U.S Route 66 was one of the original highways across America. The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in the United States, originally ran from Chicago to Santa Monica. I’ve travelled many of its desert stretches in New Mexico, Arizona and California. It was recognized in popular culture by both the hit song “Get your kicks on Route 66” and in John Steinbeck’s classic American novel, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), the road “Highway 66” symbolized escape and loss. Several of these facts were to come in to play on my hike today but I didn’t know that when I set off.
A coupe of months ago went I was walking along the towpath I’d reached yet another closed section and I chatted to a couple of guys along the trail. “Oh, you can bypass the closed section by taking a track leading from the back of Mytholmroyd train station.” I wrote this down on my ‘places to walk’ list when I got home that day. So this was the day I decided to see if their info was correct.
In Mytholmroyd I found my ‘new’ track easily. Over the past couple of months I’d been trying to see it from the train but I only caught glimpses of it through the trees.
It turned out to be a cycle track that runs (should that be ‘pedals’ ) from Manchester to Hull – that’s virtually coast to coast. This section follows the train track very closely. I noticed that some of the retaining walls are made from railway sleepers.
Occasionally a train passed by with only one or two passengers aboard. The path was very straight and very flat which made a change from the other walks I’ve been doing all week. There were several families with baby buggies enjoying the beautiful Spring day. Suddenly I came to a rather odd plinth with ‘Williams’ engraved. The design looked quite avant garde and was around 5ft high. Quite a puzzle.
Eventually I came out of the woods and realised where I was. I was at the old school house which I’d admired from the canal and the bus for two years and always wondered how to reach it! It’s a very imposing building, now sectioned into apartments, with an attached manse, but though I can find lots of ads online for the apartments I’ve not been able to discover anything about its history. I think I’ll have to put a message on Facebook to the Mytholmroyd History page. It’s been very useful in similar instances.
Across the valley I could see Brearley Hall where Branwell Brontee rented a place to live and an ancestor of mine did the same.
Having walked 3.5 miles I decided to stop and have my picnic, choosing a sheltered spot by the river and while I ate the geese kept me entertained. I’d brought my art supplies but hadn’t found a good place to sit and draw, so I headed back.
I noticed a stone post by the path, close to the railway bridge, which I hadn’t noticed on my outward journey. on closer observation it looked ancient, but it bore the carving of a skeleton and some words, hard to decipher but Murder was definitely one of them.
When I got home I discovered the story behind this plinth and the one I’d seen earlier. My thanks to VisitCalderdale.com for a succinct story of the Cragg Vale Coiners. I didn’t know the story until I read The Gallows Pole by local writer Ben Myers.
The apparent tranquillity of Mytholmroyd belies a murky past involving an 18th century counterfeiting gang, the ‘Cragg Vale Coiners’. This gang’s activities were said to be so damaging that they threatened to wreck Britain’s currency.
David Hartley learnt his trade as an ironworker in Birmingham, before getting into trouble and moving back to Mytholmroyd to escape the authorities. Once returned to his home at Bell House farmhouse (which is now a bed & breakfast accommodation with educational facilities) David used ironworking as a cover to clip or file the edges from gold coins, milling the edges back so the change was all but unnoticeable, and making counterfeit coins from the shavings whilst returning the clipped coins into circulation.David’s activities soon spread to other farms, with families at nearby Hill Top Farm and Keelham Farm soon becoming involved; forming the beginnings of the gang of Cragg Vale Coiners. Local publicans also helped by placing the counterfeit coins into circulation. David Hartley seems to have been an enigmatic leader, becoming known as ‘King David’ Hartley and the gang’s numbers grew considerably until well over 30 individuals were involved.
