This is the place to start.

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Sunset over Rangoon.

Good day one and all and thank you so much for visiting my little site here.

For those that do not know me, I am to technology what a sumo wrestler is to synchronised diving i.e. I just cannot do it. I have just conjured up a mental image there that I really wish I hadn’t.

I have owned this site for about eight months now (as of December 2018) and have been working very hard trying to resurrect writings from long ago which were previously on other websites, one callously killed off by illegal corporate greed and the other by lack of interest by the owners.

Eventually I have worked out how to pin (I believe that is the techie term) this so it remains at the top of my front page. I have decided that the only way for me to make any vague semblance of sense here is to backdate the entries of my various trips to the relevant dates which may make them hard to find and so I am creating this page to assist you – hopefully! I shall keep you informed here of completed travelogues and those under construction.

Firstly, I did write for a while for a decent website called blogspot.com which I know is much used by travel bloggers. If you want a look at what was admittedly a very user friendly site and looks like not being killed off any time soon, then here is a link to my pages there. They deal mainly with my trip to the Philippines in 2012 but also with an earlier trip round SE Asia which happened to coincide with my 50th birthday shortly after I retired. There is also the beginnings of a piece on a month I spent in Malta but which I never really finished there and so it will be migrated here and a link posted in due course. Note that it is still under construction.

If you want to know about rather unusual trip which happened in 2017 when I went to meet a friend for four days (and had packed accordingly) in the Southern part of the Netherlands and flew home from Rome eight countries and over three months later then look here.

If you want to know about one of the least known parts of the British Isles i.e. Lundy Island then this is where you want to start.

If you want to know about yet another trip that took rather longer than expected then have a look at my recent excursion back home to Northern Ireland which is detailed here. A week for a family reunion turned into two and a half months but that is the way I am.

If you have any interest in narrowboats and the British canal system (a great love of mine) or more specifically the West Yorkshire canal / river navigation system then you may wish to have a look at this series of entries.

As I mentioned above I started a blog on my trip to Malta in the blogspot site but I left there before it was finished so I propose to make that my next project here. Yes, the first few days will be unashamed cut and paste from the former site (I do not believe in wasting energy) but hopefully I can bring that to a conclusion here relatively quickly.

After that, I am very much in your hands. I have three extended trips to Canada to write up, three to Sri Lanka, another couple to Northern Ireland and a few to Scotland. I have a month on Madeira to write about and many other adventures besides. If you have anything you would like to read about, please tell me. It is all the same to me, it will all take time but this really is my last chance at writing online. If this one goes wrong then I am out of here.

 

Perhaps Burma, Lao or Cambodia are you your liking or maybe a great trip through a couple of the former Yogoslav Republics (Serbia and Macedonia) with some dear friends plus the briefest of side trips to Albania. Honestly, I was there for 15 hours, border to airport via Tirana. Imagine visiting a particularly secretive country where you never had a penny of the local currency in your pocket, did not speak a word of the local language and still got where you needed to be. That was Albania, proper “flying by the seat of my pants” travel and I loved it, I must go back some day. The Algarve in Portugal, Greece and Cyprus are all in the mix as well.

Please get in touch if there is anything you would particularly like to read about and I shall certainly prioritise it. As I say, if I live long enough it will all get done sooner or later and I do not really mind what order I do it in.

As for the image which heads up this page, it is not really very relevant to anything I have written here bar a passing reference to Burma. I just wanted to liven up the page with an image and this is one of my favourites to the extent I have it as a screensaver. It was taken from the grounds of the Shwedagon paya in Rangoon, Burma at sunset which is undoubtedly the best time to visit if you happen to be there. My dear Burmese friend Zin had very graciously given up her day off to show me round that fascinating city and we had had a great time. Not only do I find it aesthetically pleasing as it is one of my few half decent amateur efforts but it stands for the reason I travel, the reason I write about it and, ultimately, the reason this site exists at all.

Right, so much to do and time I got back to work so, as always, stay tuned and spread the word.

Sadly, it is home time again.

Despite the slight excess (I stress slight as it was in my terms) of the previous day I was up early as I had to vacate my room because this was to be the last day of my trip and I had an evening train booked back to London. I asked the young lady in the bar if it would be possible to leave my kit there rather than lug it around and she very kindly agreed to stow it for me. I should mention at this point whilst researching for this small series of blogs that I read, admittedly on the rather good Calderdale Tourist website in the interest of fair reporting, that people round here are very friendly and I cannot find any fault with that statement.

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Proper Ulster Fry breakfast – heart attack on a plate.

I mentioned that I rarely take breakfast and that is true except when I am back in Northern Ireland and eat an Ulster Fry literally every day but usually about 1400 so I suppose it is properly brunch! These fries are monumental things and would give a heart doctor the twitches due to the level of choresterol involved and although it is not strictly relevant to this I am going to post am image here of the type of things involved and perhaps the reason why I don’t eat breakfast too often!

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They should really serve this on a sideplate, it looks a bit lonely there!

However, I headed back to the Percy Shaw which features in  previous entries to partake of something that I really love i.e. poached eggs in all their myriad forms. Admittedly, it was about 1030 by the time I got round to eating so I was about ready for it. I do like Eggs Benedict but my absolute favourite is Eggs Royale and Wetherspoons do a very good version. It came with the eggs poached just how I like them and offered with a very pleasant Hollandaise sauce not to mention the undoubtedly farmed salmon, tasty as it was.  At less than £5 (2015 price) it was good value as is all the food here. Another breakfast favourite is the pancakes with bacon and maple syrup described in a previous entry (two back in Todmorden) and which again was a steal at less than £3 (2015 price) although it is not much more now.

I cannot give actual prices as I edit this in December 2018 as Wetherspoons do not have a national pricing policy and prices vary according to location. I suppose it is to do with overheads. I know their airport outlets are stupidly expensive for a “no-frills” chain. However, enough of this, you are probably here (all 20 of my “followers” (whatever that means in computer speak) at the last count and thank you again) for a following a meagre travelogue so here is the one for this day, sparse as it is but I like to wrap a project up.

I had no plans for the day as the only other building I really wanted to see was the Piece Hall but it was right in the middle of a three year, £19 million refurbishment so that was not an option. I went for yet another fairly aimless wander about doing not much of anything. I had a couple more pints, including a farewell drink in the Old Post Office which I was genuinely sad to leave, walked to the station and caught my train back to London, all without incident. I got home about midnight, crawled into my pit a fairly tired but happy man.

Time at home then for a bit of reflection, not that night obviously but later.  What had I learned?

There is still a stereotype within my country that Yorkshiremen are dour, tight-fisted and not accepting of “foreigners” i.e. anyone from the next county never mind country. The stereotype does not appear to have migrated to the fairer sex yet although presumably some equality warrior with nothing better to do shall soon take the matter to Court insisting she should be stereotyped like her brother.

Obviously I have met Yorkshiremen before I went there this time as a 55 year old man. I served with them in the Forces and literally put my life in their hands, and they in mine at which point stereotyping goes out the window a bit, don’t you think?

As I hope my blogs here have shown I was met with nothing but friendliness, civility, good humour and numerous small acts of kindness for which I thank each and every one of the anonymous people who were responsible for them. Even after 30 years living in London I still have a very strong Northern Ireland accent and so was very obviously an outsider and yet I felt very much at home there.

How then to summarise the whole adventure, for such it was. I had visited many places I had never been, had a superb time with dear friends doing something that may well be my favourite leisure activity, met some fascinating people and learned so much along the way as I tend to do when I travel.

I would love to go back to West Yorkshire and undoubtedly will in the fullness of time although I think I would base myself somewhere different. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Halifax but I would merely like to go somewhere else to see some other places. As I write this I am formulating a plan to walk the disused arm of the Halifax canal down to Salterhebble, then walk the Rochdale all the way round. It is only about 17 miles or so and a couple of days will do that, at least it will if I can manage to keep out of all the excellent pubs I told you about! After that the Rochdale joins onto another group of different waterways in what I believe is called the South Pennine Ring so matters can be extended as far as required.

I do hope that my meagre writings here have given you a sense of what I saw and did and how much I enjoyed myself and I trust they were in some way informative. Much as I loved my former websites, I really am getting to like this idea of having my own which I know is not going to be taken away from me unless kaufer has his goons eradicate it so if this site disappears you will know what has happened.

My main problem is that there is so much to do and I do not know what to tackle next. Even with some of it already written it has taken me literally weeks just to cover seven days here. I have three extended trips to Canada to cover, three to Sri Lanka, a month in Malta, three long distance footpaths around London, the list just goes on and on. Northern Ireland anyone?  Scotland?  Madeira?

I’ll tell you what, we shall make it easy on both of us. You shout out a country and I’ll tell you if I have been there and then write about it. How does that sound? I have not decided what I will do next but I’ll let you know and until then stay tuned and spread the word.

That is why I spend basically all my waking hours on here, I want to get people to travel. Is that such a bad thing? I know all about finance and holiday allowances and family / partner pressure but forget that, it is just snowflakes by the fire.

All I want people to know is that this site is honest. If they do, then I am happy. I had not expected this potentially “last chance saloon” especially as I refuse to use social media.  I do  thank you for being kind to an old technophobe.

Again, stay tuned and spread the word.

Happy in Halifax (and the other place).

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The impressive Dean Clough complex.

Let’s explore the home base.

I woke relatively early on the 9th after great night’s sleep and headed out for my last full day in West Yorkshire. I had decided that I had not really explored much of Halifax yet and I even had a vague plan if I could ever be said to have a plan but today I wanted to visit the local military museum and an art gallery. Yes, Fergy was going to actually get bit of culture for a change odd as that may sound. Aimless wandering is normally the order of the day but at least I had a vague notion of which direction to head on this not overly warm day although at least it was not raining.

But I don’t like art galleries!

Halifax has many old mills and associated buildings albeit that the textile industry has long since left town. Some of these buildings now stand disused and rather forlorn whilst others have been converted to residential, commercial or social use (museums, galleries and the like). I had seen literature advertising the Dean Clough complex and the art gallery there and decided to visit even though I am not generally overly interested in art. Truth be told, I was rather more looking forward to seeing the restored industrial architecture which I do like looking at.

Following the signs I walked up Dean Clough (which is the name of the road as well as the complex) and caught sight of a magnificently restored series of mill buildings which, like the Taj Mahal, didn’t seem too large at first but appeared to grow ever larger the closer you got. I know this is technically true of any
structure but that was the thought that came to my mind. I hope the image here does it credit although it is only of a small portion of the whole as it would take an aerial shot to get it all in.

Approaching the reception area I saw signs indicating a number of businesses were in the main building although the art gallery was also signed. I merely thought it was a multi-purpose building which isn’t so strange and went in. I noted the rather well-stocked gift shop adjacent and made a mental note to have a browse there on the way out. Looking beyond the gift shop I saw a fairly large gallery but it was regrettably empty as it was being set up for a forthcoming exhibition. No problem, that can happen anywhere so I thought I would just go and look at the other galleries and this is where it started to get strange.

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If I was expecting the gallery on one or two floors and the commercial premises on others I was quickly to be disabused of that notion as the two functions are completely intertwined. There were certainly some formal galleries but the vast majority of the exhibits were displayed on the walls of what was obviously a functioning office block. Between the doors of ABC chartered accountants and XYZ marine insurers there would be a display of artworks. It felt quite odd at first but the few people I did meet who were obviously working there were all very friendly and I soon got used to the concept. I was slightly wary of accidentally wandering into some high-powered business meeting but it is all very well organised with signs on various doors politely requesting gallery visitors not to proceed any further.

Another slight problem is that the place is a complete rabbit warren and I was quickly completely disorientated. I have no doubt that I missed plenty of exhibits but I did enjoy those that I saw. I suppose there is a map available at reception but I had not thought to ask for one. The upshot of this complete loss of direction was that I eventually exited the building (after a few detours) by a door at entirely the other end to that which I had entered and so missed the gift shop but it was a fascinating journey on the way.

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This really caught me out.

At one point I was quite convinced I had taken a wrong turn and inadvertently entered a storage area as there were dozens of canvasses literally everywhere propped up against the walls in addition to the ones displayed. I wandered on to the end of the corridor where a sign declaring Doug Binder Studio explained everything as I had previously discovered that Mr. Binder was the artist in residence there. I glimpsed through a window to see him hard at work on a fairly large canvas and adding to his obviously prodigious output. On the door was the most wonderful sign which said, “Welcome, painter at work, please disturb, just knock and come in” which genuinely raised a smile. I didn’t have the nerve to go in as I would have made a complete fool of myself in any conversation about art and so I crept away as quietly as I could. Whilst researching this piece I have found out that he is a very important British artist sometimes referred to as Britain’s master of colour and I slightly regret my reticence now as it would have been great to meet him especially as I did like his work.

In the way of these things I got to thinking how wonderful the concept was of having an artist in residence as I have heard of the concept before as well as poet in residence, musician in residence and what have you. My mind took off on one of it’s frequent tangents and I wondered what sort of “in residence” I could possibly be. I can’t draw two straight lines, I am not much of a poet and merely an average pub musician and so I thought I might be a travel writer in residence until I though it through and dismissed the concept as a total oxymoron. Back to the gallery!

