.  There are stone terraced cottages around this little square.  I can imagine quite a few of them are either rental cottages or weekend bolt holes for city dwellers in Manchester, Liverpool or Leeds.
 
We tried to get an ice cream in the local Italian style coffee-cum-ice cream shop called Miaitalia.  However as it was a Sunday, the sole shop assistant was rushed off her feet with customers.  So instead we ended up having an ice cream from the local café in the town square, which was nice. 

There were plenty of dog walkers parading their pampered pooches through the town.  It seemed to be a well-to-do place where the locals take great care of the town to make a good impression.
On the edge of the town there was St Mary’s church which dates from the Norman times.  It’s very lovely and so in keeping with the fairy tale view of Britain.  The River Lune is beyond, but as time was ticking away and we didn’t get that far.

As we were only limited to an hour, it was only a cursory visit to the town.  Sadly we missed Ruskin’s View, which apparently is the loveliest view in England.  I wouldn’t mind spending a weekend in the town as the restaurants looked nice, although my friend who recently spent a weekend there said it was rather a quiet place in the evenings.  Regardless, this place bears a repeat visit, especially as it’s only seven miles from the lovely Ingleton – one of my favourite places just over the border in North Yorkshire.

Sunday 9 December 2012

Keswick

We’ve travelled to Keswick before as it’s a good place to go in the Lake District.  This is the main market town for the northern Lakes so you find lots of locals shopping for supplies as well as tourists. 

We parked in the Pencil Museum car park as the usual car park was closed for a conference.  I did think the cost of parking was overpriced, but with the level of traffic you get in Keswick on a Saturday you have to take a parking spot where you find it.

It was mad busy that day and the market was on too.  It was so difficult to pick our way through the crowds and the market stalls.  It was hard to tell whether the market was good or not with the throng.  Although standing above this melee was the Moot Hall, which is the home of the Tourist Information centre.  It’s also hired out over the year by a variety of people selling gifts and art works, so you never know what you will find there.
 Keswick is a great place for that member of the family who prefers a bit of retail therapy.  Honestly there is something for everybody here.  It’s a good mix of quality and regular high street shops.  There is a rather good antiques shop to browse around and also plenty of charity shops. 

One thing I always forget about when coming here is that Derwent Water is on the edge of the town centre.  It is an absolutely lovely lake and I much prefer it to Windermere.  Why?  I just think it’s prettier and it doesn’t seem to have the level of water traffic cluttering up the lake like Windermere.  Definitely make a point of visiting the lake, although this trip we were flagging as this had been our fourth town in one day.
Don’t do what we did and leave Keswick at 5pm as all the daytrippers and locals were heading home too.  We got stuck for ages in traffic after getting lost and there doesn’t seem to be a sneaky back route to escape either.
I’d love to come back here for a weekend, not only is it a pretty place, but there are lots of things to do in the evening with pubs and restaurants.  In addition, for those who like culture, there is Theatre by the Lake that regularly put on shows.  Keswick has a lot to offer for the day tripper and the weekend breaker – I’ll certainly be back here again.

Sunday 2 December 2012

Cockermouth

Having learnt our lesson to take in more towns on our journey, we made a detour on the way to Keswick from Whitehaven and ended up in in the delightful Cockermouth. 

Parking in Cockermouth is a bit of a pain.  Although cars can park on the main street, you need a special residents pass to park.  So we ended up having to park in a nearby pay-and-display car park on the edge of the town.
Cockermouth is absolutely lovely and was a genuine surprise after Whitehaven.  It’s a well-to-do place with lots of nice independent shops and restaurants.  It looks as if there has been some regeneration work in the town with new pavements and street furniture.  This care and attention to the town really makes a difference and as a result gives the town an air of calmness which is soothing.  I have a real problem with visual clutter in towns, by which I mean where signs, street furniture and bollards are placed haphazardly in a town without thought to the visual aesthetic of the place.  Looking back at my pictures from Cockermouth I realise why I found this place soothing – it’s really well tended.  The street furniture is consistent, neat and well designed; the signs and bollards match; the streets are tree lined and looked after; there are hanging baskets and floral displays; and the buildings are neat and painted in heritage colours.  It’s clear the locals take great care and attention in this place and Cockermouth shines for this fact.
The thing I loved about Cockermouth was the antique shops.  There were several and I really enjoyed having a good old browse.  Neil found one shop with lots of heavy metal records, but we really need access to a computer to check whether or not they were collectables.  Unfortunately the signal for our smartphones was pants and it was nigh on impossible to check.  So we sadly had to leave them there for another collector to find.  They probably weren’t worth anything though.
There were quite a few charity shops too.  The stuff they stocked was okay and Neil found an album in Oxfam at a reasonable place and the shop assistant was quite keen to talk to him.  Neil eventually managed to tear himself away. 
Although the one thing that caught my eye which didn’t look particularly good was the poster for the appallingly titled ‘Cock Rock ’.  I have to say the line-up was really random and certainly didn’t meet the standard of a rock festival – Tinchy Stryder, Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Goldie Lookin’ Chain.  The closest band to the definition of rock was the Buzzcocks and they were originally a punk band.   Although it was only £60 for camping tickets and it did have a reggae tent and healing area.  I guess this was a very low rent version of Glastonbury for Cumbria.
Whilst we didn’t get much chance to explore the town as we were restricted with the parking, I’d love to come back here.  Cockermouth itself is technically not in the Lake District and it’s not the easiest place to get to as it’s miles away from the M6, however this place has a great vibe.  So to make the journey worthwhile I’d definitely want to spend a weekend at a local B&B or even rent a cottage for a week as it seems such a chilled and nice place to visit.  

Saturday 1 December 2012

The Cheshire Set - Barrel Hopping Travel Article Competition

Just to let you know I've entered the Barrel Hopping travel article competition.  My travel article is called The Cheshire Set and funnily enough it's about my travels in Cheshire.  If you could spare a moment and a couple of mouse clicks and vote, retweet, Facebook, Google+ or Pinterest.  Here is the link to The Cheshire Set - http://barrelhopping.com/england-cheshire-northern-towns/.  The voting button is a little gold star at the bottom of the article - please click.

Thank you kindly for your help!