A village, even one as vibrant as Allendale and its surrounding communities throughout the East and West Allen Valleys, needs a market town relatively close by.
We’ve already considered, in the diary, some of the cultural aspects provided in Hexham, notably the choral concerts put on at Hexham Abbey, like this past spring’s ‘Child of Our Time.’ And certainly that cultural opportunity is more expansive: new-release films at the Forum; live theatre at the Queen’s Hall; continuing adult education at Wentworth Leisure Centre — all are solid examples of the benefits of a good market town nearby. But there’s also the capacity a market town offers for specific physical activity, like the big swimming pool at Wentworth, or the ten-pin bowling lanes, or team rowing on the Tyne.
To say nothing of facilities and services that even a vibrant village can’t provide, like: petrol stations; agricultural supplies; supermarkets; garden centre; industrial units for building, plumbing and electrical needs; district hospital; regional newspaper the Hexham Courant. So the weekly trip to Hexham is a routine that many folks in Allendale and environs adopt to their own needs and pursuits. Our dear friends are looking forward to the start of a new season of ballroom dancing classes at the Wentworth this evening, to chime with weekly fixes of Strictly Come Dancing on the telly. I’m offered a birthday present of 11 weeks of a Creative Writing course there from the end of the month, during which Carrie may enjoy a swimming session in the public pool. Several folks from Allendale, combining travel for savings, are members of the Hexham Orpheus Choir which rehearses classical choral pieces for seasonal performances of a very high standard.
A market town should also boast good transport connections, and Hexham’s bus and train service are very adequate and fit for purpose, we’ve found. First you have to get to the stations, of course, but the good old 688 bus will take you in along the Allendale Road any day of the week.
Far out in the sticks of Sparty Lea, we plan on just over half an hour by car to make our way in to Hexham, and that includes a five minute setting-off adventure down our track! So we don’t make the trip lightly, but always seek to combine errands as much as possible. Still, and for all that we know we’ve got to get the errands done, and even though Hexham is a smaller sort of town, it feels busy enough that we’re delighted to be back home in the countryside at the end of our shopping adventures.
By contrast, travelling on into the toon, Newcastle, and Gateshead across the River Tyne, is more of a larger adventure, encompassing a round trip travel time of two or more hours, and something we wouldn’t undertake unless for appointments at the Royal Victoria Infirmary or the Freeman Hospital, or really big shows at the Theatre Royal, The Sage Gateshead concert hall, the Utilita Arena, or huge shopping expeditions to the Metro Centre. Except for Newcastle United supporters, or the big transport hubs of Newcastle’s Central Northern Rail Station, International Airport, Coach Station, or regional Bus Station, the city is probably that much beyond our consciousness that it doesn’t figure quite so importantly in village life, not nearly so much as our market town does.
I guess, as the saying goes, ‘You can take us out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of us.’