Month: June 2018

A weekend on the trail of my Bolton ancestors

St Paul’s, Astley Bridge was celebrating its 170th anniversary and not only had I been invited to attend, but a member of the church had opened her home to me and I was able to stay with her.

My great grandfather had been organist and choir master here for 35 years and in previous visits I’d played the organ there – and also found some of his music in the organ bench.

The mayoress came in her chauffeur driven limo to open the event. In the church yard the bunting was out, the beer was flowing  –  and inside the ladies had been busy baking 90 scones for the afternoon tea-party. So English, it hurt!

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A trio of talented junior school children entertained in the church while to boy in front of me read his bible.


Then a local dance group put on quite a show. The exuberance in this boy’s face was magic.

What better for a sunny Saturday afternoon but to soak Vicar Nick. Rachel and I went to his inauguration in 2011.IMG_6556

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Eagley Brass band were on hand  with a selection from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds.

My home for the night was an almshouse, built by a local benefactor  in 1839, for widows of good standing.


By chance Sunday morning’s church service featured a christening – in the font where my dad was baptised in 1920, when his grandad would have played the organ for the service.


My hosts and I had lunch after the service and then they drove me back to Hebden. It had taken me almost 4 hours to get to St. Paul’s on Saturday morning by 2 trains and 2 buses but it took just less than an hour by car! 


At lunch we were watched over by a doorstopper of –  what else? – hedgehogs, or as Sylvia calls them – hodgehegs! 

5 days in Iceland

Getting to Reykjavik – and learning how to spell it!

We took a taxi to the station since the girls had lots of luggage and then changed trains in Manchester. The first four trains to the airport were cancelled and we were just about to get a taxi when a train showed up. There are big problems with Northern Rail at the

moment. I hadn’t done any planning for this trip – and I know next to nothing about Iceland such as the island’s size, its currency, let alone how bloody expensive the place is! The idea had come from Rachel and I’d jumped at the opportunity  of spending 5 days with her in Reykjavik on her way back to the US. Sarah flew with us, changing planes in Iceland in the amazingly crowded Keflavik airport. Not knowing anything about Iceland I’d presumed it would be a small airport with few travellers, instead of which it was packed with people from all over the world, totally overcrowded with people sitting on the floor waiting at the gates to board their flights. My attempt at procuring some Icelandic Kroner from an ATM machine failed miserably but I just presumed that we’d be able to rectify that problem in the centre of town. Sarah’s gate was just setting up a table of drinks under a big banner celebrating the first flight – of the season? She was to discover that during her flight to SFO she was served free champagne and beverages. Unfortunately there was no free food on the flight and she had to make do with the one bag of crisps she had in her bag – for a nine hour flight!

downloadTravelling with Rachel made me feel as if I had my own private tour guide and she shepherded me to a stand where we purchased buy tix into town at some astronomical price – thousands of Kroner each! The airport building itself looked ultra new and sported coloured glass panels – all very chic. Since 2015 the number of passengers traveling through Keflvik airport has doubled. That’s an amazing statistic. Sarah even took a photo of the bathroom commenting that it looked more like a hospital corridor than a highly used public restroom. This was true of all the toilets we encountered, and they often had an honesty box outside for payment. I didn’t catch a glimpse of one piece of litter in the street in our five days either.


We said our tearful farewells to Sarah and then boarded the bus into the town. Every building that we passed in the hour’s drive looked new, yet the buildings didn’t look permanent. All the road looked new too and it was not until we reached the centre that we saw any traffic to speak of, despite it being rush hour. We changed buses and alighted at Bus stop #5, Harpa. There was a huge glass building perched right on the water’s edge IMG_6004 (1)which I mistakenly though was the Harbour building, when it was, in fact, the Harpa concert hall! It was only a 10 minute walk to our Airbnb, passed some spiffy new apartment high rises and some older crumbling ones – like ours. Scattered amidst these tall buildings are single storey family homes with garden, trees and bushes, often brightly coloured. One right across the street from us is dated 1898. This really is a new country: not just volcanically but socially. The English occupied Iceland during the war and then the country took off from there. From what I could see in Reykjavik the entire economy is based on tourism: Vikings, puffins, Icelandic knitwear, volcanoes and glaciers. Our hosts are a Vietnamese couple with a toddler. I wondered what brought them to Iceland. She’s been here 15 years, and he 4 years. It felt off to think that we had had breakfast in Hebden Bridge, and now, just a few hours later, we were drinking tea in a Vietnamese household in Iceland!

