Parcevall Hall Gardens
A renowned plantsman’s garden located at the heart of Wharfedale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Located at the head of a small valley, there are 24 acres of formal and woodland gardens which rise up the hillside for 200 feet giving wonderful views in every direction. The gardens were laid out by the late Sir William Milner from 1927 onwards, and are planted with specimens from around the world, many collected from Western China and the Himalayas. The gardens have many different facets, including woodland walks, formal south facing terraces, a bedrock limestone rock garden and a beautiful rose garden, all set against the stunning back-drop of the Yorkshire Dales.
Parcevall Hall Gardens, Skyreholme, Skipton BD23 6DE
Tel. 01756 720311
Open daily from April – October, 10am – 6pm
© Photos copyright Ian Fishwick
Higgledy Piggledy Hebden Houses
What strikes visitors when they first come to Hebden Bridge are the higgledy piggledy houses. Because of the narrowness of the valley and the steepness of the hillsides, very few houses are built on the flat and they come in all sorts of irregular shapes and sizes. Quirky and unusual, Hebden Bridge’s architecture is as Non-Conformist as its prevailing religion.
Most of the buildings in Hebden Bridge date from the 19th century, when the town grew rapidly as a result of the flourishing textile industry. Terraced housing was the norm, as in other milltowns, to accommodate the rapidly expanding factory workforce. But whereas elsewhere in the industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire, the terraced houses were uniform and monotonous, Hebden Bridge’s precipitous slopes prompted builders to be more inventive and ingenious.
The contours of the valley give a highly distinctive character to the urban landscape of Hebden Bridge, as many terraces run diagonally up and down the hills. Because the valley bottom is so constricted and usable land was in such short supply, this prompted builders to opt for high-rise solutions – terraces in the sky. As well as being unusually tall – five storeys were not uncommon – some terraces were tapered or wedge-shaped.
Double-decker terraces – comprising of underdwellings and overdwellings – are a Hebden Bridge speciality. Both open onto the street but at completely different levels. A unqiue form of property ownership, known as flying freeholds, developed in response to these two-part dwellings.
The wealth generated in Hebden Bridge by the fustian industry and the garment-making trade during the late 19th century prompted the building of larger houses for textile magnates and other affluent tradespeople. Birchcliffe, the steep road rising up from the centre of the town, has some good examples of these splendid properties, many with stained glass, decorative stonework or curious features such as towers.
High retaining walls and embankments are another distinctive feature of the town, all built of the same locally quarried sandstone – millstone grit – adding to the impression that the town emerged spontaneously out of the landscape. Although it grew rapidly in a piecemeal fashion, there is an organic quality to its architecture that is unique to Hebden Bridge.
© Text and photos copyright Lesley Jackson
Mid-Century Modern Fabrics at Elmet Farmhouse
Elmet Farmhouse is full of surprises. That’s why our guests enjoy it so much, because every room contains unexpected design delights. Wherever you go, there are inspiring things to look at, not just in the living room but the bedrooms and bathrooms as well.
An intriguing mixture of ancient and modern, the interiors blend original 18th century features with choice vintage and contemporary design. A holiday cottage like no other, Elmet Farmhouse is wonderfully quirky and totally unique.
One of the most popular features are the striking mid-century modern vintage fabrics used throughout the farmhouse for curtains, cushions and textile hangings. Specially chosen by design historian Lesley Jackson, who decorated and ‘curated’ the interiors, they date from the 1950s and 60s, an extremely rich period for textile design.
Highlights include the magnificent Edinburgh Weavers curtains and cushions in the living room, screen-printed with an arresting large-scale design called Kalabu, dating from the late 1960s. The heavy linen cloth was woven at Edinburgh Weavers’ mill in Carlisle and the fabric was printed in Lancaster by their sister company, Standfast Dyers and Printers, who are still going strong today.
Hanging on the wall in the lounge is a delightful stylised leaf-patterned fabric by Joan Charnley, a local designer who studied at Manchester School of Art and designed for Edinburgh Weavers. Hand screen-printed on rayon by the designer herself, it reflects the early post-war ‘Contemporary’ design aesthetic associated with Lucienne Day.
Upstairs in the front bedroom are some beautiful chintz curtains hand screen-printed by Hull Traders, an outstanding local company based less than 20 miles away at Trawden, near Colne. The pattern is called Rose Branch and was designed by Guy Irwin in 1958.
