As the English summer drew to a close, we said goodbye to Surrey and the south of England, in preparation for a journey northward to Yorkshire. On the way we managed to get in a few days with our good friends Ed and Katie, who live in a small village just outside of Leeds.
Our destination in Yorkshire was Bingley. Bingley is medium sized town, about 15 miles north-west of Leeds, set in the Aire River valley. The town sits in the valley, below two large areas of the Yorkshire Dales. It’s a town that, from what we’d heard, had been through its ups and downs. One of the big issues in recent years has been the construction of a highway bypass, essentially a sunken road that took passing tourist traffic away from the High Street, and consequently away from the businesses that are based on those streets.
Our housesit here was a semi-detached bungalow, set in a relatively quiet neighbourhood about 5 minutes drive into the township. One thing that we weren’t told about before we arrived, was that the adjoining neighbour was having a large extension constructed. The main construction (foundations, walls, roofing) appeared complete, so we were hopeful that any noise from this would be minimal.
Our housemates for this sit were an energetic Highland Terrier and an adorable fluffy cat. The cat was hardly seen though. We caught a glimpse of the cat late at night, about 11pmish, when it came in for dinner. It transpired that the cat was somewhat intimidated by the dog, as the dog had a habit of attacking the cat flap whenever the cat tried to enter the house. Apparently this is a trait of Highland Terriers, so I suppose the dog could hardly be blamed for an instinctive reaction, but we did wonder why the cat flap was put in a place where the dog could so easily access it.
It unfortunately didn’t get much better for us here. It turned out that the dog had had little if any formal training. Walking the dog was anywhere, on a leash, was almost impossible due to the dog being constantly distracted by any other dog pee it discovered along the way. It would take 30 minutes to walk a kilometer. Thankfully there was a large park nearby and in this park the dog could be let loose. The first week was rather harrowing as the dog decided more than once or twice to either stop, sit and go no further, or just run back to the car. It really took an immense amount of patience to walk this dog anywhere, and you had to be constantly alert as to what the dog was doing.
Bingley itself was going through a tough period for the retail trade, due we suspect to the bypass road. There were many empty stores. Real Estate agent shops dominated the High Street. The weekly market has two, perhaps three traders at the most. In our travels around the local area we discovered some other towns that seemed to be succeeding (Skipton, Ilkley). These towns had very few empty stores and lots of tourists or passing trade. The markets in these towns were really busy and vibrant.
One very positive thing for the area is the outstanding countryside. The Yorkshire Dales are rolling hills that have an eerie but beautiful barrenness to them. Nearby to our housesit here was the village of Haworth, home to the Bronte’s and their famous novels. Even in midsummer, Haworth is an exposed hilltop that picks up any passing cool air. One can imagine how desolate and cold this place could be in the winter. There is beauty in the Dales, but especially for those who like their beauty to be of the raw, bare and barren variety.
We visited a variety of other nearby towns and villages while we were here in Bingley.
Hebden Bridge is a small but touristy village, set in a deep valley about 30 minutes south west of Bingley. To get here you drive over the top of the moors. This is a wonderful trip for the stark beauty of these hills and views that stretch for miles. The village itself is almost hidden away in the valley and seems a strange spot to be so popular. Nevertheless the place was fair humming when we arrived. The action is really only around a few central streets, where you find the usual touristy attractions like gift stores, cafes, antique shops and pubs. It’s cute and a nice place to pop into on a summers day, but its deep valley position and distance from other townships must make it a rather dark and lonely place in the winter months.
Harrogate is a bustling town to the north of Bingley. We had heard that it attracts footballers and well-to-do, Leeds business types. It was certainly a lively place and the affluence was apparent just in what people were wearing. All the chain stores are in Harrogate and it seems to be the destination for a day of clothes shopping, given the multitude of young woman struggling to hold onto their numerous shopping bags. We did find a great independent pub in Harrogate – Major Toms Social. Very much a young, hipster style joint, MTS was a bit hidden, upstairs with a small sign on the street. It’s one large room with a bar at the end but cleverly broken up into individual spaces by changes in floor level and the use of different styles of furniture. Yay….craft beer here! We happily hung out here for a few hours amoung the pop art posters and retro video games!
One last thing about Yorkshire. We joined one of the local Meetup groups here and met some lovely folk. One of the events was a pub meetup with a great band playing a bunch of 60’s songs. They were a really tight unit and we had a great time. The other event was a coffee catch-up with some of the same people. These two meetups confirmed that the locals were warm and friendly folk, who welcomed us into their social scene.
Teresa is writing her own blog post about our time in Yorkshire, so I won’t go on any further. We didn’t stay the entire booked time here, for a number of reasons. Make sure you read her post as well though, to get the full story!