Blackberries everywhere! And elderberries ripening. Beans, carrots, potatoes and the last of the greens being harvested. Jam-making tomorrow...
Sunshine and showers.
We have filled the job vacancy and now have Charlotte living and working with us. The garden is growing (and the slugs are trying to eat it all). Hebden's Handmade Parade fitted into the sunny patches over a stormy weekend and the costumes and creations were fabulous. The Arts Festival is still to come. And, looming close now, the long-awaited Tour de France. There are bicycles and bicycle prints and bicycle logos all over Yorkshire!
So, we're open for the season, it's Easter, and we've got a full hostel!
On Good Friday last year, up on the tops we still had snowdrifts as high as my head. Today it was proper sunny and warm, all ice creams and picnics in the park.
And gardening. LOTS of gardening! We've made a new veg patch, potatoes are going in, and peas, beans, onions, carrots... strawberries, blackcurrants... and sweetpeas, for fun.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO LIVE AND WORK IN THE HOSTEL THIS SUMMER? Check here for job description.
In other news, we're helping to organise The Green Gathering. Check it out if you fancy a small, friendly, non-commercial festival this summer.
Wow, we had heaps of group bookings in January - family gatherings, Buddhist retreats and training courses - and in between, before and after that we relocated the accessible toilet, extended the kitchen, did some decorating and fitted a wood-stove!
Hebden Bridge has - so far - got off lightly in this winters' storms (no flooding - fingers crossed that continues) and only slightly strong winds.
We've been involved in trying to 'Save Our Shops', ie keep out the ravening supermarkets and keep HB as a quirky town renowned for local distinctiveness which is based at least partly on its many little independent shops. We don't want to be a clone town, hence this campaign, of which Dave has been a key participant:
SOS - No More Supermarkets in Hebden Bridge.
If you too want to keep additional supermarkets or chainstores out of your town, you might find tips and resources here.
Another winter campaign we've been supporting is Ban The Burn. Em wrote this article which was published by New Internationalist online: Money's no object - to creating floods.
Em also had an interesting experience at the Barton Moss Protectors' camp, Salford, the current frontline in the fight against fracking: I'd rather be a hobbit than an orc.
We'll be reopening in early April. If you know anyone like-minded who might like a live-in summer job (bed, board and expenses in exchange for help with cleaning and reception work), please contact us.
The hostel is closed for winter now, except for whole-hostel bookings. We've got a couple of parties coming up, and between those we'll be doing some renovations: a kitchen extension and accessible toilet relocation.
We're still getting autumn raspberries, and are still trying to get the tomatoes to ripen! The toms are indoors now, and are actually ripening quite well.
Autumn leaves, everywhere, in deep damp drifts. And in the morning, mists. Seasonal changes never fail to delight us. But there's decorating to do, indoors...
We've been recommended as one of Britain's best places to sleep, by Cool Places! Check out the link to see our review.
We're still investigating renewable energy options for the hostel. And we've been attending meetings about improving our local environment by 1) looking after the water catchment with The Source project,
and 2) perservering with Incredible Mytholm's Green Food Adventures plan, despite attempts to price community groups out of the bidding for the proposed site.
Still getting beans and courgettes from the garden, and our tomatoes are trying really hard to ripen before the clocks change and frosts set in...
Well, a couple of months slid by there; months of sunshine and gardening, relaxing on our new decking platform, walking and foraging in the woods adjoining the hostel... making redcurrant jam and elderflower cordial, strawberry wine and three-bean chutney. Welcoming guests from near and far - Pennine Way walkers and end-to-enders, sociology students and Buddhists, pensioners and families and world wanderers.
Now autumn approaches we're thinking about renovations and energy efficiency. We've already converted most of the hostel lighting to LEDs and we'd love to get some solar panels onto the roof. We'd also like a new efficient hot water and heating system combining a modern combi-boiler with a solid fuel range with back-boiler (which would burn wood from sustainably managed local woodland, via Blackbark woodland management workers' co-op). We're just beginning to look into the possibility of grants to help us fund these dreams.
Less ambitious projects in the offing include improving and relocating our accessible toilet and extending the kitchen. And harvesting the one apple from our tiny apple tree, a gift from a guest who recovered from a hip operation while staying with us.
Our Amnes-tea party went very well; we raised £100 for Amnesty International, made contact with other Amnesty supporters, exhibited some of Morvern Odling's art, swapped clothes, ate cake, drank tea and basked in the garden in glorious sunshine. Divine.
We've harvested the first bits from the garden - rocket, lettuce, chives and radishes. Peas and beans are climbing high. Gooseberries are swelling, strawberries flowering. Today I uprooted an unproductive shrub, cleared a new little patch of ground where it stood, and planted beetroot.
Our biggest news is the success of Eat Out. Scuppered by success, we are! We printed 2000 and in under a month they were practically all gone. So, we're crowdfunding a reprint. Please help; here's how.
We're really very chuffed about Eat Out - Hebden Bridge Dining Guide, which rolled out of the printers at the end of April and was distributed around town in time for the Hebden Food & Drink Festival. It's proving popular - shops and cafes keep ringing us up asking for more and our guests love it. Check out the online version; or to hold and feel the real thing, come to Hebden and pick up a pocket-sized paper copy.
