Great British High Street judges tour Pateley Bridge - but how did it go?

Judges and hosts - David A Kerfoot MBE, Deputy Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire; The Mayor of Pateley Bridge Coun Stan Lumley;  judge Peter Donohoe of M&S; chairman of The Nidderdale Chamber of Trade Keith Tordoff; Tim Ledbetter of Nidderdale Chamber of Trade) and judge Steph Larnder from The Department of Communities and Government. (1610281AM)
Judges and hosts - David A Kerfoot MBE, Deputy Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire; The Mayor of Pateley Bridge Coun Stan Lumley; judge Peter Donohoe of M&S; chairman of The Nidderdale Chamber of Trade Keith Tordoff; Tim Ledbetter of Nidderdale Chamber of Trade) and judge Steph Larnder from The Department of Communities and Government. (1610281AM)
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A picturesque tour of Pateley Bridge on a vintage 1940s bus may have put the Dales town into the driving seat in the Great British High Street competition.

The Harrogate Advertiser enjoyed a front seat on the ride on Friday as the visiting judges in this high-profile national event arrived in Yorkshire to be shown round the flag-festooned town - well, four rows back from the front to be precise.

As scores of shoppers waved from the side of the road, Nidderdale Chamber of Trade's energetic chairman Keith Tordoff estolled the virtues of Pateley Bridge from a command position aboard this red-and-white single decker charabang which had a capacity of just 35 people.

Accompanied by David A Kerfoot MBE, Deputy Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire; the Mayor of Pateley Bridge Coun Stan Lumley; The Rev Mike Poole, the vicar of Pateley Bridge Methodist Church; a selection of local schoolchildren and assorted supporters and members of the media, Keith spoke with impressive knowledge, genuine passion and a great sense of fun as the bus move slowly down the road.

Market towns were important for the whole regional economy, he told the judges enjoying the view on the back seat Peter Donohoe, M&S's programme director, business in the community; and Steph Larnder from The Department of Communities and Government.

Pateley Bridge was a real "gem" and had worked wonders on its high street in recent years, partly through new events like the 40s Weekend.

Pointing to individual shops by name, he explained how only two years ago there had been 12 empty units on the High Street but, thanks to Dales spirit and good business sense, they were all filled now.

Once the bus had stopped, the judges began a tour by foot and were met by friendly shopkeepers wherever they turned offering food and drink.

The warmth of the welcome from Pateley Bridge means the town may have stolen a march on its two competitors in the national final.

The judges visited Kirkby Lonsdale, a historic market town on the edge of the Lake District which bounced back from flooding, in the morning before they visited the lovely Dales town.

They then travelled to the ancient market town of Langport in Somerset today, Monday.

This paper understands that the judges were heard to say that they'd had a much more impressive reception in Pateley Bridge, population 2, 200, than Kirkby Lonsdale, population 1,800.

On going to press, we hadn't heard what their reaction to Langport, population just over 1,000.

But in 2008 the BBC reported on claims that the town had been described as "smelly and neglected" at a town council meeting.

Talking briefly to one of the judges inbetween a series of "meet and greets" at shops on and around the High Street, one of the judges. Peter told this reporter the tour of Pateley Bridge was going well and it was a "lovely town."

Speaking afterwards, Nidderdale Chamber of Trade's chairman Keith Tordoff said the signs were looking good.

He said: "The judges, of course, did not give anything away but both left with the biggest smiles across their faces that you could have hoped for."

As well as the bunting and the flags and the sponsored umbrellas courtesy of Dacre, Son & Hartley, other to garner support for Pateley Bridge's bid to claim the top prize nationally are a 'Name the Business' trail which gets people to know the businesses around Pateley Bridge.

It's essential the town keeps up its brilliant efforts for, as well as the need to impress the judges, 50 per cent of the final decision will be based on a daily public vote which runs online until November 18.

Readers can show their support for Pateley Bridge by voting once a day until voting closes next month at www.thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk/finalist-village