After my ludicrous travel writer in residence reverie I came to an absolutely superb photographic exhibition of monochrome prints of various local scenes, predominantly moorland and upland and presented by a photographer whose name I can lamentably not remember now. Photography is probably my favourite artistic medium and these were superb as I think that monochrome is often far more evocative than colour. The fact that the subject matter was local is echoed throughout the entire gallery with many of the artists featured being local or having some connection to the area and I do like that as I think it lent them a relevance. For me it is much the same argument as the food miles issue and I would much rather eat produce from 10 miles down the road than the far side of the world. Perhaps I am just overthinking the whole artistic process here, it is merely a personal view.

The absolute pinnacle for me, though, was something that some may not describe as art at all but merely adults playing with children’s toys, in this case Lego building bricks and a considerable number of them to boot. Again echoing the theme of local subject matter it is a 1:40 scale model in Lego of the very building in which it stands. The reason it is this scale is that the smallest appropriate windows Lego make are a certain size and everything else has to be in proportion. It is the work of Michael LeCount and Tony Priestman and was still a work in progress although it is utterly jaw-dropping as it currently stands (apparently pretty near completion). It will eventually be 35 feet long and with a 12 feet high chimney and with only a minimal amount of glue used in the construction. Whether art or not it is a simply gargantuan project and hugely impressive. My only concern is how they are ever going to get it out of the pretty small door to the display room as and when they may want to move it. Apart from the many other excellent exhibitions it is worth visiting the Gallery just for this in my opinion.  I shall let the images speak for themselves.

I stated earlier on that I am not overly keen on art galleries and would generally sooner spend time in a museum but for the various reasons outlined above I really did enjoy my time here and I do recommend it.

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This is so typically Yorkshire.

Leaving the gallery it was onward and every upward in the direction I knew the Museum was. They do like a bit of a hill in these parts which I suppose is understandable since the town is built on a river valley. I paused briefly to take the image above as it is so typical of the old “back to back” housing common in this area. I swear I could almost hear the brass band playing in my head.

A little magic in an unlikely place.

The stiff walk up the rather steep Haley Hill on a pleasant autumnal day had not only invigorated me but also worked up a bit of a thirst. My late and much-missed Mother once remarked, and not without reason, that I was born thirsty and regular readers will understand that I do like to spend time in pubs which also form a large proportion of my blog material. I saw the sign for the Museum and the Flying Dutchman pub simultaneously. Ah, decisions, decisions. Undoubtedly the reader is ahead of me now and my thirst for a pint outweighed my thirst for historical military knowledge although it was a close-run thing.

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The pub looked tidy and well-maintained from the outside and a step through the door confirmed the interior to be the same. I glanced to the left to see two gents having a game of pool on what looked like a decent table, nodded a greeting and entered the main bar where a young lady was sitting at a table doing some paperwork and with an evidently aged dog at her feet. She greeted me in a very friendly manner and headed behind the bar to enquire what I wanted. A pint of cider was called for and was poured quickly with a quick mouthful proving it to be well-kept. I should mention that the price was very reasonable although this may just be because I am used to London prices which are ruinous. How they compare locally I am not quite sure.

Apart from the dramatis personae already mentioned (if a dog constitutes part of personae, I am not sure) I was alone in the place and so turned my attention to a look round and then divided my attention between the sport being shown on the large screen TV and the new book I had just acquired and which I was fairly well devouring. The pub was spotless if unremarkable in terms of decor but I immediately felt at home there. A few posters alluded to family themed events and it was very obvious that this was a local’s pub as realistically I don’t suppose they get much passing trade in what is effectively the suburb of Boothtown. Eventually the dog wandered over (albeit somewhat slowly) for a fuss and then seemed to take up residence beside me. That was grand, I like dogs even if I cannot have one of my own.

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After a while my nicotine levels were approaching the critical (yes, I know smoking is bad for me and no, I do not recommend it to anyone who has not started) and I enquired of the young lady if there was a smoking area out the back or if I had to stand in the street like a naughty schoolboy. She indicated a back door just past the (again spotlessly clean) gents toilets and I went out to find myself in a fairly sizeable and well-presented beer garden. The two pool playing gents were already seated with one of them apparently a smoker and his mate a non-smoker who was just keeping him company. I enquired if I could join them and was cordially invited so to do.

This is where the magic started. No, they didn’t start doing card tricks or pulling rabbits from hats but after the initial civilities we got to talking. It transpired that both men were retired from the textile manufacturing trade which was once the lifeblood of Halifax and much of this area. They were reminiscing about people they had worked with, things that had happened in various mills and so on and it was, frankly, fascinating. They patiently explained my probably idiotic questions about the whole process of commercial weaving and I would readily have paid money to attend a lecture like this at a Museum or whatever as it was completely fascinating.

It transpired that one of the guys had been all over the world plying his trade when it had collapsed locally and, amongst the many more exotic places he had been (China springs to mind) he informed me that he had also worked in my home country of Northern Ireland which led to some further conversation. Very quickly my excellent book was forgotten and I was being immersed in a living history lesson.
I mention living history for a reason because I love it. Certainly museums are of great value in their place and especially from periods where no-one now survives but for more recent history it is so wonderful to hear it first hand from people who were actually there. As all this was going on I could not stop comparing the experience to one I had had the previous year in Canada when I had gone to the wonderful Mining Museum in Glace Bay and been shown round a fairly recently decommissioned undersea coalmine by a lovely guy called Wishie Donovan who had actually worked there for many years. This was similar although different insofar as it was not being presented in a formal way, it was just two old guys talking about days, industry and, sadly, people all now long gone. I was mesmerised.

This is the magic of which I speak, the magic of meeting different people and interacting and learning from them. I do not wish this to sound like some sort of evangelical rant on what is effectively a blog entry about an out of the way pub but travellers will hopefully understand what I mean. I eventually and somewhat regretfully left my new-found friends, went back inside and finished the remains of my pint, bid a fond au revoir to both barmaid and dog and headed off to the museum before it closed.

I think it is a mark of the Flying Dutchman that it does not even appear to have a website which is almost unheard of in the UK nowadays for a pub. It apparently has a presence on the appalling facebook but there is absolutely nothing on it and I suppose this exemplifies how this wonderful pub works. Generally, if you need to know where it is, you will know as you will live within a mile of it. Otherwise I hope I have, in some very small way, managed to alert people to the presence of this very welcoming establishment and can do no more than to recommend it highly.

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The excellent Bankfield Museum.

All hail the Duke of Boots.

After a slightly longer interlude than I had intended in the nearby Flying Dutchman pub I eventually made my way to the Bankfield Musem which was situated up a curving roadway and appeared on first sight to have been some grand old house. This impression was to be confirmed whilst researching this piece as it transpires that the building was the home of local mill owner, philanthropist and MP Colonel Edward Akroyd for whom the park surrounding the museum is named.

Interestingly, it has been a museum for over 100 years having been opened in 1887. On entering I had noticed a sign stating that the place closed at 1600 that day which somewhat surprised me as I thought that industry standard for museums in the UK was 1700 if not later. Full details of opening times are provided later but I knew this was going to be a bit of a rush! A walk up a very grand staircase led me to the foyer of the museum.

Whilst I am certainly interested in the history of Halifax and the surrounding area of Calderdale my predominant interest was as stated and I asked the very helpful young man where the Museum of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment may be found as that is what I had come for. He directed me and I found it easily. If you were to imagine everything you associate with the Duke of Wellington, it was all there in the first room, the bicorn hat, frock coat and, of course, the eponymous riding boots. There was a huge amount of other artefacts as well (including the pot his cook allegedly made his porridge in on the morning of the Battle of Waterloo) but those mentioned are the ones that immediately caught my eye.

When I had had my fill of Wellingtonalia (I just made that word up) I carried on and the museum then leads you through the entire history of the Regiment from being raised in 1702 through it’s many campaigns and right up to the present day where, due to defence cuts, it has now been amalgamated several times and now forms part of the Yorkshire Regiment along with the Prince of Wales Own and the Green Howards. The campaigns where the Regiment distinguished itself include the American Revolution, Flanders, India, Waterloo and the Crimea as well as both World Wars and Korea more recently.

As I mentioned, time was rather against me and I didn’t get a chance to see the rest of the museum although I certainly intend to return if I am back in Halifax. Should the reader wish to visit, here are the logistics.

The Museum is closed Sunday and Monday (except Bank Holiday Mondays) and open Tuesday – Saturday 1000 – 1600. Due to the nature of the building there is wheelchair access to the ground floor only and there are handling boxes for visually impaired visitors available. Refreshment is provided by means of a coffee machine Last admission is 30 minutes before closing and admission is free although donations are obviously very welcome.

It is pronounced how?

Well, that was my two objectives for the day achieved so what do do next. Obviously it was pub time and I was tempted to head back to the Flying Dutchman but I decided on another plan and so I found myself in the charming little village of Mytholmroyd by utilising my very handy bus rover pass which allowed me to jump on and off local buses at will.

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It is not a big place.

There isn’t really a lot of the village so it does not mean much to say I alighted near the middle of it but I did. Fortuitously the bus stop was very close to the Dusty Miller pub / Coiners restaurant which is all the one premises and also incorporates accommodation from single rooms all the way up to a family room for five. Well, a half hour bus ride had made me thirsty and so I sallied in for a pint.

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Another pleasant surprise.

My initial impression was that it was one of those old-fashioned country pubs that had been refurbished relatively recently and this was confirmed to me later on. Sometimes this can lead to a loss of the original character of the place but I have to say that it was very sympathetically done here. I had seen the notices for the restaurant and this coupled with the quite sumptuous appearance gave me a moment of disquiet as I was looking my usual fairly unkempt self and certainly not dressed up for a night on the town. No problem at all as a very pleasant lady greeted me with typical Yorkshire hospitality and promptly served up a pint of well-kept cider.

Being a midweek early evening in September the place was fairly quiet with the other clients being a couple of guys at the bar and a couple sitting at one of the tables. This did look a bit sparse as it really is a fairly large establishment. In the way of these things a conversation was soon struck up at the bar and the chaps there proved to be very sociable. Ordinarily, I would just go for a look round a new premises (as much for purposes of writing reviews like this as out of natural curiosity) but for some reason I asked the barmaid if it would be OK to do so and she encouraged me to check out whatever I wanted. I needed no further encouragement.

First port of call was the fairly sizeable Coiners restaurant where I checked out the menu which seems to be what I would call modern British and where they have separate offerings for midweek lunch, Saturday Lunch, Saturday evening etc. The Sunday carvery (served from midday) looked particularly good value. They make a point of locally sourcing as much of their produce as they can which is always a big plus with me.

A framed print on the wall explained the name of the restaurant which, I must confess, had been puzzling me slightly. Mytholmroyd, or more specifically Cragg Vale which is an area within the village, was home in the late 18th century to a criminal gang called the Cragg Coiners or Cragg Vale Coiners. If the term coiners means nothing to you, allow me to explain.

At the time mentioned, a number of local men took to the crime of coining (a practice long pre-dating this story) whereby genuine gold coins were obtained from local publicans and “shaved” of a very small proportion of the gold before the edges were re-milled. The gold so harvested was kept, smelted and then made into new coins before being passed back into circulation by the self-same publicans. It was said that so industrious were their activities that they threatened to destabilise or even destroy the currency of the nation and therefore an Excise man called William Dighton was appointed to bring them to justice.

The leader of this gang was a man known as “King David” Hartley who ended up being hanged publicly at York in 1770 having been arrested by Dighton. Hartley’s brother Isaac put a bounty on Dighton’s head and the murder was supposedly planned in this very pub. The sum for the “hit” was set at £100 which was truly a King’s Ransom in those days. It was very interesting to think I was sitting in the very bar where all this had taken place. Isaac was never tried due to lack of evidence and lived to the then extremely old age of 78 in this village, dying in 1815 and being buried in the plot next to his hanged brother. If the reader is interested, there is a very good article here. It is well worth a read.

Having finished my wander round the place I returned to the bar, had another pint and took myself off in search of other things to see and pints to drink. Again, as had happened the day before in nearby Hebden Bridge in the Old Gate pub, I had misjudged the place totally on first appearance. I was thinking that it would be too posh for me (I do not do posh at all) and yet again I had had my misconceptions firmly kicked into touch. Certainly the Dusty Miller is upmarket and plush enough to satisfy the most discerning pubgoer whilst still retaining the ability to make a somewhat windswept and interesting character like myself feel entirely comfortable.

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Lest we forget.

I thought I would wander a bit further round the village although it did not take long. As is my wont, I stopped at the immaculately tended war memorial to pay my respects and then wandered a bit further so let me tell you a little about this quaintly named village.

For those with an interest in the subject I would suggest the following websites. They are respectively the listings of Commonwealth War Graves and UK War Memorials as listed by the Imperial War Museum.
http://www.cwgc.org/
http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/search

The war memorial in Mytholmroyd stands in a beautifully tended gardens on the A646 Burnley Road just opposite the junction with the B6138. It is topped by a fairly generically uniformed soldier of World War One vintage resting on his rifle. A scroll indicates that it is dedicated to the men of the area who gave their lives in that war and a small simple brass plaque beneath it remembers those who died in World War 2. It was sculpted by H.S. Davies and dedicated in 1922 but if you look closely you will see that the head is not the original as it was replaced during restoration work in 2009. Similarly the rifle is not original and is actually fibreglass. This needed replacing as some thug had stolen the original. Stealing part of a war memorial, I can think of few things more despicable.

