After the flood...Hebden Bridge November 2012. Photo by Ian Hodgson.
When the floods hit the Upper Calder Valley earlier this year, it felt like things would never be the same again. I, like others, pulled on my wellies early on the morning of 23 June and walked through Hebden Bridge to be overwhelmed by the mess and destruction the waters had caused. My home was dry and I hadn't lost a business, but I cried that day and mourned for the place I lived and loved.
The heavy rains of recent weeks mean that people across the South West, North Wales and other parts of Yorkshire are sadly experiencing what the Calder Valley did back in the summer. Once the mopping up and drying out has been done, there will be insurance to sort out, properties to refurbish and for businesses, customers to draw back.
It takes time, it takes strength and it takes energy. And it takes all of us. The floods have changed things here in the Calder Valley. In a crisis, creative thinking can thrive. People have worked together in ways they have never done before: raising money, raising profile, and raising smiles and spirits along the way. The individuals, businesses and organisations responsible for this (too many to mention) should be commended, but their hard work and commitment needs to be recognised and appreciated by each and every one of us. How? By pausing before we start adding things to a virtual basket. By thinking before we drive to a soulless, shiny, shopping centre. Have you had a wander down your high street lately? It's not dead - it just suits some people to say it is. How many online global companies will jet-wash river sludge off the pavements like a sole-trader did in Hebden Bridge last June? How many national chains give raffle prizes to the local schools? How many dotcoms know your face rather than your email address? As well as supporting our communities, our independent shops offer distinctive experiences, innovative ideas, high standards of service and a cheery hello. Things which are always welcome, whatever the weather.
And if further incentive were required, the town where I live (Hebden Bridge) is running a Festive Fandango scheme. It's not complicated - for every £5 I spend in a local shop I get a sticker to put on a card. The completed cards go into a draw to win a hamper full of local stuff AND I get a booklet of vouchers to spend in the New Year. Simple. And addictive.
I'm not saying I never go to the big shops. I need washing powder and loo roll like the rest of us. But nothing gets my goat more than those 3 for 2 shelves labelled 'Gifts for Her'. And I'm not amaz
ed by a company that takes lots and puts little back. This Christmas I'm dancing a Totally Locally
, Festive Fandango
all the way. Go on, give it a go.
Everyone's a winner at Keelham!
It's been a while since I've been on here - the last few months have flown. I've been busy overseeing the painting of a huge map of the area, meeting brewers and publicans galore and generally been out and about getting better acquainted with the South Pennines.
And suddenly the school holidays are here. Envious Husband isn't quite so envious now I have to juggle working while keeping two young daughters occupied. I'm sure they would quite enjoy looking round a brewery or spending time in an artist's studio, but I don't think it would be quite as much fun for me. Or that I'd get much work done. But last Friday, I discovered an afternoon out which suited all of us - at Keelham Farm Shop.
One of the questions I ask the breweries I'm working with is, "Where can we buy your beer?" In many instances, the answer has been "Keelham". And when I ask pubs where they source their produce, the answer has been the same. Definitely time for a visit.
Next hurdle (excuse the pun) was to convince Daughter no 1 to drag herself away from the Olympics and leave the house. "But mummy, Team GB are sailing, cycling, playing volleyball, riding horses!" "We can have our own Olympics at the farm shop", I cajoled. (Read on to see that fib was not as big as you think it was.)
We arrived between showers with the girls full of expectation. Keelham Farm is easy to find on Brighouse and Denholme Rd in Thornton and the car park was very busy - people of all ages pushing trollies full of groceries, plants and flowers. Inside it was easy to see what the attraction was. We were met by colourful displays of fruit and veg, from apples and pears to kumquats and mooli, a deli counter packed with tempting Yorkshire produce and shelves of local preserves, chutneys and honey. The business was established in the 1970s by the Robertshaw family and is still managed by family members. There is a commitment to supporting local farmers and producers and making a difference in the local community through education and fundraising. A major refurb is currently underway and there were lots of staff about, all very friendly and helpful.
Daughter no 2 masters the hula-hoop.
We made our way to the animal enclosure where we encountered goats, rabbits, chickens, an enormous turkey and a sow with piglets. And a mini Olympic Park. The good folk of Keelham Farm have currently got a series of age-relevent challenges to keep children active and occupied during their visit. There is a small entry fee which is donated to Cancer Support Bradford & Airedale. Goal scoring, egg and spooning, hula-hooping, bean-bag balancing and skipping were all enough to persuade my daughters that the visit was all about them and nothing to do with mummy's work. They completed their challenge sheet with competitive fervour and ran to collect their prize - a medal and a lollipop bestowed by another smiley member of staff.
Great selection of local beers.
The girls enjoyed their prizes while I had a good explore of the shop which also runs a Vegetable Exchange Scheme. I also found a fantastic display of local beers including Mallinsons
and Little Valley
and chose a couple for Envious Husband. No reason why should we have all the fun. And, just as we were leaving, Daughter no 2 asked when we could come again. Job done.
Envious Husband almost chokes on his breakfast. "You're going to a beer festival? I thought you were working?" "I am", I protest, "it's a business networking event that just happens to be part of a beer festival...."
He isn't convinced, but I can assure everyone reading this with a raised eyebrow that I'm a delegate at the First Haworth
Beer Festival Corporate Event, held at the Old School Room
with the aim of getting local businesses together while raising money for Haworth Church and Manorlands Hospice. Oh and the small matter of celebrating the area's growing micro-brewing industry - more about that later.
We've all heard of the Brontes, but few realise that Haworth is the World's 1st Fairtrade Village.
Produce on the pavement.