Rumours of the gang’s activities reached the authorities, who sent an excise man named William Deighton to investigate. One of the coiners turned King’s Evidence and betrayed the gang, leading to Hartley’s arrest at an Inn in Halifax on 14th October 1769. Hartley’s brother Isaac offered £100 to anybody who would kill Deighton. It is alleged that the plotters planned Deighton’s murder at an Inn in Mytholmroyd called Barbary’s, which is now gone, but was located on the opposite side of the road to the present day Dusty Miller. On November 10th 1769 at Bull Close Lane near Halifax, Deighton was approached by two men, Matthew Normanton and Robert Thomas. Deighton was shot dead, his body also showing signs of having been stamped on. Just days later, the Government offered a reward of £100 for information leading to the arrest of the murderers and a pardon for anybody, bar the killers, who would turn King’s Evidence.Over 30 people were subsequently arrested, including ‘King David’ Hartley, who was sentenced to death on April 6th 1770 and hanged at Tyburn, near York, on April 28th. His body is buried in the graveyard of the village of Heptonstall, above Hebden Bridge. Robert Thomas was acquitted of Deighton’s murder, but was later hanged in 1774 for being a highwayman. Matthew Normanton initially fled the authorities, but was later caught and hanged in 1775. Isaac Hartley was never brought to trial due to a lack of evidence and died in 1815, aged 78.
A few days later I got some more information about the Coiners and the monument: There is a carving of the skeleton which appears in the attached 1769 document. The quote “A Full and true Account of a barbarous bloody and inhuman murder” also comes from some document or book. Below that is a carving of one of the dies used to stamp the clipped coin and is a Portuguese moidore. On another face of the stone is a pair of shears for clipping the coin and on another face I think it is a file.
As I passed Mytholmroyd station a train drew up to the deserted platform. No-one got on and no-one got off. I immediately thought of Adelstrop. As a child I was sent to elocution lessons which initially took place in a room above the Coop in the centre of Bolton. My teacher was Mrs Dora Monks. As I progressed through the Royal College exams I also progressed to my lessons being held at her home. It felt like a mansion to me. The door was opened by a maid in. a maid’s uniform and I was shown first into the cloakroom and then into the study overlooking the main road. Adelstrop was the name of a poem and on a trip to Gloucestershire I visited Adelstrop in memory of the poem. It’s about a journey Edward Thomas took on 24 June 1914, during which his train briefly stopped at the now-closed station.
“Yes. I remember Mytholmroyd— The name, because one afternoon Of heat the express-train drew up there Unwontedly. It was late March.
The rails rattled. Someone cleared his throat. No one left and no one came On the bare platform. What I saw Was Mytholmroyd—only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass, And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry, No whit less still and lonely fair Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang Close by, and round him, mistier, Farther and farther, all the birds Of West Yorkshire’s Calder Valley”
(with apologies to Edward Thomas)
After my 7.1 mile stroll I taught my first online lessons of the present crisis and in the evening I tuned in to ‘Meet the Richardsons’. To my surprised I found that I featured in Episode 2. Last Spring I’d attended the annual Dock Pudding world championship in Mytholmroyd and the person who presented the winner’s trophy was someone I recognised from 8 out of 10 cats – Jon Richardson. I later discovered that he lives in Mytholmroyd and the series is filmed in his home there and in Hebden Bridge. I’d noticed the big movie cameras filming the event but thought nothing of it – until now. Here I am sitting watching ‘me’ in the audience!