Should the reader need any further information, here are the relevant catalogue references.  War Memorials Trust reference WM1307 UK National Inventory of War Memorials: 2610

Mytholmroyd is a small and attractive village in Calderdale about seven miles West of Halifax and just over a mile East of Hebden Bridge and the very first thing the traveller needs to know is how to pronounce it! I had been doing it completely wrong until I was politely corrected by a local and for those of you that understand the odd notion of phonetics or whatever it is called, here it is pronounced MYTHEM-ROYD/ˌmaɪðəmˈrɔɪd/ (always assuming this cut and paste makes it intact to the blog). Apparently it means a clearing where two rivers meet if that helps. The locals avoid pronounciation difficulties by just referring to it as Royd.

Myhtolmroyd is a village of about four and a half thousand souls and traces it’s history back to at least the 14th century although it is probably best for the coiners I wrote about above. A more recent and certainly more respectable son of Mytholmroyd was the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes.

This is a very pleasant little village and easily accessible by bus or train from major local centres like Halifax, Burnley and Rochdale and is certainly worth a visit, not least for the next place I discovered.

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A very fine pub.

Proper grub in a proper pub.

To be honest, I had not planned on eating in the village that evening as I had vaguely set my sights on getting back to Halifax and one of the numerous excellent Asian restaurants that city has to offer but things were to change. One way or another I found myself in the excellent Shoulder of Mutton pub and it could not have proved to be a better choice.

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Isn’t this wonderful?

From the exterior it is a fairly typical English country pub, which suits me nicely. Walking inside I found an establishment that had made a few concessions to modernity but otherwise was what it was, a Yorkshire country village boozer. I was served a pint of well-kept cider by a very friendly young lady and sat myself down opposite a most wonderful fireplace (pictured) which I hesitate to describe as Art Noeveau or Art Deco as I simply do not have the knowledge. I know only that it was a hugely decorative piece and obviously used in winter for it’s original purpose. That was a good start.

On top of this delight were a number of books for sale in aid of the local hospice which not only is a nice touch but also demonstrated the very obvious local focus of the pub which is exactly what I think the pub should be, the centre of the local community. I devour books and can never have enough lying about and so I bought myself one to pass the time. It was a choice between reading and watching Sky News (a UK satellite channel) with the sound turned down on the large screen. Other attractions include occasional weekend live music.

My next piece of reading material was the menu on the table which was more out of interest than an intention to eat, as explained. During this perusal I was approached by a delightful lady who identified herself as the landlady and had obviously picked me out as not being a regular whereupon we had a most charming conversation which made me feel even more welcome and comfortable than I already was. She enquired if I was dining and it seemed almost churlish to refuse so I set about a more serious appraisal of the fare on offer.

The menu here was not overly extensive and it is not flash, there is no mention of jus, reductions, veloute and the like but rather good old-fashioned pub grub of the bangers and mash, fish and chips, pie and chips variety although there are veggie options for the non-carnivores and non-gluten options for those for which this may pose a problem. A speciality of the house seems to be giant Yorkshire puddings with a variety of fillings although in the end I plumped for the Boozy Beef, a beef and Guinness stew served with seasonal veg and mash. Obviously, being Yorkshire, the obligatory Yorkshire pudding was included as, equally obviously, was the gravy. I don’t mean the gravy the beef was cooked in but additional ladlesful of the stuff as the image testifies. Ordinarily, I ask for meals without gravy as I consider it the work of the Devil but this was Yorkshire and they like it up there so I held my tongue. I thought I would have been publicly hanged or whipped through the streets of Mytholmroyd on a cart tail as a heretic otherwise!

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Mobile waitress station. Handy.

Whilst awaiting the arrival of my meal I had a bit of a look at the cooking set-up. They had wheeled some sort of mobile hot plate affair out into the further portion of the bar to where I was sitting which appeared to be for the purpose of keeping the plates warm etc. I also got a few glimpses into a spotless kitchen where nothing less than a small army of ladies were scurrying about getting things together. Not a man to be seen and I will swear there are professional kitchens in London with less of a brigade. In the way of my slightly odd thoughts it occurred to me that it somewhat akin to attending a charity lunch organised by the Women’s Institute.

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This was even tastier than it looks!

My meal promptly arrived and it was nothing short of brilliant. The beef was falling to pieces and with a perfectly seasoned sauce with just enough of a hint of the beer in it. The seasonal veg turned out to be red cabbage (a favourite of mine anyway) cooked perfectly and not boiled into submission along with peas and a very well-made mash. The Yorkshire pudding was so light and tasty as you would expect here as it is a matter of regional pride who makes the best. I have to say that I even enjoyed the gravy which was lovely and rich. I may have to rethink my culinary stance on that particular subject if it is always as good as this.

Given the amount of staff apparently present (maybe they were just moving around a lot) I am surprised they can keep the costs as reasonable as they do with my meal coming in at a shade under £7 (2015 price)which was really nothing in terms of eating out then and well worth every penny. A quick look at the menu on the attached website whilst editing this in December 2018 shows there has been a slight change of policy with prices naturally having gone up and some fairly exotic items on the menu.  This strikes me as being  pity but I suppose they have to make a living.  I shall remember it fondly as it was.
I am fully aware that this may seem like a bit of a War and Peace about a very decent meal and a few pints in a pub in a West Yorkshire village but I really do believe that a place like this merits the same attention in reviewing as does a £150 a plate tasting menu in a Mayfair Michelin starred restaurant.

Fully sated and after another quick pint, it was time to jump on my bus and head back the short distance to Halifax. The Shoulder of Mutton is just about everything I would want from an establishment like this but do be aware of the logistics. This was not a gastropub then (thankfully) and has somewhat limited food serving times which the locals all seem to know. Food was served 12 to 2 and 5.30 to 7.30 and all day Sunday 12 to 7pm (there is a slightly separate menu then) but that has also changed and now food is served throughout the day until 2000. Back on the bus then and I was heading for Halifax, a mere few miles distant but obviously it did not end up quite like that!

Friendly by name………….

As you know by now my travels are entirely unstructured (as various travel companions will attest and which drives some of them mad) and as long as I have a notion of how I am going to “return to base” i.e. where I am laying my head that night then I will just ramble as the mood takes me. In truth, sometimes I do not even have a place to lay my head planned and this can cause even further consternation for others. It is just the way I am and thus it was that I jumped off the bus in the utterly delightfully named village? / suburb? of Friendly. Really, that is the name. It would be equally correctly described as being a suburb of Sowerby Bridge or a suburb of Halifax, as either one would be appropriate. I choose to call it Sowerby Bridge as that is the official postal address.

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The friendly White Horse in Friendly.

I had noticed the bus passing a pub called the White Horse and passing a pub is somewhat anathema to me so I alighted at the next stop and wandered back. I genuinely only had the vaguest idea where I was but knew I could make it home as I checked the timetables when I got off. Into the White Horse then and the very first thing that struck me was that it was empty with only a very few people there present save for the couple that apparently run the place. A well-kept pint was served up quickly and with a few friendly enquiries as to who I was as I suspect they do not get much passing trade here.

The couple of locals finished their drinks and headed off as did the owners / staff behind the bar who had disappeared out a rear door to what was to prove to be the smoking area out the back (we have a smoking ban in public places in the UK which has cost thousands of jobs and contributed to the closure of a large amount of pubs). I was completely alone in the bar and took the opportunity for a bit of a look round what was a very tidy and welcoming place. I saw a pool table in the back bar along with the obligatory fruit machine (automated gambling device) and all looked fine. Nature having taken it’s toll I visited the Gents facilities and they were in equally good order.

After that I wandered out the back to join them to satiate my nicotine addiction and they were delightful, it really was a very relaxed scene and they apparently had no qualms about previously leaving me alone in their bar, I liked that. Before any over-zealous official picks up on this and tries to be bothersome, I should emphasise that they could see into the main bar area through the back window, I would not like to cause trouble for these lovely people.

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Signs about the place indicated that this was quiz night and the evening was wearing on a little with no sign of any punters at all and so I enquired about the pub quiz. I was cordially informed that it would take place and that I would be most welcome. They would find me a team to latch onto (although I suspect that would have been more of a hindrance than a help!) and also that the quiz afficionados would be there shortly as they were all presently in the local Bowling Club! It appears the good denizens of Friendly (I still cannot get my head round that brilliant name) regulate their social activities fairly rigidly and that really only added to the charm of the place.

Yet another pub highly recommended for a taste of proper Yorkshire hospitality but I knew I really should be getting back as I always wary of relying on the very last bus or train so I said my adieus and back to the bus stop. There were no other distractions on the way and I managed to make it to Halifax, well to the outskirts anyway. I knew the bus went all the way to the bus station literally cross the road from my digs but I had looked round there and so I alighted again in a part of town I had never seen.

Things start to unwind.

Close by the bus stop was the Feathers pub so that was that sorted then.

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Although I didn’t know it at the time I was in an area of Halifax called Kings Cross and it seem to be very well-endowed with purveyors of liquid refreshment. I had spotted the Feathers from the bus on the outbound journey and so managed to alight at the correct stop and in I went. The Feathers is a fairly large one-roomed bar with a reasonable crowd for the day and time of evening (it was not a weekend). It was obvious that this was very much a locals place as, without being derogatory to this part of town in any way, I suspect it is not really an area visitors will generally find themselves and that suits me fine.

A brief conversation with the member of staff on duty allowed enough time for me to be presented with an obviously well-kept pint which went down so nicely I decided to have another. Whilst imbibing I had an opportunity to have a quick look around and noticed a fairly typical sports theme in the bar with the large screen TV and the dart board both prominent.

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The Feathers is not remarkable at all but is certainly a perfectly pleasant and friendly place for a drink if you are in the area and it wasn’t over yet as I was on a mission now!

 

Reluctantly leaving the Feathers I went in search of another watering hole and had only gone a very short distance when I spotted a fairly narrow although well lit alleyway which had a sign at the end which was obviously for a pub called the Oddy’s. I should explain that Oddy’s is a contraction of Oddfellows which was a mutual assistance group more prevalent in days past but still in existence today I believe. I should also add that this very much the back way into the pub and there is a much more usual frontage at the other side. A small alleyway after dark in a place I have never been and know nothing about that leads to a pub? Red rag to a bull so off I went. I should add that the alley (indeed the entire area) was not in the slightest intimidating lest I give the wrong impression.

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Having taken the obligatory image (attached) I gained the sanctuary of the bar which was, frankly, not exactly what I expected as it was lot more modern than the exterior of the building may have suggested. Nothing wrong with that as it was very clean and tidy and whilst researching this review I discovered that it had been completely refurbished in September 2014, they had done a nice job.

Being a midweek night it was not that busy but there were a few guys in watching the sport on the large screen TV screens. A pint of cider was quickly dispensed by a friendly member of staff and it turned out to be in good nick. I must say that in my whole trip to West Yorkshire I didn’t have a pint that was not in tip-top condition and I did have one or two. I suppose that given the very precarious state of the British pub trade for various reasons it is incumbent on publicans to serve decent drink or else they will go under as customers go elsewhere, basic economics really.

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Logistically, they promote themselves as dog friendly and have wifi although I did not avail myself of either service so cannot comment. Although I was still completely full I noticed that they do a range of food here at extremely reasonable prices if you fancy a bite. There is not much more to say about the Oddy’s really and it is a place I suspect most travellers will not find as it is a little bit off the main drag but I found it very tidy, friendly and not a bad place at all for a drink. Well worth a visit.

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You would think it was time for home now and you would probably be right but one more for the road as they say which led me to the William IV, again not far away. I did mention that this place is teeming with pubs. These three pubs are no more than 200 yards apart, if that!  In truth I was a bit hors de combat at this point and the only reason I know I was in the William IV was because I took an image of the exterior sign at 2217 hours. I must have got the bus again for the last leg as I took an image of that as well at a very advanced hour. I obviously made it home OK as I woke up alone in my own bed the next morning and had survived apparently without mishap.

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There was no way I was walking it!

I head back to London in the next instalment so stay tuned and spread the word.

On my tod in Tod.

The morning of the 8th arrived to find me in my very comfy bed in the Old Post Office hotel in Halifax.  As always I shall start with a very brief explanation and the obligatory apology to my regular readers. If you have happened upon this page by accident, which happens given the vagaries of search engines, it is in the middle of a set of entries about a canal trip I made in Yorkshire with some great friends back in September 2015 and if you go to the bottom of the page you can get back to the start which I do recommend as it may make a little more sense that way.

Now that is out of the way, let’s get on. For one like me that is fairly nocturnal I was up at a reasonably civil hour and ready to go. The weather was not great but not horrible and, as I had no option of breakfast in my hotel (a meal I rarely take anyway) it was time to hit the road.

I had seen buses to Todmorden which was a place I had heard of if only perhaps for the rather unusual name but one thing which was somehow lodged on my brain was that it was the birthplace of the late Keith Emerson, keyboards player with the eponymous Emerson, Lake and Palmer and previously the Nice, both of which I was a huge fan of back in my formative years and, indeed, still am.

Poor Keith, for whatever reasons he may have had, chose to blow his own brains out in early 2016. Obviously any loss of life, particularly suicide, is tragic but this just seemed like such a waste of talent albeit that when I jumped on the bus to Tod or Toddy as it is locally known, the sad event had not happened. I wasn’t sure if I expected to find a blue plaque saying “Keith Emerson lived here” or whatever but I just fancied a visit. Be fair, I am the man who travelled halfway across France just to buy my friend some mustard in Dijon! This is the kind of idiocy I get up to and half an hour on a decent little “Hoppa” bus was not going to be a problem.