I've planted beans, peas, sweet peas, courgettes, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, chard, nasturtiums, sunflowers, baby carrots and a blackcurrant bush - to join the strawberries, raspberry canes, gooseberry bushes, chives, rhubarb and herbs that have survived from previous years. Window ledges are full of baby plants and there's a constant rotation of pots to plots (and, hopefully, eventually, back to cooking pot!).
Our friend has invented some wonderful, beautiful, practical whirligros and twirligros for growing food and flowers in small spaces. He's been working so hard, for so long, on this project that I want to help him find homes for them once they're ready. Food security is becoming a big issue and the more of us that have a clue about growing our own food (and flowers, to attract and nourish bees) the better. I'm an amateur, but I'm becoming passionate about this. I'm very concerned about the way genetically modified crops are creeping onto shelves and into supply lines; I recommend this website to anyone who wants to know more about GM: www.gmwatch.org
Anyone who's going to be in Hebden Bridge on Sunday June 2 should pop up to the hostel in the afternoon to join in with our Amnes-tea Party.
Final bit of news for now (and finally leaving the food theme): the Tour de France is coming to Hebden in July 2014 and we've already taken room bookings - these cyclist-watchers are keen!
Exciting things are kicking off in Hebden Bridge and in our building too!
Growing Futures is inspiring. In brief, it's a plan to turn a bit of wasteland on the edge of town into a permaculture project comprising food production, an education and visitor centre, a local produce shop and an eco-hotel with 'glamping' (posh camping) options, greywater recycling and a turf roof. When we first heard of this we were concerned that an eco-hotel could scupper our business here at the hostel, so we approached Incredible Edible Mytholm, the group behind the project, and suggested collaboration rather than competition. If the eco-hotel pitches itself as a slightly more luxurious option, with mainly singles and doubles rather than twins, family rooms and dorms, then we'd complement each other beautifully. 'Biomes' for food growing have been mentioned and someone said "...it could be like a mini Eden Project." Oh yes. We've requested that an outdoor hot tub and wood-burning sauna be included in the plans. Wood from local woodland, sustainably managed by Blackbark workers' co-op, could be used...
Hopefully, with Tripadvisor write-ups like this, we won't be short of guests whatever else happens in the valley. Thanks so much to the person who wrote this review.
The Pennine Horizons revamp of our neighbouring Birchcliffe Centre is going full steam ahead. Plasterers are working on the main hall this week and sometime soon a new heating system will be fitted. At last, we'll be getting rid of the ancient behometh boilers that heat both the Birchcliffe Centre and the hostel. I like old stuff but sometimes 'vintage' isn't cute, it's stupid. The new system will be far, far more efficient and should save us a bit of money as well as a lot of carbon. I've heard a whisper that we might have a grant for solar panels too, but that could be conjecture or wishful thinking (watch this space).
The archaic and legendary Pace Egg play up at Heptonstall was much fun this year. New cast members added an extra element of uncertainty, the ad-libs elicited plenty of giggles, and we crowded around on the cobbles in bright sunshine, beneath blue skies - while just above the village, hardy residents shovelled the last of the snow from their driveways. Along hedgerows and drystone walls the drifts were still deep, as we found out while walking to Old Town and Jack Bridge. Where the snow in the drifts had softened in the sun, we were sinking thigh deep. Where it was still frozen, we were walking straight over gates without having to open or climb them. A glorious Easter.
Check the Events page to find out about our AmnesTea party, Open Day and Clothes' Swap on June 2.
We're now on Twitter: follow @mamaweirdigan for tweets about Hebden Bridge, the hostel, the weather, occasional tweet-sized rants, musings etc.
I haven't yet worked out how to make a 'follow' button with a little blue tweeting bird on it for the website. I'll get there, eventually, or perhaps Dave will help me now that he's sorted out the new wifi system (if he had hair to pull out, he'd have pulled it out).
Missed writing in February; went off for a holiday leaving Paul, Becca, Stu and Christina in charge. The hostel is still standing and improvements greeted me on my return - repainted floors in the bathrooms, silicone seals renewed around the sinks - but there's still a lot to do over the next couple of weeks to get ready for the grand Spring opening. I'm mentally rolling up my sleeves for the big Spring clean and eagerly await the next day with a glimmer of golden sunshine to get out on the patio and into the garden. There are plenty of leaves to scoop up, straggly bushes to trim and furniture to hose down before I even think about planting seeds...
I've been updating and improving this website and we're halfway through updating the Dining Guide. The print version is going to be even better this year, as we've been granted £400-worth of funding for it (from Calrec Audio and the Town Hall), in recognition of its value to local businesses and to tourism and vitality in Hebden Bridge. Check out the new Events page too; it's amazing how many festivals happen in Hebden (and this is only the ones I've picked up on so far, I'll be adding to the page as more come to light.)
A plug for a favourite festival which isn't in Hebden Bridge: The Green Gathering is a lovely little festival "like they used to be" near Chepstow on the Welsh borders. Our cafe, Weirdigans, will be there and Dave will be demo-ing his LEDfantastic energy-efficient LEDs there too. Early ticket sales help the Green Gathering folks get the infrastructure organised well ahead of time, and I've said I'll help with promotion, so please check it out and buy tickets now if you fancy it...