So, returning to my first paragraph: Route 66 was one of the original highways across America. The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in the United States, originally ran from Chicago to Santa Monica. (A postcard arrived from Chicago yesterday from Rachel). I’ve travelled many of its desert stretches in New Mexico, Arizona and California. (I travelled 7.1 miles of it today in West Yorkshire) It was recognized in popular culture by both the hit song “Get your kicks on Route 66” (I appeared in a popular culture TV series) and in John Steinbeck’s classic American novel, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), the road “Highway 66” symbolized escape and loss. (very applicable to our present situation)
Pennine Horizons has a series of online guided walks. There’s a map which tracks your progress so you can see where you are and at various points you stop and listen to a description of what’s in front of you – it’s history primarily. So off I went, bound for Jumble Hole. I’d been to this steep valley with its mill ruins once before, in 2016. This is what I’d written about that day:
“A Lazy Day in Lumb – July 6, 2016
I’m sitting in the 700 year old Hebden Bridge Mill having tea (Yorkshire tea from Harrogate, of course) and chocolate shortbread. I’ve just hiked from my mill to the tiny village of Colden through the historic Colden Valley, a place full of evidence of man’s impact on the landscape during the industrial revolution, and the use those mills buildings, waterways, cobbled packhorse trails and stone foot tracks are being put to today. I’m now getting used to hikes that claim to be flat and are ‘suitable for any reasonable fit person.’ They are, in fact, never flat and often involve going up and down hillsides that are so steep that they require steps. At times I found myself high above Colden Beck looking down on an almost vertical hillside where trees and ferns cling to life in places that the sun never ever reaches. I passed the two chimneys of Upper and Lower Lumb mill rising like giant monoliths to some long-forgotten god of the forest. I tried to conjure up the ghosts of the people whose clogs have worn grooves into the steps and stones on which I’m sitting. Above the mill I passed over the dam which once held in the mill pond but now it only holds reeds. The clapper bridge was unusual in it being 2 stones wide, and lucky for me an iron rail has been added 🙂 I wasn’t too keen on the gap between the stones through which I could see the raging torrent.
“Brave dreams and their mortgaged walls are let rot in the rain.
And the nettle venoms into place
Like a cynical old woman in the food-queue.
And the sycamore, cut through at the neck,
Grows five or six head, depraved with life.
Before these chimneys can flower again
They must fall into the only future, into earth.”
(from ‘Lumb Chimneys’ by Ted Hughes)
Coming out of the dense forest lining the valley I now found myself on ‘t tops. I’d looked up the New Delight pub, Colden’s main claim to fame, so I already knew that it was closed from 3-5 pm. I hadn’t copied down the return path directions and I didn’t much fancy the idea of trying to follow my outward direction backwards so I found a bus stop by the campsite, with a timetable, and waited 20 minutes for a zippy bus, being entertained by watching all the parents coming to pick up their children from Colden school. “
I followed the road from Stubbings Wharf to Underbank since the canal towpath had been closed since the February flooding. For 200 years Stubbings Wharf has catered to traffic on both sides, the turnpike road to Todmorden on one side and the canal bargemen on the otherI once went to a meeting of the Ted Hughes society in the upper room but I had no idea until I listened to the audio guide today that ’40 years before Hughes was born his grandfather was pulled drunk from the canal and proceeded to spend the rest of the even ing wrapped in a sheet singing contentedly to anyone who would care to listen.’ It’s a place I always take family and friends when they come to visit. Above Jumble Hole is the tiny community of Winters (which most people I’d spoken to in Hebden Bridge hadn’t heard of, it’s so small) which I’d explored for the first time in November. Once of my ancestors once kept a beer house there – see Winters blog post.
I elected not to take this steep cobbled path that this person was walking down with a cup of tea in hand! He lives at the house on the left.
I’d taken my painting supplies with me for the first time today and I soon found a large fallen gatepost to perch on and happily sat for 45 minutes painting with the watercolour pens Anna had sent me for Christmas, and having a lovely picnic of Wesleydale cheese with cranberries and with apricots. I was surrounded by ruins of mills and houses and the background music was the rushing of the river which powered the mill. I listened to the audio commentary. In the early 19th century Jumble hole was an industrial centre with four large mills and several houses. I’m a little confused as to which mill I was sitting in – Jumble or Staups, but I thin it was Jumble.
As I was sitting a couple of vans went up the road and so after my picnic I set off to see where the road led. After a very steep section with loose gravel I realised I wasn’t going to be able to come down this same path. Just at that moment a lady was coming down the path and I verified that this path led to Winters. She told me that the really slippery section was only for a short time and that soon I’d find myself on a cobbled track that had be recently cleared of debris, and this led to Winters. once I knew that I was fine.
