Black Pit Lock


This bench, created by a local sculptor, faces the Black Pit lock on the canal where it passes through Hebden Bridge and when I first saw it, I thought the horses must represent pit ponies used in coalmines. It turns out, however, the ‘black pit’ refers to the meeting of the Calder River and the Hebden Water. In full spate, the area where the two rivers meet creates a powerful churning mass of water and the impression of a bottomless ‘black pit’ below the surface.

The canal plays a large part in the life of the valley even though it is only pleasure boats that now use the vast network of waterways that were once the main transport links for industry. Unfortunately by the time building work had finished on the canal system, road transport was taking over.

The Rochdale Canal runs through the Calder Valley starting in Sowerby Bridge and ending in Manchester, winding its way for 32 miles across the Pennines. The towpath that was once used by the horses pulling the heavily laden barges, is now the province of ramblers, dog walkers, joggers and cyclists,


Black Pit, Lock number 9, is located in the centre of Hebden Bridge at the Hebden aquaduct, a rather spectacular piece of nineteenth century engineering enabling the canal to pass over the top of the two rivers. (This link on the Canal River Trust website gives a graphic depiction of the meeting of the waters here.)

Even though I have lived here for twenty years I’m still learning about the history and the heritage of this place. Still an ‘incomer’ in many ways. My depiction of the town in my stories probably differs from that of the true ‘natives’ but it is how I’ve experienced it. I love it and each walk I take along the canal offers something new to be appreciated.

Now for the plug:

Starting Over, my debut novel published by Affinity eBook Press, is set in the hills above Huddersfield and also partly in Hebden Bridge. Please visit the other sections on the blog for links to reviews and outlets for purchasing the book.

Loving the landscape!

When I moved here from London just over twenty years ago, it was with great reluctance. My partner had gone ‘up north’ for a job and I thought perhaps it wouldn’t last…she wouldn’t like it and would come back to the city.

My first few visits were fairly disastrous. She had rented a flat over a fish and chip shop in what seemed to me a dreary little place with smoke-blackened brick terraces next to a fetid canal. On one occasion, in an effort to show me the delights of the place, we took a picnic up into the hills and sat in a field on a blanket. The tranquility of the scene was disturbed by a herd of cows and a bull that didn’t think we should be there. Our panicked response was to leap (well make an ungainly exit) into the next field and wait until the group moved on. Which they eventually did.

Now, I wonder what took me so long to decide to move (nine months – a precise period of gestation) – the aborted picnic incident aside. The place draws you in. The landscape is dramatic, none of your soft southern county downs, this is wild moorland, Wuthering Heights territory. The history is bleak and fierce.

At Hadrian's Wall

After a while I realised that what I was feeling was a sense of coming home. My grandparents lived in a town not far from here. It’s where my parents went to school and where they met. They emigrated to Canada and now I’m back where they started, back to my roots. And it does feel like home.

Starting Over, my debut novel, has its roots firmly in the landscape. That was the starting point for the story, the remote farm situated on a hilltop close to the brooding moorland. Who lived there and why? The idea that there may have been a Roman settlement on that hilltop wasn’t too farfetched. Evidence of Roman occupation is widespread across the British Isles.

It’s a time and a place that calls to me. And, I hope, through my stories, it will resonate with readers too.

Starting Over

My debut novel, Starting Over, is set in West Yorkshire with the story taking place on farmland overlooking the moors above Huddersfield with forays into the nearby market town of Hebden Bridge – described by some as the UK’s ‘lesbian capital of the north’. The book was published in October 2014 and is available from Affinity eBook Press, Amazon, Bella Books, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. The sequel, Arc Over Time, is due out in May 2015.

By jenjsilver

Characters need hobbies

How much does real life impinge on a story? When someone asks ‘am I in it? – the answer, of course, is no. But there are episodes or characteristics of a character that my nearest and dearest will recognise. Because characters need hobbies if they aren’t going to come across as one-dimensional workaholics or manic sex fiends.

In Starting Over I wanted to give Robin’s character more depth by giving her a hobby other than her motorbike. Initially I thought of Taekwondo, which is something I practiced for five years (see photo) but that requires a big commitment to discipline and training which wouldn’t have fit Robin’s character. I stopped doing Taekwondo five years ago and took up archery. However, I couldn’t see Robin doing that either, in spite of her name.


Another of my activities is boxing – I now take part in a weekly boxercise class for over 50s. It’s a lot of fun but probably more fun for our instructor when she has us doing plank for 30 seconds and sees everyone dropping to the mat after ten. (We’re improving.) Anyway in the story, Robin takes up boxing, which helps her work off some of her sexual energy.

Towards the end of the novel two of the characters engage in a line dance, a reference to something they used to do together. I have never actually participated in a real line dance. But a few years ago on holiday some American women we met tried to show us the steps. I have absolutely no sense of rhythm…a warning to anyone who might ask me to dance at the GLCS con…don’t wear open toe shoes.

So sometimes real life sneaks into the story. Part of the fun of being an author, you can take the bits you want, mix it all together and come up with something completely different.

Starting Over is my debut novel, published by Affinity eBook Press in October 2014. The sequel, Arc Over Time, is due out in May 2015.

Signs of the Times

Ever wondered how to pronounce those weird looking place names that crop up with great regularity in England?


I read in The Times newspaper (acknowledgment for the graphic) that Google is developing an app to help Americans with pronouncing English place names. Although I’m sure it’s not just American visitors who need that kind of assistance. (And probably some of us natives as well.)

Apparently Worcester is the town that gives visitors the most problem – trying to ask for a train ticket to War-cess-ter when they actually want Wuster. As with a lot of the place names in England you just need to remember to leave out half the letters. Yorkshire has some great examples. If you’re ever trying to get to Slaithwaite – the locals call is Slawit. One of my favourites is Barnoldswick – lovely name, you think – it has been reduced to Barlick. And how sad that the delightfully named Mousehole in Cornwall is known as Mowzle.

If you find place names in England difficult, best not to venture into Wales. That is, as they say, another country. And another language altogether.

But it’s not just places. There are numerous examples of surnames that sound very different from how they look. Here are just a few that come to mind:

Cholmondeley – Chumlee

Marjoribanks – Marchbanks

Wavertree – Wawtry

Dalziel – Dee-el

Menzies – Mingis

Please feel free to add to this list.

The fascinating thing about the English language is how it evolves over time and incorporates words from other languages as well.