download (27)download (23)download (14)We headed out to find a drink before dinner. I was delighted to find that our apartment was only one small block from Reykjavik’s main street – perfect planning by Rachel. We found a small bar and I had to try half a  Viking, of course, while Rachel sampled the raspberry cider. Finding somewhere affordable to IMG_5535eat dinner – now that WAS difficult. Eventually we found a small bar/cafe with a board in the street advertising the ‘street food’ menu. We reckoned that a fish stew with flat bread might not break the bank. However, having sat down inside we were handed a completely different menu – which was definitely not affordable. It would have racked up $100 for the two of us –  without drinks. We contemplated leaving, but when I asked the waitress she produced the menu we had seen outside. We ordered, then waited. And waited, And waited. eventually our fish stew and flatbread arrived. Our drink and a meal had taken 3 hours.

We called in at the only grocery store we could find. There were long lines of tourists doing exactly what we were doing  – buying snacks and breakfasts. Rachel had booked us on an all day bus tour of the South coast of the island but the brochure hadn’t mentioned food stops.

It was after 10 by the time we got back to our place. It was freezing cold but just as light as when we’d arrived in the afternoon. Outdoor cafes provided heavy duty blankets, even sheepskins, to help people enjoy this land of the midnight sun. Now the sky was white with clouds but occasionally a stray ray of golden sunlight would penetrate the white blanket and I was able to get a few good shots of the street art and ubiquitous murals which graced every nook and cranny – including the entrance to our apartment. Pham told me that the huge kitten and ball of wool had cost the residents $700! The whole town seemed to be under a state of construction with huge cranes on most streets. I got into bed at midnight  with a myriad of questions in my head: why are there so many tourists? Why does everything look new? How would I deal with the total darkness in the winter? Can I go to sleep in the daylight? Why are Icelandic folk so tall?

Cranes, black sand and humbug icebergs

I set the alarm for 7:10 since we had to be on our way by 8 a.m. to catch our tour bus. The sky was overcast and there was dampness in the air. It was a ha;f hour walk to the bus station through residential areas where the daffodils and tulips were in full bloom. I’ve never seen a city with so many single family homes interspersed between shops, offices, high rise apartments, embassies. It was a big coach with less than 20 people on board so we were able to spread out. Our guide gave us a running commentary through the day until we retraced our route back into the city. There are very few roads and though technically it is possible to travel around the island by public bus the services only operate in July and August. We had considered renting a car, but we were glad that we’d IMG_6055made the decision not to. Rachel was taken aback by the quietness of the people on board the bus. On the tours with her travel company everyone gets to know each other because they are going to be travelling together for a couple of weeks, but on this bus no-one spoke to each other. even the people travelling together didn’t seem to speak to each other. A middle age couple in front of us never spoke. Their teenage son was glued to his laptop the entire time, and I never once caught him looking out of the window.

Another question. Why are the buildings so brightly coloured? We’d first seen this in Burano, a small island off Venice where the main industry is fishing. It’s the same in Ireland and the Shetlands. Anyone any thought on this? At ‘Lavaland’ we stopped to see a live  display of all the earthquakes on the island that were happening at that moment – about a dozen, but all small.

We passed snow capped mountains, hanging waterfalls and the beautifully termed ‘braided’ snow-melt rivers. It felt a bit like Alaska to me. I asked Rachel if this is what Patagonia looks like – but the mountains are much much higher there. Scattered farms dotted the landscape. But there were no villages, no shops, no towns. Where do children go to school? Perhaps they board in Reykjavik like they do in the Outer Hebrides. Where do people buy their food?