Erringden Grange, on Kilnshaw Lane above Hebden Bridge, is an early 19th century listed farmhouse and barn. (Erringden thought to be of Norse origin “The valley of the high ridge”). It also has numerous adjacent fields with rectangular field patterns, as well as an old Hawthorn hedge now in need of some care and new saplings for continuity. But what makes the fields unique in the Calder Valley are the small diamond shaped enclosures at all the wall intersections. There are (or were) about 50 of these enclosures shown on the OS map of 1849 and each contains planted trees of mainly Beech and Sycamore. These trees are possibly over 180 years old.
My usual modus operandi on my hikes from my front door is to catch a bus on t’ th’ tops and hike from there. But these are not normal times and so, after several days of 6-7 mile hikes I decided to go ‘up first.’ A couple of days ago I’d walked down from Jack bridge so today I started from my front door and walked up to Jack bridge. The only time I’d done the walk this way round was the first time I ever did it, in 2017, when I was in England for the summer, and I’d followed a footpath pamphlet which had little indication of the climb involved. And I have to say I was actually surprised that it took me about the same time to walk up as it does to walk down. You get a different view and I saw things that I’d not noticed before.
Eventually after about an hour I came out of the woods, passed Hudson Mill where my ancestor Sunderland had lived (see a former blog) and found myself opposite the New Delight pub, which, of course, is closed. A couple of weeks ago I used its name in a new song I wrote for the Hebden Bridge Little Theatre choir.
The rest of my hike would be along paved roads. The little zippy bus was parked on Smithy Lane at the turnaround and for a few moments I considered getting on it to go back down the hill but I was in no hurry to get home so I continued walking. In front of my was Edge Lane where I’d explored for the first time a couple of days ago. Now I could see exactly where my route had taken me, passed Spinks House. A little further along I passed an old building, The Smithy, now a private dwelling. i’d never thought of Smithy Lane as being where the blacksmith’s was once located. Up until now it had simply been a bus destination.
I passed Edge Hey Green where a row of cottage was once divided from the outdoor toilet by the road. Last year I’d made a textile panel of one of the toilet outbuildings for my ‘doors’ project.
Wooden huts for the workers were built at Whitehill Nook, just below Draper Lane in Heptonstall/Slack and it became quickly known as Dawson City, after the Klondike city. I’ve been fascinated by this story since first seeing photos of the shanty town in the White Swan in Heptonstall on my summer visits to the area. By the time of the 1901 census, when Willie Wrigley was staying at the Pack Horse, Widdop, ten of the workers’ huts were occupied. Wives and children moved here with their husbands and soon the impact was felt in the local community. The Board School, built by my ancestors, of course, could not accommodate the extra children and so a spare room in the school master’s house was brought into service for the additional thirty children that came from Dawson City. Sanitation in the new city was obviously going to be a major problem and even as early as February 1901 two cases of typhoid had been removed from the shanty town to the Fielden hospital in Todmorden. In 1903 smallpox broke out. The navies were required to keep their children off school. Smallpox victims were taken to the isolation hospital at Sourhall close to Todmorden and vaccinations were given and a field hospital was built at Dawson city being constructed rom a tent and capable of caring for 14 patients. But in October 1903 it blew down in a gale. In all there were 60 cases of smallpox in the Hebden Bridge and Todmorden area, but only one patient died. In 1909 a woman, Mrs Edgar Harwood, fell from the bridge after going ‘for a stroll to admire the view.’ She was well known in Hebden Bridge and ran a dressmaking a millinery business under the name Townsend (her maiden name I think) and Milnes.
This area is set back from the main road and was one of the earliest major settlements in the town, dating back to the early 19th century. It was known as High street because of its elevation, not for its commercial prominence. Even on a totally dry day I find the steep cobbles between the steps very difficult to negotiate. The former mill itself is a three storey building on the main road, which I’d never noticed until today.
