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Deadwood is a place where the right kind of man might prosper, but the wrong kind would quickly sink into the mud.


I’ve just finished reading Pete Dexter’s novel Deadwood, first published in 1986 and which I’d guess served as inspiration for the similarly excellent HBO series of the same name. It follows the later life of Charles ‘Colorado Charlie’ Utter, loyal friend and companion to ‘Wild’ Bill Hickok, one of the most iconic figures in the American Wild West. To call it merely a Western novel would be a grave injustice – despite its brevity this is a work of immense humanity, depth and wit, and I strongly recommend finding a copy for yourself if you love a good page-turner.




Deadwood was forged amid the last great American gold rush in the 1870s, when hordes of opportunists, entrepreneurs and ne’er-do-wells in search of fortune descended on what was then still an insubstantial gold mining community, located in a gulch lined with dead trees. Just to the south, the Black Hills mountain range made for a formidable access route, with frequent attacks on wagon trains by Cheyenne and Lakota war parties. What with the ever-present threats of sickness, fire, shooting and mining injuries, to survive in a town as rough-and-ready as Deadwood needed grit and more than a little luck. It’s no surprise that some of the most legendary characters of the Old West wound up here.


Hickok and Utter rode into this whirling centrifuge of graft, opportunity and violence in 1876. By this stage in his life, Wild Bill’s legend ran far in advance, though his eyesight and health were now falling behind. Hickok’s stay in Deadwood would not be a long one – within six months he had been gunned down by a drunk named ‘Jack’ McCall.while playing cards – but it has given the town something of a cultish reputation.


Deadwood from Mt. Moriah

Deadwood from Mt. Moriah


Touring Deadwood


We spent a couple of days in Deadwood back in 2015, on our way from Sioux Falls to Yellowstone through the Badlands National Park. I’d been glued to the HBO show when it was first broadcast, and crushed when it was cancelled. Having been fed a steady diet of Western movies in my childhood, making a short stop here to explore a piece of history was a no-brainer.


The risk of passing away from a lethal dose of lead poisoning is now greatly reduced, but Deadwood is still pleasingly rough around the edges. Main Street is lined with gaudy bars and casinos, where crowds of bearded men with sleeve tattoos and biker leathers gather outside to drink and smoke. One of these casinos, the Midnight Star, is owned by Kevin Costner, and the walls are covered in posters and memorabilia from his films. Costner of course once portrayed a contemporary of Hickok’s, Wyatt Earp, although Earp had yet to make his reputation as a lawman at the time of Hickok’s death.


First-stop was ‘Wild Bill’s Trading Post’, which stands on the site of Nuttal & Mann’s saloon where Hickok met his end. The store sells a vast range of firearms, ‘prepper’ supplies and miscellaneous Western souvenirs. We bought a couple of soft drinks and a toy plane for my son. In the basement of the store there is a recreation of the murder scene itself – Hickok had always been wary of sitting with his back to the room, conscious of those seeking revenge or glory – but on the night in question hadn’t been able to get the chair he wanted. The cards he was said to have been holding at the time he was ambushed – a pair of eights and a pair of aces, all black – is now known in poker as the ‘Dead Man’s Hand’.


Grave of "Calamity" Jane

Grave of “Calamity” Jane


Bust of "Wild" Bill Hickok in Mt. Moriah Cemetery

Bust of “Wild” Bill Hickok in Mt. Moriah Cemetery


Later, we joined a bus tour that took us to Mt. Moriah Cemetery. Hickock’s well-maintained grave can be seen here, alongside that of ‘Calamity’ Jane Cannary. Jane was a renowned frontierswoman and scout but also a notorious drunk. In Deadwood, Dexter treats her with compassion, emphasising the nurturing nature that coexisted with her wild side. She was said to have been infatuated with Hickok and claimed they had married, though the feeling was far from mutual. Wild Bill would probably have preferred she hadn’t been laid to rest next to him, but he wasn’t in much of a position to complain.