We stopped at a huge waterfall – Rangarping eystra. Trying say that fast! Next stop was the mouth of a glacier where global warming can be seen. The glacial lagoon has retreated up the valley dramatically over the past ten year requiring an extension of the road to it and the construction of a new parking lot. At every tourist stop for glaciers and volcanoes huge cranes are evidence of new or enlarged tourist centres and hotels under construction. Much to Rachel’s dismay I headed down to the lagoon, away from the trail, so that I could get a close up shifty at the newly formed icebergs. Their striped reminded my of the humbugs I’d bought at Blackburn market last week! We watched people set off on crampon tours. Pity we didn’t have time for that.IMG_5655 (2)



Just before reaching ‘so called’ Black Sands beach we stopped at a quieter beach and rather than eat in we picked up something to go and sat on the beach, amidst the prickly grass, to eat our lunch. It was so like being back on St. Kilda with its sea stacks just off the coast. Just as we were relishing the empty beach along came one of the jeep tours, running as close as possible to the water, and that was followed by a pony trek. Our tour guide said that all the Icelandic ponies have Mongolian ancestry.  (?!?)


Then onto Black Sands beach, rated one of the world’s top 10 beaches. Black volcanic sand, basalt columns, a sea caves, sea stacks, strange rocks with natural white scratchings, and one human one saying SARAH. The wind was amazing. I could lean into it and almost double over without falling over. People were climbing the basalt columns and exploring the cave.

A stop at another magnificent waterfall allowed us to follow the  rock strewn path behind the falls. At that moment the sun came out and so we could see the sun shining through the falls.


This was our furthest East and we retraced our route back into the city. We stopped at Hallgrimskirk, the really tall church that dominates the whole city. Fresh from the basalt columns of the south coast it was easy to see where the architect of the church had got his inspiration from. Inside the church is stark apart from a huge organ that completely covers the West wall. We picked up a flier and saw that there’s a choral and organ concert during our stay. We made a note also that you can get an elevator to the top of the tower too.

Dinner was a Loki, (a figure in Norse mythology) a famous Icelandic food restaurant right across the street from the church. We were lucky enough to get a table right by the window. We had cod, salad and lamb pate – all traditional Icelandic  faire  – and I was excited to drink an Icelandic Einstok white ale, which I used to buy in Cost Plus in Santa Cruz, little thinking I’d get to drink a bottle in Iceland itself! I was in bed by 11 pm after a very full, exciting day.

Of Vikings, hot dogs and the Northern Lights

We had to devise our own activities for the day. We’d picked up lots of fliers and newspapers. We noticed a lot of humour even in serious articles. We left just before noon and the sky was overcast and it was ‘trying to rain.’ We headed for City Hall and passed a church where the service was just finishing. Today is the celebration of Seaman’s Day and several people in military uniform were exiting the church and greeting each other. Then I spotted a Lexus drive up. It’s registration plate was ‘1.’ I presumed the president must be there and the Lexus quickly whisked him away. I noticed that there wasn’t a single policeman in sight. We’d come to the City hall, the first building made of stone that we’d seen in the country, to see an exhibit – Demoncrazy –  that is part of the feminist movement here. It’s paintings of topless women positioned in front of portraits of clothed male politicians. I didn’t realise the exhibition was to be outdoors and so I caught a quick glimpse of one of the paintings and said, “Oh, look. That looks like you and your sisters!” Then we got close and I saw they were all topless – whoops!

Next we saw  what Rachel named the ‘blockhead statue’ close to what is now called The Pond but was originally a lake on the shores of which a Viking Hall dating from 1000A.D was discovered in 2011. The Museum of Settlement had lots of interactive opportunities and helped to answer several of my questions about when the island had been settled, by whom and why? We even got to write our names in Icelandic runes. Tolkein was very interested in the culture of Iceland, drawing upon its mythology and landscape, and he even taught himself Icelandic – an amazingly difficult language for English speaking peoples. The roof was held up by timbers and the walls and the roof were made from sod. The Vikings expanded their territory to the Shetland Isles and the Hebrides, both of which I’ve travelled to in the past 2 years.Oh, yes, and Ireland too!

