Living in Hebden BridgePosted by Jonathan Timbers, Friday, January 11, 2002
I've lived in HB for over 10 years, so obviously I like it, though I am not uncritical of the place.
All the primary schools in town are now good, significant improvements having been made to Riverside, which has a marvellous Head and lots of government money. Central St. Infants is excellent (but as an ex-governor, I'm biased) and Stubbings has a very good reputation.
Calder High is an excellent true comprehensive school, though very big indeed.
The A646 is a big problem at rush hour - particularly because of the incessant road-works.
Jobs in the voluntary sector may be difficult to come by because of recent cuts by the Tory dominated council. Calderdale Social Services has significant on-going funding difficulties. The councillor in charge of the service, a Liberal, Michael Taylor is committed to improving social services but has made no visible impact on the service as yet.
Hebden Bridge is a very friendly place, but it can also be extremely clique-ey. It is still full of karma seeking hippies, and has developed in recent years, a large Lesbian and Gay population. There is still, however, a strong 'local' element who sometimes feel imposed upon by 'offcumdens' like myself. There is also more genuine poverty in Hebden Bridge than many from outside the area give credit for, and decent jobs are hard to come by, particularly for a disaffected layer of not very skilled or sophisticated young men. There is also some heroin in town, though we are not yet up to city levels with the problem. But it is there. Alcohol consumption in the town tends to be very high amongst some groups. Nevertheless, despite some local scares, crime rates are comparatively low.
There are lots of clubs and societies to join, though HB is not Manchester or Leeds. Intellectually, the place is over-rated and tends to New Age cliches and a woolly right-on-ness. The town has more than its fair share of free-loaders too. We do have a fantastic cinema and a film club based in 'The Little Theatre'. There is also a Summer Arts festival.
Pubs and restaurants are less good than you would expect in a tourist town (allegedly), but most places are friendly and provide a reasonable degree of quality. If you like real ale 'The Fox and Goose' compares with anywhere in the country, and 'the Four Lane Ends' in Old Town is very traditional with good pub fare and an excellent landlord, as well as excellent beer, fantastic views and good pool table.
HB is a very beautiful town but you should beware: it can be oppressive as well as beautiful, particularly if you live on the valley bottom, where it is exceptionally dark. Try to buy a house with lots of light and on a hill - prices rise with altitude in these parts, but for good reason. Ted Hughes did get the measure of the place - read 'Remains of Elmet' for a very precise view of how awesome and over-bearing the landscape can be.