Tag Archives: Books and Travel

A Literary Trail With Northern Rail

When I was approached by the folk at Northern Rail to see if I would like to work with them* on a literary trail I was instantly intrigued. When I discovered it was to head to Hebden Bridge to learn about its literary links as part of the Northern and Manchester Literature Festival trail, also known as the Poetry Train, with a focus on the amazing places you can go by train finding the literary landmarks and hidden gems with some live poetry on the way how could I say no? I don’t think all the wonders of the north and its literary heritage, old and new, are celebrated or shown off enough.

So off to Hebden Bridge (which has the most beautiful old station) I went with poet Helen Mort reading There & Back, a poem specially written to celebrate the line and the stations on it. You can read it here. I enjoyed the poem and Helen’s chat with Naomi Frosby of Writes of Women (who you will see more of later) so much I have since managed to find copies of both her collections Division Street and No Map Could Show Them from the library.  Anyway, we were then taken through the town, which is beautiful, to find out more about its literary history past and present.

Of course the most famous of the people renowned for staying in the area are Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath and when we went though the town we found a rather modern homage to Sylvia…

…Another part of the walk too us to a place where it is believed that during one of the couples tumultuous points in their relationship things were smoothed over. I don’t know masses about the relationship between Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath is, but it seems that the Stubbing Wharf pub was a place Hughes took Plath to encourage her to stay in the area. Though from what I gather of the poem, Stubbing Wharfe from Birthday Letters, it wasn’t such a glorious day when they had that discussion, either way Plath stayed.

You might think from what I have said that the literary elements of Hebden Bridge, especially with the Bronte’s parsonage just up the road at Howarth, might all be very old school. Yet a lot of modern authors live in the area. You have Benjamin Myers (Beastings, Pig Iron, Turning Blue, The Gallows Pole and many more titles),  his wife Adelle Stripe who has written a fictional account of the life of playwright Andrea Dunbar Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile as well as Amy Liptrot whose memoir The Outrun was a huge success and shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize, a prize I adore. There is also an independent publisher, Bluemoose Books whose street we were taken into. I was going to post a picture but I don’t know if they will want you all popping in for a cuppa, sadly I didn’t have time to myself. After a lot of walking, including passing a pub Sally Wainwright of The Archers, Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax fame and more likes to frequent, we ended up in a book lovers dream, The Pages Cafe.

After this the lovely Naomi and I decided that we would go on an adventure to go looking for some literary graves, yes you read that right, we went off to find some graves up at Heptonstall churchyard. It has one of the steepest hill paths I have ever been up and am amazed that we made it with only one small break midway, but make it we did. The churchyard is incredible as it was bombed and so is a spooky shell of a church with a graveyard that ripples from the aftershock, it is a beautiful if slightly eerie spot.

So who were the graves that we were looking for? Well the first one was a lesser known grave, that of King David Hartley. You wouldn’t be blamed for wondering who on earth that is. Remember I mentioned Benjamin Myers The Gallows Pole earlier? Well it centres around David Hartley and the Cragg Vale Coiners who he lead and who clipped coins to make more, a very criminal offence at the time. I cannot wait to read the book and also bought the map which you can buy in The Bookcase in the town and go off on a walk around too. I should here mention that I also bought Ben’s new nonfiction book Under The Rock and hopefully I will be doing a blog and vlog as we are planning a day doing a nature walk around the area of both these books and even a spot of swimming in the great outdoors which I am very excited, and slightly, nervous about this summer.

And the other grave? Well I couldn’t go all that way and not visit the grave of Sylvia Plath. I have to admit I have actually been to see her grave before years ago with Paul Magrs, it didn’t help me trying to find it a second time. At one point I did feel rather like Naomi and I had turned into trepid explorers, literary Indiana Joneses. Ha. But we did find it.

Look how pleased we were with ourselves afterwards. We felt we both deserved a pint and so off we went for a beer and a shandy (mine, ha) at The White Lion which I would highly recommend.

All to soon, after a right good natter, it was time to head home after a really lovely day and so we wandered back down the hill, which was like a dream and headed for the station and back to Manchester and off on our ways home. But what a brilliant day and one I would recommend you all try and do if you get the chance. You can find the map here. Big thanks to Northern Rail for asking me to do it. I will be heading back again for sure, it would make the perfect place for a little mini break and reading retreat.

*This content was paid for, I will always let you know when content is. I get quite a lot of companies approach me to see if I would like to work with them; it is rare that I say yes. This is in part because the brand or opportunity might not be one that I think fits what you or I would be interested or they are so controlling that it involves no creativity for me. Working with Northern Rail was a delight and they let me do what suited Savidge Reads and hopefully all of you. Do give the literary trail a whirl as it was a lovely day out. You can find out more on the Northern Rail website here.


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Filed under Literary Destinations, Random Savidgeness, Reading Retreat, Travel

A Trip to Harrogate and York…

This is a post a long time overdue as way back at the end of March I went off on a little holiday with three of my very best of chums Polly, Michelle and Dom. These three buddies also share my love of all things bookish and while we don’t see each other as often as we like when we meet up for mini breaks there is always a literary link or we all have a book that we read together and then discuss, most likely in a pub. This year we decided to kill to bookish birds with one stone and stay somewhere with a literary link and even found a book about it (thanks to some of the books you recommended earlier in the year) as we headed to Harrogate, the town where none other than Dame Agatha Christie turned up after she went missing! So I thought I would take you on a mini trip with me.

