1:30. I’ve just finished my cheese and tomato toastie and am tucking into a rice krispie treat and my second cup of Yorkshire tea at the Seventy Two cafe in Todmorden having just completed a three hour guided hike with super guide from Calderdale council Moy and fellow hiker Tony. This time we hiked up the other side of the valley to Whirlaw Stones. We could see the packhorse trail that we’d taken exactly three weeks ago. The weather forecast today for Halifax was for no rain, but even as I peeked through the window at 8:30 this morning the cobbles on the towpath were distinctly wet and the clouds, many of them big and black, were moving at a fast pace.
I set off at 9 a.m. and two bus rides later I was at the Todmorden sports center where we all met and then it was up, up, up, 1000ft. We only passed one isolated farm just below the summit which appeared to be a long way from any paved road. Tony was somewhat of an expert on the prehistory of the hilltops and though Moy hadn’t planned to climb the final pinnacle of Whirlaw Stones Tony was keen to do so. As we reached the top the rain came down in earnest, blown to a 45 degree angle by a howling gale and we headed cross country to shelter for a few minutes under the stoney outcrop. It’s possible that this was once part of a stone quarry. When buildings began to be constructed of stone rather than the less durable wood the stone was quarried locally. Whirlaw Stones is very similar to Bridestones and Moy told is the story of the marriages that took place there.
“Holy of holies – a hill-top chapel
Actually a crown of outcrop rock-
Earth’s heart-stuff laid bare.
Crowding congregation of skies.
Tense congregation of hills.
You do nothing casual here.”
from Bridestones by Ted Hughes
Moy described the impact the windmills are having on the bird population.
After the downpour we took the old causeway along the hill just below the ridge. Imagine laying these stones! They’ve been smoothed and worn away by the countless wagons that were pulled along by horses over 100s of years. The very steep down section, as always for me, was much harder than the upward climb.
I was sad to take my leave of Moy. It’s surprising how you can make bonds with people with people on hikes when you’re summoning up all your available physical strength through an amazing assortment of weather and difficult underfoot terrain. To cheer
myself up I headed straight for the 72 cafe, repeating the après hike that I’d done 3 weeks ago with Gary. This time I chatted with the owner who told me about the complete refit that has been necessary after the floods. It only reopened in March. His little 3 year old, Sofie, brought the milk and serviette to my table. They are just about to go on holiday to Brisbane. He told me how much he’d enjoyed a trip to San Diego, but had found San Francisco to be cold – the weather, that is!
It was only a hop, skip and a jump back to Todmorden market, the scene of last week’s wonderful morning in the deluge. I was looking for an artist’s stall that had caught my attention on my first visit three weeks ago. This time my luck was in and since there no more customers we chatted for more than 20 minutes. He paints all his own pictures which he then has printed on cards. Several David Bowie drawings had popped out at me and when he saw I was interested in one in particular he pulled out a file of Bowie memorabilia. His friend (the printer) had lost almost all his original programs, tickets and photographs in the flood. What was rescued was put on exhibition in the town hall to help raise funds to rebuild his studio. The artist has had the market stall for two and a half years. I asked him about why Todmorden hadn’t honored Keith Emerson after his recent death. I’d gone online at the time to see if there was anything happening, but couldn’t find anything. The artist had been thinking about producing something and our discussion seemed to inspire him – I could see the cogs ticking!
Arriving back in Hebden Bridge I stopped at the station to buy my ticket for tomorrow’s trip to Harrogate, and then I was back at ‘t th’ mill. I don’t feel like packing and leaving this place. It’s been a very different experience staying in one place for four weeks, rather than moving on every few days, or, on a road trip, moving on every day. I’ve built up a routine in my little room, know the layout of the town, where the bus stops are and where to shop for groceries. The rest of the trip feels much more of an unknown quantity, but I realize I felt this way as I arrived in Hebden Bridge almost 4 weeks ago. It’s been interesting to find out which people I know in the US have contacted me, either through Facebook messages or emails. I’ve certainly had more conversations with random people along the way that I found interesting and chatted to more people than I have in several years back at home.