I posted the photo of Cuckoo Mill steps on the Hebden Bridge photo page and I was very surprised how many interesting comments it generated:
Ran up and down those steps many times as a child, remember when they filmed the movie 39 steps?
Hauled myself up those steps all through my pregnancy in 1980, kept me very fit
I had actually forgotten them til I saw this pic
I used to hate having to walk up them steps. 😂
I wish I had a pound for every time I have run up there!
Every time I take the 901 towards Huddersfield I think to myself as the bus climbs up a very steep valley through Cragg Vale ‘wouldn’t it be interesting to walk down this road? I’d see more.’ So today i set out to do just that. Actually to be honest, I didn’t. When I put my coat on to set off my goal was to take the bus to the very top of Cragg Vale and walk from Sykes Gate to Sowerby, a hike a took a few weeks ago for the first time. But on entry into the street there was a bitingly cold wind and the blister on my toe was making itself felt, so an 8 mile hike along th’ tops didn’t seem such a good idea. I was unsure if the bus would show up but it did and it w whisked me up the road proudly claims to be the longest continual ascent in England. 968 feet of climbing in 5.5 miles.
I knew from riding the bus that some of the roadway has no sidewalk but I did find these two happy people showing me where I should walk!
The view down the valley is superb and in this time of uncertainty I thanked my lucky stars that I live in such a beautiful place. I followed the Elphin brook for a little while and then came to a holiday let which Sarah told me about recently. I went onto the drive to take a photo of the view and a lady came out of the fairly new cottage. She is the owner and invited me in to show me one of the three adjoining cottages – very nicely appointed.
I decided on a whim to take a little detour down to the river where St John’s church and the Hinchcliffe Arms pub are located. The church has a rather odd name – St John’s in the Wilderness. I noticed a recent notice taped to the door about the current emergency, so St John’s isn’t so much in the wilderness as it would like to be.
There are several documentary films about Saville, whom my mum believed she met on a cycling holiday when she was in the 20’s. Just across from the church is the Hinchcliffe Arms, obviously now closed but I used the picnic tables outside for a good place to have my picnic and consult my map. Apparently Saville used to park his camper van in the pub car park.
I decided to take a wander up a narrow lane and I soon found myself facing Cragg Hall, which I remembered visiting on a drive around the area a few months ago. Again, I was struck by the thought of what an area for me to live in where I can see these beautiful buildings and can walk back to my home.
I’d passed the ruins of a mill on the main road and now, in the trees, I could see an old mill chimney. I’d never associated Cragg Vale with industry. I’d just though of it as an old handloom weaver’s community suspended in time.
I saw a sign pointing to the Coiners’ Barn, but it wasn’t an official sign and there was no indication of distance but I was enjoying myself so I followed the sign. Last year I’d read The Gallows Pole by Ben Myers, who lives in Hebden Bridge. It’s the story of the Cragg Vale coiners, a band of counterfeiters who produced fake gold coins in the late 18th century to supplement small incomes from weaving. It was a very very vivid book given to graphic violence in places but even more than the storyline I was fascinated by the historical references, especially about the new enclosure laws that were appearing around the same time. I immediately read all his other books!
The road I was following had been paved but obviously from the recent flooding there were a lot of dangerous potholes, even sink holes. I realised that this was the way Sarah and I had approached Stoodley Pike on our vacation here in 2017, wanting to find the shortest path up to the tower. Today the car park at the reservoir was packed and cars were parked along the lane but people were far and few between, there being so many paths and open ground.
