Cragg Vale, Yorkshire. The Gallows Pole.

May 3 2019 – Calder Valley, Yorkshire.

I do like a good book. However, they seem to be quite hard to find and I have started many that turn out to not be as good as I hoped. I am sure there are loads of very good books being released right now, though probably not that many that I will like today. I might like them tomorrow, who knows? My emotional need for books changes and what thrills or interests me today may completely bore me next week.

One of the very few good things about being constantly busy and constantly tired is that I have much less time, desire or energy to read. I can make a good book last a long time, thus reducing the need to have a lot of good books to hand.

Earlier this year I read ‘The Gallows Pole’ by Benjamin Myers. It is set in Cragg Vale, Yorkshire as the industrial revolution of the 18th century starts to bite into traditional rural working class lives. It is not a book that I would normally read, but it was highly recommended by people I follow on Twitter and it subsequently won an award for historical fiction. I really enjoyed it, read slowly.

The books foundation is the story of the Cragg Vale Coiners, a group of counterfeiters making new coins by ‘clipping’ the edges of real coins, melting the clippings down and casting new money. It was a very evocative read and very much made me want to visit the area and see it for myself. Times may change, but environments less so.

Cragg Vale is very close to Hebden bridge, a ‘now’ sort of place, a place where lots of bands I like play, that seems to have lots of art and artists and somewhere that sounds like a fairly cool place to live. It was also sort of on the way to Settle in North Yorkshire where I have a photo walk on Monday. The detour seemed like a good option.

It was not the best of days when I left London for the supposed five hour drive north. I elected to follow the recommendation on Google Maps to take the A1 rather than the M1, even though my gut was telling me that was the wrong choice. I followed my gut on the return journey. There were a lot of trucks on the A1.

I arrived in Hebden Bridge in the early afternoon. I was hungry and dying for a wee. It took me ages to find a car park and the public toilets were closed. I think this rather soured my view of Hebden Bridge. I wasn’t overly enthralled by the place, it is extremely commercial, most of the buildings seemed to have been converted into an establishment to suck money out of tourists. It reminded me of Canterbury, another historic town laid ruin by tourism. After weeing and eating a sandwich in that order, I left.

The River Calder and Rochdale Canal that run through the Calder Valley and past Hebden Bridge are glorious, the whole area is beautiful and I have to go back some day and spend a bit more time exploring more slowly.

Leaving town the way I came in, it was a short drive before I turned off the main road and headed up to Cragg Vale. The road is narrow and gently winding and quite fast and there were not a lot of places to stop and take photos. The village is so small that a long blink would blank it out from your journey. I carried on up the valley towards the top, and the burnt black and dry brown of the moor. This is what I wanted to see; bleak and barren open moor land. I was blessed with almost perfect weather, dark low cloud. Lovely.

Cragg Valley with Turvin Clough flowing through to the reservoir below.

I stopped outside St Johns Cragg Vale and took a couple of photos of the church and the stream, before getting back into the car and heading towards Settle and my Air B and B for the next three nights.

I took the most direct route, it may not have been the fastest, but it was a very nice drive, particularly driving up the road from Hebden bridge. There was no where easy to stop, but I can see why the place is so popular, it is a very attractive town when you are not up close and confronted with dozens of shops.

On the way I passed the small, but perfectly formed Lower Laithe Reserve, stopping to take a couple of photos before continuing my journey northward. 

Let me introduce my flat.

May 2019 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

I may have mentioned this in a prior post but I cannot quite remember. I know I have talked about looking for a flat to buy, and I know I talked about the, often fruitless, search. I also know I have mentioned that I offered on a flat, but I am not sure if I mentioned that after seven long, slow months of faff I actually got the keys and as of 14 March I now own a two bedroom flat in St Leonards-on-Sea on the lovely East Sussex coast.

The flat is on the third and fourth floor of a Victorian block that was built for the navy in 1884 to house retired admirals. It was built as six four story houses but was sold and subsequently divided into flats in 1928. In the section I am in there are 4 dwellings. I am in the roof and the floor below in the middle of the building. My kitchen window is under………..↓

The property is a ten minute walk to the beach and is most of the way up a hill, but I can see the sea from the sitting room and the master bedroom and that is what I wanted the most in a flat. The building looks amazing, it needs some tidying up, but I love it and I love this view even more.

