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Paul Thorp @ Stott Hall Farm
The man in the middle!
Stott Hall Farm in Calderdale's one of West Yorkshire's best-known landmarks...even though you might never have heard of it! It's actually the farm that sits right in the middle of the M62 near Scammonden. But what's it like to live and work there?
Stott Hall Farm has stood perched 1100 feet up on the bleak Pennines since 1737. For over 200 years there was nothing else there but the birds, the sheep, the wind and the rain. But, after two centuries of splendid isolation, the M62 arrived - literally on the farm's doorstep.
The famous M62 farm!
Miraculously, while hundreds of homes along the route of the Pennines-straddling motorway disappeared when the bulldozers arrived in the early 1970s, Stott Hall survived. Nowadays, this whitewashed building standing out against a barren backdrop is one of the most memorable landmarks of the M62. Nobody who ever sees the carriageways dramatically split apart before the farm looms darkly into view on a typically blustery, rainy evening is likely to forget the sight. It can sometimes seem like a mirage, floating island-like while cars, vans and lorries thunder past like there's no tomorrow. It's truly the eye of the storm!
So, who'd live in a place like this? Well, Paul Thorp is the current tenant farmer there and he doesn't seem to mind too much at all. In fact, he says that Stott Hall Farm's become a bit of an unofficial service station for drivers who have hit a problem at one of the bleakest points of Britain's highest motorway: "People running out of petrol; coming and wanting to buy petrol and diesel; wanting to borrow spanners and jacks and to use the telephone. If I've got some petrol I'll sell them some. I'll try and help anybody out. It's just not a nice spot to be, at the side of the road, especially if it's rough weather. I can't afford to give the petrol away, though. If I could get a regular trade, it'd be OK!"
Paul seems to have known what he was getting into when he moved to Stott Hall - in fact he knows all about why this 18th Century farm managed to avoid the bulldozer when so many others were consigned to history: "They couldn't build the eastbound carriageway as high as the westbound carriageway. They just kept getting landslips and one thing and another. So they decided to part the motorway and managed to save the building. That's the only reason it's still here."
Living and working just feet away from the busy M62 is an experience, admits Paul. In fact, he says, there are occasions when the traffic comes just that bit too close for comfort and accidents happen. He remembers one in particular: "Just in these fields where the sheep are grazing, he must've been coming down the motorway and lost control and started snaking about. He ended up with his car in the grass verge and the caravan tipped right up on the top of the fence. I don't think anyone was hurt in that accident, but the car and caravan were write-offs. It looked fairly well bent and twisted. Then, if the fields are wet or if the weather's bad and they can't get in to recover them, then we go and tow it out with the tractor or lift stuff over the motorway for them."
Traffic's never far away!
Stott Hall Farm's an unlikely landmark in an unlikely place - but a landmark it certainly is and Paul Thorp doesn't see a time when that will change. But even he admits that sometimes the constant buzz of the M62 passing by on either side becomes a bit much: "Some days I wish I could switch it off, but I haven't found the off-button yet! We just have to live with it, it's not going to go away is it? I'm resigned to it, I've taken it on. I knew what it was when I came here. It's there to stay for sure!"
Feature based on interviews carried out by BBC Radio Leeds' Spencer Stokes. Find out more from Spencer by clicking on the audio links at the top right of this page!
last updated: 17/04/2008 at 11:40
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