I am now going to unashamedly dip back into my writings from a former website as a) I spent literally thousands of hours composing them and I do not want to lose them and b), just possibly, it may be of some slight use to someone in the near future. In my rather crass way, this tip was initially entitled, “The wheels on the bus go round and round”. I must try harder.

The wheels on the bus go round and round.

“I wandered into the travel centre at Halifax Bus Station merely to enquire what stand a particular bus departed from but the ensuing conversation with the charming lady there produced a host of good information not to mention a couple of very useful timetables. The best piece of advice she gave me was to suggest a Day Rover ticket which would allow me unlimited travel within a designated and pretty extensive area at a cost of £5:50 (2015 price) which I thought was very good value as even a very short bus journey in London costs about £2. I do like “rover” tickets when I am in an area I don’t know as I can jump on and off if I see anything that interests me and I don’t have to worry about having the right change or having to pre-buy multiple tickets at a shop or any of the other myriad nonsenses that public transport throws at the traveller. As well as the bus rover I purchased there are various other tickets including a family pass, a weekend pass and joint bus / rail deals. All of these are operated by Metro which appears to be the overarching organisation for the various private bus and train companies who cover the region.

I had been very pleasantly meandering along the canals of the area previously as mentioned above and thought it a fairly rural area, delightfully so indeed. I was not, therefore expecting a huge service as the “country bus” seems to be in decline in many parts of the country but I was to be pleasantly surprised over a couple of days rambling as the services are frequent and punctual. Obviously the service tapers off later in the evening but I never had a problem getting where I wanted to be.

The vehicles themselves all seem to be fairly new and are certainly comfortable enough and I am glad to report that most of them are wheelchair accessible. Full details for the mobility impaired traveller are on the above website. I do like to give information on accessibility issues because as a friend pointed out to me some years ago with an honesty that literally hit me like a punch, “We are all potential wheeelchair users”. How very true.

I also felt completely safe travelling on public transport here and apart from a couple of slightly raucous groups of schoolchildren at going home time I witnessed no anti-social behaviour but I suppose that is just what youngsters do! I know it can be a concern for female travellers, especially late at night, (which is why I mention it) but I would have no hesitation in recommending the public transport here regardless of gender, age, travelling solo or any other consideration.
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n my days of “Metro rambling” I visited Todmorden, Sowerby Bridge, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd not to mention the environs of Halifax itself. So, all together now, “The wheels on the bus go round and round.”

I arrived on “Tod” in good order and with no idea where I was going or what I was going to do so situation normal then. I could not resist thinking at the time and still cannot, that I was “on my tod in Tod”. Sorry about that and I shall try and redeeem myself by telling you a little about the place.

It is an attractive market town of about 15,000 souls (2011 figure) sitting in the very picturesque Calderdale (the valley of the River Calder) and is a mere 17 miles from Manchester. Whilst it sits in the West Riding of Yorkshire it is almost in Lancashire and indeed was divided between the two counties until a law of 1888 moved the boundary. Prior to that if you went to a dance in the Town Hall you could dance back and forward between the counties, strange as that sounds.

Human habitation in the area dates back to the Bronze Age and archaeological finds have been made, notably at Blackheath Barrow above the modern town. At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 the population was still not centralised and involved in eking a living from the fairly harsh uplands hereabouts and it was not until the early 19th century that the town took shape and people moved into it.

Much of this boom was due to the three parallel developments of better roads, the railway and the Rochdale Canal and was further helped by the growth in the textile industry like so much of this region. The textile in question was originally wool but quickly moved to cotton with a series of mills being opened by the hugely influential Fielden family who gave the town the rather grand Town Hall which still stands. At one point the largest weaving shed in the world was here. The railway still serves the town and whilst the canal is no longer commercially viable it provides an excellent leisure facility not to mention a source of great interest for a canal afficionado like myself.

The days of the textile and other heavy industries are now long gone and it is difficult to work out what has replaced it, if anything. I made the mistake of visiting on a Tuesday which is supposedly half-closing day but it seems that just about everyone closes for the whole day and it was pretty dead but still enjoyable to look round.

What has Greece got to do with it?

Where to go and what to do? When in doubt, walk to where most of the buildings are and look for an open pub, which is what I did. The walk came first and I was barely two minutes from from the bus station when I came upon the wonderful little garden you see here.

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The lovely Patmos Gardens.

Patmos Gardens was established here in 1980 by the Town Council and, perhaps slightly surprisingly, the local Association for the Blind. It sits on the East side of the A646 Burnley Road and contains, inter alia, the memorial to the local dead of two World Wars. It is of a fairly standard style and, as always, I paused to contemplate those who paid the ultimate price for my country.

I was somewhat intrigued by the name as I knew Patmos was a Greek Island but a very informative sign informed me that the park was named for the Patmos Chapel initially built in 1816. It was demolished in 1878 and a new building opened in 1879 which was closed in 1971 and demolished in 1975. The park stands on the site. I also learned that the religious significance of Patmos was that it was here that St. John was exiled and where he wrote the Book of Revelations. Every day is a school day when you are exploring!

Certainly this place is not huge and is situated beside a fairly busy road which does not exactly lend it’s location to quiet contemplation but it is still a pleasant enough place to have a sit down and watch the world go by which is what I did for a few minutes and then time to move on.

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What a shame it was shut.

I find myself in a rather odd position in that I really don’t like shopping and yet I find markets endlessly fascinating albeit that I rarely buy anything there. There is just something very vibrant about them, especially Asian markets which I completely adore, and I suppose they just seem less sterile to me than a large supermarket complex.  When I saw signs for the market and then spotted the rather aesthetically pleasing building (built in 1802) that you can see in the image it was a safe bet that I was going to visit it.
With my usual appalling lack of sense of timing I had picked just about exactly the worst time to visit, namely a Tuesday morning. Allow me to explain. Firstly, the outdoor portion of the market only opens on Wednesday to Sunday from 0900 – 1600 so that was half the fun gone instantly. The indoor market is open Monday to Saturday from 0900 – 1730 with a half day Tuesday. Again, an explanation may be in order here for non-UK readers or younger UK readers. In days past (certainly in my youth) one weekday was designated a half day which was used to give shop / market staff an afternoon off as they had worked on the Saturday. Every town and village had a different day and you needed to know which one it was. With supermarkets and seven day a week opening this practice is now more or less in abeyance.

The theory of the half day, as the name suggests, is to open in the morning and close at lunchtime but the market here was just about completely closed long before midday as were most of the shops in the town generally. About the only things open were a very good looking locally sourced butcher’s shop and several coffeeshops and cafes which appeared to be well patronised. This was rather a shame but it gives me an excuse, were one required, to return to this pleasant town again.  I certainly recommend a trip here but just not on a Tuesday.

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Isn’t this magnificent?

Having skimmed the closed market I kept on walking and after a short detour to visit the rather uninteresting Methodist Church, the next building of note was the very fine Town Hall you can see above. Obviously I had no business there and contented myself with an image. Still walking in the same direction I came upon “The Cut” i.e. the canal.

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I really want to walk this all one day.

Cut along to the Cut.

Obviously, the very reason I was in West Yorkshire was in order to attend the wonderful VT Canal Boat Meet organised so brilliantly by my friend Gilly (see previous entries for details). We had enjoyed a wonderful time on the Calder and Hebble Navigation and I had noticed the Rochdale Canal branching off this at nearby Sowerby Bridge although we sadly did not have time to explore it. It was, therefore, with great delight that I became re-acquainted with the Rochdale when visiting Todmorden and simply had to have a bit of a wander along it. Again, time was against me as I had several other places I wanted to visit but the short distance I did walk was absolutely delightful.

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Madame la Guillotine for giants.

One fascinating technical feature of the canal here is the rather large electrically operated guillotine lock right in the middle of town. I had never seen such a thing before until I locked through the one in Salterhebble a few days previously. They just do not seem to exist on the canals in Southern England where I normally crew. Should you wish to have a look at this clever piece of technology you will find it to the West of the A6033 Rochdale Road towards the South of town.

The history of the Rochdale Canal is fairly typical of many such projects in the UK. In the late 18th century it was obvious that the road system, basically designed for packhorses, was totally unsuitable for the rapidly growing transport needs of a country caught up in the Industrial Revolution. After a couple of false starts, including a survey by James Brindley, who is very famous in canal building matters, the relevant law was passed in 1794 and construction commenced. The navigation finally opened in 1799 between Sowerby Bridge and Todmorden and from Manchester to Rochdale with the entire route open in 1804.

Again, in a mirror of so many other canals, the railways arrived and started to cut into the profits of the private canal companies and this continued all through the 19th century and into the 20th and the Rochdale finally closed in 1952 except for one very small section. Step forward then the local canal enthusiasts who decided to do something when central and local government did not seem to want to and a boost of £23 milion at the time of the Millenium hugely assisted with a new look canal opening in 2002. Whilst not used commercially any more this wonderful asset provides an excellent leisure opportunity for walkers, cyclists, joggers and, naturally, boaters. I would love to cruise it some time but I shall have to be content with my walk for now and I recommend that the reader does the same if they are in the town.

I had gone about as far as I thought I wanted in one direction and so crossed the road to retrace my steps.

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What  a welcoming place.

I had noticed a church which fairly well dominates the skyline of the town and which I was subsequently to discover was the Parish Church of St. Mary so when I came back to it I obviously decided to have a look and this was for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as I have mentioned often before, I am of no faith myself and yet I find places of worship (of whatever faith) endlessly fascinating. In addition any old church in the UK will generally have some sort of graveyard / churchyard / cemetery (or whatever you care to call them) attached and I also find these of huge interest as I think they have so much to offer in the way of social history.

Initially it became obvious why the Church with it’s large tower was so dominant in the landscape as there were a flight of fairly steep steps up from the road. I try to remember the needs of mobility impaired travellers when I write here and so I should add that despite my best efforts I can find no information online on the subject of accessibility so apologies for that. I even tried to telephone the Church but they were obviously busy with far more important things than my ridiculous queries and so I am no further forward. In this modern day and age I cannot believe that provision would not be made.

The other immediately evident thing was that the building was something of a mongrel in architectural terms and I mean no disrespect when I say that. Viewed from the side it appears to be a fairly standard (non-cruciform) church with a tower at one end but approaching from the Burnley Road end there appeared to be a later addition stuck on the other end. I am by no means an architectural expert but it appeared to me to be perhaps Victorian. I don’t know why but it just struck me thus.

There has certainly been a place of worship on this site for many centuries although many of the very old records are lost now and so the inception of this church is variously dated as being between 1400 and 1476. Since then it has been part of the Diocese of Lichfield, Chester, Manchester and Wakefield. This long history has not been without controversy, however, and for some obscure reason there was another Anglican Church very nearby which led to some odd situations. For example, in 1853 the local Bishop claimed to have discovered discrepancies in the ancient documents concerning the church which not only rendered the curate not actually the curate of this place but, perhaps more worryingly, that all marriages he had performed were not legal. This unfortunate situation had ultimately to be resolved by Act of Parliament, no less.

The situation of two churches in such close proximity came to a head in 1987 when it became obvious that both were in need of repair and one would have to be closed and one refurbished. This church came out on top of a very close vote and refurbishment started soon after, being completed in 1992 when Christ Church (the other one up the hill) was deconsecrated, obviously an uneasy decision for all involved. £400,000 completed the work on what is now a very pleasant building.

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If the building is pleasant, then so are the good parishioners who worship here and, again with no apology, I shall digress slightly for an anecdote about my experience there. I had been looking at the old gravestones which are all laid out flat now as a sort of pavement outside the church when I walked past a well-dressed elderly woman. Naturally we greeted each other and I made some comment about the leaves which were starting to fall and were lying on the ground and she said to me, “Would you like a broom?”. I laughed and made some comment about not having much time albeit I would have been happy to sweep up the leaves and the woman looked at me as if I was completely mad (not an unreasonable assumption). I suspect a combination of her strong Yorkshire accent and my slight hearing loss conspired to cause the confusion here. It transpired she had actually enquired if I “wanted a brew” which is UK slang for a hot drink. There had been a meeting or service in the church and tea and coffee were on offer. It appears that Christian charity and Yorkshire hospitality are both very evident here.

I wandered in and was looking around when I was approached by a very pleasant female cleric who again offered me liquid refreshment, they really were sociable here. I declined politely and explained I was just visiting and had decided on a look round here and she very helpfully directed me to some leaflets explaining the most interesting points in the church. She excused herself as having things to do but not before encouraging me to come and ask her if I had any specific questions. Absolutely charming.

Left again to my own devices I did have a decent look round although I did not see the whole church as I just felt a little uncomfortable “crashing” a parish meeting or whatever it was. It was, however, interesting and I do think the £400,000 was money well spent on this fine old building.

I don’t generally like the word nice as it is a little lazy in writing terms but this really was a nice experience on a number of different levels as described. I do not know how often the church is actually open normally outside of service times but I do recommend the traveller at least takes a look round the outside and the inside if it is open.

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A lovely place for a drink

It’s beer o’clock.

By now, with all the walking and so on it was definitely well past “beer o’clock” and I put an inch to my stride in order to find one that was open.That was no problem, the White Hart Hotel looked like it would fit the bill and it happened to be a Wetherspoons. Regular readers will be glad to know that I am not going to go into all the arguments about that company again, as I have done it enough elsewhere.

