What the locals really think of Colne

Albert Road, Colne

Albert Road, Colne - Credit: Archant

From businesses selling banjoes to bridalwear from a former New York costume designer, Colne is a town for all seasons. Mairead Mahon reports.

Julie Hogg and George the dog of Hedgehogg Florists

Julie Hogg and George the dog of Hedgehogg Florists - Credit: Archant

You know when spring has sprung in Colne. Random bouquets are left in the streets, English meadows are planted, dachshunds discard their winter woollies and visitors come to try their hand at new skills.

The bouquets are the responsibility of Julie Hogg, of the HedgeHogg Florist shop. ‘As soon as winter is over, I go out with George the dachshund – who wears a new spring coat for the occasion – and we leave bouquets throughout the town at random places,’ says Julie, who has been a Colne florist for 25 years. ‘We put a little note on them inviting people to take them home and, from the feedback we have had, it’s obvious that they brighten up everyone’s day.’

While Julie sells as many as 50 flower varieties there are even more in the piece of land outside her business. ‘Yes, it’s our Lancashire meadow. We first planted it in order to be part of Colne in Bloom but since then it seems as if everyone in Colne has taken a personal interest in it, which is great.

‘Around this time of year, we begin to sow the seeds of English wildflowers in it and lots of people come up with suggestions. Two brilliant ideas we have taken on board is Bugingham Palace, a home for bees, bugs and, of course, hedgehogs and the quite rare Fiddleneck flower. Not only is it gorgeous, it has a special connection to Colne as, of course, our most famous son, Wallace Hartley, was a violinist on the Titanic,’ says Julie.

Linda Dixon, Manageress of Wooleys

Linda Dixon, Manageress of Wooleys - Credit: Archant

Music has always played a special part in the life of Colne and it is home to Louandy’s, one of Lancashire’s longest established specialist guitar shops which, for the past 26 years, has been owned by Malcolm Crossley.

‘I used to haunt it in the 1970s but real life called and I entered the Civil Service and that’s where I stayed until I saw it was up for sale, so I took the plunge,’ says Malcolm.

Most Read

It was the right thing to do, with everyone from Japanese guitar specialists to folk heroes such as Chas and Dave making their way to his guitar, mandolin and banjo stuffed emporium

‘Every day is different – that’s for sure but lessons are always popular. Instruments are often given as a Christmas present and it’s around about now that the recipients come in wanting to learn. Of course, the coming of spring can also encourage people to get their instrument down from the loft and a lot of those make their way to me for some tender loving care,’ he says.

Emily Mitchell of Sew In Love

Emily Mitchell of Sew In Love - Credit: Archant

David Birro is no stranger to people bringing in items for refurbishment. With more than 33 years of experience, his family firm, Birro Shoe Repairs, is keeping traditional leather skills alive. As well as selling a selection of upmarket men’s shoes, David is often asked to bring his skills as a member of the Society of Master Shoe Repairers to mend them. It’s not just shoes, though.

‘No, it can be heirloom items like gun cases that need repairs or saddles and not just for real horses either – we’re often asked to refurbish rocking horse saddles. I have also been asked to repair leather miniskirts and a vintage Porsche once pulled up outside the shop and the driver asked me to nip out and fit new leather to the steering wheel,’ says David, who was happy to oblige.

If he is too busy, any owner of damaged miniskirts can always pop along to Emily Mitchell’s stylish premises, Sew in Love. Emily, who did A levels at Nelson and Colne College, before studying costume design at Huddersfield. She then spent several months on a short term contract creating wonderful costumes for a theatre company in New York.

‘I came back and saw there was a niche market in bridal wear and decided to set up my own business,’ said Emily, who creates and alters dresses, with bridalwear a speciality.

Malcolm Crossley of Louandy's music shop

Malcolm Crossley of Louandy's music shop - Credit: Archant

‘They do say that Colne is the Capital of Romance and brides come to me from all over the north but I have to say that working with actors has, by necessity, taught me to keep calm at all times, which has come in pretty useful.’

Since opening, she has been asked to alter a family heirloom wedding dress, make bridal garters fashioned from material the bride was wearing when she was proposed to and even design an outfit for a lady who was taking part in the UK Body Building Championships. Emily will be getting married herself shortly and, yes, will be making her own wedding dress and garter.

They haven’t made any garters yet in Wooley’s wool shop but, on the plus side, they have made a giant knitted elephant. ‘He was made in one of our Craft and Chat classes,’ explains manageress Linda Dixon. Wooley’s is packed with colourful wools, many of which are difficult to source elsewhere but does the coming of spring mean people lose interest in knitting and crocheting?

‘It certainly doesn’t. In fact, spring tends to bring people along who have decided to try and learn something new. We have one to one classes and of course, our craft groups. One chap came for a one to one lesson not so long ago, loved it and now makes a living selling items that he has made himself. He still comes along to the group because it is so supportive. Great friendships have been forged over a ball of wool – no romances as yet, but watch this space,’ laughs Linda.

If love does bloom amongst the knitters, they can always pop down the road to The Bookshop run by Mark Bateman for a Valentine’s card or a book of poetry

‘We do try to stock an eclectic mixture because, although the rise of the independent bookshop is back, we have to make ourselves better than the chains and, judging from the number of book lovers who visit us, I think we’re succeeding,’ says Mark.

As well as having a noteworthy children’s section, Mark also runs a monthly evening reading group, where people gather to talk all things books, seated on soft sofas and with liquid refreshments to hand.

Mark is aware that attractive displays like the one for Valentine’s attract customers to the shop.

One man who would agree with him wholeheartedly is Ashley Sutcliffe. Ashley and his dachshund, Stanley, run the fabulous interior design shop, Live Like the Boy. Clients come to him for everything from commercial and domestic makeovers to sourcing that one thing which will make a room come alive.

‘It might be a vintage lamp or a roll of up-to-the-minute Transylvanian wallpaper. I half expected it to come in a coffin!’ laughs Ashley.

When sourcing vintage items, Ashley has been known to see a piece in the window of a private home and knock on the door to try to buy it. ‘Stanley is my secret weapon on these sourcing trips. Who could refuse a gorgeous dachshund?’

Janet Robinson, of Inspired Interiors, doesn’t have a dachshund but she has many years of experience in interior design and nothing fazes her. She has provided inspiration for owners of mansions and cottages but one assignment proved to be a talking point and won her lots of unexpected fans.

‘It was to come up with a design for the cab of a truck driver! He took it all very seriously and so, once I had managed to get into the cab, so did I. We chose a marbled metallic finish and he and his colleagues loved it but so far, it remains the smallest space I have ever designed’, says Janet.