The deer and leaf-patterned printed fabric hanging on the wall in the front bedroom is by David Whitehead, another important Lancashire firm based not far away at Rawtenstall. Designed by Cawthra Mulock in 1955, it epitomises the vibrant colours and dynamic graphic style of the post-war era.
Elmet Farmhouse features two impressive ‘Textureprints’ by Hungarian-born textile designer Tibor Reich in the mid 1950s for his company Tibor Fabrics. A long length of Coral, a striking black and grey design with overlapping organic motifs, hangs in the attic stairwell. Tibor Reich is currently featured in an exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester until August 2016.
Many of the textile designers and manufacturers displayed in Elmet Farmhouse are featured in Lesley’s books on post-war textiles and design. You can peruse these publications in Elmet’s library and some are also available to buy.
20th Century Pattern Design: Textile and Wallpaper Pioneers by Lesley Jackson (Mitchell Beazley)
Alastair Morton and Edinburgh Weavers: Visionary Textiles and Modern Art by Lesley Jackson (V&A Publishing)
Shirley Craven and Hull Traders: Revolutionary Fabrics and Furniture 1957-1980 by Lesley Jackson (Antique Collectors’ Club)
Robin and Lucienne Day: Pioneers of Contemporary Design by Lesley Jackson (Mitchell Beazley)
© Text and images copyright Elmet Farmhouse
Hebden Bridge – characterful, creative, unique
Hebden Bridge has bags of character. With its striking setting, unusual architecture and free-thinking inhabitants, it’s a great place to live and an extremely enjoyable place to visit. Built of sandy-coloured millstone grit, the tall narrow terraced houses cling to the winding contours of the steep-sided valley, giving the town a distinctive organic quality. It’s as if the town has been carved out of the landscape, which in some respects it has.
A 19th century mill town that has successfully reinvented itself several times over, Hebden Bridge is a hub of 21st century creativity. The town’s fortunes were originally allied to the textile industry, its speciality being corduroy and moleskin, known generically as fustian. Garment-making was another important trade, particularly moleskin and corduroy trousers, hence the names ‘Fustianopolis’ and ‘Trouser Town’. The mills were badly hit during the 1970s with the decline of the textile industry, but happily the town has since bounced back, attracting new blood and diversifying into different fields while retaining its traditional character.
During the week Hebden is a bustling market town with an excellent range of shops – butchers, bakers, delis, ironmongers, greengrocers – supplying just about everything you could possibly need. Many businesses are family-run and there’s a real sense of community. There’s also a lively flea market on wednesday and a top-class general market each thursday, with fresh fish from Fleetwood, delicious Lancashire cheese from Todmorden, freshly-baked bread from Cragg Vale, excellent fruit and veg and a diverse array of other stalls. Everyone is so friendly that doing the weekly shop is a real pleasure, not a chore.
At weekends Hebden Bridge attracts lots visitors, who flock to the town to enjoy its pleasant vibe. As its name suggests, the town has several bridges, so there are lots of picturesque views. As well as being at the confluence of two rivers – Hebden Water and the River Calder – Hebden Bridge straddles the Rochdale Canal. The painted barges moored on the canal inject a colourful note to a stroll along the towpath. Even the railway station in Hebden is full character with its well-preserved Victorian signage and buzzing station cafe.
Hebden is nationally renowned for its independent shops, which give a fresh and vibrant feel to the town. From shoes, clothes and bicyles to jewellery, soap and lighting, Hebden has a higher ratio of specialist independent retailers than almost anywhere else in the UK. St George’s Square and the narrow riverside Bridge Gate are both pedestrianised, with cafes spilling out onto the street. A hub for designer-makers and creative entrepreneurs, Hebden is bubbling with energy and awash with tempting things to buy – from artisan bread, Yorkshire curd tarts and locally-reared lamb to hand-crafted lamps, groovy tea towels and fabulous hats.
Even if you’ve never visited this part of the country before, the name Hebden Bridge may ring a bell. Being so photogenic and unusual, it regularly pops up on TV, not only in dramas such as Last Tango in Halifax but in popular programmes such as Countryfile. In the last few years Hebden Bridge has been featured in several documentaries: Tony Robinson’s Walking Through History, Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys and the Channel 4’s Great Canal Journeys with Timothy West and Prunella Scales.
British Airways’ in-flight magazine Highlife described Hebden Bridge as the 4th funkiest town in the world! And Newsnight presenter Evan Davies floated the idea of Hebden Bridge as the UK’s second city because of its significance as a vibrant trans-Pennine hub, half-way between Manchester and Leeds.