The flat didn’t NEED much work, though it wanted some. When I first put the offer in I was planning on getting a few things done before I moved in, tidying up more than anything else; painting a couple of rooms, moving some of the power points, changing some of the plumbing. Little things. However, not completing the sale until so close to spring meant I have now changed plans somewhat. With so little time before summer I have elected to just get the bathroom and bedroom painted, then worry about the rest come the autumn and winter. Maybe doing the painting myself.

We have stayed a few nights in the flat. I have started buying furniture, so there is a bed and a couple of chairs, and most importantly a TV. I am aiming for a 60s/70s look, so the great choice of vintage and antique shops in the area are a boon. I must admit I never expected to be visiting antique shops. Ever.

I have broadband so can work if I want to, however not having chairs to go with the table means I cannot quite work there yet, soon. The intent will be to work every second Friday and then spend the weekend there. We are very much looking forward to that.

Here is a quick walk through…

The third floor comprises a small entrance hall, a kitchen and a large sitting room. The sitting room was one of the two things that attracted me to the flat. It is really big. It was also the cause of the  long delay in the purchase process. The room used to be two rooms, and this is how it is shown on the floor plan I was given. I wanted the floor plan to show the single room as it is now, which has now been resolved. The fireplace and surround are unusual I know, but they definitely appealed. I still like them but I am not quite sure what to do with them. Things won’t necessarily stay this way.

The furniture in this image is from when I was looking at the flat.

I have bought a couple of pieces of furniture for the room, some chairs and a dining table. At the time of writing I do not have the chairs to go with the table, though I have bought this awesome 1960s sideboard from a local antique shop, and the pair of speakers from one of the charity shops. I am going for a mid-1900s vibe, so will be looking for furniture and fittings from the 60s and 70s. Oh yeah, I also bought a TV, believe it or not this is the first flat screen TV I have ever owned.

This is all my stuff 🙂

The kitchen is small, El and I struggle working in it together, but I am sure we will get used to it. I haven’t done anything to this space yet apart from buying my own fridge and washing machine. I may paint it one day, but it will the last room I do. I owned a few bits and pieces, the pot on the stove top is from a wedding present from 30 years ago. Everything else in sight is new.

The sticker has now been fully removed from the fridge 🙂

The hall is OK, not desperately in need of a paint, but I will probably do it in the autumn, it is just a little scruffy.

Upstairs, on what is the fourth floor of the building and into the roof space are two bedrooms and the bathroom.

Like the kitchen the bathroom is quite small, unlike the kitchen the bathroom was painted dark blue and was really dim. It also had the only bit of double glazing in the flat, which was a bit grubby and added to the gloom in the room. This was the first room I changed.

As mentioned earlier the intention was to pay people to do a load of the work I wanted done to the flat before I fitted it out with furniture and settled in. Being so close to summer, and not really thinking that I would not be able to just ring a painter and have them start immediately, I have resolved to just getting this and the master bedroom painted now and doing the rest myself later.

The painter has only been working on Saturdays so this has taken quite a few weeks, but the bathroom is done and the bedroom is well under way. I have had the bathroom painted white, just to make it more useable and give it a bit more space, being in the roof and having a sloped ceiling does close it in.

To increase the amount of light coming into the room I removed the double glazing from the window, the good thing was there was no howling gale coming though the sides of the remaining window. Phew. I also removed a cabinet off a wall and painted the side of the bath a dark grey, a theme I will have throughout the flat.

The master bedroom is really big, almost too big. It also has two sloped ceilings, but is large enough for it to cope. I have bought a bed but have not assembled it yet. We are sleeping on the mattress on the floor, which has now been moved to the spare bedroom while the master bedroom is being painted.

The spare bedroom is smaller, but as you can see below, will easily take a king size bed. It is currently full of stuff while the painter is in. It has the single sloped ceiling which means a little bit more storage space, though apart from the kitchen, storage is not really an issue.

I have a desk for the room, and it will be a second work space for when El and I are both wanting to work there.

I am loving the flat, really enjoying buying things for it and fitting it out how I want it. For the first time I can buy furniture without having to think of things the kids cannot damage. I can buy adult things, and things that reflect my taste and personality. Yay!

I will post an update in a few weeks, once the bedroom has been completed and we have moved in, and when a few more furnishings have been found.