Looking ahead, this will probably be our last summer of managing with a small kitchen. We've got the go-ahead from the Pennine Heritage Trust to expand, revamp and make a lovely big, live-in, farmhouse-style kitchen for 2014; and we're very happy about that.
Things are getting exciting in The Birchcliffe Centre, the imposing listed building attached to the hostel.
Pennine Heritage, an environmental trust which owns the building, received Heritage Lottery funding to refurbish and run the Pennine Horizons project, and now this wonderful old Baptist Chapel is going to become a history archive, arts and education centre, meeting hall and conference space, all rolled into one. The main space is a high-ceilinged amphitheatre-like room, with wooden pews for seating, stained glass windows, huge pillars, and a stage. Apparently it can seat up to 200 people.
The revamp won't dislodge existing tenants - there's a pottery and yoga centre in the basement, Zen meditation space upstairs, and numerous small businesses have their offices in the nooks and crannies of the labyrinthine building - but it will inject extra life (and warmth - a new heating system is being fitted!) into the Centre.
The hostel won't be affected, except that from around April, groups may be able to hire this new space whilst staying with us. So if you want to put on a talk or a performance, or run a course, and need more space than we can offer in the hostel, then get in touch! (We can fit 30-odd people in the hostel lounge/dining room, if they don't move around too much...)
Pennine Horizons is also organising walking weekends in May, June, July and September. There will be guided walks of varying lengths and levels of difficulty, selected to make the most of the history and ecology of the South Pennines. Walkers will stay at our hostel and meals will be provided - more on this soon.
Dave's also excited because he's built a new website for LEDfantastic.
Meanwhile, the Ban The Burn campaign is hotting up and we'll be having a geomorphology professor come to stay at the hostel later this month, to take folks on an educational tour of the moors and give an evening talk with slideshow - more info here (and booking details).
The RSPB has challenged Natural England over their failure to protect vulnerable habitat on the moors above Hebden Bridge, while Ban The Burn is seeking a legal review of the situation from the European Commission, claiming that by paying Walshaw Moor Estate to manage the land but at the same time allowing them to burn blanket bog (which, amongst other things, may have contributed to our devastating floods), Natural England have been misusing EU funds.
(more on this story on my 'HazelHedge' blog)
And, soon, it'll be time to cut back the trees and fruit bushes, before the buds of spring surprise me like they did last year...
We hosted a party and patio 'campfire' at the hostel on the winter Solstice and were pleased to discover that the 'Mayan Apocalyspse' meant not the end of the world, but - hopefully - the dawning of a more enlightened Age.
Before that we had the wonderful Valley of Lights festival, and on Christmas Eve hundreds braved the rain to sing carols in St George's Square.
Dave and I danced our socks off to Dreadzone at the Trades' Club, then I danced while Dave dj'd at a 'Soul All-Dayer' at the Hole Int' Wall on December 30. The Hole, as it's affectionately known, is temporarily housing Nelson's Wine Bar, which got driven out of its basement home by the summer floods.
There've been no winter floods, despite heavy rain and a sometimes-tumultous river. But just in case, everyone in the valley bottom is ready with their shiny new flood-proof doors, sandbags, and sticks for poking leaves out of drains. (actually, we've been poking leaves out of drains up here on the hill too). Perhaps Hebden Bridgers are becoming resilient...
We did have some sunny days and went walking up the Colden valley, visited Sylvia Plath's grave in Heptonstall, and did a loop up towards Stoodly Pike then along the canal - all inspired by having friends from France and Gloucester to stay.
On New Year's Eve we partied again, at The Nutclough Housing Co-operative - an old tavern on the Keighley Road, revamped to provide affordable shared accommodation - which was celebrating its 10th anniversary. Dave founded the co-op back in 2002, and was really chuffed to have had a hand in creating something with lasting effect. I tramped back to the hostel through muddy woods in the wee hours, wearing a long dress like some Bronte-esque character. Dave returned after dawn and then... it was January already.
Hebden bonfire and fireworks were blessed with a crisp dry still night. After the main event in town we enjoyed sparklers and marshmallows toasted over a campfire on the hostel patio.
We're staying open a little later this year, so that people visiting Hebden for the Folk Roots Festival have an affordable place to stay.
From the 11th onwards, we'll be closed except for group bookings. Looking forwards to a bit of redecorating...
The hostel is surprisingly busy this month. And we've had some really fab reviews - check them out on TripAdviser! We're already beginning to plan improvements we can make for next year, so watch this space.
We've decided to stay open a little longer for individual travellers this year - right up until mid-November. We still have vacancies for groups to make whole hostel bookings over the winter, including at Christmas and New Year, although enquiries for the most popular times are trickling in quite fast now, so book early to grab your dates :)
Dave completed the Pennine Way and is eagerly putting together a display with pics, tips and anecdotes to inspire and aid future walkers. He's also built a wonderful little sun deck half way up the grassy embankment above the hostel, so we can catch the sun's rays for longer, even in the Autumn.
Mornings are getting chilly but our raspberry bushes are laden. It seems late in the year for soft fruit but I'm not complaining...
