View from the Bridge

We invite you to vote for Yorkshire's favourite market town. Here Matt Clark spends a day in a gem at the heart of Nidderdale to find out what makes Pateley Bridge tick.

Spare a thought for the residents of Pateley Bridge who every day face a tricky dilemma.

Many Yorkshire towns lay claim to the county's top pork pie butcher, but here they have a problem many would relish – two from which to choose.

It's not quite pork pies at dawn, more a friendly rivalry between Weatherhead's and Kendal's. Both illustrate how traders have been quick to spot that, in the town's transition to 21st century relevance, quality is the key.

Paul Kendal is the third generation of his family to run the butchers at the top of the high street. This year he won the specialist pie award at the Great Yorkshire pork pie, sausage and products competition.

"We don't compromise on anything we sell," he says. "We're young and we're fussy. It may be a traditional shop but we are not set in our ways."

A recent revamp is a testament to that, but not everything at Kendal's is subject to change: the pastry recipe hasn't altered in 50 years. "There's a long-standing loyalty round here. Families are either our customers or Weatherhead's. But there's enough trade for us both, and as my wife told me, 'Don't think about others, concentrate on what you are doing and the rest will follow'."

Down the road, Andrew Weatherhead echoes the sentiment. Summer tourists used to subsidise the quieter winter trade, but that has now changed and they supply 30 pubs, from Leeds to York.

"I think people these days like to buy their meat from a proper butcher and they also want to know where it has come from," he says. "We have a hard core of customers and many of them used to come here with their parents. Now they bring along their own children."

Weatherhead's has been in town since 1876 and this year added six national gold medals to their tally.

Among its customers are the Emmerdale cast and, for grouse, Princes William and Harry.

Things seem to go in pairs around here. There is a brace of banks, newsagents, restaurants, cafs, and Indian takeaways.

Weekend visitors clearly love the place, but what is life like for traders during the week? One man who should know is Keith Tordoff, former president of Nidderdale's chamber of commerce who runs "The oldest sweet shop in England." It's a claim substantiated by Alastair Bruce in his book The Oldest.

"Its all about quality of life" says Mr Tordoff. "When I go to the post office I always bump into someone who wants a chat. That's what we do here, its all about people. There is more to trading in this town than just making money."

He and wife Gloria are passionate about their work. "Sweets are magical to people whatever their age," added Mrs Tordoff. "Children marvel at the fact we pour them from jars and weigh each bag."

Elderly customers come to reminisce about their childhood. Those who grew up in the last war recall that items like liquorice roots were the only treats not rationed.

What are Keith Tordoff's tips for those thinking of setting up here? "Stick the course. In Pateley Bridge it takes a while to understand how business works, but when you do, it's very worthwhile". Someone who has taken on that advice is his son, Alex. He and partner Kirsty Shepherd have no desire to leave the area. Ms Shepherd had applied to study biological science at Newcastle University, but then decided instead to run, with Alex, the Tordoffs' chocolate hamper business.

In David Hinchliffe's Artful Arts, the town also possesses one of the region's most respected picture shops. David Hinchliffe frames prints to pay the bills, but his passion is for finding the unusual. He also runs the only antique glass shop in the North, open by appointment, mainly to dealers and collectors, where everything predates the Regency period, and one piece is from 1690.

"You'll find items ranging from 50 to 2,500 and that I think is the point," says David Hinchliffe. "Many don't try to attract new collectors but when they've been once, customers generally return. I recently had a couple in from Essex. They started collecting from me a while ago and now save 20 a week to buy something during their annual holiday in the Dales. This time it was a pair of Georgian opaque twist glasses at 600 – and that was before they'd even checked in to the hotel."

His shop faces the old brewery, built in the 17th century and long since gone. Surprisingly, a town that is obviously flourishing is short on that usual market town adornment – the pub. Word is there used to be six inns, but on the high street the Crown has become a diner with bedrooms and the George is remembered solely by a plaque. Only two remain.

From the Just Delicious coffee house, the view is of hustle and bustle, ambling tourists mingling with Dales farmers looking to stock up on necessities. It's a place to idle away an hour people-watching where the ticking clock seems to slow down time. Just as well really, the cakes here demand savouring.

Here and elsewhere, time and again during my visit the same words were used to answer questions: "Quality and friendliness." It's hard to disagree.

Too many cars? The replies are phlegmatic. Most traders believe that vehicles equal people and a bypass would prove disastrous to business. They don't even want to slow the traffic down. Speed bumps were rejected emphatically by one resident as "road graffiti that would make this unique town look like everywhere else".

The town has moved on before. Lead mining, conducted over the top, up lung-bursting Greenhow hill, is part of its origins. You can still discover a hint of harder times at the original Victorian workhouse where something of the working lives of the locals are revealed in displays which include a complete cobbler's shop, general store, Victorian parlour, kitchen and schoolroom, chemist's, haberdasher's and joiner's shop.

The Nidderdale Agricultural Society runs a very successful show here at the end of summer. This year's date is September 24 which means you are fairly safe to make a long-range weather forecast for that time. By tradition it always rains on the show.

Pateley Bridge seems like a town that has got its act together. With many rural communities suffering over the closure of services, it's refreshing to find somewhere that seems to have got it right.

Vote for your favourite market town

Vote for your favourite Yorkshire market town and win a luxury break for two in the Yorkshire Dales.

Our Trading Places series runs until the end of March and at any time until then you are invited to vote for the town you love. Votes can be sent by email to michael.hickling@ypn.co.uk, or by post to Michael Hickling, Features Department, Yorkshire Post, Wellington Street, Leeds LS1 1RF.

You are also invited to enter our writing competition. Do you have a personal reminiscence of a Yorkshire market town – maybe a humorous family day out or poignant romantic encounter? Send it to Michael Hickling in no more than 350 words by email or post. A selection will be published in the Yorkshire Post Magazine, and the best three will win prizes. First prize is a luxury break in the Yorkshire Dales for two at The Devonshire Fell hotel overlooking the picturesque village of Burnsall. The two runners-up win a bottle of Pol Roger champagne. The first prize includes two nights' dinner, bed and Yorkshire breakfast, plus a voucher for a 30-minute beauty therapy treatment in either The Devonshire Fell hotel's new Health and Beauty Studio or at The Devonshire Health Spa at Bolton Abbey.

Terms and Conditions: two nights DBB, 30 minutes of beauty therapy either at The Devonshire Fell, or when not available, at The Devonshire Health Spa Bolton Abbey. Free parking on the Bolton Abbey Estate. Prize must be taken before June 30, 2007. Subject to availability and excludes Bank Holiday weekends.