This time last week we were heading off for a trip to Yorkshire to visit my brother and sister-in-law and my gorgeous two-year old niece.
First on the itinerary was a trip to Manchester to make my son’s young dreams come true and visit Old Trafford the home of his team Manchester United. I confess when he first chose Manchester United as his principal football team I did wonder why he hadn’t chosen a Scottish team. But there are valid reasons for his decision. One his dad was brought up in Manchester from an early age and supports Manchester United as his English team not just because he lived there but also because Alex Ferguson is manager. As my husband’s real team is Aberdeen where Alex Ferguson was responsible for the glory years of that club! I too love Alex Ferguson and he links to my side too as he played for Queens Park my dad’s club. And if that wasn’t reason enough my brother and sister-in-law till fairly recently lived in Manchester. Anyway the point is he does support Manchester United and he loves them. So it was a dream for him to go to the club. We had a great afternoon touring the stadium which was jaw dropping at its vastness. The tour guide was brilliant and brough the whole tour alive even for my daughter who wasn’t remotely interested. For his Christmas and birthday from his aunt and uncle he had been given a voucher to shop in the store. Great excitement for him and he finally chose an away strip! The only downside to the visit was the shop it was so busy. With an hour queue to get your name on the strip and then a similar time to purchase! My daughter and I were a tad bored at this stage I have to confess. However the museum made up for it. Found it fascinating from a social history point of view! So all in all the trip was a great success. And I will treasure the look on my son’s face for a long time! Creation of more memories to treasure!
Then we were off to Yorkshire now you will be relieved to hear that I am not going to give you a running commentary about my weekend. Simply I want to give you the highlight of my trip. Which centres around a subject that I feel strongly about which is local shops which show the distinctiveness of an area rather than bland branded shops which you can get anywhere. So how did Yorkshire fair? Three experiences stand out for me!
Firstly local markets. I love English markets and so wish that we had them in Scotland its something that with few exceptions such as the Edinburgh Farmers Market you just don’t find here. So I was very excited when we visited the market in Todmorden. Even more so when I learnt that it is opened every day. It did not disappoint. Local produce abounded exactly what I am looking for when I visit an area. And it was value for money too. A great experience.
My second highlight was our trip to a local pub in Hebden Bridge for our dinner on saturday night. Again I love English pubs and the fact that they are so family friendly. This one was no exception full of families enjoying the weekend. Great local food in a warm friendly atmosphere.
My final highlight was on our way home we decided to go up the east coast and headed across country to Harrogate. A town I have been too on business and love. It was essentially a coffee stop! But what a coffee stop! Harrogate itself lived up to my memories. However our trip to the world-famous Betty’s just blew me away. I have been to their tea room in York and know from that how great the experience is. As we crossed the road we noticed the long queue and my heart sank. It was fairly cold and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to stand outside for too long. But at Betty’s even standing in a queue is an experience. You are not left on your own a waitress quickly appears and finds out if you want to eat in the cafe or tea room. We favoured the cafe which meant our wait was a maximum of five minutes! But in that five minutes we were all given heart-shaped chocolates this just blew me away. Costs to Betty very little but it made us feel really special and was the start of a wonderful experience. Again it created a memory my daughter was simply blown away by the opulence of her surroundings and the attention to detail from the staff. Even the toilets impressed! It wasn’t just a coffee stop it was an experience of how you can create theatre in a tea room!
So we came home via Northumbria and the wonderful Corebridge Larder. It’s the way to travel take the quiet roads and sample the local produce along the way! Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law for hosting us. To my wonderful niece who I could have listened to all day saying “Don’t wake the bear.” To my other brother and sister-in-law for looking after my dog so well (my third baby) while we were away. And to the local shops in Yorkshire and Northumbria that we visited along the way.
This has been brought home today by the Call Kaye programme on BBC Radio Scotland. Kirsty Wark has been hosting it this week. Usually I avoid this programme but felt this week the level of debate was of a higher level. One of the topics on today’s programme was the demise of the local high street and the number of local shops closing down which was headline news today. I could not believe it when Scottish Borders Council were used as an example of a council that was anti supermarkets! This is due to the fact that they refused for the second time planning permission for a new supermarket in Jedburgh. However they are also the council who gave permission for two super stores opposite each other in Galashiels both open 24 hours. Result local shops now in Galashiels are few and far between and the high street there is full of to let signs. Hawick also has two large supermarkets and although marginally better than Galashiels still has its share of to let signs on its high street. A new Sainsburys has just opened in Kelso on the out skirts of the town. Maybe to early to see the results for local shops but I have a hunch what is going to happen! So Scottish Borders Council you may have said NO in Jedburgh but you have said YES elsewhere. So what are you going to do in the towns whose high streets are failing because you said YES?
Please shop locally where ever you are and where ever you go. If you don’t the result will be bland branded retail parks everywhere with no local distinctiveness and empty high streets.