Month: July 2016 (Page 1 of 4)


July 2nd, Heptonstall


“The canal sunning slack ripples,

Rusts, useless.

Black chimneys, lopped stump-low for safety,

Sprout willow-herd.

Down Egyptian walls

The voices trickle

Into gleam-black stagnation.

Something that was fingers and

Slavery and religious, reflects sky.

Stone softens,Obsolete despair

Smiles this toothless and senile

Mauve-pink flower.”

Willow-herb by Ted Hughes


A tale of two meetings

Several months ago when planning my trip I’d come across a book by Jean Illingworth describing her childhood in the small village of Sowerby, a mile above Sowerby Bridge. Today we had  arranged to meet and she was to give me a personal guided tour of the town. Since so many of my ancestors were married and baptized in Sowerby Bridge they probably knew Sowerby. They may have lived there.


The wash house in Jean’s old back yard was originally the village’s slaughter house. We saw the iron rings embedded in the flag floor to tether the animals, and some of the red paint on the walls was visible – to disguise the blood spatters! Sowerby

Jean, who worked in the media library at the Halifax  Courier was waiting for me at St Peter’s church after my train and bus journey and immediately we were off, she as eager to share her knowledge as I was to learn about the small town. She’d brought old photos of the center of the town so I could see the destruction of the old buildings in order to make room for 1950s and 1960s ugly buildings. Where the side streets remained intact the place felt very much like Heptonstall. In fact  the relative location of Heptonstall to Hebden Bridge is identical to that of Sowerby and Sowerby Bridge. St Peter’s church is the third to stand on that site and it  was built by a Halifax stonemason called John Wilson and based on Holy Trinity Church in Leeds — opened in Jan 1763 – tower added in 1781. It certainly is unusual architecture for a small northern church. A brand new house totally out of character has recently been built on the main street. Jean is known by everyone in the center of the village and we were able to take a peek into stunning gardens, the village wash house, slaughter house, even a two seater toilet! Jean’s book received accolades from 2 local residents: MP Austin Mitchell (lives at Long Field, Dean Lane) and Sir Ernest Hall who was responsible for the redevelopment of Dean Clough Mills in Halifax. We went to see their homes.
“Congratulations on doing such an important job!”
Sir Ernest Hall

“Brings Sowerby to life, and I love the photos”
Austin Mitchell, MP


Jean and the house in which she was born. Her father delivered her at the fireplace

A council estate was built, shops created and many of the original building subsequently lost their views of the hills. Jean showed me where she was born, where she currently lives and  her schools. Here is the rare Georgian house, Field House, that belonged to the Stansfeld family. Sir Ernest Hall bought the Field House estate in the mid 1980’s but now lives in Lanzarote.

Returning to Sowerby Bridge by bus because I didn’t have the time to walk back down as I would have wished but I got a very nice ham, cranberry and brie sandwich and tea and went to sit by the canal. And then it was time for meeting #2.


Marion Barraclough had come to my attention on Her husband is a Barraclough and we were both tracing the same line of Barracloughs, so she drove over from Burnley with her daughter and grandson and we arranged to meet in the Innovation

Cafe. She’d told me that she’d be instantly recognizable because she has purple hair. It speaks realms that the first woman I approached with purple hair wasn’t Marion! She’d brought some family photos and some paper from her research that she’s been working on for around ten years. She married a Barraclough, and had a son and daughter, and then divorce him and married his brother. They had a son and a daughter too, and they’ve been married for over 20 years. One of her grandsons is just about to go to college in Guilford as a . .  . music major (guitar). She also has twin granddaughters. It transpired that her mother’s family were Waddingtons (same as mine but her family came from Briarfield!). We had a lovely time, and if my Nutton and Barraclough families intersect as I think they do, Marion’s daughter and grandson would be my blood relatives, though distant.


In the evening the Proms were dedicated to David Bowie and had a wonderful anthology of new arrangements of his songs – quite magical.

Keith and I met at 9 a.m. outside the Coop, ready for a day exploring Beverley, a town in East Yorkshire that I’d never been to. Keith’s mother’s family had the surname Beverley and he’s always wanted to visit the town. it took two hours to drive there, in spite of it only being 78 miles. Apart from the driving on the M62 around Leeds the rest of the journey was on much narrower country roads. North Cave and Wallingford were two little tows that looked quite delightful.