This particular morning I ate a light breakfast (served until 1200) as well as having a drink. I chose one of my favourites for this hour which is the pancakes and bacon with maple syrup and whilst I appreciate that it is difficult to go wrong with such a simple dish it was presented quickly and well and proved to be very tasty. I don’t usually take breakfast and certainly not too early in the morning but this is a great option for me and at about £3 (2015 price) it will not break the bank. Service generally (bar and table) was friendly and efficient which pleased me as, if I have a slight complaint about Wetherspoons and it is slight, it is that sometimes there are not enough staff on duty which can lead to a lengthy wait at the bar. No such problems here.

The surroundings were clean and pleasant and the toilet facilities were spotless. It is a very large premises and there are plenty of tables. All tables are numbered for ordering food (which you do at the bar and it is then delivered to your table) and I believe the outside table I saw when I went outside for a smoke was numbered something like 101 which gives some sense of scale. Externally the premises is pleasant and (presumably faux) half-timbered and it looks like it has been fairly recently refurbished. Apologies for the image but because of the lie of the road and the sheer size of the building I could not quite get it all in! Another quick pint and it was time for a bit more exploring. I had had a great day already and it was still only midday. I had a notion to head back to the bus station as I reckoned I had just about exhausted the possibilites of an essentially closed Todmorden.

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What a name for a pub!

The pub is called what?

As usual, events overtook me as I spotted the pub / hotel you can see in the image and was instantly taken slightly aback by the name “The Polished Knob”. Perhaps it is just the way my disordered little mind works but it did seem like a slightly risque name to me reminiscent of certain stand-up comic’s jokes of yesteryear. If the reader does not understand this allusion, please just read on, trust me that your position of innocence is much to your credit.

It is a fairly large pub which turned out to have hotel accommodation upstairs (four doubles and one single, all en-suite apparently) and immediately I walked in there I knew it was my kind of place. Initially this was due to there being a full drumkit set up at one end of the bar and various amps, mixing desks and pedal boards etc. strewn about what obviously doubles as the stage area. A further look round revealed a number of posters for forthcoming live entertainment, mostly of the rock band tribute variety and a bit of research whilst composing this piece indicates that there is indeed live music here every Friday and Saturday night.

As a hotel they provide food from breakfast time right through the day and pride themselves on their home-cooked offerings although I did not sample any of the fare. I did, however, have a couple of pints of cider which was well-kept and served by a very friendly barmaid. I noticed that there was a good selection of beers, many of them sourced from small local breweries and, indeed, a man arrived to deliver a couple of barrels when I was there.

I got the impression that this is very much a locals place although I was certainly made to feel welcome but one word of warning. If you are trying to hide then be aware that they have live feeds online from the bar so anyone in the world with an internet connection can see if you are in there having a crafty pint. This practice seems to be becoming more prevalent in pubs and I have to say I really don’t like it. Other than this slight quibble I liked it here and would recommend it.

As for what the name of the premises means, I still have no idea. I didn’t like to ask!

Surely I could make it to the bus station now as I could see it just across the road but no, this is Fergy on a ramble and I had spied something else.

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All you need to know.

I don’t really think I had thought about it prior to my visit but I doubt if I was expecting there to be a Tourist Information Centre here, I suppose I just didn’t think it was a big enough town . In the event, I didn’t really need one as I just wandered round the relatively small community and discovered plenty of things for myself as I hope this entry shows.
It was only when I wandered past this place that I thought they might assist me with a query which I am sure they do not often get from visitors namely where to find a computer shop that was open. As I mentioned in my tip on the Market elsewhere on this page it was Tuesday which is supposed to be half-day closing in Todmorden but turned out to be all day closing in reality. I had been struggling somewhat to find anywhere open much less somewhere to help me with my completely bloody-minded netbook with which I fought constantly.

I wandered in and spoke to an absolutely charming lady who gave me explicit directions to not one but two computer shops although she said that she didn’t know which may be open. In the event the first one was not but the second one was and solved my problem in no time flat. Whilst I was there I took the opportunity to examine the (mostly free) literature on offer although there were a number of commercially produced books and other sundries on offer. I do generally find Tourist Information Board offices in the UK to be fairly good and this was one such albeit I had not expected to find it open at this time of year in what is effectively the shoulder season. Whatever the reason for it being open it was most welcome and of great help. By all means pop in if you are in the town.

I really did not think I had so much to write about a small market town but that is just me I suppose.

I finally escape from Tod.

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I did actually make it to the bus station this time and decided I would head back the way I had come using my rover ticket as I had seen a couple of places I fancied a look at.  The first place I jumped off was Hebden Bridge. In truth I did no more here than have a wander up the main street (which didn’t take long, it is not a huge place) and find an excellent pub where I spent considerably longer than I had planned. You will be glad to know that it will be the only review in this section as I know this page is turning into bit of a saga.

Hebden Bridge, like so many other places in Calderdale, was reliant on heavy industry specifically textiles and boomed between the early 19th and early 20th centuries., a situation facilitated by the nearby Rochdale Canal and the coming of the railways. With the passing of these industries the town also fell into decline and I was told locally that by the 1970’s the place was in a “right old state”.

Enter, stage left, the counter-culture or whatever you want to call them. Lured primarily by the cheap price of housing (nobody wanted to live there any more) the town was a magnet for artists, musicians, green activists, poets, playwrights, New Age adherents and just about every other slightly non-mainstream group you care to mention and this continues to the present day.

A quick walk down the main street reveals that there is nothing for sale that is not organic, fairtrade (Hebden Bridge is itself a designated fairtrade zone), hand-made, artisan, locally-sourced or any of the other currently trendy terms. Whilst this may have irked me slightly in certain circumstances it just seems somehow right here and even on my brief acquaintance with the place I definitely got a bit of a “vibe” here. It was one that was to my liking being a very amateur musician myself. Speaking of music, there is an award winning Blues Festival here annually as well as several other local parades, fairs and so on and this has led to the town becoming something of a tourist Mecca.

Another interesting fact that I discovered whilst researching this page was that Hebden Bridge has the highest concentration of lesbians per capita in the UK although how they arrive at such a figure I have no idea. It is also known as a very supportive place for lesbian couples to raise children. Another little fact is that the currently hugely popular musician Ed Sheeran was born here albeit he moved away young.

As I said, the place really has a slightly offbeat feel to it and one that sat with me very comfortably. I really do intend to return some time and make the effort to keep myself out of the pub long enough to have a better look round.

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Not at all what I expected.

I had noticed a pub on the way into town called the Fox and Goose but it was way behind me up a hill and hadn’t even looked particularly open so I decided to press on along the Main Street to see if I could find somewhere for a little liquid refreshment. There seemed to be a bit of a dearth of drinking holes in the town and so I came upon the Old Gate with somewhat mixed feelings. Allow me to explain.

I was happy in that I had found a pub but slightly ill at ease as it appeared to be one of the upmarket gastropubs that are not really my cup of tea (or pint of cider come to that) and which seem to be ever more popular. In addition I was in my usual fairly casual mode (denim jacket, hoodie, jeans, trainers, long beard and hair, earring et al) and, before you ask, yes I am having a mid-life crisis! Stepping through the front door did nothing to calm my disquiet as it was a very well-appointed large space with modern fixtures and fittings and a couple of people eating what looked like very well-presented food.

Well, in for a penny in for a pound and so I approached the bar where I was greeted most civilly by both the young lady and young man serving. Not seeing my usual Strongbow ( a fairly common brand of cider in UK) I enquired as to what was on offer and was talked most knowledgeably through the selection. This was to be a feature of the considerable time I spent there as I saw various members of staff explaining the different beers to customers and offering sample glasses which is always a good sign in my opinion. It seems that staff knowledge of the products here is encouraged. To my shame I cannot actually remember which one I ordered but it was very pleasant if memory serves.

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I loved the copper bartop.

I had adopted my usual place at the bar and was therefore in a position to indulge in conversation with the staff as the place was not overly busy on a midweek afternoon in September and they were very pleasant. Moreover, my appearance did not seem to be of any consequence albeit I was still feeling a little under-dressed but this was all to become clear as the afternoon wore on. My position also afforded me the opportunity to peruse the extensive selection of beers on offer, many of them locally sourced and with numerous brews I had never heard of.

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What a gorgeous drop.

My eye fell upon the Titanic Plum Porter (abv 4.9%) which had been voted Gold Champion Beer in the specialist category of the CAMRA awards 2015. For those of you not aware, XXXX CAMRA is an acronym for the Campaign for Real Ale which is a consumer advocacy group dealing with real ales and ciders. I ordered a pint and it was good, very good. It was certainly deserving of gold award status so I had to have another (and then several more I must admit). I rarely drink beer in the UK but this was exceptional and I do recommend it highly.

As time passed, various people came into the bar and I felt decidedly less self-conscious about my look. I knew that Hebden Bridge was something of a centre for the counter-culture and this proved to be the case as people were wandering in wearing every type of attire imaginable and were all greeted in exactly the same friendly manner as I was. It appears to me that the Old Gate is indeed a community pub in the proper sense of the term and very expensively dressed yuppies rub shoulders quite happily with guys (and girls) sporting multiple tattoos and piercings and wearing combat trousers, working boots and heavy metal T-shirts. Late middle aged matrons out for a late lunch / early supper brush past young girls wearing painters overalls quite happily. I know Hebden Bridge is a singular sort of place but this must be the essence of the town and they have got it completely spot on here.

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Fergy as duty gerbil-sitter.

Another thing to note is that the premises are not only dog-friendly, they are completely caninophile (if that is a proper word) and at times it looked like Battersea Dog’s Home in there. At one point a young lady approached me and asked if I would hold her dog as she was in urgent need of the ladies “facilities”. No problem, I like dogs. I have included here an image of said beast which to my way of thinking was actually more like a gerbil on a lead than a proper dog. The image was not improperly taken (even after the pints of porter) as I have deliberately included my hand to give a sense of scale. On the owner’s return, she thanked me profusely and I joked that it had tried to drag me off the stool but I had manfully resisted. She laughed dutifully but I include this anecdote as an indication of the general style of the place. I use the word style advisedly as it has a style all it’s own and so much at odds with my initial impression which should reinforce a lesson I really should have learned long ago.

I didn’t eat there but the Old Gate boasts a fairly upscale restaurant as well as offering bar which is perhaps a little more expensive than the local average but the surroundings would certainly appear to justify it. The pub also features exhibitions of local artists of whom there are many.

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To summarise then what has become a fairly verbose review (as tends to happen with me) I can do no more than to recommend very highly the Old Gate. I was much taken with the whole area and intend to return soon and this establishment will certainly be high on my list of priorities for a revisit. Never judge a book by it’s cover.

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Dragging myself away it was back on the bus and I managed to get all the way back to Halifax without further incident i.e. pub so back to the Percy Shaw as mentioned in the previous entry and a supper of chilli dog chips (fries) and onion rings. Very tasty it was too and then another reasonably early bed as it had been a tiring if thoroughly enjoyable day.

There is another one the next day so stay tuned and spread the word.

Cruising ends and exploring begins.

I do hope the reader has come upon this page by way of those previous and, if not, I would recommend they have a look back a few entries on this site as this will all make a bit more sense.

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The final stretch to home.

My friends Gilly and Aly and I had awoken very early on the “good ship Westmorelend” i.e. the canal boat we had hired for a weekend in the little backwater called Salterhebble. I use the word backwater advisedly as it is, being a now closed off section of what was formerly the Halifax canal but is now really the “road to nowhere” being probably a mile or a little more to a basin and a decent enough bar / restaurant (see previous entry) but we had to be on the move early. The boat needed to be back by 0900 and I expect most folk on a short hire probably moor up “back at base” but I was very glad that we had not as we were treated to a simply beautiful early autumnal morning which was probably the most aesthetically pleasing of the trip.

I fully appreciate how boatyards work but it seems to me that a supposed four day weekend hire is really about two and a half days. I am not knocking the firm we went with as they were great and they all do the same thing but it always seems to me like short-changing the customer a bit.

We took off after a cup of tea / coffee each (I am a coffee man myself) and I was quite happy to let the ladies crack on at the tiller. OK, and I remember it well, even at this early hour, Gilly did a bit more blackberry gathering although not too serious. If this sounds crazy to you, again please read the previous entries, it will all make sense. It made little sense at the time but it does now!

With the ladies navigating us nicely I was in a position to take a reasonably comprehensive if brief video on the features of a narrowboat for those of you that don’t know them. Now, to load it up on this site is going to cost me a lot of money as they are obviously a commercial site and need to turn a bob or two so I am tempted to use my Youtube channel which I really need to attend to urgently. I’ll let you know. I am never going to make money out of this site, nor is that the intention so why spend more than I need to when I can do it elsewhere for free? Here is a link if I have done it correctly!

I have also uploaded a short video of the beautiful canal that day.  A video of the Cut on this gorgeous early morning.

If memory serves, we slipped moorings about 0700 and it was a very gentle amble back to the yard where we arrived well in time and another cut and paste from a now sadly deceased website will hopefully explain our RTB (Return to base in Forces speak).