We stopped for lunch at a Hot Dog stand and both commented that we could easily have consumed three of them. There was a lovely little drawing of Trump sticking out of a cup on the counter: ” Huge tips. ”

Then down to the waterfront where the skyline was again dominated by huge cranes. There was an interesting exhibit of famous ships of the harbour and then we took a peek into Harpa. This is the only serious contender I’ve seen for the best location of a performing arts center to rival Sydney Opera House. It opened in 2011 and the original plans were for a performing arts centre, a shopping mall and a hotel. I think it’s the hotel that’s currently under construction. Harpa’s exterior is made from glass panels that look like fish scales and if anything the decor inside is even more spectacular. There was a cafe and a restaurant, but the bill for two would probably come to a six figure number so we elected to have lunch part two, chicken nuggets,  in the flea market across the road.

We headed back to the apartment where, after a quick cat nap, I headed out by myself to go to the concert in the big church, Hallgrimskirkja. I had booked online, relieved that I’d been able to purchase a ticket at such short notice but the place was only half full- if that. The pew backs had all been swivelled so that the seats were now facing the organ. The audience appeared to be made up of mainly locals with a few tourists. The title of the program – Northern lights, referred to the composers who were primarily Icelandic. The second half was a rendering of Durufle’s Requiem. In a couple of days the choir are taking this program to the church in Paris where Durufle was organist and choir master for several decades. The acoustics were wonderful for the choir’s performance and the director knew just how to handle  the reverb.

Of fish, chips and puffins

It was just before 11 by the time we left the apartment, having had a lazy morning discussing possible changes in Rachel’s job. The streets were much quieter this Monday mornings and there wasn’t a single car parked on our street when i opened the blinds. First stop was a Crepe place that Rachel had spotted on her shopping trip last night while I’d been at the concert. Freshly made crepes to order within view of our table was just the ticket to get us up and rolling for the day.

The sky looked less heavy as we crossed town heading in the direction of a church with twin spires that I’d glimpsed before. I loved walking around these quiet neighbourhoods which had much more the ambience of a small town than a capital city. But them the total population of Iceland is only 3500,000. There was a funeral taking place in the church so we weren’t able to go in. Close by was a large imposing building with a tall clock tower but we couldn’t figure out what it was – a university perhaps?

By the time we got down to the waterfront the clouds were clearing and we could see the snow capped hills across the harbour – the first time we’d been able to see their existence. By 12:30 the sky was totally clear. This was my first venture outdoors without my beanie since we’d arrived. A major road hugs the coast her, just like the old Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco, but the one here has a cute sign saying No tractors between certain hours! Very quaint.

Back home for a cat nap before setting off on our boating adventure at 4 p.m. Rachel had booked us on a 90 minute boat tour – Reykjavik by boat. I was very surprised that we were the only ones on board beside a brother and sister from Washington DC. Rachel was on the lookout for puffins and I wanted to see the city from the sea and we both had our wishes fulfilled. Though we didn’t see any nesting puffins we saw many flying around, beating their wings at 300 flaps to the minute. We were a bit disappointed that our tour only lasted 60 out of the proposed 90 minutes but . . .

Back on shore we headed for a coffee house in one of the former fisherman’s huts where they used to repair their nets. We had the best coffee and a perfect view from our window seat overlooking the harbour. Tonight was going to be Rachel’s last opportunity to go up the Hallsgrimkirkja Tower so we headed back into town. There was quite a queue for the elevator but the view from the top was spectacular. We were ‘inside’ the

clock and we watched the minute hand approach 7:30  from the inside! It was a perfectly clear evening and the light was fantastic. The tiny houses with their steeply pitch, brightly coloured rooves did not look real. They looked more like something from a cartoon or a model of a village.IMG_6001 (1)

We’d had our eye on a fish and chip shop that we’d passed a few times and we were lucky enough, yet again, to get a window seat. Even the counter was decorated in dried fish skins and a light had been made from a whole dried fish carcass. I just loved the ambience and creativity at every nook and turn. We had perfectly fried cod, of course, with not a hint of grease on our napkins.

