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The Nidderdale Voices column with Nevin Ward

Nevin Ward.
Nevin Ward.

He may have been born in Northumberland but we still claim Nevin Ward as very much part of our Dale. After leaving school he started a career with the Civil Service, and 1965 he moved to Scarborough where he met Christine.

After working at several locations in the UK and abroad, he was posted to Menwith Hill in 1975 and as a result Nevin and Christine moved to Summerbridge where they have lived ever since.

Nevin has written and produced work about local history including 'The Dam Play' and 'Gouthwaite Hall'.

Nevin has written and produced work about local history including 'The Dam Play' and 'Gouthwaite Hall'.

A life-long interest in amateur dramatics drew him to Summerbridge Players, and he wrote his first play for them in 1983.

“The Receptionist” won awards at drama festivals, and he continued to write one-act plays.

For the millennium he was inspired to write ‘The Nidderdale Mystery Plays’ which was performed out of doors as part of the Nidderdale Festival, and involved both Summerbridge Players and Pateley Bridge Dramatic Society.

From then onwards Nevin went from strength to strength writing and producing but he will probably be remembered most for his works about local history, “The Dam Play” and “Gouthwaite Hall”.

Music has also been a large part of Nevin’s life and he has written music extensively for local churches and for Ripon Cathedral.

He was chair of Governors at Summerbridge School for 20 years, a parish councillor for 13 years, chair of Dacre and Hartwith Village Hall, and remains a Trustee of Dacre and Hartwith Playing Fields.

Describe a typical day.

Retirement gives the luxury to devote time to writing scripts and composing songs, as well as the research that goes into writing about local events.

My guitar is always at hand and I enjoy playing – alone or especially with friends.

Christine has always shared my music and we work together in the Pateley Playhouse with Christine using her talents as wardrobe mistress. We both feel so fortunate to be involved in the beautiful Playhouse: it’s a real privilege to see one’s work realised on the stage.

What would be your perfect day out?

Our first home in the UK was in Shaftesbury in North Dorset. Both our children were born there and we love to go back to revisit old haunts.

What is your favourite part of the Dale?

It will be no surprise to reveal that Scar holds a special place in my heart; it is such a beautiful, atmospheric and evocative place.

If I may have two favourites could I also please pick Old Spring Wood in Summerbridge when the bluebells are in bloom?

What is your favourite Nidderdale business?

To shop: it must be Todd’s in Summerbridge, it’s a real Aladdin’s cave, and they seem to stock everything. To eat: we really like the Birch Tree at Wilsill.

To be entertained: of course it’s The Playhouse, a wonderful place to perform.

What is the biggest change you have seen in Nidderdale?

Sadly this has to be the closure of businesses in Summerbridge. When we moved here there was a shoe shop, a baker, a fish-and-chip shop, a butcher and a thriving pub. All are now closed.

Fortunately, we still have the excellent Village Stores run by Barry and Susan.

What makes Nidderdale special? Nidderdale is an area rich in heritage, in culture, in glorious landscapes and in lovely people. I count myself lucky to have lived here for the past 43 years.

What would you say to recommend Nidderdale?

Just walk down Pateley High Street and experience the warm, genuine friendly welcome you get from every single business: you’ll stay.

If there is one thing that you could change what would it be?

Without a doubt – bring back the railway. The journey up the dale, culminating in the ride on the Nidd Valley Light Railway up to Scar, must have been glorious. That would make my vision of Nidderdale complete.