Bespoke memorial bench built for deceased biker by lifelong friend set to be placed at renovated Hartside Café site

Andy Bell built the bench in memory of his lifelong friend Sean Gardiner
Andy Bell built the bench in memory of his lifelong friend Sean Gardiner

A bespoke memorial bench built in memory of a County Durham motorcyclist will be placed at the renovated Hartside Café site, in Cumbria, after MCN helped to put its creator in touch with the redevelopment team. 

Professional engineer, Andy Bell, 51, built the unique structure in memory of childhood friend and dedicated motorcycle enthusiast, Sean Gardiner, who tragically passed away on November 17, 2019 aged 50, following a battle with pneumonia.

“He was a proper character and if I was ever anywhere on the bikes with him, he would know everybody,” Andy told MCN. “I wanted to design something that was unique because he was unique.

“I’ve probably been friends with Sean since the BMX days, when we were eight or nine years old, and we’ve been mates ever since. We both got bikes when we were 16 or 17,” he continued.

The unique seat will live at Hartside

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“He was very meticulous about his bike and everything had to be just so. He wasn’t bothered about much, but his bike… You couldn’t touch his bike! He just used to love motorcycles, basically.”

Known to many as ‘Maca’, Sean was a regular at the old Hartside Café, before it burned down in March 2018. The site has since been purchased, with the charred remains knocked down and plans now in place to transform the land into a modern structure; complete with the latest facilities and even a special burger, courtesy of The Hairy Bikers.

Making contact with Hartside

Sean Gardiner was a passionate biker

Andy first spoke to MCN in early April, looking for help in contacting the site owner and was put in touch with property developer, Dawn Dixon, who immediately agreed to take on the piece. 

“The first thing I thought was ‘Wow – that’s just so beautiful.’ It’s very clever and very touching,” Dawn told MCN. “It will fit in so well with Hartside. It’s just beautiful.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he got commissions off that. It’s clever, very clever,” she added.

The Langwathby-based developer, who is revitalising the site alongside her sons Rudy, 31, and Tom, 27, went on to say that this would be the final memorial bench at the new venue, with nine already being carried over from the original building. A new memorial garden has also been built.

Dawn’s sentiments about the seat were added to by Sean’s sister, Marie Foreman, 48, who has yet been unable to see the finished project, due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

“It’s just amazing and I couldn’t have imagined it myself; how to pour so much love into something. Sean was really loved by so many people and Andy captured it,” the Cambridge-based language teacher said. 

“He absolutely loved it up there and that’s where we are going to take his ashes as a family,” she continued. “He wasn’t one for making big statements, but I think if we’d said to him what would you like as a memorial, something like that would be amazing for him.”

It is hoped the redeveloped Hartside Café site will open its doors again in April 2021, with the main structure up by November 2020.

Hartside Café site to become biker paradise

First published 15 August 2019 by Dan Sutherland

A digital render shows what the Hartside Cafe redevelopment could look like

A local property developer has revealed plans to transform the site of the Hartside Café into a bikers’ home from home after it was destroyed by fire in March 2018. Prior to the devasting blaze the café was a popular Cumbrian biking venue thanks to its stunning location and amazing local roads.

“We are bringing the site into the 21st century,” Langwathby-based developer, Dawn Dixon, told MCN. “We want to put an amazing structure there. It will be glass and steel and it will be polished concrete inside.”

Located on the A686, near Alston, the venue was initially put up for sale in November 2018, after locals attempted to raise sufficient funds to see the original café reopen.

This new plan, should it be approved by Eden District Council, will see the site become an ultra-modern, environmentally-friendly structure, complete with solar and wind energy utilisation, as well as ground source heat pumps.

Also to be included will be an underground bunk house, complete with 20 beds and a steam room. What’s more, a new menu will also feature, including a specially-designed burger, courtesy of popular TV chefs; the Hairy Bikers.

“I think [the design] suits the nature of the people who go there,” Dixon added. “What I really want is people to enjoy one of the best views in the country. With the glass structure, they can sit and do that now. It will be amazing.”

The former Hartside Cafe was destroyed by fire in 2018

Although currently existing as nothing more than a digital sketch, bikers are already excited about the prospect of a new venue on the land.

This includes #ride5000miles member, Dex Rose, who took to Facebook saying: “I used to love this place whether it was to get in from the rain and warm up by the fire, or get a nice cold drink if the sun was out.

“It’s an awesome road there and back, too, which obviously helps. I wish the new owners every success when they open. I for one can’t wait.”

This was added to by fellow member, Jon Ashley, who spoke of the old café, saying: “It’s in a perfect location with stunning views, placed perfectly for northern jaunts. We’d head over the hills to Teesdale then loop back over to the Lakes, hitting Hartside on the way. It was a bit of an institution.”

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