It started after a lovely train ride, one where I said I would read loads and loads but ended up looking out the window at the scenery instead as usual. Then on the second leg of my trip I was joined by Polly, who I have known since we were 4 years old and who you might have known as Polly of Novel Insights – a blog I still sadly miss.


Once at the station we carried on gossiping at the station, and possibly buying some sweets, as we waited  for our friend Dom who was only one train behind. We then headed to our digs (found through the brilliant new website www.airbnb.com which found us a bargain apartment with a Jacuzzi bath and everything) had a little tea break before heading out into Harrogate to discover its delights, locate Betty’s infamous tearooms, have a gander, have some more tea and head to the infamous hotel, which has now changed its name, where Agatha Christie was discovered after her mystery disappearance.


This was in fact the setting for a lot of the book we were all collectively reading Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days by Jared Cade as it was, as I mentioned, the place where they found the author after she had gone missing mystifying and fascinating many. I will be discussing the book here on the blog tomorrow as I had interesting reactions to it. Anyways, after giving it much thought we decided not to go in and try and find the room, though we did go and nosey close up, or have any cocktails in the lounge as we had to meet Michelle at the station. (I am determined to stay in the room she had in the (now named) Old Swan Hotel at some point though.) After which we went for our other mutual love… food!

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If you are ever in Harrogate then you simply have to go to Damn Yankee. They do the most AMAZING burgers with pulled pork and all sorts of other utter joys in. We made it classy by having it all with Prosecco on the side. Classy.


After a night of much late night gossip we decided that, after having a breakfast out (there is a food theme) in a venue I won’t as they threw our initial order down the stairs and then took a while to sort it all out and had the rudest staff, we would head for a day in York which is a mere 40 minute train ride which some of us used to gossip more and some to read. Guess who was gossiping and not reading? Once in York we all decided to head to the National Rail Museum for a brief look around as it was free and close by. This ended up being a three hour visit of joy.


Who knew we all loved trains so much?


No really, be they new, old, from Scotland or Japan, we were all smitten…


I even saw a wonderful old poster that used to advertise my local seaside resort, which alas isn’t quite as glamourous as it used to be but is trying…


Well after having seen all of these trains, watched some demonstrations of steam strains and then a turntable (seriously, if you think I am joking I swear I am not, I LOVED THIS PLACE, we all did – if you are ever in York you HAVE to go) we decided that really it was time for some tea and maybe some cake in the café, which is like waiting rooms from times past – amazing…


Then there was some serious shopping before we walked outside to discover we could then get into York by guess what…


A train!!!!! It was too much. After a swift and delightfully bumpy (I think people thought we were a bit odd as we were all beyond excitement, yes if you were there it was us that were giggling so much) ride into town we decided to hit York’s most famous of sights…


The Cathedral. Now I am not religious personally but I do find chapels, churches and cathedrals wondrous places. I find them very calming. I also find graveyards really calming for the same reason, I think i’s the stillness. I miss my days guiding at Highgate Cemetery and the quite walks I would have between tours. Anyway, that said I object to paying to go into these places – sorry but I do – and so we popped in just to have a nosey at the grandeur and it was beautiful.


After going to the most famous place in York we had a lovely long meander through the city to find the most haunted place in York. Regular readers of the blog will have at some point picked up my small obsession for a TV show called Most Haunted which sees a team headed by Yvette Fielding. One of my favourite episodes takes place in The Golden Fleece and we found it…


And guess what we did when we were in there? Well, I spent about 20 minutes reading the menu which has all of the ghost stories and testimonials in, after which I joined in with the pints and more food. Highly recommend the chips, cheese and gravy. Lush. I have decided I also want to go back to the Golden Fleece at some point and stay the night, as it is also a hotel with haunted bedrooms. I will have to talk The Beard into it. After all that excitement we headed back, picking up some booze and snacks and then deciding to go out for dinner back in Harrogate. Now you may think we were food obsessed and that really the treats should have stopped there. Well, they didn’t and in reality we had been stretching our bellies for the joy that awaited us the next morning… breakfast at Betty’s Tearooms! Seriously we were so excited, can you tell?


It is worth all the hype honestly! I ended up going for their Swedish breakfast which as you can see was a thing of wonder.


All this while we were treated like Kings and Queens by the wonderful staff and serenaded by a piano player. It seriously felt like we had gone back in time to the 1920’s/1930’s. I couldn’t get enough of the atmosphere and along with Polly decided that this was a special occasion (and I would starve myself for the following week) would have a two course breakfast and followed up my gorgeous rosti with a gorgeous cake. With me and bakeries there is only one choice…


The Vanilla Slice, the King of Cakes. It is my FAVOURITE dessert of all time, I will be your best friend for one, simple as that! It was the icing (see what I did there) on an utterly brilliant few days with my utterly brilliant bookish friends.


Oh and as you are asking, did we talk about the book? No we didn’t, we were too busy giggling or eating – but I will be doing that with all of you tomorrow. In the meantime I was wondering if any of you have ‘literary based’ (even if loosely) holidays? Do you choose some where to go on a break based on its literary links? If you have where have you been and how was it? And do you do as I have to do and make sure you pack a book set where you are going to read in just the right place, literally, or is it just me? Also do you like the idea of ‘literary retreat’ posts in the future?


Filed under Literary Retreats, Random Savidgeness