The Birchcliffe Chapel revamp project should be getting underway soon.
Dave's off to walk the Pennine Way, if you see a bald chap with a pointy beard, a hand-carved hazel walking staff and a big grin, that'll be him. If you see a wooden peg along the route, clipped to a fence or a signpost, grab it - it'll be a Hebden Bridge Hostel discount voucher peg!
Sunshine, showers and storms.
A grey squirrel ate all of my strawberries.
We hosted an open day with cake and tombola and raised a very decent amount for the Calder Valley flood fund.
Mostly Becca looked after the hostel while Em and Dave toured with Weirdigans Cafe and LEDfantastic.
After the last floods - which were caused by a cloudburst dumping on the tops and sending a month's worth of rain down into Hebden in the space of 3 hours - we explored the slightly remodelled Nutclough valley, located just through the trees from the hostel. We found it washed clean, with new waterfalls emerging, and fragments of old china everywhere. Silver linings...
ZEN BUDDHISM at Hebden Bridge Hostel: Our new co-worker Rebecca has introduced us to Buddhist meditation and to Ingen, a Soto Zen priest who will be staying at the hostel throughout much of the summer.
Zen retreats, meditation sessions (Sun & Wed eves) and a beautiful room set aside for personal yoga and meditation practice have, courtesy of Becca and Ingen, been added to what we can offer.
Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Well, Hebden Bridge has been in the news lately and not entirely for positive reasons. Massive downpours at the end of June led to flooding on Market Street and up into town. The Calder, Hebden Water and the Rochdale Canal all breeched banks but despite dramatic pictures in the national media, the water was only on the streets for a few hours one evening. There was no danger, but a considerable amount of flood damage to shops and a few homes.
Whilst the town is more or less back to normal now, and the Arts Festival is in full swing, sympathy is with the small business owners and residents who've lost stock or treasured possessions and have had to clean muddy water out of their shops and cellars.
The important message, perhaps, is don't stay away - the streets are clean, there's loads going on in Hebden and the benefit of our location - up a steep hill - means that staying at Hebden Bridge Hostel you're in no danger of waking up to find the kitchen under water.
For more info on floods and events: www.hebdenbridge.co.uk
A busy bank holiday with walkers, cyclists, yogis, healers, lovers and backpackers piling up on the doorstep.
Rebecca is now taking care of the hostel much of the time and the guests look at Dave and I as though we're intruders when we return from running our organic travelling cafe at outdoor events.
Check out a fantastically detailed introduction to modern-day northern mill towns by the Urban Repairs Club; with a fab write-up of Hebden Bridge and (under No.4 'Hebden Bridge, Evening Reflections') a description of me as an angel! It might be tongue-in-cheek but it made me smile.
Cold and rainy just gave way to hot, hot, hot! The hostel is getting busier as temperatures rise. Today was an ice-cream day. Our river-sculptor was at work in Hebden Water beside the Old Bridge, patiently standing rocks on end, one atop another in improbable and apparently gravity-defying fashion. Cafes spread their tables across the pavements and market traders heaved sighs of relief.
This week our guests have been remarking on how friendly Hebden Bridge is. One guest was given a lift up the hill by a local, another had their bag carried by a workman. Someone in Heptonstall let a couple of our guests take a short-cut through their garden. Someone else showed them Sylvia Plath's grave and yet another kindly soul helped them find their way back to Hebden through the woods. Yeah, we are a friendly lot, even if we do have funny lopsided houses and ridiculously steep streets!
Other news: From July to September a Zen monk is coming to stay. There'll be Zen meditation - both freeform drop-in sessions and taught classes - in the adjacent building (the old chapel). More on that soon!
Just completed the Hebden Bridge Dining Guide!
The chives are coming up and the chard, which never really died all Winter, is getting leafier. Rhubarb looks strong this year and there are daffodils on the bank. Buds are budding and we're sprucing up the hostel. Dave has beeen sanding and varnishing tables. We've got some new bedlinen. It'll all be ready for our opening day on 30th March.
A Rough Guide writer - Jules Brown - visited us in the Autumn and did us a rather good write-up. The Guardian picked it up and here we are in:
"10 great family-friendly escapes from Rough Guide's new book The Best Places to Stay in Britain on a Budget."
For what we did over the Winter, check out this blog: hazelhedge.wordpress.com
[Clue: it involved a large historic religious monument and a tent]
Went out for a meal at Rim Nam Thai this evening... Some of the pubs and restaurants we reviewed earlier in the year have closed down, changed hands or changed chefs since we taste-tested them but Rim Nam was just the same and as lovely as ever. We'll be re-reviewing Hebden's eateries early in 2012 and until then, if changes are brought to my attention, I'll make notes on the web version of the Hebden Bridge Dining Guide.
A rather vicious bout of early Autumn weather has knocked the hostel garden around a bit... I'll tidy it up next time the sun shows its face and have plans to improve both hostel and garden over the winter (watch this space).
I've just updated the Events page of this website and - wow - there's so much going on this Autumn!
Vintage fairs, historical tours, bicycle races, courses, a folk festival, a sponsored walking trail, gigs, feasting and a big bonfire...