On the way back home we stopped in to buy snacks for Rachel’s 9 hour flight home tomorrow. I decided to book a 6 hour tour for the following day knowing that I’d have a hard time being by myself after being with my daughters every moment of the previous 19 days. Thoughts of future trips to Iceland began to form in my head. Christmas with the Northern Lights perhaps?

Alone in Iceland

I woke up at 4 a.m. no doubt with apprehension. Rachel had finished her packing last night so there wasn’t a lot for her to do this morning in preparation for her flight home. She was concened that the shuttle bus to the airport wouldn’t give her enough time but despite repeated attempts to phone the bus company she couldn’t gt through. Eventually an email I had sent them did elicit a response so I left her trying to sort out an earlier ride.

Meanwhile my first few miutes on my own resulted infailure: I was unable to get my key to turn the lock on the outside gate to our apartment so I rushed back upstairs to ask for Rachel’s help. So much for my first few minutes alone! However, the rest of the day went smoother. I walked down to the Harpa and waited at bus stop #5 for my shuttle bus to the bus station to meet my tour for the day – an express version of The Golden Circle, though in fact the three stops during the course of the tour, for one hour, 45 minutes and 30 minutes didn’t feel rushed. I boarded the bus and 12:30 and got dropped off back at bus stop at 7p.m. Just as on the previous bus tour no-one spoke to each other. Our guided, Lily, was excellent and she gave us a more informed account of th geology and settlement of the island. Our first stop was an hour and a half’s drive to the Geyser area. Having been to see Old Faithful in Yellowstone erupt, and being very familiar with



Bumpass Hell in Lassen this geyser wasn’t high on my ‘must see’ list . However, once we had headed off our previous bus tour’s route the settlemts on the landscape were quite different. A few scattered villages with 150 or so people, each village with its oen communal swimming pool we were informed. We passed a boarding school for childen from the surrounding farms but it’s no longer needed. I had fun taking photos of the people standing there waiting for the geyser to erupt which it does every 7-10 minutes and has been doing so with regularity for the past 40 year. Its name is Blaskogabyggo. By this time the cloud cover of the morning had dissipated and we had beautiful blue sky for the rest of the day. In fact, it was too hot on the bus even though the air conditioning was cranked up to its limit.

Next stop was an amazing waterfall that I immediately recognized from Richard Ayoade’s Travel Man show. The watsunlight through the waterfall was producing rainbows of such intensity that people walking through them looked multicloured. Ayoade went here by helicopter and pointed with fun at the crowds of tourists on ‘my’ side. Only a thin rope stopped people from fall – or jumping- into the raging water.

IMG_6159IMG_6190Next stop was Pinguellir National Park, scene of Iceland’s first parliament which met in this remote place every June for two weeks beginning in the year 900 where the tectonic plates of Asia and North America meet. It was quite thrilling to walk through the cravass IMG_6225 (2)caused by the plates pulling apart. Even at this remote site cranes were present enlarging the visitors’ centre. Also at the site was a Iceland’s largest lake where the rich and famousdownload (45)


spend $15,000 per day salmon fishing. Eric Clapton and Prince Charles have been known to fish here. The whole site is a UNESCO heritage site and it’s here where Christianity was adopted in the year 1000AD and where, in 1944, Iceland signed its independence from Denmark. Our guided pointed out the bathrooms – 200 Icelandic Kroner – and yes, you can pay by credit card.

I returned to the apartment for the first time without Rachel being there. She’s excited to get back home to see her boyfriend who was scheduled to get his first tattoo as she was on her flight back to SFO. It’s also the first time I’ve been alone for 19 days – a very unusual situation for me and one that I’d been dreading ever since the girls first planned their trip to Hebden Bridge.