At the end of the dam is the imposing building of Pasture, the only farm building remaining of the 15 that once were scattered along Withins Clough. It looked inviting to walk around the reservoir. A sign showed that it’s only 2.5 Km around but:
‘I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep’
Photos of things I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t been walking
Find an area I’ve been wanting to explore for a while
I’ve been marking on my OS all the hikes I’ve taken over the last 2 years – in pink
Mark all the hikes I take in this moment of global crisis – in purple
Take photos of quirky things
Cv look-alikes in nature
Somewhere in my ancestry research I had seen mentioned Edge Lane, Colden. In fact on my OS I have ringed some buildings on Edge Lane in pencil. And whenever I’ve taken the bus to Blackshaw Head I’ve passed Edge Lane and thought ‘I should get off the bus here sometime and explore.’ So today was the day. But with over 9000 people in my family tree now I simply can’t remember the connection with Edge Lane, though I seem to recall it was a school or chapel.
I got off the bus, at Edge Lane intending to walk up for a half a mile or so, then return back to the main road and walk down Hudson Mill Road back down to Hebden. This was my first time on an Access bus, smaller than the usual zippy bus, and a reflection of the lack of customers.
Edge Lane follows a contour line and so there’s little up and down hill which made it easy to walk. Though the paved section finished quite early it remained a real bridleway, clearly marked and mostly between well maintained walls. On both sides occasional farms were scattered but these were greatly outnumbered by fields of sheep. Several farmers were using the good weather day to repair fences, rebuild walls and some were on quad bikes, delivering food to the sheep.
For a mile or so four people on horses were a little way in front of me which gave me confidence to continue straight ahead. I did meet a couple of hikers and I chatted to check my route. At one time a couple of bicycles were slowed down by the horses in front.
Again, like yesterday I found that people were far more friendly than usual. It’s not uncommon for me to walk along the canal and pass 20 or so people who don’t even smile or say hello. I wonder if it’s the fact that everyone is currently having to adjust to the new restrictions – ‘we’re all in this together’ kind of attitude.
I saw a couple of footpath signs pointing to Gorple reservoir and asked a couple of walkers if the track ahead was well trodden and easy to find. I was assured that it was, so I kept on going. I wasn’t going to go off on any barely visible paths but I’d stick to a clearly marked one. At one point I passed a ruined farm that’s undergoing major restoration. It’s name New Edge Farm made me smile. If that was new Edge farm I wondered what Old edge farm must look like!
Suddenly i crested the ridge and there before me was not one reservoir but 4, Gorple being the closest. In all directions I could only see one building and after consulting my map I realised that the building was the Pack Horse, Widdop. Of course, like all the pubs in England now it is closed. Voted the most scenic pub in Britain for 2004, this converted and whitewashed 17th century laithe farmhouse is known locally as ‘The Ridge’. Set in a beautiful and remote location close to the Pennine Way, it stands at a height of 298 metres above sea level, affording spectacular moorland views. I’d been there twice before in sept 2018 when I was researching Willie Wrigley, my colourful second cousin three times removed! I wrote a blog about him: http://blog.hmcreativelady.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=7462&action=edit
On the night of the census, March 31, 1901 Willie, an architect, spent the night in this remote inn. I was beyond surprised to see this in from this vantage point. I sat down for a few minutes to consult my map and during that time I saw smoke beginning to appear from the moorland above the inn. There was no point heading over to the inn since it was closed but this would make a great walk when things get back to normal.
As I retraced my steps back along Edge Lane to Jack Bridge I took photos of ‘cv’ reminders in nature. I even met a lady with a crazy hat that reminded me of cv cells! I followed the main road to The New Delight, also closed, and headed off down Hudson Mill Road. I’ve hiked this road maybe 6 times during the last two years. It takes about an hour to get home from there.
I joined the canal back in Hebden and popped into the Coop to buy some more fresh food. although some shelves were empty I was still able to buy fresh fruit and veg. When I turned on the telly later there were accounts of people waiting in queues of up to 50 people to get into supermarkets.
I was the only person on the platform at Hebden Bridge station, something I don’t ever remember seeing before. The train to Leeds was virtually empty with only 2 other people in my compartment. It’s only an 8 minute ride to Sowerby Bridge and again the weather was bright and sunny. My initial idea was to walk from Brighouse to Sowerby but that felt a little too far this morning so I changed it to a 7 miler.