Well, the roadworks are almost done and the slalom required to reach us grows less challenging every day... there was a slight delay when the roadworkers severed a gas main causing us to be without hot water for a short while - thanks to the cheerfully stoical guests who braved cold showers without complaint!
French beans were our best crop this month. My echinacea has flowered but sadly much of the garden wilted or was ravaged by slugs while I was on tour with Weirdigans Cafe and the LEDfantastic roadshow.
We enjoyed The Green Gathering near Chepstow enormously and were lucky enough to have a wonderful few days holiday in the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean afterwards. What a fab area - if I didn't love Hebden Bridge so much I'd be moving down there like a shot!
Enquiries for off-season whole-hostel bookings are trickling in fast now... if you want to book the hostel for a Winter retreat, get in touch soon! And if you'd like to come stay on an Indian Feast evening, the next one is 15 October.
Very busy this month, not just with the hostel... also Transition Town events, LED installations and consultations, and festivals too. Phew! It feels a bit like being spun around in a washing machine then hung on a line on a very windy day.
The garden suffered a bit in the early July heatwave... carrots, broad beans and strawberries have been our main crops of the month.
On a practical note, there will be roadworks on Birchcliffe Road during late July and much of August but access to the hostel will be largely unaffected. If you see a diversion sign at the bottom of Birchcliffe Road, don't worry - you won't be able to go via us to Old Town, but you will be able to get to us and park in our carpark!
Heatwaves and galeforce winds, drought and drenchings... One weekend the hostel is practically bursting at the seams with Quaker wedding guests and Blues Festival musicians, then the next it's quiet-as-quiet with just a few long-distance walkers chatting over tea and buns before early nights. Coming up we've the Handmade Parade weekend and an Indian Feast night. Life is varied and unpredictable and that's the way I like it.
We've been eating our greens, straight from the garden - spinach, kale, rocket, chives and lettuce are all doing well. Roots - carrots, onions and potatoes - and fruits - gooseberries, raspberries, loganberries, strawberries and rhubarb - are coming along nicely. French beans and broad beans are climbing their canes; comfrey, mint and lemon balm are fighting it out in the herb garden; overall our little garden is doing okay, although slugs ate all my beetroot seedlings while I was looking the other way.
A New Site for The Green Gathering... TGG will be held at Piercefield Park near Chepstow, Monmouthshire. Apparently the site is surrounded by woodlands, standing stones, ancient earthworks, gorgoeous gorges and dingly dells. The dates are 28-31 July, so that's four nights of camping, sustainably-powered entertainment and ecological enlightenment... in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty overlooking the Wye Valley. Tickets are £90 for adults, free for kids under 12 (parking charges are extra - but they'll be laying on buses from the local train station). more info & tickets
A Share in an Organic Farm!! ... We've become co-owners in a community-based food co-operative!
'Growing with Grace' is a wonderful project in North Yorkshire, a co-operative farm dedicated to sustainability and equality. Green waste from local residents is composted on site and tractors are run on biodiesel made on site by the village community co-op. The farm has one of the only forest gardens under glass in the country - two acres of glasshouse space, which in North York shire is gold dust!
needs investment to continue and is offering shares at £1 each
investment of £100). All the details and more about the project
found at: www.growingwithgrace.org.uk
In addition to Transition skill-sharing and presentations by renowned Green activists there will be classic festival bands (funk, folk, prog-rock, afro-beat, reggae and more); traditional craft workshops; kids' activities; permaculture and healing areas; and of course, Weirdigans Cafe and LEDfantastic...
could power 80% of world's needs by 2050...
news for once:
Easter weekend: watched the ancient, arcane and very silly Pace Egg play in Heptonstall; did lots of walking and marvelling at the beauty of nature; planted and weeded in our expanding patio garden; played host to lots of happy sun-kissed guests... enjoyed being happy and sun-kissed ourselves
We also took lots of photos and have been making new galleries and adding to old ones... Check out the Pics.
We're open for Spring! There's cherry blossom, budding leaves, daffodils, forget-me-nots and seedlings sprouting. It's a good time to be here.
The Dining Guide is complete... it's online and today we received the printed version - it looks lovely!
We're also working on a Walking Guide (some of our favourite local walks) and detailed directions (with photos) explaining how to get to us from the Pennine Way.
A new cooker!... No longer will we be apologising for our tiny, cheap-as-chips, liable-to-cut-out-if-you-turn-all- the-rings-on-at-once oven! We now have a shiny, chunky, one-and-a-half-times-as-big-as-a-domestic-cooker, serious-looking beast of a machine. It's big enough to fit four large pans on the hob (which heats up almost instantly) and has a small oven with grill option as well as a decent sized main oven. Well, we're excited...
The 2011 Green Gathering... It's not in Hebden but we're also very excited about this:
A 4-day Green Festival to be held on a beautiful estate in West Berkshire. Family-friendly, sustainably-powered, networked with the Transition movement... slated to be entertaining, edifying and inspiring. In the fine tradition of the BGG: greengathering2011.com
HB Hostel Dining Guide
Watch out for the Restaurant Reviews appearing in the Dining Guide. Inspired by guests asking for recommendations we've been testing the fine eateries of Hebden Bridge... Oh how lucky are we?!