I’d bought a salad for dinner to eat in and it was comforting to listen to BBC Radio 4 as I tried to get to sleep nice and early. I’d set my alarm for 3:10 a.m. – an ungodly hour for me. But I had little to do besides put my pjs into my suitcase and set off into a deserted city. I only passed on other person on foot as I walked down to the Harpa to catch a green bus. The bus company ask you to be there half an hour early to give them a pick up IMG_6257window of time. It was totally light but overcast and I was happy to see the light display on the ‘scales’ of Harpa still in their evening mode. I’d had visions of having to wait the full half hour in pouring rain amidst a gale, exposed on the waterfront but that wasn’t to be. The bus arrived just two minutes into the window and then I had to swap buses to catch the one to the airport but it all went smoothly and I arrived at the airport at 5:45. It was already busy with people having breakfast, and the bar, too, was doing a roaring trade. With a couple of hours to kill I hit the souvenir shops, eventually adding a shot glass celebrating Iceland’s World Cup qualifying to my souvenir T shirt of Pingvellir National Park.

Slept for most of the short journey back to Manchester, though from my window seat I did get to see some of Scotland’s hills and dales. I was back in Hebden Bridge mid afternoon. I always used to finish a travel journey diary with Milo or Tilly was there to greet our arrival home. This time I was met with 4 stuffed clowns and a family of knitted hedgehogs – different, yes?

A week with R&S

The morning after my birthday Anna left to travel around Belgium with an old friend of mine from college days who now operates his own tour company, and then to visit a friend of hers in Denmark. We were heading out for the Big Sing in a rainy Piece Hall in Halifax. There was a tradition dating back 100 years that up to 1000 school children would gather in the Piece Hall and sing together at Whitsuntide. Since the reopening of the renovated Piece Hall in August 2017 many historical event have been recreated there and this was just one of many. 600 children had been taught songs which some of them had supplied the words for, and the lyrics had been set to music by members of the Calderdale Music Trust.IMG_5141The girls had been given the opportunity to spend a night on Nicola’s canal boat and were very excited by the prospect. She warned them about the pitfalls – being woken by cackling geese or crowing roosters but they seemed to sleep through all the commotion. We spent the next day driving around the tops, having lunch at Brosters Farm shop with an amazing view out over Halifax, and stopped for refreshments at the Wetherspoons in Brighouse which is located in a church – a Methodist church at that! But its a lovely idea, and the organ is still in place in the gallery.


Next stop was Saddleworth Moor to see the memorial to Keith Bennett who, at the age of 12, was one of victims of the Moors Murderers, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady. I recall sitting on a swing in a park in Tockholes, as a 8 year old, looking out onto the moors and wondering if the moors that I could see were the same ones on which the murderers buried their victims. I don’t ever recall being on Saddleworth Moor before, and its very beauty somehow made the crimes even more disturbing. IMG_5172We drove next to Lumbutts. My mum had mentioned Mankinholes Youth Hostel to me many times. I’m not sure if she had stayed there or was just intrigued by the name! We stopped at the Top Brink pub for a drink and then crossed the street to see the grave of Abraham and Mary Wrigley. Abraham was my great, great, great, great uncle. His daughter, Mary, died aged 13. One of his sons, John, emigrated to New Zealand in 1863. It seems almost incomprehensible to move from Todmorden to New Zealand at that date. A lot  the information I have about that side of my ancestry comes from a distant relative who I ‘met’ through She lives in New Zealand, and sent me some photos of the Wrigleys.

449b1ce7-58f5-4821-8c51-102e1073e0e8This is Abraham, who is buried at Lumbutts and his son, John who emigrated to New Zealand.

Next morning Sarah wanted to revisit Bridestones rocks which we had visited together last summer. Outcrops of millstone grit are common on the hilltops in this area and you can have a great time conjuring up faces and dragons in their weird and wonderful shapes. It was a lovely clear day but quite windy.

IMG_5244In the evening Sarah and I went to explore Widdop Moor and reservoir. There’s a bus out to this remote spot that just runs on summer weekends, but I’d not been on it so since we had a car it was the perfect time to go on a recce. We timed our evening drive just right for some great light. We walked across the dam and a little way along one side of the reservoir.

