|The striking frontage of Selby Abbey|
How different the little village is today: around the pretty village green have sprung up clusters of large 'executive style' homes which now outnumber the old workers cottages. They're handsomely built homes but the village is now a dormitory for Leeds and York and I doubt gardens grow anything but half inch long grass these days.
After lunch we pottered the four miles up the canal toward Selby ourselves and moored in the canal basin looking at the tidal lock which guards the Ouse.
Selby is a town which has had to come to terms with dramatic changes in recent years. Its two key industries, mining and shipbuilding, have gone and things are still struggling to fill their place. And yes, I did say shipbuilding. Though Selby looks well inland, the tidal connection to the Humber estuary made it a shipping centre for many years and the cranes of Cochranes Shipbuilders were a landmark of the town. Ships – including the famous Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior – were launched sideways into the Ouse from the bankside yard but the last one hit the water in 1998.
Mining was even more important to the town. The vast 110 square miles of the Selby coalfields were the biggest in Britain at their peak and employed 3000 miners when they shut in 2004, less than 30 years after mining was begun. Deteriorating geological conditions and the falling price of coal were given as the reasons.
Selby today is understandably a mixed bag, ranging from the glorious Abbey to derelict industrial sites, smart new shops to scrappy back streets. It does appear to be on the up though with new house building and a new edge of town shopping centre. A shame, though, that the riverside has been allowed to become so overgrown that anyone using the riverside benches can see only willow branches and that invasive Himalayan Balsam.
|Selby railway swingbridge gets a £14m facelift|
|River bridge barely visible through the overgrown bankside|