Tag Archives: Long Distance Walks

THE BRONTE WAY five.

Bailiff Bridge to Oakwell Hall.

The final day of our walk on the Bronte Way. By more good luck than management there was a bus stop outside the hotel to take us back to Bailiff Bridge. After some steep uphill road and lane walking we were once more in amazing rural areas. We had joined The Kirklees Way and a Brighouse Boundary Walk. There were some vicious dogs penned up in some of the properties we passed some on a running chain which is quite scary as they charge at you. We postulated what could happen if the chain snapped!

Some time was passed in a large pristine golf course, there’s always one on any long distance walk. Fortunately no fairways had to be crossed on this one. After crossing a motorway, M62, little lanes led into Liversedge where first we came across a quaker grave yard. Way back a man, who was a Quaker, had been refused a burial at Hartshead church, so he bought a piece of land for burials of his family. This is still being used today and there are four 17th century graves. It was on Hartshead Common that Luddites congregated in early 19th century to march on Arkwright’s Mill at Rawfolds with disastrous results. Could something similar happen in the future as robots take over workers jobs?   We are also sharing The Luddite Trail now, oh and did I mention The Spen Valley Trail. there must be a lot of keen walkers hereabouts.

A little further was a plant hire depot with some interesting old tractors, two looked as though they had come straight off the American prairie. And another aggressive guard dog going nuts as we stopped to take pictures.

We were now in the Spen Valley area which was the backdrop to Charlotte’s novel Shirley enacted at the time of the Luddites. This novel sounds interesting and will get a copy for holiday reading. On our route was a farm cafe which turned out to be an excellent stop for coffee and toasted tea cakes. The waitress was interested in our route and was clearly enthusiastic about Oakwell Hall. On leaving the cafe we spotted the resident cat waiting patiently on the back step.

Up the road was an old house, Clough House, bearing a plaque to the Rev. Patrick Bronte who lived here before moving to Thornton.

Some rather messy navigating through lanes and parks, all very rural though, brought us into the honest looking Shirley Estate, Gomersal. We wandered into the local church bazar hoping to find an old copy of The Bronte Way guidebook. On mentioning we were on the Bronte Way we were escorted to the grave of Mary Taylor a lifelong friend of Charlotte. Mary apparently was a Women’s Rights advocate who incidentally led a women’s group to climb Mont Blanc in 1875.

Open fields should have led us down to an entrance to Orwell Hall but probably distracted by females we took the wrong field. All was not lost and I think we had a better way into the grounds of this beautiful and obviously popular property. Oakwell Hall may have been the inspiration for ‘Fieldhead’  in Charlotte’s novel Shirley. This is the last of our Bronte associations but I wonder how many we have missed. We came out on the way we should have gone in, a far inferior way. A bus stop was on the main road and eventually a bus full of friendly locals delivered us to the efficient Bradford Interchange.

The end to a really varied and interesting five days of walking.  Sir Hugh’s new knee just about stood up to the whole trial.  We’ve seen a lot and learnt a lot.

Sign in the cafe.

*****

THE BRONTE WAY four.

Denholme Gate to Bailiff Bridge.

The train got us to Halifax almost on time despite having to make toilet stops at various stations en route, the train toilet being nonfunctional. The toilet stop at Hebden Bridge was cut short when it was realised that the station toilet was also nonfunctional, all very strange and can’t all be Northern Rail’s fault. Of course our bus waited for us and we were soon walking from the moorland Denholme Gate. Enclosed rough fields with ancient wall stiles took us eastwards into what looked like an urban setting but the route cleverly kept us mostly on green ways. Paths wandered past houses and barking dogs. We were heading to Thornton the birthplace of the Bronte sisters. Little streams added interest and then the largest cemetery I’ve been in for years. A moorland ridge above was home to Sir Hugh’s first house, as there was no plaque to commemorate this event we didn’t divert. Then we were in the main street of Thornton full off characterful houses off the beaten track and not a Japanese tourist in sight. No 74, was heralded as the Bronte sisters’  birthplace, their father Patrick being curate at the Chapel. A cafe-cum-museum here gave us a rest, coffee and entertainment listening in to the local ladies’ Yorkshire conversation.

A deep valley had now to be crossed but to be honest we seemed to be cruising along despite the long grass in parts. There were distant, if hazy, views down into Bradford city centre. My memory is of fields and lanes going nowhere, stone walls, buttercups and dog walkers eager to converse. The hidden world of West Yorkshire.

Somewhere we joined The Calderdale Way in a wild valley and eventually emerged into the affluent Norwood Green. More of the same took us down to the suburbs at Bailff Bridge and thankfully a bus into Brighouse for a night on the tiles – well not really – an early supper in our hotel by the canal followed by an early night.

Check out Sir Hugh for another version of today’s walk.

*****

THE BRONTE WAY three.

Stanbury to Denholme Gate.

Once the car shuffles had been completed we set off to walk back up to the Pennine Way/Bronte Way. The PW continues up to the isolated Top Withins farmhouse, with its solitary tree visible from down here. There is no convincing evidence to support the claim that the farm was the ‘original’ Wuthering Heights, but if it is not, it is certainly the type of place that Emily Bronte had in mind when she wrote her famous novel. The picture below is from a previous visit. Our way today however branched off and headed into the valley of Staden Beck and down to Bronte Bridge, a stone clapper bridge across the beck. The water tumbles over a small series of rocks above and below the bridge. The area is somewhat optimistically known as Bronte Falls; it isn’t really a waterfall, but is a wonderfully picturesque spot and a popular area for picnics. The original stone bridge was swept away in a flash flood in 1989 and replaced the following year by the present bridge.