“On the way back, after a brilliant weekend I was at the helm and pulling up slowly to the wharf, not entirely sure of where they wanted me to moor. A young lad beckoned from the quay and was obviously looking to refuel the craft as he was standing beside a pump. The only problem was that he was indicating a space about eight feet wide and the craft I was supposedly piloting was about seven and a half wide not to mention about 58′ long! Not a problem. With shouted instructions from the wharf he backed me in perfectly and started his job of refilling. That finished, he asked me to draw up and “parallel park” alongside another boat already moored. Well, a tricky job but he offered to come on board and walk me in which meant him giving me commands to basically ram the adjoining boat extremely slowly at which point he fended us off with his feet and brought us to a perfect stop stern onto the quay. He had obviously done this many times before. I love working with pros!

So that was that then. Backed in with the help of the lad and we were back safe with just a couple of scuffs on the strakes but they expect that. Being people of a certain age, we had not trashed the boat although I know it regrettably happens and so they asked us very politely if they could check it out. Sure, we have nothing to hide although I suspect they knew that by the look of us not to mention the ludicrously large grins on all our faces. I know some young crews go for a week in summer and just trash the boat, which is why many firms will not accept single sex crews under a certain age and rightly so. In our case, apart from a few dishevelled bedclothes (which had been neatly stowed) and perhaps a crumb or two there was nothing to find fault with and we were invited inside the boathouse for Gilly to sign off a couple of legal documents or whatever they might have been. I just stood outside and had a smoke! With everything apparently deemed OK, it was time to head off albeit very regretfully.

Again, I shall go back to my original writings here. Dave had left to go back to work and Gilly and Aly were both catching buses home but I still had a few days holiday to go and so I asked the same delightful lady (she of the slightly terrified safety briefing before we had set out) if I could leave my kitbag in the office and that was no problem at all. I was thinking perhaps they would have a storeroom as boatyards always do but I was told to just dump it in the corner of the main office and she would look after it. That was great, and much appreciated. OK, I was travelling light but it is so much easier to wander when you are not humping a suitcase, no matter how small.

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HQ for our little jaunt.

The ladies and I headed the short distance up to town and decided upon the Commercial Inn again as it had been too early for breakfast aboard but never to early for a pint. I still was not feeling on top form physically although mentally and, dare I say it, spritually, I was flying. Despite the slight gastro-intestinal mishap, and again folks I apologise for not pulling my weight all the way, it had been an utterly magical time in a beautiful place with great friends doing something that I love so dearly, it was literally like a dream come true. Again, I do not want to sound melodramatic about it but it really had been that good and I thank you all if you ever manage to stumble across this blog and appreciate the sentiments involved.

That was another thing that was murdered (I use the word advisedly) when VT was killed off.  I have lost contact with so many friends as I refuse to sacrifice my privacy on the altar of so-called social media, which is probably the most anti-social thing in the history of mankind. Therefore I have lost touch with all but a handful (a literal handful) of my many friends from that great site.

The ladies left within about half an hour for their respective buses but I only had to get a few miles back down the road to Halifax where I had my room booked for the night and so, after another couple of pints, I took myself for a look round the delights of Sowerby Bridge and it is indeed a delightful place. I still wasn’t feeling on top form although a lot better than I had been and I took myself into a chemist’s (pharmacist’s) shop and spoke to the young female South Asian pharmacist on duty who listened carefully to my symptoms and concluded it was probably severe indigestion. Severe? I’ll say it was and I have never been laid up like that before even after the heaviest of mess dinners and too much port and brandy with the cheeseboard!

I have always thought that pharmacists get a bit of a raw deal as they are generally perceived as being the “poor relations” of Doctors. As far as I am aware, a pharmacy degree takes five years in my country which is the same as a Doctor but without the hospital add-ons. Considering you can get a degree in “media studies” (whatever in blazes that might be and not worth the paper it is written on) in three years, I think they deserve much more respect. Anyway the charming young lady produced some non-prescription medication which I paid for and duly pocketed and which turned out to be most efficacious although my method of administration was probably little obscure as will be seen. I honestly think that if more people went to their local pharmacist for minor ailments instead of clogging up the creaking General Practitioner system which is just about to collapse now then the whole NHS would be in a far better place.

Yet another little off-topic ramble of mine and no, I shall not apologise for it. I am getting used to this idea of editorial control and quite liking it.

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I really liked this statue.

The first thing which I stopped to look at was a statue I had passed earlier but not had time to stop and examine properly and as always I hope my suitably edited writing from the time will serve by way of explanation.

“It is no secret that I do not like modern so-called art and this extends to statuary. I have seen far too many rusting heaps of metal in public spaces masquerading as art and looking like somebody just dumped a load of rubbish from the local tip to be impressed by them, much less be happy that I am probably paying for them out of my taxes. This is why I was so delighted to come upon the wonderful piece you see in the image here.

The statue stands at the entrance to the old wharf in the middle of town and is beautifully rendered by the sculptor, Roger Burnett. It depicts a man, assisted by a small boy, opening a lock gate on the canal and as a confirmed narrowboat fan it instantly resonated with me as I have worked a few lock gates myself.

The statue per se was delightful but it became even better later on when I was having a refreshing pint in the nearby Commercial Inn (please see my review elsewhere in this entry regarding that). A framed photo of the statue on the wall added the information that the statue was of Mr. Richard Tiffany who was for many years the town lock-keeper before they shut the Rochdale Canal as a commercial entity. To make the piece completely perfect for me, the young boy in the statue was modelled on the late Mr. Tiffany’s real great grandson.

You may call me old-fashioned, a Philistine or indeed anything else you want but I will always consider Tracy Emin (incidentally the apparently “sainted” Ms. Emin is from Margate which is near Broadstairs which I know well, and I have heard some stories!), Damian Hirst et al as no more than commercial chancers whilst this for me is a piece of art both aesthetically pleasing and exactly in and of it’s place. Given a choice of a pickled sheep, a condom strewn unmade bed or this I know which one I would rather look at.” Here endeth the lesson from the art critic of Fergy’s Rambles, which is me like every other job here. I love it.

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The next thing I can across was the rather impressive Christchurch Anglican church which had been pointed out to me on the Friday as being one of the stops on the rushbearing procession. If you do not know what the archaic practice of rushbearing is and have come upon this page randomly then please go back three entries where I explain it. In ecclesiastical terms the church is relatively young as it dates only to 1821 but there is a history of worship here dating to 1526, again not terribly old by UK standards but at that time Sowerby Bridge was nothing more than a bridge, a mill and a few scattered dwellings. Prior to that the locals would have had to gone to Halifax and visited the Minster (then still merely the parish church) which I mentioned a couple of entries ago. I’ll bet it would have taken a lot longer than the seven minute train journey that had brought me here! Regrettably the Church did not seem to be open which is a sad indictment of our modern times although sensible I suppose and so I continued on my way.

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River Calder from Sowerby Bridge.

I managed a few images and I do not propose to bore you with them all here but I rather liked the one above of the Calder taken from the bridge albeit it would have been a lot more pleasant had there been a bit of sun! Onward, ever onward and by now it was opening time in normal pubs so that sounded like a plan notwithstanding that it was a crazy one given the state I had been in gastro-intestinally so recently but I have always had a bit of a mad streak in me so when I saw the Roxy, I was in like a shot. As the image suggests it was formerly the Electric Cinema, opened in the middle of the First World War and showed it’s last film in 1963 when it became a bingo hall for many years and eventually the “venue and bistro” it describes itself as now.

The Oxford English Dictionary which I consider to be the sole arbiter in matters of my language defines a bistro as “a small, inexpensive restaurant”. Inexpensive it certainly is but it is like being in an aircraft hangar or, well, an old converted cinema so don’t know where they got that appellation from. I should stress that I have no complaints about the Roxy, the service was efficient, the pint was fine, the “facilities” were clean as was the bar area but it all just seemed to be a bit soulless to me. They are obviously in direct competition with the nearby Wetherspoons as described above by offering all sorts of deals on food and drink and evidently working on economies of scale. It is just that Wetherspoons do it so much better.

I do realise that washing down medication for an upset stomach with acidic cider is probably not the medically prescribed method but we are back to my mad streak again. I am also conscious that members of my family occasionally have a look here if they are very bored but they already know I am a headcase so no harm done there although my cousin Liz, a qualified nurse, would probably have given me an ear-bashing for it. Whether it be my lunacy, natural healing or the efficacy of the medicine given me by the fine young pharmacist I could not possibly say but I was feeling a lot easier by the time I left the Roxy. Having looked it up online to write this piece, I know it gets slated badly but I am a great believer in writing as I find and I have no complaints. Trust me (don’t they all say that, but this time it is true) everything I write here is the truth. It is the only way I can write. That might not count for a lot in this increasingly degenerating world (now, I really am in old man mode!) but it is the best I’ve got.

Enough of me sitting here at 0544 on a December morning in 2018 writing this up as my sleep disorder, or the “sleep fairy” as I rather disaffectionally call her, has obviously been put on overtime recently and I must say that doing this now and formerly on other sites has been somewhat of a therapy for me. It gives me something to do when I cannot sleep and hopefully it is of some sort of interest / benefit to my tiny readership. Yes, I still read  books (does anyone remember them?) and love doing so but this gives me another interest.  No, I do not have one of those book reading machines you see people using on the Tube in London. I like a book to feel like a book and, yes, I am sounding older by the paragraph here. That is OK, I have no illusions and I get my pensioner buspass next year!

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“If I only had a brain”. I know how you feel, mate.

Let’s get back to Sowerby Bridge then and have another look round. The next thing of interest I came across was the rather charming scarecrow you see pictured here. Now, when the church was first built here in 1526 there may have been farming usage of the local land but I certainly found no evidence of arable cultivation here nor even of avian scavangers so I can only presume it was a remnant of the Rushbearing (as described above) and damned interesting I found it.

For those of us of a certain generation a scarecrow will always conjure up images of the “Wizard of Oz! film starring Judy Garland long before even I was born. As I walked past and took the obligatory image, I actually found myself humming the “theme tune” from his character which is, “If I only had a brain”. After my recent performance with the stomach medication washed down with cider I could not resist a somewhat wry smile. Maybe in a former life I was the “strawman”. I literally tipped my hat to him and carried on. If I only had a brain. Enough of this Hollywood nonsense and it was time for another pint. Yes, I was feeling whole lot better.

I knew of the Moorings pub /restaurant near where I had to go and pick up my kit from the lovely young lady at the boathouse but I still had time on my side (just!). Let’s be honest I no longer have time on my side and how Mick Jagger still sings that at 75 years old is a mystery to me. Still, he sings it well and I’ll never make that age so fair play to him. It is Keith Richard I worry about, he has obviously done a Robert Johnson. Go on, look it up as I am not going to do all the work for you here!

As usual the original writing will, I trust, suffice but I shall edit a bit more to include the peas. Yes, you read that right.

” On our way down to pick up the boat on the Friday we had passed the Moorings “pub and kitchen” which was situated in one of the old wharf buildings and I had almost instantly dismissed it as a place I would go albeit that we didn’t have time anyway. When I see the term “pub and kitchen” I automatically think of over-priced food and drink in an atmosphere of people just wanting to be seen. By all means call me dyed in the wool (a very apposite term in this area) but I like a pub to be a pub.

My initial impression was that it was not really my kind of place and was trying too hard. I also noticed that it was totally empty but that was perhaps not surprising on a September Monday in a dormitory town during working hours. I ordered a pint of cider from a very chatty and friendly young barmaid and planted myself on a rather comfortable leather Chesterfield sofa by the window where I could overlook the wharf. Indeed, I could see the boat we had vacated that morning which was a delightful view if slightly poignant.

Although I had no intention of dining there, I did take a quick glance at the menu which seemed to be of the “gastropub” variety and priced accordingly.

I went to the toilet (bathroom / CR / washroom or whatever) which was up the stairs and spotlessly clean. This did raise an issue with me regarding accessible toilets and I didn’t see one although I was not particularly looking. I cannot find any information on the attached website but I cannot believe that a place so apparently recently refurbished would not have such a facility.”

There you go for the original writing from the time and I am slightly ashamed of myself that I did not mention the peas! At one point there was a guy came in with a huge bag of peas taken that afternoon from his allotment / greenhouse / cloche or whatever an destined for the kitchen. I love locally sourced and fresh food. The barmaid grabbed a handful before taking them upstairs to the kitchen and slapped them on the bar, telling me they are “bloody lovely”.

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They don’t come much fresher and they don’t last long!

I just have to post an image here, well at least of the remnants. I like peas, especially freshly shelled, but I swear I have never tasted anything like these. Literally they were mouth-watering, never had peas like them.

I do really like that and, no, I am not an “eco-warrior” in the modern sense. It certainly boosted up my appreciation of a “poncy” place considerably and maybe, just maybe, I should start to believe when they say on their chalkboards “all local produce”. How do you source a kumquat locally in the UK for your duck sauce in the middle of February? Sorry, did I mention I am arguably the most cynical man on the planet? OK, Rick Wakeman, Ian Hislop, Jeremy Clarkson and a few others might be up there but they have all sought fame and fortune (and done bloody well out of it) whereas I just carried a grudge against an ever-worsening world. Maybe they were right and I am now wondering if there is a website where I can sign up to be professionally grumpy.

Let’s be honest, no wedding is complete without the obnoxious old uncle / aunt / long lost cousin that nobody really wanted to invite but had to be invited to avoid family tensions. If someone was lucky enough to have a wonderful loving extended family with no such embarrassing encumbrances then perhaps I could fill that void. I think I may have found a market nice there as my marketing friend would say.