Contemporary embroidery

We parked right by the Minster and made that imposing edifice our first call. This parish church looks like a cathedral and the most interesting feature, both inside and out are the many carvings. I asked a docent about one grotesque and we learned that many of the figures are musicians. In fact, Beverley was the center of the Medieval guild of musicians for the north of England. There were at least 39 medieval guilds. What a wonderful coincidence: we’ve got a music connection.



Beverley Minster

We had lunch in a tea shop and then went to wander around the market town. Unlike Hebden Bridge with its unique stores Beverly has all the shops that Keith recognized from Bath. Beverley has always had reputation of being gentile – rather like Harrogate and Bath. There’s little evidence of industry, and it’s surrounded by rolling countryside and cows. In fact just outside the town there’s on open grazing space and we had to wait until a cow crossed the road. Welcome to the North! It seems hard to imagine that the town was once a port, and so had access to many weird and wonderful items from overseas.


IMG_8737 (1)

Sculpture exhibition in the minster

We spent an hour in the ‘Treasure House’ (local history museum) looking through a book about the guilds – not no mention of the musicians guild – and dipping into  Find Your Past for Beverleys from Beverley. Keith began to see the huge scope of his task! We walked to St Martin’s church but we couldn’t find any Beverley tomb-stones there. One of Keith’s relatives had apparently found some on a previous visit. he faced-timed his mom so that she could see what we were seeing.

IMG_8754We had a lot of rain on the drive back and the mist was covering the hilltops but by the time we reached Hebden Bridge the sun was shining and I got some of the best shots of the center of the town with the late afternoon light after the heavy rain. We looked in several estate agents’ windows and then we walked along the canal to Stubbin Wharf and had dinner. We’d had a 12 hour day chatting constantly after not spending time with each other for more than ten years.


Center of Hebden bridge

In the steps of Branwell Brontë

This morning I went on a hike – and, in order to be prepared for rain I took my big backpack, reminding myself not to forget anything from my small day bag. It wasn’t until I was on the bus to Luddenden Foot that the one thing I had forgotten was my iphone, and thence my camera. I wondered for a few minutes if I should continue and do the hike since I wouldn’t have a means of calling for help in an emergency – and the sky was full of wonderful clouds and casting lovely shadows for photos. But, what was one day out of 45? I’d go on the hike and just wouldn’t have any photos, so that’s what I did.

I was using In the Steps of the Brontës book- which had felt like taking coal to Newcastle when I put it in my luggage in California.So today it was Branwell’s turn.

“Three weird sisters

Imbecile silence

Of a stone god

Cut into gravestones

The brother, who tasted the cauldron of thunder


A house

Emptied and scarred black.

In a land

Emptied and scarred black.”

from Haworth Parsonage by Ted Hughes

He’d worked Clerk in charge at the station  in Luddenden foot and though one of the streets is called station road there’s nothing left of the station. He drank at the Lord Nelson pub in Luddenden where I’d  planned to have lunch but it doesn’t open til 4. The climb from Luddenden Foot to Luddenden wasn’t very interesting, just modern housing. But soon I was in the old village, steeply set into the hillside with a church and pub close to the river. In Branwell’s time the pub and a good library upstairs. Unusually the graveyard was across the river from the church, and also surprisingly the church door was open. It felt rather creepy going in. There was a quilt made in commemoration of the Queen’s reign and a notice said that it had been inspired by a similar quilt – in Ullapool (from where I’d sailed to the Outer Hebrides). The path followed Luddenden Brook to the hamlet of Goit Side. The old school is currently for sale. Opposite the school I climbed some steps and set off diagonally crossing a very steep field where the nettles were head high. I got lovely views of open moorland as I continued on to Jerusalem Farm. I’m sure I can recall my mom talking about staying there. It’s now an educational center. I retraced my steps, coming upon a man with his two little children feeding Poppy, the donkey. They gave me some carrots so I could join in – very sweet.


