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Cobbles and Clay Art Cafe (Haworth, West Yorkshire)

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Address: 60 Main Street / Haworth BD22 8DP

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      11.12.2011 14:18
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      Good food and creativity - a winning combination

      The Cobbles and Clay art café is situated at 60 Main Street in the village of Haworth, 10 miles (16kms) west of Bradford in West Yorkshire. Main Street is a beautiful, atmospheric, cobbled street, which makes you feel as if you have stepped back in time to the Victorian era. In addition to the art café, there is a lovely selection of antique bookshops, an apothecary shop and some old fashioned sweetshops to be found there. Best known as the home to the Bronte sisters, we originally went to Haworth with the intention of visiting the famous parsonage. However, we were so enchanted by this friendly, welcoming café (which was only meant to be a coffee stop) that we never made it to the Bronte residence. A relaxing, cosy and creative afternoon was spent in the café, sampling delicious food and painting pottery.

      A bite to eat

      The café has an informal atmosphere and attracts families and couples alike. There is additional seating upstairs and in the patio garden during the summer. The décor is very colourful with samples of completed ceramic work adorning the walls and the food is served in crockery that has been painted on the premises. Music adds to the inviting atmosphere, but is not so loud as to inhibit conversation.

      Although they seem to pack quite a few people in downstairs, you don't feel as if you are constantly having to pull your chair in to make space for the person on the next table, nor do you feel that people are sitting so close together that they are eavesdropping on each other's conversations. There is a lot of pottery on the shelves but you don't have to worry about knocking anything down if you turn round too quickly. That said, it's probably not the place for very boisterous children or anyone with bull in a china shop tendencies! It can get a little busy around the till area, as the pottery items are kept in that part of the café, so you tend to get children hovering around choosing what they want to paint, when the waitresses need to come by with hot food and people are waiting to pay. Careful supervision of children is therefore needed. I feel that the venue is spacious enough to allow access for baby buggies and wheelchairs. However, there are steps leading down to the toilets, so this is not an ideal place for anyone with disabilities. The steep, cobbled streets are not exactly wheelchair friendly either.

      The food is wholesome and healthy with a good selection of hot and cold drinks, including Fairtrade coffee and hot chocolate, organic local beers and wines, as well as fruit smoothies. There is a good range of dishes to choose from, with daily specials in addition to the regular menu. All soups are homemade and can be gluten free. Soup is available every day and is priced at £4.50, accompanied by honey and sunflower seed bread. I didn't sample this but someone else in our group did and really enjoyed it. It certainly looked delicious and smelled heavenly. I had the Tuscan bean stew. It was a hearty mix of sweet potato, courgette, mixed peppers and kidney beans in a light chilli sauce, priced at £7 and came with homemade bread or couscous. (I opted for bread.) It was very tasty without being too spicy. My eldest daughter opted for the chilli con carne, made from locally reared and organic mince, which was £7, and my youngest chose the smoked salmon and cream cheese toasted bagel with lemon and black cracked pepper at £6.50. My brother in law chose a hummus platter. The food was attractively presented and everyone enjoyed their lunch very much. There was also a selection of homemade cakes and puddings, but we didn't sample these - tempting though they looked, including such traditional delights as chocolate brownies and lemon drizzle cake. The food portions were sufficient to satisfy, without leaving us feeling over full or uncomfortably bloated.

      Let's get painting

      Of course if you just want a drink or a meal, that's fine, but why not stay a little longer? What better way to relax than to paint a pot? Let's get one thing straight first of all - this is NOT just for children. Painting pottery can be therapeutic at any age. I'm no spring chicken and my two daughters are in their teens, but we all enjoy this kind of activity and were more than happy to join in alongside the primary school aged children in the cafe. There is something very grounding about working with paints and experimenting with different colours and patterns. You don't need to be the world's greatest artist to enjoy it. The hardest part is deciding what you want to paint. You can choose from a wide selection of plain, unglazed pottery shapes, all just waiting to have your original design stamped on them. The pottery shapes start at £8 for small items such as egg cups, with large vases costing £25. All mugs and plates average at £12. I decided to paint a burner because I knew it would come in useful due to my fondness for candles and wax tarts. My eldest daughter chose a butterfly plaque and my youngest painted a trinket box to keep her plectrums in, as they are always getting lost.