Right, enough digression for the moment although it will undoubtedly rear it’s ugly head again soon enough. I spent longer than I expected in the Moorings. Despite my initial misgivings, and I maintain my original stance that it is an upmarket place as evidenced by the “after work” crowd coming in and drinking bottles of Rioja or whatever, it is not at all a bad place for a drink even for a scruffy passerby like me and I was certainly not looked down upon as I had half expected. OK, it is difficult to physically look down on me at 6’5″ but you get the idea.

I was aware that time was no longer my friend as the office with my entire worldly good and possessions would be closing shortly. I bade farewell to the friendly staff who had changed shifts whilst I was there and so obtained a view of several employees who were all exemplary. I took the short walk back along the wharf, pausing for a wistful glance at the lovely Westmoreland which had served us so well, and back into the office to collect my kit. It was the same young lady on the desk and I did have to ask her if she worked all day every day which raised a smile. I normally do not buy souvenirs but I felt vaguely obliged due to the extreme helpfulness of this young lady. Would that all those in “service” industries were like her. Having secured a few bits and pieces, I thanked her most sincerely and trundled off back along the wharf to let her lock up. I have to say that if she was the “face” of Shire Cruisers, she was perfect for the task. Isn’t it funny how some people just make an impression on you?

With the kit secured it was about time to think about heading back to Halifax where my berth for the night was. I had not checked the bus times but I need not have worried as they run pretty late. I have to say that public transport here far outstrips my native Northern Ireland where the last bus to my village goes at 1750 from the large town nearby. I swear I once briefly lived in a village in Northern Ireland where the bus ran once a week (market day)! I kid you not.

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Back to base. Check out the furniture arrangement!

Back then to Halifax and re-ensconced (think how much that word would score in Scrabble on a triple word score if it is even a proper word) in the Old Post Office. Again, for some reason they had put me in the other accessible room on the ground floor which suited me nicely. The wall of my bedroom would have been the back wall of the bar, which is close enough for me and so, with the kit stowed, it was straight back in there for a quick one before sallying off to sample the delights of a weekday evening in this fine town.

It had been an early start and a longish but hugely enjoyable day wandering around so I did not want to get adventurous and I decided on the local Wetherspoons, in this case the Percy Shaw which was literally five minutes walk away from my digs through the bus station. As always I knew I could get a decent pint, a tasty meal that was not going to break the bank and internet that works more often than it doesn’t! So, who was Percy Shaw I hear you ask. Actually I do not but do hope you did which will prove you have as enquiring a mind as mine! This was exactly the title I picked for my tip on VT when I wrote it what seems like an age ago now, “So who was Percy Shaw?” and again I shall let it stand on it’s own here as he is an interesting man.

I went into what looked like a fairly modern building both externally and internally before opting for my usual Strongbow cider from the very good selection of beers and ciders on offer. Part of the Wetherspoon business model seems to involve never apparently having enough staff on which I suppose keeps overheads down but can be frustrating when you are waiting for service. In fairness, service here was always pretty good.

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I just love spare ribs.

I’ll tell you about the excellent breakfast next day in due course but that evening I just wanted a small plate and the half rack of ribs offered with coleslaw and chips (fries) was just what was required. Again, if memory serves it was only £4 (2015 price). At a time of slightly greater hunger the chilli dog served with chips and onion rings proved very filling. As previously mentioned, portions in Wetherspoon generally tend to be generous and the full rack of ribs really is a challenge although one I attempt from time to time. I would not even attempt the mixed grill!

The Percy Shaw is in a large modern building as I said and is clean and bright with spotless toilet facilities. The walls are adorned, as usual in the chain, with items of local interest and I did find out the interesting piece of information that the telegraphic address of Halifax was “Toffee Town” back in the days of telegrams and so on. This was due to the fact that it was where the very popular brand of sweets known as Quality Street were made (and still are for all I know). The main draw of the decorations, however, brings me back nicely to the Mr. Percy Shaw. You may not have heard of him but I will guarantee you have seen his best known invention which is the cat’s eyes which you see in the middle of the road. I do wonder how many of them there are in the world now. So now you know.

I did year a story once, undoubtedly apocryphal about him being interviewed about the invention of the cat’s eye device and he explained that it was when he saw a cat eye reflecting in the dark, as they do, that he hit on the plan. In a slightly risque comment thereafter he allegedly stated that if the cat had been walking away from him he would probably have invented the pencil sharpener but enough of this.

The pub named for the good Percy is yet another safe bet for a meal and a drink and should you wish to visit then they are open Mon – Thu: 8am to 12am, Fri – Sat: 8am to 1am and Sun: 8am to 12am. Suitably refreshed it was off for another great night’s sleep in yet another comfy bed in my hotel.

I shall go for another excursion in the next chapter of this little series so stay tuned and spread the word.

Turn round and come back again.

I do hope you have come upon this page by way of the previous entries in this series regarding a wonderful canal trip I took in 2015 with three great friends who I had met through a now sadly demised and brilliant travel website called Virtual Tourist which was killed off in the interest of corporate greed.

If you have happened upon this site looking for Salterhebble or whatever, here is a quick precis. My friends and I were having a weekend excursion on the Calder and Hebble canal / river system in Yorkshire and, for some inexplicable reason, I had been attacked savagely by some sort of severe stomach disorder which had left me in my bunk and so incapacitated that I genuinely cannot tell you where we had moored the previous night as I was suffering so much (not even my own bunk, just the one nearest the heads) and was still not feeling great that morning although thankfully better than the Hell of the night I had had before. I really do not ever want to go through that again.

Wherever it was that we were, I let the others get on with it, politely refused offers of breakfast as there was not a chance of that happening without accident, and got foetal again in the bunk to let the pain subside which it had thankfully done enough to allow me to get up about lunchtime.

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How beautiful is this?

Again, apologies to those who have read the previous pages but this for those who have not. None of my friends had run a narrowboat before and it is a bit of a trick although fairly easy once you get the hang of it. Off they went from wherever we had been and I had not even set foot in and managed to lock back down without mishap. Dammit, I’ll make bargees out of them yet! The stabbing pain in my guts had subsided to manageable levels so I rolled out of the bunk, brushed my teeth and headed out to the well where it was another crisp but thankfully clear day. I still was not feeling anything like 100% so I just let the others get on with it although I did a bit of easy locking as I wasn’t going to be merely a passenger.

I did navigate the one tricky lock which took me a couple of attempts as the sidewash from an outflow made it bloody difficult, even moreso than on the outward trip. I reckon it is the most difficult lock I have ever negotiated and I have done a few. The others, standing on the top of the lock must have wondered what the Hell was going on as they had opened it and I was holding steady in the fairly sizeable basin downstream when the sidewash hit me. I know one section of the Grand Union near Rickmansworth (West London) where there is an evil sidewash but I can ride that as my friends showed me which course to steer but I have never had one as bad as this and I had no option but to do a 360 degree pirouette and thankfully there was plenty of leeway. I waved to show that all was under control although it was far from it and had another go. Same result and another 360. It must have looked comical from up there and, in my defence, making a governed 58′ lump of steel with no keel to speak of perform a 360 on it’s own axis is not an easy feat. Third attempt and it was full bore on the throttle which, combined with my hard-won knowledge of the opposing current, enabled me to scrape the poor old Westmoreland into the lock whereupon it was quickly shut behind me amidst a bit of wry applause and a few shouted questions as to what the Hell I had been playing at.

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Dave doing a fine job on the tiller.

After that I didn’t do much except a bit more easy locking as the others really had got the hang of it. Except for things like the dodgy lock described above (these are extremely rare) and single manning which is bloody difficult, it is not too hard to move one of these things about, even with their great size, weight and lack of power on governed leisure boats. I am being completely genuine about this, it is not difficult, your boatyard will probably guide you up the first couple of miles or at least give you a good idea of how to to it. It is just to get you used to the thing and it really is the greatest fun. Give it a try. Honestly, before you know it you’ll be riding tunnels and three different kinds of locks and having the time of your life.

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We dropped Dave off back in Elland at the Barge and Barrel where we had a farewell drink as he had to collect his car and get back for work on the Monday morning.

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It’s amazing the things you see.

I just could not resist including the image above and I have to say that if I could not have a narrowboat which is probably impractical with my back then I would love to live beside a canal but even the most modest and rundown cottages are now going for silly money.  Seems like everybody has the same idea.

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Fergy faces the guillotine yet again.

My friends wanted me to take Westmoreland back through the Salterhebble guillotine lock which I described on out first day out. It is not particularly tricky but perhaps not one for the novice which is why the young guy had ridden up on his bike to help us before. Very shortly after that lock we came back to the main cut and had an option. We could go back to the yard and sleep there, giving ourselves a lie-in in the morning (I think the boat had to be back by 0900 to get cleaned and ready for the next hire) or there was a small cut up to the delightfully named Salterhebble which was perhaps a mile or a little more going the other way.

It is now a cul-de-sac having once been a viable canal to Halifax but it is long blocked off. Perhaps one day the enthusiasts will take it on and re-open it. It really is a backwater, both literally and metaphorically and it was strange to discover that it is considered a suburb of Halifax, where this whole little adventure had started. OK, I was in the Forces, I can do an early start and, frankly, I do like the early morning as there is something so fresh and clean about it. Salterhebble, here we come!

I have to say that I was still not feeling great and so, having got us moored securely, I retired to a random bunk again for a lie down. Again my tip, written shortly after the event will suffice here for what turned out to be a very pleasant evening.
Through the miracle of modern technology (smartphones and the like) the ladies had ascertained that there was a restaurant in Salterhebble called the Watermill. We had moored up opposite a fairly sizeable Premier Inn (one of the no frills chains in the UK and definitely recommended if you are on a budget) but I had not immediately associated the restaurant with the hotel until I saw the “Brewer’s Fayre” logo displayed. I know that they and Premier Inn are both part of the Whitbread group and they use that name for the restaurants in which I have had some great meals.
The premises really are quite sizeable and with separate bar and eating areas. Although it was Sunday evening I was surprised to see how empty the place was, perhaps we just got there a bit late. The menu is fairly extensive with all the usual “pub grub” suspects on offer like grills, steaks, burgers and hot dogs as well as some Tex-Mex stuff like nachos and burritos. There is also a selection of five curries offered and a good range of both starters and sweets.

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A very tasty fish pie.

Given the condition of my stomach anything rich or spicy was out of the question. I decided on the fish pie which I had previously eaten in a different Brewer’s Fayre and really enjoyed. It is a generous portion served with garlic bread and a dressed side salad and I think it is very good value at £8:99 (prices will have changed). You would expect a “freezer to table” place to perhaps skimp on the fish but there really are good big pieces of various types in the dish. Tasty as it was I did not manage to do it full justice but I really didn’t want to push my luck by over-eating.
Service was prompt and friendly at both the bar and by the food server. The Watermill is one of those places where you have to go to the bar and order your meal which is then brought to your table. Whilst ordering I even remembered a long forgotten loyalty card which was duly pressed into service thereby saving a few pennies. I must redeem it some day.

The Watermill is certainly not haute cuisine but it does serve up decent food at reasonable prices in a pleasant atmosphere which is all I require of it.
The ladies had a couple of drinks although, strange as this may sound to those that know me, I think I had one pint all night! Unreal, I know but I was not going to risk it as I still didn’t feel great. After that we wandered down the short distance on the side of the basin for our last night onboard and an early start.

Up very early the next morning which will form the basis of the next entry on this little series.

If you want to see if we made it home in one piece, stay tuned and spread the word. I mean it, I am dying on my feet here with this website (done that onstage once or twice) so please do feel free to distribute these aged ramblings to anyone you know and think might be vaguely interested. I thank you.

It all went horribly wrong.

Let’s get going again.

After our first night aboard the next morning came and we were all up pretty early despite the previous night’s carousing. We had not planned it as such and I do not think anyone had set an alarm but I reckon we were all just excited about where we were and eager to explore some more and so, after a simple but tasty breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast it was time to slip the moorings but not before I have had another literary excursion here. Sorry, I just cannot help myself.

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Fit for a King, thanks ladies.

I had offered to help in the galley and whilst I would never consider myself a good cook I have not, to my knowledge, killed anyone yet and I do make scrambled eggs a lot. I think I have mentioned this elsewhere on other sets of blogs but here are a couple of tips. Whilst scrambled eggs are gorgeous “as is” I like to liven mine up a bit as I love spicy food and I am very fond of using sweet chilli sauce as a condiment for them. Don’t turn your noses up now and tell me I am a weirdo which is a pointless exercise anyway as I already know, just give it a try. The other one is to fire a few drops of tabasco or similarly very hot sauce in. OK, it slightly detracts from the perfect yellow appearance if presentation is your gig as it takes on a very slightest pinkish hue. OK, the amount I use it goes fairly pink but that is for hardcore chilli people.

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View from a mooring.

Anyway, after breakfast, accompanied for the others by tea or coffee and for this idiot by a can of cider, it was time to slip moorings and get underway as we didn’t have too long and we wanted to see things. OK, cider for breakfast, I know it is not normal behaviour for most people (who defines normal anyway?) so don’t preach at me but I just like to start the day as I mean to go on. We got off in good order, bidding a fond farewell to the old Barge and Barrel of the previous evening and took off into what was a chilly but thankfully clear morning.

