Second home owners have turned our Happy Valley town into a woke nightmare where pints cost £7 | The Sun

WITH its quaint cobbled streets and rolling hills, Hebden Bridge is the perfect antithesis to the dark plots and sinister characters in Happy Valley.

But fed up locals say their once affordable market town is now a “woke” playground for second home owners, where pricey cafes and £7 pints are driving out ordinary families.

The gripping BBC cop drama, back for its third and final series after a seven-year hiatus, is set in the picturesque Calder Valley in Yorkshire.

The popularity of the show – named after the police nickname for the area due to its perceived drug problems – has sparked an influx of tourists since 2014, when the first series aired.

The real life Hebden Bridge, where Sarah Lancashire’s character Sgt Catherine Cawood lives along with her heroin addict sister Claire (Siobhán Finneran), is renowned for its hippy culture and was named the greatest town in Europe in 2011 by The Academy Of Urbanism.

The streets are littered with independent artisan shops, art galleries and a myriad of characterful cafes.


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But while it doesn’t have trouble with organised crime gangs like the Kneževićs and psychopathic serial killers like Tommy Lee Royce (played by James Norton), there are problems bubbling under the surface – arguably an adverse effect of its newfound fame.

Sky-high prices are pushing out locals, leaving their bored teenagers hanging about in areas that have become "no-go zones" at night.

Local residents warn of two hotspots where young tearaways while away their evenings setting fires, taking drugs, spraying graffiti and drinking alcohol.

At night the local park on the outskirts and the closed-off market area attracts bored youngsters who only have a youth club running from 3.30pm to 7pm every Wednesday night to entertain them.

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A street in Hebden Bridge which features in the showCredit: Ben Lack
Some locals warn the market is the target of young vandals who are boredCredit: Ben Lack

A 2009 documentary, Shed Your Tears and Walk Away, made by film maker Jez Lewis, was the inspiration behind Happy Valley writer Sally Wainwright’s dark drama and documents the drug problems that lurk underneath a place considered to be idyllic.

Now there are fears the area, having undergone a renaissance, could come full circle.

Market trader and landscape gardener David Gill, 55, doesn’t think the police deal with any of the problems in Hebden Bridge, where singer songwriter Ed Sheeran grew up and poet Sylvia Plath is buried.

He says: “You don’t see many police around here. They think it’s Hebden Bridge and that nothing happens here. So many things go under the radar.

“Just last week the kids came here on a night and lit a fire on one of the tables. 

It’s all got a bit too strange around here. It’s a bit too woke for my liking, with everything acceptable… you can’t even have a pint in your local pub unless you have £7

“All the market traders get here on a morning, and we don’t know what we will be faced with. But we always have clearing up to do, smashed bottles and the like.

“There was a homeless guy here a bit ago and I told him he couldn’t stay here because it wouldn’t be safe for him.

“You get all sorts of people in Hebden Bridge, and they can live under the radar.

“You can get away with being strange because it’s an unusual place.

“You smell weed wherever you go. Even in the shops. I don’t like it, somebody should put a stop to it.

“It’s all got a bit too strange around here. It’s a bit too woke for my liking, with everything acceptable.

“But there are so many people here and everything has gone up so much, you can’t even have a pint in your local pub unless you have £7. 

“You’d think they’d offer prices for the locals but they don’t cater for us.”

Local resident Gary Oldfield, 61, acknowledges there isn’t much for kids to do in Hebden Bridge – also known as the lesbian capital of the UK.

“It is known that the kids hang around at the canal skate park. They will go there and buy drugs,” he says. 

“The police know what’s going on, but nothing is done about it.

“We wouldn’t dream of going through there at night. You wouldn’t get stabbed or anything like that but there will be a group of kids smoking weed.”

Pushed out locals

Gary, who owns Peter David Estate Agents and sold Sgt Cawood’s property on Hangingroyd Lane in 2017 for £255,000, says the high price of property is a problem for locals.

“The popularity of Happy Valley has increased interest,” he tells us.

“We’ve even had some sellers who stipulate they don’t want to sell their property to anybody who will use it as a second home.

“Right now there are no rental properties available at all in Hebden Bridge.”

Kids hang around at the canal skate park. They will go there and buy drugs. The police know what’s going on, but nothing is done about it

Instead he says locals tend to move out to neighbouring Todmorden, Mytholmroyd and Sowerby Bridge, which all feature in the BBC drama.

One mum who was visiting the play park with her two pre-school age children says there aren’t many facilities for young children.

“The nurseries are good round here but there are no children’s groups anymore, they have been replaced with cafes,” she says.

“The groups are not far away, in neighbouring towns, but it’s a car journey or bus ride away.

“We stay here because the town is so beautiful. There is so much to do on a weekend, each weekend there is something different and it feels like you are on holiday.”

'Problems at night'

While that satisfies young families, it doesn’t seem to be enough to placate the teenagers who are more likely to trash the local market place when it closes for the night.

The manager of the high street Nisa – where Neil Ackroyd, the boyfriend of Sgt Cawood’s sister Claire, played by Con O'Neill – works in the gritty TV show, says: “We don’t have any more problems than anywhere else here.

"It’s not like on the TV, but there is a problem on a night when the market closes up.

“They don’t take down the tables or the covers and it’s closed off so the teenagers will hang about ‘round there. 

“That’s the main thing that’s going on. I wish they’d do something about it.”

The nurseries are good round here but there are no children’s groups anymore, they have been replaced with cafes

But Mark Lord, 57, who lives on the street where Sgt Cawood lives in the drama, insists the area has improved in the last decade.

“The kids do still hang about in the park and take drugs, though it doesn’t seem to be as bad as it was 10 years ago,” he says.

“For how beautiful and quirky it is here, you have to consider it is still a small countryside town and still a place that people escape from when you go out into the world of work.

“For me, I got out and came back as I got older. A lot of people do that.”

'Stench of weed'

In nearby Sowerby Bridge – the location for the two tower blocks in the programme where addict residents rely on an ice cream van to deliver their fix – locals defended their town, upset at its portrayal as a drug-riddled place to live.

While being fans of the drama, residents in the blocks say the problem with drugs is not as bad as it appears on the show – though the stench of weed is persistent.

Retired pub landlady Hilda Potter, 70, says: “I have seen it all being a landlady, but it will be far worse in big cities. 

“I live in these flats, and I like living here. There’s really no trouble.”

Widow Sheila Cowburn, 71, who lives in the flats, adds: “When my husband died I moved back here because I knew it was a safe place to live where I knew a lot of people.

“I know a man who smokes weed in here but he’s the nicest man you’ll ever meet. 

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“Not everybody is wonderful but that’s the same as anywhere. I am really happy here.”

Happy Valley continues on Sundays at 9pm on BBC One.

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