My front garden in Hebden Bridge

Dodging the cars back on the main road in an effort to get to the bus stop was a major obstacle but I got back to Hebden Bridge in time for a late lunch and waited for Keith to arrive from Bath. he’d never been North of Stratford-upon-Avon before so Hebden Bridge must have been quite a culture shock for him. He parked at the Coop and walked onto the canal bridge so that I could see him, and he could see my window . Though he’d tried to book a B and B it turned out to be in Cragg Vale, so off we went to find his place. It was way up on the tops with magnificent views. It was an old farm form the 1700s that had been entirely rebuilt in 1987, by one of the 9 founders of Oracle. His wife was Keith’s host. His

room was lovely, overlooking a field with 2 alpacas! and a truly magnificent bathroom. We made tea and chatted for a while then headed up to Heptonstall for what I think is the most stunning view of Hebden Bridge. We parked at the Top o’t’ town and strolled along the cobbled streets, wandered around the ruined church and had dinner at the White Lion. We found lots to talk about before he dropped me off back in Hebden Bridge.

Hebden Bridge’s night life

Tuesday 5:20 Innovation cafe, Hebden Bridge

IMG_8645.JPGSo a day without plans . .  . From my room I could see an imposing old hall across the valley, a little higher than my building so, around 11 a.m. 9a lazy morning writing up my blog) I headed up New Road which climbed steeply until I came to the hall. Despite the intermittent downpours there was an amazing view from this elevated position and I could just seen the window of my room peeking out between the trees. Still wanting to walk some more I walked the entirety of Palace Road where newer brick houses  and a few new IMG_8662stone houses delineate the extent of the town til 1900. I spent the afternoon trying to make an imovie of my day trip to St Kilda (which, incidentally, is still the only day that I haven’t written about). Around 5 p.m. I headed out for some air and to stretch my legs which is why at 5:20 you find me sitting outside the Innovation cafe, the last customer before it closed. I firmed up my appointment with Jean Illingworth who is going to give me a personal tour of Sowerby on friday morning. She also has a friend, Maggie, a features editor who wants to meet with me. . . .

IMG_8658.JPGOn the way back to my house I found myself going to check out the Trades Club. When I was living a’t’mill I shied away from this place. It looked a bit dodgy from the outside. Chris said she’d been banned from it, but I was eager to find something to do this evening, and one of the bands was a Beatles cover band, so I thought I’d compare them to the Sun Kings in the Bay area. So I opened the grubby door, mounted the unclean steps and was overwhelmed by a strange smell . . .oh, that’s right. This place serves Himalayan food for 4 pounds each evening. I bought a ticket from the box office and took a look at the band doing a sound check. Moon Duo, the headliner is from San Francisco!

It might only have been 8 pounds to get in but a pint of cider was 4 pounds 10p (by far the most expensive I’ve had on the trip) – and it had fermented – ugh! The other two bands were Hey Bulldog (but no Beatles music tonight) and Goa Express. The place got packed as the night progressed and despite the ceiling fans it was uncomfortably hot in there. I left at 10:30 halfway through the last set and had literally to squeeze myself between people to make my exit.

I was glad of the flashlight on my iphone coming home else I would have found the steps and the key code very difficult, if not impossible.


Memories -ancient and modern

IMG_8572Monday, 1:50 p.m. in the Pack Horse at Affetside waiting for my sp of fish, chips and mushy peas. OK, I had look up sp too! What a strange day. When I checked the weather forecast this morning it looked the best day of the week for a long road trip to Affetside, so off I went, totally on the spur of the moment. 3 buses each way were involved. First to Todmorden, then to Bury  via Bacup (which looked extremely sad) and Rawtenstall (which looked flowery). I had a look around Bury’s famous market hall and the Mill Gate Shopping center, and then the bus to Affetside. The Pack Horse looked closed but I guess no-one enters through the front door any more because the car park is in the back, along with the wonderful dining room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking Holcombe moor. However, it was open so I used their facilities and then walked down to 3rd Bungalow from Millenium pond. There’s a new bench now at the stile dedicated to Geoff Kilburn who died last year. He was the father of my friend from the village, Kristine who I went to the 2 room school with. Geoff worked at the abattoir in Bolton and he sometimes brought offal home for my dad (on the bus, of course. I don’t think any of the villagers had cars at that time).