Right at the top of the cemetery, with a commanding view over the town, is the grave of Seth Bullock. Bullock was the sheriff at the time of Hickok’s assassination and also a prominent businessman. The Bullock Hotel, which he built with his partner, Sol Starr, is still in operation today on Main Street. Just a short walk away is the Mineral Palace Hotel which stands on the site of the former Gem Saloon. The Gem had a very seedy reputation – it was owned by Al Swearengen, who mistreated the prostitutes he kept upstairs and paid enough bribes that he was virtually untouchable by law enforcement.


Bullock Hotel, Deadwood

Bullock Hotel, Deadwood


Mineral Palace Hotel, Deadwood

Mineral Palace Hotel, Deadwood


Site of Wild Bill's assassination

Site of Wild Bill’s assassination


We didn’t stick around for long in Deadwood. It’s not much of a family-friendly destination, although there is plenty to do even if you’re not as fascinated with Old West history as I am. But if you’re in the vicinity, it’s worth tying up your horse for a while.


Things to do in Deadwood


In our experience, most of the action in Deadwood is focused on drinking, gambling and tourism. If like us you’re mainly interested in sightseeing, then there are various organised tours of Deadwood that give an accurate flavour of what life was like there during the Gold Rush – Mt. Moriah cemetery is a must-see. You can also go underground with a tour of the Broken Boot Gold Mine, get pampered at a luxury spa, or even do a little tasting at the several boutique wineries nearby. One of the highlights of our stay was the daily ‘shootout’ for the tourists on Main Street, which our four-year old son loved.


Where to stay in Deadwood


It’s not hard to find accommodation in Deadwood and the surrounding area, whether you’re looking for high-end hotels, guesthouses or campsites. Had we not been on a budget we’d have tried to get a room at the historic Bullock Hotel, but we ended up in a perfectly good AirBnB owned by a friendly local lady. In the evenings I would smoke cigars and drink whisky in the garden with some fellow guests who had hired Harley Davidsons for a couple of weeks. Midway through our six-month road-trip around the US, this was the first and only time I was asked if I knew the Queen. I don’t, just for the record.


Where to eat in Deadwood


There are plenty of good restaurants in Deadwood serving everything from primo steaks to easygoing burgers and ethnic cuisine. We stumbled across Saloon No.10 by accident and got a pretty decent feed, not realising until later that in years gone by it was one of the town’s best-known brothels. Oops!


I’ve made my home in Brighton for over 10 years now, and one of the reasons I love it so much is that this is a city right at the coalface of the UK Green movement, pun intended.


  • We’ve got the amazing Caroline Lucas, first elected Green MP in the country and one of the UK’s most popular politicians
  • We’ve got the beautiful South Downs National Park to explore right on our doorstep
  • We’ve got a vibrant movement promoting locally sourced produce


Naturally, if you’re visiting Brighton (and Hove) then there are plenty of must-see attractions here, including the Palace Pier, our pebbly but still comfortable beach, the famous Lanes, and the iconic Royal Pavilion with its eye-catching minarets and domes.


We also have a whole bunch of cool eco-friendly attractions in Brighton that you may not be aware of, and I’m going to talk about some of my favourites below. Right now. So read on.


Green Attractions in Brighton



London Road


hiSbe stands for “how it Should be”. This is a new kind of supermarket that prioritises sustainability, local produce and trading fairly over short-term profits. So they pay their staff above the living wage, treat their suppliers well and focus on independent, local products. If you’re self-catering on your Brighton holiday, maybe in an AirBnB, this is a great ethical place to stock up on supplies.


hiSbe makes a good companion to the already well-established Infinity Foods which sells a vast range of healthy, organic and ethical produce in the North Laine and also has its own cafe.



