Tom Overton at The London Review of Books:
In ‘Stubbing Wharfe’, a poem from Birthday Letters, Ted Hughes writes about sitting with Sylvia Plath in a pub ‘Between the canal and the river’ in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire:
This gloomy memorial of a valley,
The fallen-in grave of its history,
A gorge of ruined mills and abandoned chapels,
The fouled nest of the Industrial Revolution
That had flown.
Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd, his birth registered in Hebden. Plath is buried on the other side of the Calder Valley, at Heptonstall.
Bernard Ingham once described Hebden as ‘the lesbian Capital of Great Britain’; in 2001 he lamented the influx of ‘trendies, yuppies and weirdos’. In 2014, the BBC’s Evan Davis made a wilfully eccentric argument for rebranding it as the UK’s second city (population: 4200), because of the number of ‘professional couples’ who’ve settled there so they can commute to the ‘Northern Powerhouse’. Jez Lewis’s 2010 film Shed Your Tears and Walk Away documented the rates of suicide and drug addiction among those left behind by the gentrification. Meanwhile, the ability of the wuthering heights above the town to handle the run-off of rainwater is being compromised by a millionaire landowner burning moorland for grouse-shooting.