Last week we belatedly started watching the BBC One drama series Happy Valley. It stars Sarah Lancashire as Sergeant Catherine Cawood, a policewoman still coming to terms with the suicide of her daughter, when the boy she blames her death on is released from prison. A parallel story thread sees a businessman dabble with the criminal underworld to get enough money to send his daughter to a private school.
All six hour-long episodes have now aired but they are available on BBC iPlayer for a couple more days (and you can download the episodes to keep for 30 days). I also expect that it’ll be available on DVD and other digital download services before too long. Happy Valley has been a very well-received series and is tipped for a BAFTA, and there’s talk of a second series.
Happy Valley is shot, and indeed set, in the Calder Valley where Christine and I live. Indeed, the police station where the lead character is based is our local station in Sowerby Bridge, which I pass on the way to work every day. Earlier in the year there were frequently film crews outside, and the signs on the front had been changed from ‘West Yorkshire Police’ to simply ‘Yorkshire Police’, a fictional police force. Unlike its portrayal in the series, the police station is no longer open to the public – an issue that our local MP took up in parliament several years ago. Other scenes are filmed elsewhere in Sowerby Bridge, and also further up the valley in Hebden Bridge, Heptonstall, Todmorden and in the shadow of Stoodley Pike.
Despite the title of ‘Happy Valley’, the series is quite gritty and, though it’s fictional, focuses on some of the area’s social problems. As an example, whilst Hebden Bridge has a reputation for being a tourist-friendly hippie lesbian preservation area, it also has high rates of drug abuse and suicide. The steep sides of the valley, and gentrification, are frequently blamed for the area’s ills.
We’ve only watched episode one so far, so no spoilers please.