Nothing significantly had changed at the house. Every time I visit I worry that it just won’t be there! I dream about it quite frequently. But it was still there. There’s no footpath diagonally across from the stile to the house, but there’d definitely been someone there before me. The grass in that field is now waist high though when we lived there it was cropped short by the famous cows. Apart from three inquisitive goats I couldn’t see any other changes, and I popped a note into the letterbox so that Margaret and Graham would know who it was on their CCTV snooping around their property. I left by the path lined by the trees that me and my dad grew from 1 inch seedlings and planted to form an avenue of trees. My dad would have been very proud at the results. My  school which doubled as a church on Sundays is still there, as is Geoffrey Bond’s phone number.He played the organ there when I was a child in the 1960’s and played for my mom’s funeral 50 years later.


Back on Watling Street it was time for lunch so in I went. I asked the server if there were any old time locals in but no, they tended to come in of an evening. In the middle of lunch I got a phone call from Keith. How surreal! We’re arranging a trip to do some ancestry hunting for him. His mom’s family issued from Beverley and he’s never been further north than Stratford-upon-Avon, so I can introduce him to ‘up North.’ On my way to pay at the bar i thought I’d take a look in at the snug. Rachel and I had hosted my mom’s wake in that room in 2010 and when i revisited the Pack in 2011 and 2015 I didn’t feel able to go into that room. But so much of the layout and decoration of the pub had changed that I thought I could handle it. Imagine my complete and utter surprise when the first thing I see in the room is my mom smiling down from the wall at me. No, I wasn’t experiencing some improbable psychic phenomenon, there, on the wall, was a large framed photo of my mom at 3rd Bungalow, shovelling roof high snow. I let out a yelp, disturbing the other customers in the room, just like at All Souls, Bolton, when I saw life size photos of my great great grandparents on display. But at least I knew how All Sous had come by the photo. I’d given them it on a previous visit! How did this picture of my mom get here??? mom snow 001(It’s still puzzling me 24 hours later. I contact the current residents of 3rd Bungalow but it wasn’t them). I asked the manager but she had no information, only saying that when she took over in 2014 IMG_8610 (1)there were a whole pile of photos in an upstairs room, and that at some point locals had been asked to submit memorabilia. The bar tender tried to take the frame off the wall to see if there was anything written on the back but it was so securely fastened that he couldn’t budge it. It seems a shame that there’s no name or location on the photo so that other people could make connections. Anyway, she looks exceedingly happy – and pretty – and yes, she was pregnant with me at the time of the photo. I should send them a picture I have of my dad standing on the roof of the Pack Horse that same winter.

IMG_8595After that very wonderful surprise I tried to take a selfie of me standing in the same position as in the Rose Queen picture (1959?). There was no-one around to ask to take my photo.  🙁  I had decided to walk down Watling Street towards the Bull’s Head since the views across the moors to Turton and Holcombe are very meaningful to me. Passing Walves reservoirs , now completely covered in yellow water lilies I kept walking, through Hawkshaw (The Wagon and Horses is closed for renovation), then on to Holcombe Brook timing it just right to get a bus back into Bury, passing through Tottington.  Imagine my horror when I discovered that the only bus of the day left to get me to Todmorden ends in Bacup. I had visions of having to get back to Hebden Bridge by train. However, I did find an inquiry desk and a helpful clerk who rerouted me through Rochdale. This drive is a bit glum, passing through Heywood, a place Rachel and I had visited briefly last year to see the church where some of our ancestors were married. There are no redeeming features here, apart from the bus station which is stunning and new.  From Rochdale I was able to get a bus directly to Hebden Bridge. So 7 hours of bus rides, 3 hours of pottering around my old haunts and I was too tired when I got back to plan for the following day.


Bye Bye Harrogate

11:50 I’m sitting on a rock overlooking a bizarre landscape, listening to Philip Glass’s double concerto. Brimham Rocks is England’s answer to Joshua Tree. yes, it’s less spectacular but it’s on a scale that is manageable. It was less than 15 minutes’ drive from Judith’s house in Birstwith. Arriving at 10 a.m. (Judith was on a work-party for the National Trust)  there were only a few cars in the parking lot. An hour later – when the shop and the ice cream kiosk opened there was a long line of cars waiting to get in. It’s IMG_8513mostly families with young children but I’ve seen several people in wheelchairs too. neither category is present at Joshua Tree – or the Alabama Hills on 395 either, they’re just too remote. Dads were guiding children up onto the weathered rocks whilst moms stood by. Maybe the moms do more of the hands on child rearing in the privacy of their own homes. It was the dads too who were instructing the youngsters on how these weird and wonderful rocks came on to take their present shapes – Dancing Bears and Druid’s Writing Desks, Anvils and Camels. From this hill top you can see York Minster 34 miles away. IMG_8506There’s no sun today, just muggy clouds which means that my photos will have little contrasts. I think I’ll experiment with some black and white shots. This particular spot close to the kiosk is very busy with people holding dripping 99s, but not too far from the beaten path I found solitude and found myself thinking about Picnic at Hanging Rock.