Next morning I bought a printer and DVD player, making use of the car to transport them home, and then we had lunch in the Loom Cafe at Dean Clough mill. We went to see the amazing lego model of what was once one of the largest mills in the world, and the largest carpet factory in the world. I think my Auntie Lil worked there. Sarah managed to find in the visitors’ book her comments from our visit last year. IMG_5279Then it was a clamber up the 369 steps to the top of Wainhouse Tower. It’s only open a few day each year so this was a first for me too. We all received a certificate to commemorate our visit. IMG_6335

IMG_6329 (1)IMG_5288IMG_5743Mr Wainhouse built many houses for the people who worked in his dye works. Not content with climbing one tower we hurried on to Heptonstall where the church tower was supposed to be open for the public to view. As far I can gather this is a very rare occurrence and there were several people who’d lived in the village for 20 years and had never climber the tower. I’m not surprised! The health and safety people in the US would never, NEVER, have allowed us up. By the time we got to the top we had to climber through a window and then clamber onto the roof itself. It was wonderful – even though I’m not particularly comfortable with heights. Looking down onto the graveyard where my great, great, great, great grandparents are buried and onto the village where they lived for several generations was a wonderful experience. Our guide explained the workings of the bells and the clock too.


Hanging on for dear life!

IMG_6347 (2)It just happened that David from Lily hall was taking the tour too and he invited us back to Lily Hall. Now all the girls have stepped inside the building where, in 1842,  Elizabeth Ann had a child with the young man next door, after her husband had died from ‘alpaca wool poisoning’, thereby connecting my family with the Wrigley family (some of whom emigrated to New Zealand, and others who built a lot of buildings in Hebden Bridge, including the one I’m living in).



View from Lily Hall

We joined people, and doggies,  for drinks in the beer garden at The Cross to complete a wonderful day out.

Next morning we were off bright and early to catch coffee morning at St Paul’s in Astley Bridge, the church and day school  where my dad was raised. It took a little over an hour to drive there, whereas on the one time I took public transport it took me 4 hours each way! We were welcomed with open arms and spent a lovely hour looking round the church where my great grandad was organist and choir master for 35 years, and chatting to Sylvia. Of all the people I know, she ‘gets’ my move back to England. She spent 46 years in South Africa before moving back to England about 10 years ago. IMG_5334

There’s a stained glass window of St Cecilia dedicated to my great grandad, but his grave marker has fallen over, and has been that way for several years, though I have photos of it before it fell over.


Outside St Paul’s

Just a couple of minutes’ drive took us to All Souls where my great uncle on my mum’s side of the family was a bell ringer. There’s a large photo of my great grandparents, John and Maria Hill in their history display. I wear her wedding ring.

We had lunch in their little cafe before going up to Affetside for our second visit. Just as last June when Sarah and I visited, Geoffrey Bond was mowing the grass outside the little church. He must be in his 90’s by now. When I attended the Sunday school, which doubled as my elementary school for the rest of the week, Geoffrey played the organ. I once sand a solo at the sermons. I was probably around 8 years old. We chatted to Geoffrey and just as last year the church was open. It’s very strange to stand in a place like that which I knew intimately and try and put myself back to that age. I went to school there from age 5 to 11. I remembered the cupboard where the books were kept, the view out of the window, where I stood to sing my solo! and where the headmaster sat at lunchtime. There was no break  fro the two teachers in a two roomed school!


We took a little stroll down Black Lane. There wild flowers were amazing. I don’t remember them being so vibrant and prolific when I lived there. I suppose I just didn’t notice them.IMG_6340 (2)


I was very, very tempted to abduct the ‘Affetside’ sign laying by the old cross!

Next to Holcombe Tower, built to commemorate Holcombe’s famous son, Robert Peel, founder of the ‘bobbies’, ‘peelers’, or to the uninitiated – the police force and prime minister. As a child it used to be a long long way to the top. These days we seem to be able to get up the hill in no time at all. The views are well worth it, for this is the start of the Pennine mountain range that runs along the backbone of England.