Upper Gardner Street, North Laine


Silo is among the most exciting new restaurants to open in Brighton in recent years. Actually just calling it a restaurant is selling Silo short – it’s also a coffee house, bakery and brewery. They operate under the principle of Zero Waste – everything that isn’t eaten gets composted, ingredients arrive by reusable packaging, the beer is made from foraged plants, herbs and fruit, and even the furniture is recycled. I haven’t eaten here yet, but I’ve heard only good things about the menu.


Can’t get a table at Silo? There are no end of restaurants and cafes in Brighton that have a sustainable ethos, from the buzzing vegetarian buffet spreads at Iydea to the well-known Foragers in Hove that has a proud focus on locally sourced delicious pub grub.


Earthship Tours

Stanmer Park


England’s first Earthship was built in Brighton and serves as a community centre for Stanmer Organics. Earthships are about the most sustainable form or architecture going, pioneered by Michael Reynolds who built a whole off-grid community of them in New Mexico. They are structures made of natural and upcycled materials such as old car tyres, glass bottles and straw, which use renewable forms of energy.


You can take a tour of the Brighton Earthship for a small charge, to learn about its construction and get advice for making your own home more sustainable. Stanmer Park is easily reached from central Brighton by public transport and there is usually one tour every month.


Brighton's Earthship was the first to be built in England

Brighton’s Earthship was the first to be built in England; image source


Rampion Wind Farm


A fairly new feature on the Brighton seascape is one that can only be seen well from the beach on a clear day, or from atop the controversial British Airways i360 tower. Rampion is a major offshore windfarm that should be completed in 2018, and us locals are taking a keen interest in the construction – you can often see the silhouettes of huge ships out there working on the build.


If you fancy a eco-friendly day trip, then you can join a boat tour out to Rampion from the Brighton Marina to explore the sprawling development and learn some interesting facts about wind energy.


Jubilee Library

Jubilee Street


Right in the centre of town, the Jubilee Library is an impressive feat of architecture. The huge glass wall at the front and the concrete floor utilise the sun’s energy to heat the building, while it is cooled by wind towers on the roof. Heat recovery units meanwhile capture the heat from PCs and even people to recycle it around the library.


The Jubilee Library is a very popular spot for families with young children, students and freelance professionals – I work there a lot myself. You can get a great cup of coffee in the cafe, and they hold regular events for children. There is also a really good selection of literary-themed gifts for sale which I often browse when one of my son’s friends has a birthday party coming up.


Brighton's Jubilee Library is heated using this incredible glass wall

Brighton’s Jubilee Library is heated using this incredible glass wall; image source


Eco Open Houses


Every May in Brighton sees the very popular Artists Open Houses event, where local artists invite visitors into their homes to see their work. Slightly smaller scale, but no less fascinating to those of us with an interest in all things green, is the Eco Open Houses event. Have a nosy around Brighton properties that are using pioneering technologies and innovative techniques to save energy, waste and water.


We did this tour some years back when our son was still in nappies and found it immensely inspirational, picking up plenty of useful tips for low-cost energy-saving measures in our own flat.


Big Lemon Buses


Brighton buses are already very eco-friendly with low emissions and electric vehicles on the way. But if you really want to get around the city in a green way, then you need to go yellow.


Big Lemon buses run on refined waste cooking oil that is collected from local businesses. They only operate on a handful of routes right now, but their distinctive livery runs from the city centre to the Marina, and to the university campuses. They’ve also just launched a new bus that runs on solar power.


Brighton's Big Lemon buses run on recycled waste cooking oil

Brighton’s Big Lemon buses run on recycled waste cooking oil; image source


Beech Estate Eco Camping



We’ve recently got into camping as a family in a big way, and we’re thinking about heading out to the Beech Estate, near the historic town of Battle, for our next adventure. It offers off-grid wild camping in 20 acres of attractive woodland, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


You can bring your own tent, or hire a bell tent for Wild Glamping. The facilities include eco-toilets in a custom-made gypsy caravan and hot bucket showers, so don’t expect luxury but do expect an ethos on sustainable family-oriented relaxation.