      I have been to a few art cafes before and one of the things that put me off other places was that the staff were too intrusive. At one place I remember the woman in charge behaving a bit like a school teacher, rationing the paints and making us put our hands up and ask if we wanted more. At Cobbles and Clay they are much more relaxed. They bring a complete selection of paints to your table and a collection of different sized brushes, as well as water, stampers and stencils so that you have everything you need. They also provide a useful chart to show what the paints actually come out like when the pot has been fired, because they are always brighter than you think they are going to be.

      At some art cafes I have been to, members of staff have tended to go into a bit too much detail, instructing you on technique and this tends to make the process more complicated than it needs to be. At Cobbles and Clay they ask you if you have ever painted a pot before and tell you the basics, such as how many layers of paint you need to apply to get the best results, or which colour or brush to use if you want a particular effect. They answer any questions you have, but they don't interfere too much and they just let you get on with your particular design. It makes for a very laid back, creative environment. They are always ready to help you if you ask for help, but they don't feel the need to make suggestions otherwise. If you are struggling for inspiration, you only have to look around you at the many examples of work on display. There is absolutely no pressure of time. We spent a couple of hours painting and never felt that they were trying to hurry us along.

      The painting takes place in the same room as the eating, which means that people who are having their lunch will probably be glancing at you as you work on your creative masterpiece. I can imagine this might be a bit off-putting to some people if they feel self-conscious about painting in public, but I didn't mind this at all. I got so engrossed in painting my burner that I probably wouldn't have noticed if the fire alarm had gone off. One or two people did come up to our table and look at what we were painting. Two ladies who had just popped in for coffee were so inspired that they decided they also wanted a go. I think it encourages children if their parents also join in. We're always trying to persuade young children to try something new and outside their usual experience, so why not lead by example?

      Once your pottery is painted it is ready to be glazed in the kiln. If you live nearby, you can come back in 3 to 4 days to collect it. Otherwise it can be posted to you first class. There is no additional charge for this service apart from the cost of postage. Because we don't live locally, we used the postal service and our pottery arrived in just over a week. Everything was securely packed and bubble wrapped and nothing was broken. My sister, however, did have a bit of a problem with her order. When she received her pottery, one of the items was missing. However, this oversight was quickly sorted out.

      I would recommend Cobbles and Clay for a creative, fun and different experience for the whole family. My bill (for me and my two teenage daughters) came to around £60 which may sound a lot, but that included three good quality lunches, two rounds of drinks, an afternoon's entertainment and three lovely ceramic items for our home. I had been feeling rather stressed before our visit and it helped me to chill out and do something I wouldn't normally do. Whilst younger children seem to have a lot of time to enjoy artwork at school, the opportunities to get out the paints don't happen so much as children get older. A place like Cobbles and Clay helps older kids, like my two daughters, to reconnect with the things they enjoyed doing so much when they were small. This can be very reassuring. I think it is a great way for families to spend quality time together. Art activities are good fun but can be messy to set up in your own home, so it is great to know that you aren't going to have to clean up when you have finished painting your pot.

      I liked the fact that when I had a cup of tea, the milk came in a little jug that had clearly been painted by a child. It obviously wasn't a 'professional' effort but was somehow more charming because of it. I'm glad they didn't just use the perfect items. It sent out the right message, especially to younger visitors. It was a nice way of valuing people's different abilities and encouraging others to have a go.

      After we had finished our painting, we had a leisurely browse around the olde worlde shops of Main Street. Even though we didn't get as far as the Bronte parsonage, I felt as if I'd discovered a charming part of Yorkshire, which I know I'll keep returning to.

      Other information

      If you are travelling to Haworth by car, make sure your brakes are in good condition. The road entering the village is incredibly steep. There is no car park at the venue, but we parked approximately 200 metres away in the car park in North Street. If you are travelling by train, the nearest railway station is Keighley (3 miles away.) I understand that buses run frequently from Keighley to Haworth.

      Opening times: 9.00 to 5.00 (7 days a week)

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