It's a lovely morning and I set off in good time to have a wander around Haworth. Last time I visited was during an icy Tuesday lunchtime in February and the town was deserted, with several shops empty and many others closed. Today presents a different picture. Maybe it's the glorious Pennine sunshine or maybe it's because, for Haworth businesses, the spring marks the start of the visitor season. Shop keepers are out and about tending to doorway displays or sitting on their steps with a coffee and passing the time of day.
Window displays are works of art in Haworth and from the hardware items on the pavement outside Rhodes to the baskets and tables that sit outside many of the shops on Main Street, there is plenty to grab my attention. Quirky signs and shop fronts promote vintage goods, crafts and local produce and while many businesses use the Bronte connection in their marketing, it is evident that Haworth has more to offer than a tour of the Parsonage Museum.
The Victorian druggists store is now home to Rose & Co, a family business producing exquisitely- packaged beauty preparations.
Oh La La - it's probably what the French say when they try and cycle up Main Street. (Just as well this vintage boutique isn't named after an equivalent Yorkshire phrase...)
Old Spot Brewery man the pumps.
So, after many distractions and spending opportunities, I reach the top of Main Street. I call into Gascoigne's, home of Haworth Steam Brewery
, hoping to speak to Ken about beer, brewing and all things Haworth. But the newly opened bistro - selling meals prepared with local produce - is packed and it obviously isn't the best time to stop for a chat. Besides, there is a corporate networking event to get to...
Wondering what Charlotte, Emily and Anne would make of 21st century Haworth, I enter their former school and am greeted by Kath Thornton, one of the festival organisers. Kath set up Whoyano Rural Network
to fill the gap left by bigger organisations who choose to hold networking events in larger towns and cities. Haworth born and bred, she is keen to support local businesses and the event is evidence of this, selling beer by micro-breweries including Haworth Steam Brewery
, Little Valley Brewery
, Old Spot Brewery
. The excellent pie and peas are also locally sourced and deserve to be washed down with a half of tasty beer. But reluctantly I refrain - this is work after all - and decide to do some networking (always just a vowel away from notworking) and take beer tokens and commemorative glass home as a gift for Envious Husband.
Do I get any gratitude for this? Not a smidgen. "You went to a beer festival and didn't drink any beer? What a waste." I should have seen this coming - after all reader, I married him.
Organiser Kathryn Thornton with festival attendees (local businessmen remembered fondly as Mr Pie and Mr Peas...)
We've been asking for recommendations of pubs in the South Pennines
. Here's one that's already received more than one nomination. Keep 'em coming!
It's an early spring, mid-week lunchtime and the Stubbing Wharf bar is busy. It's a short walk out of Hebden Bridge but its location on the Rochdale Canal offers a perfect beer-stop for walkers and an excuse for locals like me to get some exercise before enjoying lunch and a pint.
Landlord Mathew Browne pours me a fruit juice (I know, I know, but I was 'working') and sits me down underneath a photo of local landmark Stoodley Pike to tell me about his pub and his passions. In the 6 years that he has run 'the Stubbing', Matt has stuck to the 'pub food done well' approach and listens to the suggestions made by his customers. He sources ingredients from local producers to offer a varied menu of pub favourites with a Stubbing touch. The chips are chunky and homemade. The gammon is served with real pineapple. The salad and vegetables are from the greengrocer - some of them grown just along the towpath at the Callis Community Garden.
This is a pub which celebrates the local area - photos by regular John Mitton hang on the walls and local landmarks feature on the party food list - with menus named The Stoodley, The Bridestones and The Lock-keepers, there's no possibility of forgetting where you are.
The beer is good too. Copper Dragon's Golden Pippin is a regular guest, but the Stubbing takes advantage of the SIBA scheme to offer pints from smaller South Pennines breweries including Little Valley, Naylors and Bridgehouse. After the lunchtime diners have drifted back to work, the bar fills up with afternoon walkers and Camra members who just want real ale and conversation.
If talking about beer is not your thing, The Stubbing Wharf runs a book swap scheme and is host to a variety of regular events, including the monthly Shaggy Dog storytelling night, Wednesday's Open Mic and the Thursday quiz. Matt and the team also run special events and menus at key times in the year - see the website
for more info.
Matt and I start to discuss other ways of using the area's 'local distinctiveness'
to increase the pub's offer for visitors and locals alike, but before we know it, I've finished my juice and we both have to get back to our respective offices. There'll be more to report though, I'm sure. Just watch this blog....
The Stubbing Wharf is open every day from noon. Full information is at www.stubbingwharf.com.
Emporium is one of my favourite words. (I know it really means 'big shop', but for me it conjures up images of an Aladdin's cave of delights just waiting to be dusted off and coveted.)
No surprise then that the sign hanging from Naylor's Brewery in Cross Hills grabbed me - 'emporium' and 'beer' united! And a sense of humour - Naylor's is a micro-brewery in both brewing terms and actual physical size...
Nothing small about the beer, though, or the welcome given by brewer Steve Naylor, who was happy to chat about beer, the Railway Children and making cider with the locals. (NB: Brewing is a precise art and I've learnt that conversations with brewers can often be interrupted by a need to check on the mash.)
Because of its size, Naylor's is not currently open for 'official' visits but there is cosy bar (open Friday evenings) and some well-stocked shelves selling the full range of Naylor ales - all of which carry the "locally distinctive" Pinnacle logo.
I'm already looking forward to my next visit. And so is Envious Husband whom I placated with a bottle or two of Pinnacle Porter...money well spent.
With Steve Naylor of Naylor's Brewery, Cross Hills, nr Keighley. For more info, visit www.naylorsbrewery.com or call 01535 632666.