I was amazed how many people were walking along the towpath. I’ve never seen so many, mostly with their dogs. In particular there were many men. These two, who were running a dog walking service were happy to pose for a photo.
The canal passes close to the village of Copley and I decided to go and take another look. I think I’ve been there 3 times before. the last time was in May last year and I took a photo of the church door which I then used as inspiration for a textile project. It wasn’t until I was doing some online research for this post that I discovered that the Copley Conservation area use the very same photo for their cover photo.
Copley was a built as a model village by Colonel Edward Ackroyd in the Calder Valley to the south of Halifax. He also built Ackroyden where All Souls church is. He bought a disused mill on the banks of the River Calder in 1844, demolished it and built a larger mill that was completed in 1847. To house his workforce Akroyd built a “model industrial settlement” of 112 back-to-back houses in three terraces with shops at the end. The first houses, described by Pevsner, as built in a “picturesque Pennine Vernacular” style were completed in 1849. They have two bedrooms and had “privies” in the front gardens. Rents proved to be high and the next two terraces were built more cheaply. Another row of through houses, one room deep, was built in 1865 after the back-to-backs were criticised in an article in The Builder.[
To attract and retain a workforce outside the urban area of Halifax, Akroyd provided not only houses but built a school, library and reading room, a co-operative store, the parish church, a recreation ground and cricket club and promoted the savings bank, burial and clothing clubs, allotment gardens and the horticultural and floral society.[ The school was built in 1849 and a year later a library. Akroyd also paid for much of the cost of St Stephen’s Church which was built between 1861 and 1865 on the opposite side of the river to the designs of W. H. Crossland. Copley predated Saltaire which Titus Salt built for his workers. The architect was Crossland, a pupil of George Gilbert Scott.
I headed back under the immense Copley viaduct which carries the railway line to Brighouse and beyond. These two gentlemen walking along the towpath looked equipped for climbing the high peaks of England
Continuing my photos of corona virus related items:
I ended my journey at Sowerby Bridge railway station which, besides being where Branwell Bronte worked, sports the (now closed) Jubilee Tea Rooms which has the distinction of being the only pub I’ve ever been thrown out of! I haver a fridge magnet to commemorate the occasion.
Every so often I’ll read a novel, become engrossed by it, and then read other books by the same author: recent examples being Benjamen Myers and Sebastien Faulks whose books I picked up at random, usually in free book swaps. But I don’t read a lot of fiction. Last week I was reading Ranulph Fiennes autobiography in preparation for going to see him but who knows whether this event will take place now.
Last week I was browsing in a second hand book store in Todmorden and my eye alighted on a book by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. But next to it was a book – How to be a failure and succeed. It was the author’s name that attracted my attention – Sir Ernest Hall and I realised that it had been written by the father of someone I know who I’d met in a creative writing class in Hebden Bridge. I’d been invited to spent Christmas Eve with her family in a wonderful old hall dating from the 17th century. In one room was a grand piano. The book shop was closed and when I went again the following week although the shop was open the window display had changed.
It’s one of those wonderful old book stores where the assistant sits on a stool surrounded by battered boxes overflowing with books. I explained my mission, talked briefly about ‘the virus’ and its impact on small businesses, and was told that if they could locate it they’d call me. On the very day I finished the Fiennes book Sir Ernest Hall’s book arrived in the post. Quickly scanning the chapters I learned he grew up in the same town as me, Bolton, that his father worked in the same cotton mill as my mum and her dad, Swan Lane Mill, that his father had the same job in that mill as my grandad!
Then Ernest went on to study piano at the Northern College of Music in Manchester. I couldn’t believe the parallels between his life and mine and I called his daughter to share the story, and she called him to tell him! Over the following few days as I read about the similarities of his school experiences to mine I became absorbed in the book. He’d mention districts and streets that I knew well as a child.