IMG_8489While I was idly wandering around Judith’s work-party had been doing two hours of physical labor on repairing a footpath and she was hot and hungry. So after a quick brunch at her house and last minute packing we set out for Melbourne Road, Hebden Bridge, my new abode. We passed through Ilkley (b’owt ‘at), Keighley which I don’t remember going to before apart from the Worth Valley railway, and the outskirts of Haworth. We drove through Heptonstall but only so that i could take a photo of the Slack Bottom sign for my collection of interesting sign photos. We pressed on to Hebden Bridge where we stopped IMG_8491for refreshment in the square before trying to find my new home. I knew that there was no road access and that the house was approached by a flight of steps and i was already anxious that my two bags were too heavy for this escapade. however, pleading a fragile back I was able to commandeer the help of both Judith and my new host, Patricia, who, together hauled the bags up the 40 difficult steps and then up to my room at the top of the house. How on earth will I managed when I move out?  A little voice reminds me that I am currently moving in, not out, and I should relax. My room is lovely. Not only does it have a fantastic view into the valley with lots of open sky above but it has a window . .  .and it opens!

I spent an hour and a half getting settled and writing my blog, and then, unable to sit still any longer, with brolly unfurled I set out for the canal. It took me 6 minutes to reach my previous mill and then I wandered along, in the rain, past Stubbing Wharf. Coming back I called in for a drink, the 4th time I’ve been there on this trip, simply because the location is great.

Coming back to the house I found that it doesn’t have a microwave-just a fan oven so I’ll  have to rethink my cooking plans while I’m here.

Afternoon tea and Kettlewell

Judith was working at Coldcotes B and B in the morning so I went walkabout along the River Nidd, just following my nose – at least until I came to this sign:



So why can I just ‘go’ here and see where paths lead me rather than having to follow precise directions when I take walks in the US? I suppose it’s because here I’m bound to find fellow travellers on the trails or find a welcoming farmhouse whereas in the US you can get seriously lost, even in the mountains around Santa Cruz.


After lunch we headed out for a garden party held as an end of year thank you for people who volunteer at the food bank in Harrogate. The company assembled in a wonderful garden and elegantly consumed delicious cakes, tea, strawberries with ice cream and made polite conversation. When I overheard the owner saying he was born in Bolton I chipped in ‘Whereabouts?’ ‘In a maternity hospital, I presume,’came the response. Was this for real? In the end we had an interesting conversation about accents. Everyone in England  seems to think I’m Canadian. That would surprise my American friends I think. We talked about how public schools like mine tried to get rid of students’ regional accents. in his view they now ‘tolerate’ them. He put forward the theory (whether if was his own I’m not sure) that what accounts for the Lancashire accent being so different from the Yorkshire was the intense clatter of the cotton mill machinery where workers had to mouth words silently and listeners became excellent lip readers. Therefore they used more round mouths. Auzzies keep their mouths closed to avoid eating flies!



A quick turnaround saw us heading our for Grassington (the Saturday afternoon run out) but there were no available parking  spaces so we visited the Wilson Arms Hotel, a place where I spent a summer as a chamber maid and Colin washed the dishes in the kitchen. It was there that we met our friend Stefaan from Belgium, a language student honing his skills. The up-market hotel is now a nursing home. We drove on to the lovely little village

of Kettlewell with Mastiles Lane rising above it, passing Kilnsey Crag where we watched some climbers. We found the post office cum Youth Hotel and campground where Colin and I had camped and then stopped for some libation at The Racehorses. That pub and the Blubell across the street were doing a roaring trade,  with a lot of cyclers and hikers as well as the driving crowd.


Back at Judith’s I watched the last half of a very interesting TV program about Roald Dahl. Apparently he was quite a celebrity, appearing on the Michael Parkinson show. I don’t remember knowing anything about him until my daughters began to read, and devour, his books.



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