Atop Holcombe Moor

We spent the next day at Saltaire where a former mill, processing alpaca wool, was founded by titus Salt, using the power of the River Aire. It’s now a wonderful museum (all free, of course), set of galleries, including some devoted to the works of David Hockney, cafes and shops. Salt built an entire town for his employees – schools, churches, hospitals, houses – and I believe that one of my ancestors lived in a house there, though recently I have begun to have doubts about the veracity of that particular line of research. Must add it to my ‘things to do list.’

Our final day together in England was a day of furious packing, Sarah for her return to San Francisco and Rachel and I for our 5 night get-away to Iceland. We did manage to set aside a few hours for a hike into Hardcastle Crags, where Gibson Mill’s cafe, which is totally off the grid, wasn’t able to offer us tea because it hadn’t been sunny enough to generate the necessary power. Darn it. Had to settle for a beer instead!


“Sit on it, sit on it!”

My birthday celebrations



Anna arrived a few days before her sisters, and we were all together for my birthday.

We took a lovely walk along the tops from Pecket Well to Mytholmroyd and then back along the Rochdale canal.


IMG_4892The girls brought me lots of family photos that I’d not had room for in my boxes when I moved to England. We had fun in Stubbings Wharf looking at the old photos.

IMG_4896Shopping featured high on their ‘to do’ list. We went to explore Blackburn market one morning.

Another day we drove along the tops and enjoyed the views of Hebden Bridge  from Heptonstall.


pikeWe climbed up to Stoodley Pike from my apartment. It was very windy at the top.

For my birthday treat we went to see Sarah Millican’s stand up comedy show at the Victoria Theatre in Halifax, stopping in at the Square Chapel for a bite to eat before the performance.

On my  birthday we’d come up with a plan to go to Turton and Affetside. I was married at Turton church and so were my parents. We presumed it would be locked so you can imagine our excitement when we saw that the door was open and a few cars were in the drive. As we approached I could hear a choir singing ‘Eternal father strong to save’ which is usually sung ‘for those in peril on the sea.’ I though perhaps there was a funeral

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in progress, so we quietened down, and found ourselves in a crowded room at the back of the church, set up with tables and chairs amply garnished with tea and scones. At that moment the whole room erupted in the singing of Happy Birthday. I couldn’t believe it! The girls and I all burst into tears. We were looked at by the assembled mass as if we’d come from another planet! It soon became apparent that it was someone else’s birthday – and the tea party was a fund raiser for the National Lifeboat Institute! As soon as I explained our presence one of the churchwardens took it upon himself to show us

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round. I was invited to play the organ. The girls were coerced into singing along to All Things Bright and Beautiful, and then the marriage register was brought out from the vestry and I could actually touch my signature that I wrote on August 26th, 1978. IMG_5096Outside St Anne’s, Turton. I recently used the grotesque in my new quilt. I often create a quilt at a major change in my life and my move to Hebden Bridge last autumn was no exception. gro

Next stop was Affetside, the tiny village, no more than a hamlet really, where I was born and lived until I went to college.

Hilda Denton at Affetside Rose Queen - 1960 001

My mum walking in the village Rose Queen walk, around 1958. She’s wearing the outfit she wore for her wedding.

Babywith second bungalow

Me, 1956, in my 3 1/2 acre field!

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My mum digging out in the winter of 1954. She’s pregnant with me.


That photo of my mum is now on the wall in The Pack Horse, Affetside. How it got there is a complete and utter mystery! We all went to share a moment with my mum for my birthday.

My old house now looks like this. It used to look that that (with our turquoise Land Rover – ex army – outside).


Walking up the lane to the village. My old school is on the right


Walking down the lane with my mum in 1992. Nothing much has changed!


The Holcombe hunt were frequent visitors to our fields.


Same view today! My dad and I planted these trees. He bought one thousand one inch trees. Now they form a beautiful arch over the ‘drive’ which has recently been paved.

This was the view from my bedroom window – except that the trees hadn’t grown so tall when I lived there.

Next stop was to go and say hello to my mum. We’d made an appointment at the cemetery and we were shown to the grave. She’s buried with her parents.


In the evening we drove out towards Haworth to catch a wonderful sunset and were the only customers at The Friendly in Stanbury. What an amazing day!!!!