When not fine-dining we've been Spring-cleaning, preparing the garden, improving our energy-efficiency by adding extra insulation, experimenting with pancake recipes and compiling a Walking Guide (gotta walk off those dinners)...
We've also been having some interesting groups to stay, including Armenians and Azerbaijanis here for a 'PeaceJam' being run by Bradford University; a Youth Council and, coming soon, a 1930's tea party (that's the kind with fairy cakes and frilly dresses, not the rather unpleasant rabble-rousing American kind...).
We seem to have unintentionally invented a new version of wwoofing (willing-workers-on-organic-farms):
at HB Hostel we have 'wwoohers' (willing-workers-on-organic-hostels) !! Last year Imogen helped me sort out our patio garden. This year Paul from Portugal stayed for 3 weeks, plied us with Portuguese red wine and did a whole load of maintenance. Kate and Helena will probably be coming on board in the Summer and will no doubt offer up their own talents... Oh yes, how lucky we are!
Transition Town Hebden Bridge
Regular meetings and an email newsletter keep us informed and involved. Action groups for Transport, Food, Waste, Energy, Health, Education and the Local Economy are cooking up plans. An organic vegbox scheme has been filling us full of winter veg and clothes swaps have revitalised our wardrobes. Events scheduled for Spring will be open to all and will appear on the Events page once dates and venues are set.
The return of a summer Green Gathering
It's looking likely that a smaller, more streamlined and funkier version of the famous (and infamous) Big Green Gathering will be occurring this year. Pencil it into your diaries for the last weekend in July and watch this space!
NEW YEAR 2011...
A Permaculture group, the Silver Entrepreneurs, a staff party and our own Christmas celebrations kept us busy throughout December. Dave installed a bath (pure luxury on sub-zero evenings) while the garden succumbed to frost and ice.
We had a lovely New Year's Eve. There was dancing in the dining room with Dave's ultra-low-energy LED lights and mini sound system while for the well-wrapped-up we built a cosy campfire on the patio.
New Year's Day a group of us went up onto the moors and planted 200 trees with Treesponsibility.
Treesponsibility also arranged an Energy Audit for the Hostel. We'll be putting the simplest energy-saving ideas they suggested into practice this month - tin foil behind radiators, draught excluders around external doors - while more significant/expensive/extensive adaptations will be put to the building owners, the Pennine Heritage Trust, for consideration. Solar water heating, wood-pellet-burning boilers and double glazing will probably remain fantasies for the foreseeable future but we're moving in the right direction.
The year ahead
This month we're hosting a couple of arts/drama groups. Amazonails, No Hands Massage and the Write Out Loud poets have all shown interest in making 2011 bookings. There's a 50th birthday party in the offing and we're already taking reservations for Easter...
We're hoping to produce a dining guide to Hebden and some maps of our favourite walks before the 2011 season gets going. I'm reading the 'kitchen gardening' book I was given for Christmas with a view to growing more of our own herbs and veggies. We've also got to re-grout the showers... it's not all fun and glamour here at Mama Weirdigans ;)
A whirlwind trip to Scotland to fit LEDs at Marcassie Farm then down to the Lakes to upgrade the solar set-up powering Wierdstring Wal's barn, via Edinburgh and on to Ravenstonedale where Mad Monk Pete, Farmer Colin and aeronautical engineer Nick kindly fixed our van (she now flies!).
Home again in time for Bonfire Night and Hebden's always awesome firework display. After the last Bang!-Crackle!-Whoosh!-Wowww! had echoed around the valley we entertained local friends and hostel guests with a campfire on the hostel patio - something that could become an annual ritual. Mulled wine, baked pototoes, home-made soup and Helen's divine sticky-apple cake sustained us as the temperature dropped. After a speckle of early evening drizzle the night was cold, still, clear.
The following day we gathered a motley crew to walk up Colden Valley to the New Delight pub for lunch. Another dry day, sunshine glistening on gushing waterfalls, bright orange beech leaves thick and crunchy underfoot.
And then we closed the hostel doors for our Winter break.
We'll be closed to individual travellers until Spring. Groups who want to book the whole hostel can still do so and throughout the closed season we'll be answering phone calls and emails and taking bookings for 2011.
See you then :)
Bits n bobs...
Just spotted on Hebweb that Hebden Bridge has been voted sixth most individual/distinctive town in Britain in a New Economics Foundation report... I'd have put us a little higher than that, but it'll do :)
We're currently awaiting the report from our eco-audit. Natja from Treesponsibility visited yesterday and asked lots of questions about our energy usage, recycling habits and so on. She's going to give us a list of suggestions for how we could save energy and reduce our costs... along with ideas for how we could raise funds for serious projects like putting in a solar water-heating system or air-source heat pump or... Oh, so many things we'd love to do. In the meantime, if you come to stay with us, please turn off the lights and heating in your room when you go out or go to sleep!
Dave's helping to save the planet in conjunction with Ruby Shoesday; this week he's been busy fitting out the shop with lovely low-powered LED lights. Next week he'll be doing LED workshops in Carlisle, the week after in Inverness. I'll be assisting him and Fran will be looking after a hostel full of poets.
