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On TV, it’s plagued by drugs, rape and murder, but in real-life, the main location for the Happy Valley series – Hebden Bridge in the Upper Calder Valley – has a crime rate so low that they’ve shut the local police station.
In fact, with the most serious misdemeanours recently logged being a spot of random graffiti and some youths smoking cannabis, it is one of the quietest areas for the West Yorkshire force to police.
So the ‘cop shop’ was turned into an antiques centre and the local police officer patrols the market town on his bicycle.
But while crime may be low, visitor numbers have rocketed. The hordes of tourists flocking to Hebden Bridge to see the filming locations and gawp at the show’s actors recording scenes has prompted some locals to make no secret of their exasperation at the town’s new-found fame. A blunt message in graffiti on scaffolding around a shop reads: ‘Move back to London.’
Tranquil: Hebden Bridge, where many Happy Valley scenes are filmed
In real-life, the main location for the Happy Valley series – Hebden Bridge in the Upper Calder Valley (pictured) – has a crime rate so low that they’ve shut the local police station
This type of hostility to outsiders – known as ‘offcumden’ by locals – is perhaps fuelled by the rise in holiday lets pushing up house prices, forcing families to move to cheaper towns nearby.
There are currently more than 1,000 listings on Airbnb and Booking.com and it can cost up to £150 per night to stay in the area.
In fact, the double-fronted Victorian terraced house just outside the town centre that’s used as Sgt Catherine Cawood’s home has doubled in value from £200,000 to £400,000 in the nine years since Happy Valley first hit our screens.
Perhaps predictably the house is the most popular tourist attraction, with its residents and their neighbours regularly having inquisitive Happy Valley fans knock on their doors. Despite the antagonism shown by some locals to the town’s celebrity status, most residents have welcomed the spotlight that Happy Valley has shone on their close-knit community and the boost provided by the influx of paying visitors from all over the world.
Locals will happily point out filming locations to visitors from all over the UK and the growing number from overseas, with fans now coming from as far afield as the USA, Sweden and China.
Some locals don’t like the new-found fame
Even on a cold, grey, drizzly January day a steady stream of visitors could be seen taking selfies with Sgt Cawood’s house in the background and of the backyard where she’s often seen smoking cigarettes to relieve stress.
There is, according to locals, an uptick in visitor numbers when filming is taking place or when the series goes on air. Sharon Slade, a Hebden resident for the past 36 years, is a big fan of the show – some of the filming took place close to her home – but says while the plot is good it is not a true reflection of life in this quiet corner of the Calder Valley.
Jenny Lunt, manager of The Shoulder Of Mutton pub, said that the show’s star Sarah Lancashire (pictured) was a regular there during filming
‘Hebden Bridge is a lovely peaceful place to live. It’s a crime-free place apart from someone doing the odd bit of weed maybe,’ she said.
Car park attendant Robert Taylor, 59, added: ‘Hebden is such a nice place to live and not like it’s been portrayed on the telly. We haven’t even got a cop shop.’
Picturesque and charming, the attractions of Hebden Bridge, with its welcoming shops, cafés, restaurants and pubs, have clearly not been lost on the Happy Valley cast.
Jenny Lunt, manager of The Shoulder Of Mutton pub, said that the show’s star Sarah Lancashire was a regular there during filming. ‘She came in here for her local grub and a bit of local hospitality. She even brings her husband and her little dog with her,’ she revealed.
My beloved Trouser Town – by Mrs Thatcher’s pugnacious aide
By Sir Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s chief press secretary
Life in Hebden Bridge before the Second World War was idyllic.
I was born in 1932, in the hospital in nearby Halifax. Our stone-built terraced house, on Albion Terrace, had a lovely view looking down the valley. I used to wake up in the morning looking across what in Norman times had been a deer park. My brother always said that Hebden Bridge was the best place to be brought up during the war, because we were so deep in the valley, the enemy couldn’t find us.
Planes flew over, but the nearest we came to a bomb was Halifax.
Back then, Hebden was a small industrial town, very hard-working, full of chapels and churches; I went to the Baptist chapel and Sunday school. There were a lot of choirs – male voice choirs, especially. There was also a large number of pubs, although you didn’t see many people drunk. And fish and chip shops – the place was running with them.
Back then, Hebden was a small industrial town, very hard-working, full of chapels and churches; I went to the Baptist chapel and Sunday school
I don’t think I could have been brought up in a better place. There was a lot of unemployment in the 1930s, but we didn’t experience it.
But, over time, the textile industry on which the town depended – it was named Trouser Town as it made up to a million pairs a year – began to falter. When the mills started to close, a lot of the small terraced houses became vacant.
In the 1970s, hippies moved in and made a bit of a mess of the place. That didn’t go down well with the house-proud locals.
It also became the lesbian capital of Britain, with more women couples than any other town.
While making a film for the BBC about Hebden Bridge, I met a group of women in a lesbian bar.
I asked how many lesbians there were in town and was told ‘at least a hundred’. But, I said that considering Hebden had a population of 25,000 people… lesbian capital my foot!
Over time, various incomers have made Hebden their home. And now it’s popular with modern trendies, Hebden is something of an alien place to me.
The Hebden Bridge I remember could never have been accused of being trendy!