Saturday, 17 September 2016

Rochdale house sit: The Warble of Wardle - Double Kitty Ditty

Wardle, United Kingdom
February 2016 
Arriving by train into the tiny village of Wardle, between Rochdale and Littleborough (northeast of Manchester), we were taken out to dinner at an Indian restaurant by one of our house sit hosts. I enjoyed it thoroughly and went back later in the week for a takeaway.
Shortly after the homeowners left for their holiday, we heard the doorbell ring. Answering it, we were accosted by a stocky fellow who exclaimed "fishman!" Startled, we blinked rapidly at him, trying to determine what he meant. Was his name Fishman and he was introducing himself? Was he in search of someone called Fishman? Seeing our blank stares, he explained that he was the guy who delivered fresh fish locally, and did we want any? We stammered out a "no thank you" and told him when the homeowners would return. Towards the end of our stay he rang again, saw that it was us non-seafood eaters and grumbled "Oh you're still here. I'll be off then."
The pets we were sitting for were two lovely young brother and sister cats who had a terrible habit of jumping onto the bench whenever they smelled food. This became a problem whenever the gas stove was on, as I was worried they would singe their fur right off!
They also took to walking all over us in the early hours of the morning, indicating that they would like food right now, very much please, headbutt, headbutt, trod. In order to get some semblance of sleep, we would put them outside into the corridor and close the door, turning on a white noise app to drown out their meows until feeding time. Well, one morning the app had been running for a little while when through the sounds of rain (our preferred white noise), we could hear voices. Yannick and I quietly discussed what they could be - was someone in the house? Not wanting to alert potential robbers, we tried to listen intensely through the rain noise until we had ruled out the sound coming from outside. The voices were definitely within the house, and what's more, they were even on the second floor with us. Mustering the courage, we turned off the rain and listened some more, figuring out it was a radio playing. Had the robbers turned on a radio to mask the sound of their nefarious activities? Finally we opened the bedroom door, and found no sign of robbers at all. The cats had walked over an alarm clock with radio function in the room over. What a fright they gave us.

We ordered groceries to be delivered to our door, but when we wanted to visit a supermarket for fresh supplies we had to walk to the town over - Littleborough. (We didn't know that you could have cheap supermarket deliveries before this house sit, and we will never go back! It's funny what you learn from meeting so many new people and staying in their houses. Still, I prefer to buy things like fruit in person, as you never know what ripeness of tomato you'll be given in a delivery.) It was a pretty little place surrounded by countryside, with a striking church and tidy graveyard. One evening we ate out at a tapas bar there called The Rake (not very Spanish, I know). One can never get enough patatas bravas!

We were recommended to walk to a manmade lake nearby - Hollingworth Lake. After breathing in recycled air from a morning cooped up inside playing computer games, it was lovely to take in the fresh winter air.

We walked all the way around the lake, dodging prams as we went. There seemed to be many mothers out and about, who along with retirees and uni students are often the sorts of people that we encounter during the day as perpetual travellers. 

Wanting to explore further afield, we took a day trip to Hebden Bridge, which was forty minutes away by train. We had been told by our house sit hosts that the town was "lesbian capital of the UK" and holds a burlesque festival annually.

As soon as we left the train station I knew I would like the town. Hilly and forested, the area was very green (including a layer of moss that grew over the bridge over the canal). I've got a bit of celebrity gossip for you: singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran was born in Hebden Bridge and writer Sylvia Plath is buried there. 

A quirky map had been plastered onto the side of a building, so we pointed out places we had been to. We had visited Rochdale down in the bottom left corner briefly (a frankly hideous town with no merits to speak of), where Yannick found a discarded dress shoe in the shrubbery of a churchyard. Time was spent theorising how it came to reside there in that lonely place. Littleborough can be seen a little ways up the river, and Hebden Bridge can be seen floating above my head. The house we were staying in was where I pointed to, or at least an approximation of the location.

Now for another pointing photo: the canal. I noticed that even during a breeze the water stayed strangely serene and didn't ripple. I asked Yannick if he thought it could be frozen, and he doubted it as it didn't feel awfully cold. And yet, when I threw a pebble at the surface of the water it bounced off and skittered away! A thin layer of ice was indeed covering the canal. As we walked further into town we had fun throwing pebbles at the canal and large puddles, becoming giddy whenever they ricocheted off. This was another experience, like the snow, that we had never been privy to before.

Despite the reputation Hebden Bridge has with the lesbian and New Age population, it showed no outward signs of anything other than a typically quaint English town. I particularly liked the name of the toy shop: Silly Billy's!

Sadly the town, and much of the surrounding area, had been subjected to heavy flooding during Christmas and Boxing Day, and many shops were closed due to damage. The local museum was shut, and apparently the water level had risen to 8-feet deep in a factory down the road! We chose a little café on the main square for a coffee break, and could see the water damage by looking at the wallpaper (the water line was slightly less than hip-height). Throughout the streets, sandbags and palettes were lined up - leftovers from trying to stop the flooding and then the clean-up directly following it.

On one street I noticed a pub that announced it had been "serving hound and human" since the 1800's, and its sign read: "Wet dogs and muddy boots welcome!" There's something so heartwarming about that sign.


Overall, we found Hebden Bridge to be utterly charming, and we'll endeavor to return one day to see it at its full potential once the flooded businesses get back on their feet.

Filled with soy cappuccino and excitement from visiting a new place, I posed for a happy photograph at the station as we waited for our train back to Wardle. Though the funnily named Wardle wasn't anything special, there was plenty in the vicinity that was well worth checking out (just not Rochdale).
I'll leave you with a thought for the day: "Fishman!" I think that future generations might take it up as a proverb.

Today's post was almost called: Stop In The Name of the Paw!