Dear Reader - Walking faster than driving in Harrogate + modern side of Harrogate

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Friday, 17th January 2020, 4:04 pm
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 4:05 pm
The Stray in Harrogate near Christ Church.

I decided to follow in the footsteps of Scott and Amundsen on Monday morning by walking to work.

I had no sleds or huskies, only Shanks’s Pony as I set off on foot on the two-and-a-half miles from Forest Lane to Grove Road.

Lately I’ve taken to driving to work only once or twice a week in favour of bus and walking.

It’s partly an environmental thing and partly frustration at the state of rush hour traffic in Harrogate.

Soon I was making good pace compared to the cars inching along Knaresborough Road.

At one point I nearly caught up with the number 1C bus I’d spurned earlier.

By the time I reached Granby Road the pinky-brown of weak sunlight was smeared across the treeline while the moon stood white and proud in the sky above the Stray on this chilly winter’s day.

The only real difficulty was a bit of ice on the footpath from Granby Road corner to Regent Parade off Skipton Road.

All told, my walk to work took me 40 minutes – and that included a quick stop for coffee to go.

One worrying aspect, however, was the absence of cyclists on Harrogate’s log-jammed roads.

On my entire journey I saw only four - a young woman, what looked like a Deliveroo rider, a bloke in rather risky shorts and a happy-looking man on one of those foldaway bikes.

As the latter weaved in between the queue of static cars going nowhere fast, I swear there was a hint of a smile on his face.

There’s no getting round the fact that the point of a substantial part of journalism is about failure and problems.

But that doesn’t mean reporters wish anyone’s endeavours ill, well, not on local papers at least.

So I sincerely wish the new board of Harrogate Business Improvement District well as it begins its efforts to revive the town centre and the retail sector.

Whatever they decide to do with the hundreds of thousands of pounds raised from town centre businesses I pray the emphasis isn’t on rebranding Harrogate.

It feels a bit past that chapter now in the story of the struggles of the retail sector’s and the future of the town centre.

But, if it is, I hope it does more than go on about its Victorian heritage and tea rooms and trees and flowers.

For Harrogate has a modern edge, which might attract a wider range of visitors.

One of the albums I got at Christmas was by a young musician called William Doyle who’s been influenced by ambient pioneer Brian Eno.

On first listen I was impressed that one track had a spoken part by erudite but uncoventional critic and broadcaster Jonathan Meades, he of unusual BBC4 documentaries on modern architecture and the perils of jargon.

Then I paused and thought back to a visit I made to 108 Fine Art gallery in Harrogate the other year where the cultural commentator was exhibiting some of his own artwork.

I’d dropped in before the show to have a coffee with gallery owner Andrew Stewart.

As I stuck my head round the door of the kitchen, who did I see sitting there chatting as if he belonged there and nowhere else?

Jonathan Meades, of course.

There’s always more than meets the eye to Harrogate.