Life in the 'friendly and cool' Yorkshire town 'stirred by incomers' and with a UFO obsession


When former biker 'Spider' arrived in Todmorden six years ago he found the West Yorkshire town pleasantly devoid of what he calls 'cliques'.

He found locals friendly, welcoming and he quickly fell in love with the place. He found others who shared his Pagan beliefs and quickly made many new friends.

Spider, who runs Spiritual Connections in the centre of Todmorden with his partner Lisa, says: "We have been here for six years and I absolutely love the place. It's a cool place and I hope it never changes."

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They had been in Whitby but Spider found there was "too much of a clique" and so they moved to Calderdale, settling in Todmorden on the edge of West Yorkshire. Their shops sells incense and items related to Paganism and so it does attract an 'alternative' clientele. Spider says the customer base is growing and the 'Pagan scene' is no longer small.

Spider loves Todmorden mainly for the friendliness of the people. "If I say 'hello' to someone I know I am going to be chatting to them for an hour. People make time for you. That's what makes it a community. I absolutely love it here."

He isn't the only 'incomer' to be charmed by Todmorden.

Simon Ashcroft, a retired nurse, moved to 'Tod' from Rochdale around 20 years ago and has watched as creative types make it their home, moving in from parts of Manchester, Hebden Bridge and elsewhere. The town is 'improving', he says, with less crime, "less obvious (signs of) drugs" and a reduction in noticeable homelessness.

He points out that the town has become a base for people interested in folklore and UFOs, and there's even a Folklore Centre, with a cafe and library, on Halifax Road. Cheaper rents and properties in Tod have helped pull in more people, he adds. "I do love the town. I used to come here with my grandma when I was little."

One of his favourite things is the Flea Market which he says can get 'packed' and is great for rummaging around in.

Another 'incomer' to make Todmorden their home is Ben Haugh who runs The Garden Apothecary on Water Street. He's an expert in Chinese medicine, acupuncture and herbal medicine and says: "I moved here from Manchester after Uni (he has a Masters in herbal medicine). It is a nicer way of life, with countryside and more of a community."

He thinks people are choosing to move to Todmorden as an alternative to nearby Hebden Bridge where property prices might be higher.

Local man Steve, 58, who was chatting with friends in Patmos gardens, handed YorkshireLive a red rose as he explained why it's a special town. Not only is it a diverse place, but the different communities get along. "That's not the same in Rochdale and Burnley," he claims.

Steve, who is Rochdale born, says his Asian neighbours are 'beautiful' and kind and he even claims to have witnessed teenagers picking up litter in the park.

A little further along is Patmos Parade with its quirky shops and cafes. Rachel, who is working in Clouds in My Coffee, a family-run cafe, thinks that Todmorden offers something that big cities cannot match - peace and quiet and countryside.

"It's like village life, but doesn't have the hustle and bustle of Manchester."

Originally from Shaw, Rachel says Todmorden also "feels really safe" which is another plus point for those tired of city life.

Ellis, 27, from Castleford, was visiting Todmorden for a 'mooch around' with a friend. He thinks that people like Todmorden because of 'mushroom mountain' where 'magic mushrooms' can be found. He didn't go into any more detail about this but he did say that he imagined Tod had a 'decent night scene' as there was plenty of pubs.

Ken, 82, a retired toolmaker, visiting from over the border in Burnley, likes Tod for its market and for the fresh fish sold from a mobile trailer. "It (Todmorden) is an easy place to get around. It has everything."

In the market place, mum of three Emma Foden, an 'open mic poet', explained why Todmorden is a great place to be. She's from Stockport and says there's quite a number of Stockport folk now living in Tod.

"Everyone is special and unique in this town. You can wear what you want and people don't look down on you. You can be so creative in this town. I am not from Todmorden but I have been welcomed here."

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Natalie George, a DJ who has just moved to Todmorden from Burnley, is in the process of setting up a cafe and a community space in Bridge Street. The space is called The Big Tree, with the Branch Out Cafe on the ground floor.

Natalie describes Todmorden as "quirky, cultural, friendly and welcoming."

"People are very interested in what's going on and they want to get involved. Our top floor is going to be members only. We are also looking at getting some big name bands and musicians."

Anton Mullen, 70, has been living in Todmorden for 12 years and is settled. He's lived in lots of different places as his dad was in the RAF but feels happy in Tod. He arrived in Todmorden in a narrow boat and now lives in a house.

"The incomers have stirred it up a bit - mostly for good," he says in reference to the changes in Todmorden. He says Tod has some 'decent boozers' and it is no wonder that the town is on the tourist trail.

Anton wasn't very complimentary about Hebden Bridge, saying: "Hebden is up its own a***. I think Todmorden is taking some of the overflow from down the hill. People are coming in because they find it comfortable.

"And you do get tourists because it is a pleasant place to walk around."