Just got back from a wonderful (and too short) holiday in Cornwall; my imagination running rampant with visits to stunning smugglers coves, precariously built tin mines sitting on the cliffs that have stood the tests of time and the mysterious creeks of the Helford River where French pirates used to hide. I half expected to see men wearing tricornered hats and meet beautiful women called Demelza. We didn't though, apparently we were a few weeks late for the filming of the coastal scenes in the 'Poldark' series, adapted for the BBC.
But it is always great to get home to our own dramatic and timeless landscape and to the historical village with it's Victorian industrial charm, where, a hundred years earlier, Demelza would not have looked out of place on the moors cradling our village. Fellow Cornholme (pronounced corn-home) resident and artist, Karen Alderson, takes her creative inspiration from walking around the village and surrounding Pennine Hills every day, absorbing and observing the characteristics in it's intricate detail, both grit and beauty. Thanks for sharing your inspired world, Karen, we love the blog!
Journey around Cornholme
Last year Harriet visited my studio whilst I was exhibiting in Todmorden Open Studios, she had recently moved into the village and was making contact with other artists. Since then we have been involved in CAG, Cornholme Artists Group, set up by Clare Pearl, with the aim of bringing artists together for support and collaboration. Harriet put a call out to the CAG for us to write about what it’s like being an artist living in Cornholme, I thought about this in relation to my practice which is exploring walking as a primary research tool and given that I have lived in Cornholme for 8 years but am unsure where the boundaries are I decide to take a walk to find out. Walking helps me to see more than when I’m driving, I become part of the environment than separate from it and have more conversations. I take my camera.
The walk starts on the A646. I locate the Lancashire signage welcoming careful drivers and ten metres eastward that of the Borough of Burnley/Cliviger one camouflaged by a ripple of young ash trees. Seven metres down the road the West Yorkshire boundary marker waits, it’s cycloptic white rose gazing into the seven metres of liminal space in-between the boundary markers. I stand in the unmarked zone, the non place and feel at home.
Portsmouth is the first village in West Yorkshire. “The first pub in Yorkshire” is The Roebuck, mouldy white walls, crumbling window frames, chickens running on what once was a bowling green, it boasts real beef and real gravy and welcomes cyclists on a large hand written board. The road takes me past stone and brick built houses, a corner shop up for sale and the Glenview pub, flanked by parental hills covered with pine trees. I pass Flavas, a Chinese take away, with nauseating orange roller shutters and follow the road as it skirts a small glut of social housing. There stands the Cornholme sign, like an omen before you go under the pigeon infested Hungry Wood railway bridge.
On the other side of the railway bridge high stone walls contain the road and reflect the hills on either side making me feel like I’m being pushed through a stone birth channel. The village doesn’t get much sun. I pass two sets of steps that lead up to houses on the left and then follow a third set that take me to a small building in which a cat sits on an old car seat. The cat looks like it has cold sores. Three empty larger cans have been crushed on the floor. There is a low advertising board and a piece of wasteland on which is a derelict shed surrounded by security fencing. The hillside races up almost perpendicular at the bottom of which is a drain, newly refurbished after the floods. A notice says “The Coal Authority” with a number to contact in case of emergency. I begin to wonder what kind of emergency would warrant a call to them.
Due to the installation of new water mains the bus stop has been repositioned outside the cemetery, I go into the graveyard as it starts raining. The steps are more than slippy and I keep hold of a thin iron railing, each step has two crosses carved into it, Led Zeppelin comes to mind. The stationary cars blare out loud music and fumes, white fuchsia hang like small ghosts in the rain but behind the gate a quiet stillness hangs like an exhaled breath.
The roadworks bring a carnivalesque feel to the road with bright red security barriers, blue pipes and temporary walkways, I imagine hook a duck and candy floss stalls. Flats squat the place where the biggest bobbin making mill in the world once stood, this is the creation story of Cornholme, houses and communities built up to provide labour for the mills. It must have been grim. The Community Centre at the Old Library has recently been extended after a successful funding bid, it hosts job clubs, a cafe, advice and guidance sessions. A tall chimney appears out of the mist.
The second railway bridge is longer and darker, as I photograph the interior a man approaches then hides his face once he realises what I’m doing. Immediately at the other side Frostholme Mill imposes its huge facade seemingly as big as the hill behind it. The Waggon and Horses pub is situated directly opposite on the corner of Pudsey Road, which passes under another railway bridge, this is the main ventricle of the village where the industrial heart would pump and trains cross. It would have been busy with a row of shops, schools, churches and its own brewery.
Its raining hard, a usual state due to the clouds getting caught on the hills and contributes to the algae that grows on everything. I mooch around at the bottom of Pudsey Road where the dye works used to be, now primed for a new housing development, contested by local residents and more recently heavily investigated by the Environment Agency for structural damage to the drain after the floods. I blissfully lose myself in photographing a distressed door and rusty metal containers at the yard where sometimes you can see chickens and potbellied pigs.
Walking through the village a woman notices me taking photographs and stops me outside the post office, she has recently moved into the village, I welcome her fresh eyes and ask about her first impressions. “Friendly and safe” she replies and then explains she has come from Ipswich and lived not far from where the bodies were found of the women murdered by the Suffolk Strangler. We have a short conversation about the dehumanisation of sex workers. She likes the woods up Pudsey Clough. Further down I meet another woman who I have not seen for 3 years, we “catch up” briefly and discuss how it feels when children leave home. She is Columbian, we compare the differences in family culture.
Short dark streets branch off on both sides of the road, some paved with cobbles, all compressed into the acute valley carved out by a glacial river, the remains of which runs under the houses to the right and emerges fast and orange as I pass Station road. I’m coming to the end of the village, there are no houses on the right, the hill rising sharply with a lone tree and a ridge of teeth like rocks. On the left Calderdale Council Wheelie bins block the pavement.
The last three houses are called Blackrock, a small ginnel takes you to the rear which butts up to the railway line. A small stone coal shed is the final building before I walk round the bend and see the Cornholme sign. A purple and blue train slips by behind the trees, straggling blackberry bushes offer up their worm infested fruit, autumn leaves litter the pavement, a bus almost grazes my side on the narrow corner. I turn and walk back.
Karen is exhibiting at Bankfield Museum & Art Gallery as part of the Ellipsis group & the Secret Lives of Objects project. The opening is on Saturday 11 November & it runs until 6 January 2018.
Find out more on