The next port of call was to be Brighouse which was an easy morning run as it is not too far. I know I am bound to fail now when I attempt to describe how utterly wonderful that morning turned out. Yes, I am verbose beyond belief but without resorting to cliche it is hard to tell you, dear reader, how completely beautiful and serene it was. There we were, not ten miles I suppose, from some major conurbations and yet we might as well have been on another planet. I do hope the images do justice where my meagre words fail.

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Aly and Dave locking hard.

It was early September so the schools were back and I was not expecting the manic hordes of holiday boaters you get in July and August but I was surprised at how few craft there were and we had the place more or less all to ourselves. Again, I was conscious of not trying to run the whole show because I had a little (very little) experience and was encouraging the others to take the tiller all the time. OK, they asked me to do one slightly tricky lock (it was a pig of a thing) but otherwise I was just lurking about. Let me tell you now about picking blackberries!

I am not sure where this fits into the story chronologically but Gilly had devised, totally unwittingly for sure, a means of blackberry picking that I had certainly never seen before. Dave and Aly had got the steering of the craft fairly well down but Gilly was having bother with the “reverse steering” concept and we sailed perilously close to the edge (nice reference there for fans of the prog rock band Yes) several times. With the Calder and Hebble being partially canal and partially river, there is nothing really hard to hit on the bank for long stretches and so I let her carry on until I had to grab the tiller. Worst case scenario was that we would be grounded (there was not a lot of water after the summer) but we could always pole off.

Anyway, dear Gilly managed to scythe through quite a few blackberry bushes on the way. This would have been grand had we just stopped and picked them. Local foragers could not have had them as the were only accessible from the water. This would have been great as both Gilly and Aly are excellent cooks and Dave and I can both hold our end up (if you’ll pardon the expression) over a stove, and could have rustled up something (I was thinking duck in blackberry sauce) but this was carnage. We threw the foliage overboard but we had been tramping about in berries and half the craft was now bright purple. Mop and bucket secured we scrubbed the whole thing down. I think we did manage a few to eat though. As I say, Gilly managed to do this all weekend and it became something of a standing joke so I just thought I’d post it up here.

The British waterway system is in something of a state of flux at present. By the 1960’s it was in apparently terminal decline but a lot of enthusiastic volunteers got together and literally stood up to their backsides in stinking, freezing cold water to dig out, clear weed from and re-open lost portions of the cut . The Kennet and Avon (K&A) is a classic case of this.

Today, the old canals are regarded as a wonderful leisure resource which they undoubtedly are. Joggers, cyclists, dog walkers, long-distance walkers (count me in this group) and many others use them not to mention those actually using the cut. There is a thriving holiday boat industry on just about every canal and there are more private leisure craft registered than ever before.

I know of a brilliant charity who have managed to adapt a narrowboat so that it is fully accessible for the mobility impaired. How brilliant is that? I know of another charity in London that takes disadvantaged kids up and down the Grand Union on a right big beast (68′, I believe) that is not designed for comfort but probably berths about 16. As I have mentioned, the cut is no longer serious contender as a transport option although friends of mine still make a living from it but this, to me, is what it is about now. Times move on and the canals have re-invented themselves to an extent without losing too much of what they were. Yes, there are purists that lament that they are just a leisure facility now but better that than lying disused and derelict which was the fate of the Newry Canal that runs close to my home place in Northern Ireland and which will feature in a future blog here.

We got to Brighouse about lunchtime, moored up and went ashore. The others had decided they wanted to do something although the passage of time has dimmed what is left of my memory and I cannot remember what it was although something tells me it was a notable church. That was a fine idea but I had another notion and anyone who has waded through any of my several pages of drivel here will know what it was. That’s right, I wanted to find a pub to get a bit of “local atmosphere” not to mention a pint or three. I know it sounds ludicrous, and probably is, but I genuinely believe that you can get a real feel for a place by finding a decent pub and having a chat with the locals.  It is a great way to get feel for a place and the number of wonderful tips for quirky local things to see that I have had over the years from doing just this are innumerable, things you will never find in a guidebook or online.

I’ll tell you a little about Brighouse first and where I went and yet again these are edited tips form a former website which have been edited appropriately.

Brighouse lies on the River Calder and also the Calder and Hebble Navigation (canal) about five miles Southeast of Halifax. I had heard of the place before and probably first because of the Brighouse and Rastrick brass band who had a novelty hit record many years ago with a tune called “The Floral Dance”. I know this shows a distinct lack of knowledge on my part and I should be ashamed of myself.

I have now researched a little and found out that Brighouse / Rastrick stood on an ancient Roman road between Wakefield and Manchester but it only came to prominence many centuries later with the coming of the mills as with so many other places in this area. The mills are now long closed with many of them being converted into luxury accommodation and it is now effectively a dormitory town for the larger towns and cities nearby.
Despite it’s loss of status from a couple of centuries back it is still a pleasant place for a wander round although there are little in the way of “attractions” but it is fairly typical of towns in the area and is definitely worth a stop off.

Having arranged to meet the others back at the boat at a certain time, I wandered off in what I thought was the direction of the centre and so it proved to be, Brighouse really isn’t a huge place. My pub radar was fully locked in and directly me unerringly to the George. I swear I do not make this up, in a town with ten pubs I’ll always find a good one. Again, my edited review from the time will serve here.

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Another decent pub.

I came upon was the pleasant looking sandstone building you see pictured which sits at the junction of Commercial Street and Bradford Road.  The premises in question is called The George and it bills itself as a “traditional town centre inn which is indeed a pretty apt description. Whilst it is called an inn it is also known as the George Hotel but I am unsure of the differentiation. Apparently in days past it was a coaching inn although I saw no evidence of accommodation on offer when I visited. It does, however, retain travelling links by being a very short distance from both bus and train stations.

It also has a musical slant with discos on Friday and Sunday and live rock bands on Saturday. The main draw here, however, seems to be the sport which is shown on a number of large screens around the place and they have satellite which increases the range available. On the day I was there I watched a bit of cricket with my pint of cider which is my idea of a decent afternoon really.

There is nothing remarkable about the George, it is just a clean and tidy town centre pub (although the gents “facilities” could do with a bit of a refurb) and I was quite happy to have a drink in there. It is open 9-11 Mon-Thu; 10-1 Fri & Sat. and 10-11 Sun” You see how I used to write!

By way of trying to keep this blog current I have done a bit of research and changed the opening hours accordingly. They seem to be even longer now I am glad to say. You see the lengths I go to for all of my 19 readers! Who knows, it may be useful to someone some day.
Much as I could have sat there all day I was conscious of time so I thought I would start to make my way back to the boat. I knew there were a couple of other pubs on the way so I was never going to die of thirst. There was, however, one thing to do first. Almost directly opposite the pub I had spied a butchers shop, a proper old-fashioned one and again I shall revert to my original tip.

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A proper old butchers.

“The advent of supermarkets, mostly “out of town” in the UK has led to the very regrettable demise of proper butchers, bakers, fishmongers, greengrocers and all the rest. I find this lamentable and it is always with great delight that I find proper old-fashioned tradesmen plying their craft. Such was the case when I stumbled upon S & L. Custance Family Butchers on my very short visit to Brighouse.  I had a notion to get something for an afternoon snack and when I saw the sign declaring “home-made pies and sausages” it seemed ideal. I wasn’t too bothered about the sausages but some proper Yorkshire artisan pies with a few chutnies, pickles or whatever sounded perfect.
As the image shows, the place is not exactly huge but it did boast an excellent selection of meats and the savouries I was looking for. Admittedly, in mid afternoon on a Saturday, some lines were sold out which probably attests to the popularity of the place but I managed to find some lovely looking meat pies which were served to me by a lady who was as friendly as you like and even explained some of the items which I had never even heard of before. I should add that the entire premises was completely spotless.

Regrettably, I was taken ill that afternoon (before I had sampled the pies, I hasten to add) and so did not get to try them myself but I am told they were very good. I’ll get onto that in a moment.  Even if I did not get to sample my purchases, I just loved the whole experience of shopping here and the warmth of the Yorkshire welcome and I would have no hesitation in recommending this establishment.

With my little bag of goodies secured, I headed back towards the boat as I really did not want to keep the others waiting but for once in my life I was ahead of time and so another pint was called for.

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Another big chain pub.

Suprisingly, I had walked past the Calder on my way uptown, probably because I was with my mates but it was time to check it out. Again, my original tip, properly edited, will stand here.

A glance at the exterior suggested that it had not always been a pub and a few steps into the absolutely vast interior confirmed this view, it really is a big bar.  My initial impression was that this place was following the Wetherspoon business model although I knew it was not one of them.
As I say, the Calder is not Wetherspoons but when I went out the back for a smoke I noted that it is directly across the road from the Wetherspoons outlet so they must be in direct competition for the same market. They are owned by the Stonegate pub company which is another large outfit with well over 600 outlets as well as being owned by the same people who run the Slug and Lettuce chain which I really do not like.
The thing about these places is that, to use a pretty hackneyed phrase, they are what they are. They are not hugely atmospheric and charming “olde worlde” English country taverns but I was in a perfectly clean, welcoming and comfortable environment, I was served by friendly and courteous staff and had a couple of pints of obviously well-kept and served pints of cider. All this at an extremely decent price even by the local standards which are so much cheaper than my home city of London anyway.
Although I did not dine there my natural curiosity forced me to have a look at the menu which seemed to offer the usual suspects for pub grub and at very reasonable prices. The fact that I got to watch a bit more cricket on one of the many large screens was a bonus as I do like my sport!

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In the first week of September? Give me a break!

One thing that got me slightly was that they were advertising Christmas menus and functions (see image). I do not blame the Calder or Stonegate for this as it seems to be a disease that has afflicted my entire country of late. I have seen Christmas decorations in shops and supermarkets before the Hallowe’en kiddies costumes are even on the shelves and it grates on me. I suppose we shall have Easter eggs on sale before Christmas this year.
The Calder offers a quiz night on Thursday, DJ’s on Friday and Saturday nights and a funk and soul club on the first Sunday of the month. It is open 10am-11 Mon-Wed; 10am-Midnight Thu; 9am-0130 Fri and Sat; 10-11 Sun and there is free wifi. Although I did not specifically check on toilet facilities, the bar appears to be easily accesssible from the street for the mobility impaired.
Aside from the arguments about large chains of pubs and early marketing, if you are in Brighouse and not wishing to spend a whole lot of money in a flash place then this may well be the place for you. I recommend it. As always I have checked the opening hours which are current now as of November 2018. You see the work I put in here for you lovely people!

It was really time to get back to the boat now which must have been all of 300 yards away. Actually, I got back shortly ahead of the others so that was good.

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This was gorgeous.

I had stowed the meat pies in the fridge and we had a very light snack which featured some of Gilly’s home-mate foccacia (is that foccacia, I can never tell these Italian breads apart) which you can see in the image and then it was time for the off again. Man, that woman can bake as well as cook! Hell, we only had the boat for effectively three and a bit days so we wanted to see as much as we could. Off we went and got to Brighouse top lock where there was a water station. Now I knew that if nobody was taking hour long showers that a craft this size would have had a water tank more than sufficient for four of us which was about half the normal complement but the others insisted and so in we went and filled up before heading off again.

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Fill her up, guys.

This is where it goes pear-shaped.

Fully watered up we cruised a further idyllic stretch and then disaster struck. We were all in the well when out of a clear blue sky, both literally and metaphorically, I projectile vomited over the gunwale. I apologise if you are reading this over your meal and I do not wish to be indelicate but I have never been assailed by illness so quickly in my life. I literally did not have time to make it the six or eight feet to the heads (toilet) at the stern. I was absolutely fine one moment and then I was reminded, as I am now recalling it, of the superb line uttered by the late Sir John Gielgud in the film, “Arthur” where he plays a crusty old English butler opposite Dudley Moore’s character of a pampered and dissolute heir to a fortune. Geilgud wakes up Moore in a morning scene, the latter obviously seriously the worse for wear and says in his wonderfully upper class voice, “Sir, if they ever make projectile vomiting an Olympic sport, I am sure you will do your country proud” Classic.

In truth I felt more embarrassed than ill, still felt fine and then it happened a second time and that was when the pain started. I felt like I was being stabbed in the stomach with a hot knife, I swear I have never felt pain like it. I said I was going to lie down for a while and grabbed the nearest bunk to the stern as it was just opposite the heads (toilet) and laid down and there began probably the most painful night of my life. I literally could not move, I was deliberately taking shallow breaths as normal ones hurt too much. I don’t want to bore you too much with this but it was awful. The rest of the guys were brilliant and kept coming to bring me drinks of water, offering cups of tea etc. and checking on me all the time. That is what friends are for.

To this day, some years later, I still do not know what caused my illness but it is something I would not wish on my worst enemy and I certainly do not want to suffer it again. I can only think acute food poisoning but I do not know what might have done it and I am not going to ascribe it to any particular thing. I don’t think it was a bad pint as everything I had drunk had tasted fine (I have a nose for these things) and I know food poisoning takes up to 24 hours to show but I was not a well bunny. I do not even know where we moored up that night and the guys were great, offering for one of them to stay with me but I told them to go ashore and enjoy themselves. Hell, I did not want to stop their fun. We must have been near a pub, which is not hard to do on the cut, as there were occasional visits to check on my welfare.

After the night from one of the inner circles of Hell, I awoke from a fitful sleep early but that is a story for another entry so stay tuned and spread the word.

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