Independent-minded, resourceful and resilient, creativity is Hebden Bridge’s middle name. Even the Boxing Day floods have not crushed the town’s indomitable spirit. Hebden Bridge is a unique place. Come and see for yourself!
Hebden Bridge – characterful, creative, unique
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© Text and images copyright Elmet Farmhouse
Ted Hughes and Remains of Elmet
Ted Hughes (1930-1998) was one of the greatest British poets of the 20th century. Born in Mytholmroyd, near Hebden Bridge, he spent his early childhood in the Upper Calder Valley and remained deeply attached to the area throughout his life. As well as shaping his character, it triggered his fascination with the natural world and inspired some of his most memorable poems, such as ‘The Horses’, ‘Cock-Crows’ and ‘Football at Slack’.
In 1979 Ted Hughes published a collection of poems called Remains of Elmet specifically about this unique part of Yorkshire. Subtitled A Pennine Sequence, it was created in response to a powerful series of black and white photographs by Fay Godwin and features an iconic image of Heptonstall Church and Stoodley Pike on its cover, with shafts of sunlight streaming through the clouds. This photograph is virtually identical to the view from Elmet Farmhouse.
Elmet Then and Now
Elmet was the ancient name of the Celtic kingdom in this part of Yorkshire, hence the title of Hughes’s book. At the time he wrote Remains of Elmet, during the late 1970s, the textile industry was dying and the area was in decline. Hughes’s poems and Fay Godwin’s photographs record the dereliction that characterised the area at that date, a legacy of the industrial revolution. Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall have since undergone a renaissance, but the surrounding countryside retains its raw elemental beauty.
The view of Heptonstall and Stoodley Pike from across the valley at Pecket Well clearly had special resonance for Ted Hughes, which explains why he picked this image for the cover of Remains of Elmet. Fay Godwin’s iconic photograph captures the special potency of this view.
As well as being highly evocative in its own right, this view had personal associations for Ted Hughes. His cousin David Farrar lived at Wilcroft Cottage, half way up the drive from Elmet Farmhouse, close to where this photograph was taken. Hughes visited his cousin there during the 1950s and early 1960s, on at least one occasion with Sylvia Plath.
Visitors to Elmet Farmhouse can sit in the window seat and read Remains of Elmet while looking at the landscape that inspired these poems. There are also recordings of Ted Hughes reading these poems and other works such as Moortown Diaries and Crow – From the Life and Songs of Crow (1972). Also in the farmhouse is Birthday Letters (1998), a moving collection of poems about Ted Hughes’s relationship with Sylvia Plath, published a few months before his death.
Discover Elmet – The Kingdom of Ted Hughes
A Pennine Sequence, including Heptonstall, Lumb Bank, Crimsworth Dean, Hardcastle Crags and other places associated with Ted Hughes. All these photographs were taken within a few miles of Elmet Farmhouse.
Crimsworth Dean, the secluded valley where Ted Hughes roamed as a child, is just a short walk from Elmet Farmhouse. With its woods, becks and waterfalls and its lapwings, curlews and kestrels, it’s easy to see why it triggered his poetic imagination. Hardcastle Crags, the wooded gorge just below Elmet Farmhouse, also features in Remains of Elmet. The rugged heather moorland on the tops and over towards Haworth was also a potent source of inspiration. Sylvia Plath also responded to this evocative landscape with its strong Brontë associations in her poems ‘Two Views of Top Withins’, ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Hardcastle Crags’.
For Ted Hughes, the ancient village of Heptonstall with its ruined 13th century church, was the symbolic focal point of the Upper Calder Valley. His parents lived at Slack, just above Heptonstall village, in a house called The Beacon with remarkable panoramic 360º views of the surrounding hills, including Stoodley Pike and Pecket Well. Heptonstall church, where Sylvia Plath was buried following her suicide in 1963, is a prominent feature on the horizon directly opposite Elmet Farmhouse.
Hughes later bought a handsome 18th century millowner’s house called Lumb Bank in Colden Clough, just below Heptonstall, with a view to living there. From 1975-89 he leased the house to the Arvon Foundation as a base for creative writing courses. This organisation, which now owns Lumb Bank, was actively supported by Ted Hughes and he gave regular readings there from the mid 1970s onwards. Now known as the Ted Hughes Arvon Centre, Lumb Bank is still going strong.
A footpath runs down from Heptonstall past Lumb Bank into the steep wooded valley of Colden Clough, where tall mill chimneys poke through the trees by the banks of Colden Water.
Photograph on cover of Remains of Elmet by Fay Godwin
© Text and other photographs copyright Lesley Jackson