Coming from a tiny village school in Affetside where there were 30 children in the entire school, divided into two classrooms and entering a large school with over 750 students when I was 11 was so overwhelming for me that i never came to terms with it. Coupled with the fact that for me to get to school each day I had to walk through three fields, usually full of cows, (in my wellies which I then changed for my ‘school shoes’, leaving my wellies in the porch of an obliging lady who lived next to the bus stop) then catch two buses, while many of the girls arrived at school in elegant cars, often driven by nannies.
It had been almost a year since I’d been on The Long Causeway, a road running along the top of the ridge from Blackshaw Head. I’d taken my daughters there and we’d had a grand old time exploring Bridestones, outcrops of millstone grit rocks and boulders which are ½ a mile long. Amongst these rocky outcrops are a number of odd-shaped formations that have been caused by weather-related erosion over thousands, if not millions of years. One huge boulder in particular, known as ‘The Great Bridestone’ is fantastically shaped at its base, looking like an up-turned bottle, as if it might topple over at any moment. There are a number of myths and legends associated with The Bridestones, many of these going back to the mists of time. More recently, perhaps, there are a number of local traditions that have become connected to the place and its many, strange-shaped rocks and boulders. However, today I wasn’t going to explore the stones, which necessitates a diversion from the road.
Again, it was another sunny day, and a couple of times on the hike I felt positively warm! Starting from Blackshaw Head Bridestones can be see in the far distance, it it looked a mighty long way. There were great views over the Calder Valley to Stoodley pike and there were a few newborn lambs enjoying the sunshine too. At one point I decided to take a cart track, clearly marked on my map but it soon petered out into a narrow footpath heading steeply down so I backtracked, something which I don’t like doing, and kept to the road. Very few cars passed, a few bicycles, no other walkers, but someone on a pony came along and then galloped off into a field.
I was taking this walk because of the virus and of course that was on my mind as I took some photos of things in nature that resembled the diagrams of the virus itself which pervades our news screens incessantly at the moment:
I passed several old halls before arriving in the little community of Cross Stones. It’s dominated by a church which can be seen from Todmorden perched high above the town. I have several ancestors buried in the cemetery. There has been a church here since about 1450 and it was built as a Chapel of Ease for Heptonstall Parish to serve the townships of Stansfield and Langfield. A chapel of ease was specifically built for the convenience of those parishoners who could not easily get to the main church. It is built high up on the hills above the Todmorden valley, with wonderful views over the surrounding countryside. But it’s a very steep climb and it must have been quite a task to get a coffin up there on a snowy day in winter. It wouldn’t have been very pleasant for the mourners either, who would probably have had to walk to the graveyard. In recent times the fabric of the building became unsafe and the church was closed and converted to a private house. As I approached I saw a for sale sign – hmmm, church of sale, but no, it was the old school next door that was for sale.
A few years after 1713 a man named Pilling collected £65 from friends in London and with local help as well, he built a schoolhouse near Cross Stone Church. It was maintained by the chapelry and in 1743 the interest on the money made £3 a year, which paid for the free instruction of six poor children. The teacher was the chapelry clerk and he was paid by the parents of the 30-40 schoolchildren for instructing them in reading and writing. A William Greenwood says that he held school on Sunday mornings and up to twenty children attended. They were charged one penny a week. Quills cost half a penny, copy books two pennies, a reading easy was sixpence and “rithmetic” was one shilling and eight pence. The top room housed the school and the bottom served as the jail, whilst the far right hand end of the house was the home of the schoolmaster.
A few gravestones surround the actual church but a large graveyard is across the street and it is still in use. One of the original entrance post is still intact but the other one is prostrate but its cap has been incorporated into the wall.
Close by I came across a ceramic frog in someone’s garden and I took a photo of it for an art project I’m working on. Then just around the corner I saw the following road sign.