And suddenly it feels like Autumn...
Kam and Drea looked after the hostel magnificently while Dave and I did three festivals in a row with the rest of the crew. At Solfest the sun shone, sea-sidey breezes blew and queues for our chai and cake stretched into the distance. Eden Festival was on a divine site but unfortunately had too few ticket-holders for the number of cafes and venues so it felt rather sparse. Macfest was a holiday for us Weirdigans - we helped with the set up and tat-down but otherwise were free to rest, relax, eat, drink, dance and be merry. We made the most of it.
The day after we arrived back at the hostel the weather changed. Cold gusts of wind drove in rain clouds and the nights became decidedly nippy. For the first time since Spring we've had to turn the heating on in the hostel and we've now harvested what will probably be the last of the veg from the garden. Our gardener friend Mick is still holding out for an Indian Summer - and oh how I wish he might be right - but at the moment I'm more thinking of digging out the winter woollies and roasting chestnuts on braziers.
Autumn in Hebden has a lot going for it. Technicolour landscapes, valleys filled with crunchy leaves, Halloween pumpkins on garden walls, tree-planting parties, bonfires and a huge firework display in the park.
We'll have more time to enjoy the area ourselves and to put effort into improving the hostel now the festival season is over. We've a few groups coming to stay - Walking Women, Write Out Loud poets, the Silver Entrepreneurs again plus independent visitors, walkers, cyclists and gig-goers.
See Events if you'd like to get involved in Autumn in Hebden with us.
Festivals, weddings, workshops & bits squeezed inbetween
Another gorgeous walk up a valley to a pub - this time the New Delight at Colden, via the swimming hole at Jack Bridge. We were accompanied by my recently rediscovered best-friend-from-school, her husband and their five year old who was very stoical considering his little legs had to do about six steps to every one of ours...
My sister Naomi married her beloved Keith on a sultry August day - she looked like a real princess and made me cry. Dave lit the stage with a fabulous array of LEDs and I dressed up the 'ballroom' with balloons, ribbons and glitter - transferable skills learnt during years of doing festival decor :) We released 99 red balloons (biodegradable, of course) which drifted into the sky framed by a double rainbow. Magic.
At Croissant Neuf Summer Party - a totally solar-powered, very friendly small festival in Wales - our LEDfantastic workshops were fantastically popular. A hundred kids learnt to solder and make electrical circuits. Kids and grown-ups made LED torches, head-dresses, necklaces, lanterns and fairy-lights. The woods on the old hill fort were lit with Dave's twinkly lights and we sorted out illumination for many of the lovely craft stalls there.
Back at the Hostel we've had independent travellers from farflung places to stay, as well as a group in the process of creating an eco-village (they came here to practice living together). We're currently halfway through hosting a weekend of ecology and philosophy with deep-thinking pilgrim and lecturer Satish Kumar but are so busy getting ready to do the cafe at Solfest and Eden Festival that we're mostly missing out on his wisdom.
Tomorrow we're going to harvest the courgettes and beans and peas. They are fat and green.
Secret Garden Party & Home to Hebden
Just back from chaos in Cambridgeshire - a bigger, bolder, brasher Garden Party than ever before where we provided THE most chilled-out safe haven of a carpeted comfort zone.
Now we're home and between tackling a laundry backlog and doing bits of maintenance we're enjoying what Hebden has to offer.
Things like lunch at the lovely Hare & Hounds pub on the edge of Old Town, a 20 minute walk up idyllic - but very steep - country lanes from the hostel. We definitely felt we'd earned our meal by the time we puffed through the door... and were amazed by the mid-week price of £3 per main meal, £1.50 for a starter or dessert! Good food and friendly owners, too.
We also visited the Trades Club to see (and hear and dance to) the cosmopolitan Loonaloop: Australian, Dutch, French-Caribbean and Scottish musicians came together to produce a high-energy, very danceable sound... then they came back to ours for tea and cake and stayed overnight in the hostel bunkroom before continuing their European tour.
What a recommendation!!!
Our Thanks to Dyanne, who posted about us on Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum. It's great to see the hostel and our home town from a visitor's perspective and she makes it all sound rather fine!
Dyanne stayed with us for 5 days when we hadn't been open long and despite having a stinking cold she was life-and-soul... she even stumbled upon a worm-charming festival up ont' hills and was blown away when James Wierdstring turned up at the hostel and presented her with a copy of the Wierdstring Band's Worm-Charming Song as a memento :)
Dyanne says: "I recently spent some time in the UK and would like to recommend a lovely place that I discovered in Yorkshire and, above all, a wonderful new hostel there.
The name of the town is Hebden Bridge and it's about half way between Leeds and Manchester on the rail line. I discovered this place by accident while doing research for my trip. Hebden Bridge is a lovely old mill town, which today is a funky, kind of artistic place filled with old houses and quaint shops. There is very good public transportation to all the small villages in the area and absolutely lovely walking on the dales and in the forests of the area. I didn't see any other foreign tourists while I was there, but I know that there is quite a bit of domestic tourism, especially on the weekends. There are also all kinds of unique local festivals there and in the other villages throughout the year.
I took Megabus for 1.50 pounds from London to Leeds and then the train for 4 pounds to Hebden Bridge.
Up until recently, I understand that there was no real budget accommodation in the area, so anyone who couldn't afford B&B's had to look elsewhere. Well, in May, when I was there, a hostel opened in one of the renovated outbuildings of an old church and it's just lovely! The place is very clean and comfortable and Em and Dave, who run the hostel, and their friends made me feel like one of the family! I spent 5 days there and could have stayed even longer, if I'd had the time!
For anyone looking for something different, off the regular London-Oxford-Stratford, etc.trail, I can definitely recommend staying here. You won't regret it, believe me!"
Away & back again
At Glastonbury Festival we watched a Solstice sunrise and ran LED workshops in the Green Crafts Field. After that we had a quick overnight at the Hostel then we were on the road again with Weirdigans Cafe, providing 24-hour brews and cake at the miniature Northern equivalent of Glastonbury: BeatHerder Festival in lovely Lancashire.
What a whirlwind. Alasdair and Ayliffe looked after the home-base in our absence, leaving it not only intact but gleaming and thriving and filled with guests. Now Al and Ay are off to Belgium in their newly-converted van and we're back in Hebden tending the vegetables and smoothing the duvets ready for the next bunch of merry travellers.
Imogen's beans have grown very tall. I'm tempted to start rattling the stems to see if I can wake a Fee-Fi-Fo giant in time for Weirdigans next gig - Secret Garden Party - where the fancy-dress theme is 'Fact or Fiction: an Imaginarium'. Kristen's going as a hobbit, Kate is sewing herself a fawn costume... it'd be great to take a real live giant along too.
On a more prosaic note, today I've been lavishing attention on herbs, vegetables... and a mountain of laundry. The basil and rhubarb are still tiny and frail but thyme, mint, nasturtiums and lavender are going crazy like the beans. The laundry mountain is diminishing, slowly.
Bookings flood in
We're starting to get booked up now... and what an interesting assortment of guests we seem to be attracting! Band members and members of orchestras, yogis and environmentalists, film makers, actors, djs and journalists, straw-bale-house-builders, massage students, spritely retired folk, long-distance walkers, round-Britain cyclists, philosophers, young families, Morris dancers, artists and poets... so far!!!
Check out the Events page for hostel events and Hebden Bridge events that you can get involved in (Arts Festival, Handmade Parade, Satish Kumar lecture, Poetry residential... and more to be announced soon).
Our first hostel barbecue. A beautiful clear evening, friendly musicians, locally-produced charcoal, veggie kebabs and cheesecake. We decided outdoor cooking of local organic meat on special occasions was okay. Ruth Wierdstring, skilled in understanding the ins and outs of ethical farming, bought happy meat from a happy local butcher... and the non-veggies were very happy :) The barbecue is now in-situ and ready to be used on balmy eves...
Dave ran a well-attended LED workshop in our lounge... the first of many, I'm sure. This one was specifically for folk who want to use LEDs creatively - in artworks, costumes, designer lampshades etc. The place looked great all lit up with fairy lights and lanterns, with a horde of busy elves soldering away, making their own twinkly-sparkly-shiny-bright things while learning about 12-volt electrics and energy-efficient lighting.
Inspired by our friend and co-worker Imogen we've been planting herbs and vegetables in tubs, pots and recycled drawers. No slug damage so far but my coriander has been attacked by greenfly. Cheers to Mick for letting us use your lovely rich compost to feed our veg and for building us a compost corner so that we can make our own.
Imogen builds planters, Dave paints signs, I string up a washing line to take advantage of the weather (the less tumble-drying we have to do the better). Spending as much time outdoors as we can, enjoying our patio while the sun shines. Conjuring with ideas for the future - fruit bushes, solar panels, a terraced garden, a hot tub...
Knockengorroch's World Ceilidh
Three weeks was just about enough time to get to grips with the reality of running a hostel... then we passed the reins to Drea. She looked after the hostel with brilliant, reassuring competence while we took the Weirdigans Cafe to Scotland. Music, dancing, merry-making and cake-baking ensued and a jolly time was had by all.
Two workshops - funded by the local council to help people set up their own businesses - were held in our lounge. Tutors and attendees all loved the venue (and the food, provided by our friend Kath who runs Peas & Love, a wholesome catering company).
The Grand Opening!
We cleaned, decorated, primped, arranged and polished... then flung open the doors and invited the curious in. Champagne corks popped as we welcomed a steady flow of guests and led tours around the hostel.
Amongst the visitors were a trio of ladies who shared their memories of the building from the 1940's and 50's. Back then it was an important social centre for the area, hosting theatre and choral performances, Sunday School sessions, tea dances, tennis tournaments and croquet matches. The ladies became a little teary when they realised their tennis lawn is now a carpark... and confirmed rumours that the building is supposed to be haunted!
On Saturday evening twenty-five people sat down to an Indian Banquet cooked by Dave Weirdigan with help from Woody and Kristen. Most of the bedrooms in the hostel were full overnight and the next morning no-one reported any ghostly encounters :)
Very Big Thanks to the friends who helped to make this a truly grand weekend and to Pennine Heritage Trustees for coming along to support us.