Signposts helped us onwards with addition of Japanese instructions reflecting their interest in the Bronte history. Signs kept coming thick and fast. The track took us out of the valley and over Penistone Hill heavily quarried in the past. Now a country park there are confusing paths everywhere, popular with dog walkers who all seemed to have Cocker Spaniels. We arrived into Haworth by the atmospheric graveyard, the Brontes are not buried here but have a crypt in the adjoining church. Above was the Parsonage where the sisters lived, now a museum. Bronte associations were everywhere. Below in the main street tourists flocked into the gift shops and cafes.

The Bronte Parsonage.

Bronte School.

We of course were above such things, avoided hoards of Japanese and headed out on ancient tracks to Oxenholme. Here we found a bench for lunch which happened to overlook the Worth Valley railway line and in came a steam special hauled by a Standard Four locomotive, withdrawn for scrap from the Southern Railway in 1965 but subsequently restored.

Things went a little astray as we took to small lanes, too much time chatting and admiring both the scenery and the local properties. We found ourselves on a narrow lane a few hundred feet above where we should have been. I’d already remarked that we seemed to have missed most of Oxenholme, dammed right it was there below us. Fortunately a lovely path was found to reunite us with the correct way but we had enjoyed our diversion and had chance to meet one of the locals.

Charlotte, Emily or Anne?

No sooner were we back on track when we seemed to go wrong again on small streets in the village and ended up on the wrong side of Leeming Reservoir. No problem, just walk across the damn access road. The hot afternoon drifted on and once more we found ourselves on old flagged paths going where? A hill was climbed past old enclosures and water catchment culverts to arrive at a fine belvedere. An opportunity for a breather, a snack and drink and time to admire the view over fine countryside. From here a good lane just under Thornton Reservoir made for easy walking. A cyclist stopped to show us his electric assisted bike with a multitude of gears, impressive until I realised I couldn’t lift the beast. We emerged from Black Edge Lane into Denholme Gate where a parked car was waiting for us.

Onwards looked more urban, a bus passed signed for Halifax so we’ve come a long way into Yorkshire. The last two days may be better reached by train and utilising overnight accomodation.

*****

 

 

THE BRONTE WAY two.

Thursden valley to Stanbury.

We were back in the beautiful Thursden valley after a bit of car manoeuvering. The day didn’t get off to a good start on an overgrown path, which had been superseded we realised later,  involving some scrambling and barbed wire leading to torn shorts. Calm was restored on the open moor. A strange stone arch ‘The Doorway to Pendle’, the former New House farmhouse built in 1672 and occupied until the 1920s when the land was bought by Nelson Waterworks. It consists of a sandstone archway with a triangular head. An inscription relates to the Parker family in the 17th century. There must have been many similar isolated houses scattered on the moors.

A good track, popular with cyclists, was followed all along the northern flanks of Boulsworth Hill; an old way, flagged in parts, connecting scattered farmsteads. Lapwing, skylark and curlew country. At the far end the path is being ‘improved’ with alien chippings which at the present time are an eyesore. Escaping from this we found a delightful concessionary path sloping down the wooded hillside. Above were a series of boulders that looked climbable but I can find no reference to them, I’m kicking myself for not taking the short walk up to them. 

Eventually we crossed the stream that flows into Wycoller where begin a series of interesting and often photographed bridges. In historical order a ford, a clapper bridge, a supported clapper and a two arched packhorse bridge.

We rested and ate lunch in the shade of the ruins of Wycoller Hall, probably Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre, In a previous visit, whilst walking the Pendle Way, I bivied in the massive fireplace without realising it was haunted.

A gentle stroll back out of Wycoller was made for chatting. A farmer out checking his sheep and lambs on his quad  bike bemoaned  that he would probably be dragged out by his wife this afternoon to a local event when he would rather be putting his feet up. We saw him later driving to Haworth. We walked below another group of rocks where Foster had done some daredevil leaping. Open moorland was once more gained and appeared to go on forever, Pendle Hill disappeared for the last time in the west. We congratulated ourselves for being here on a perfect summer’s day – it can be grim up north. Somewhere we crossed over from Lancashire into Yorkshire, God’s own country if you are so inclined.

After Watersheddles Reservoir the valley of the infant River Worth was entered, almost a lost valley despite its close proximity to the road. A rough track alongside the lively stream, gritstone boulders, rhododendrons and bird song, my first Cuckoo of the year, a lovely spot for a refreshment break. It turned out we needed it as the way on became more laborious climbing in and out of valleys towards Ponden Reservoir. Passing Ponden Hall [Thrushcross Grange in Emily’s Wuthering Heights] I recollected coming this way in 1968 on an early Pennine Way journey and I’m sure they served teas then. Not today! Lets not forget that The Pennine Way was the brainchild of Tom Stephenson, Wainwright’s guide, which we didn’t have at the time was a later publication. A few more switchbacks shared with the PW brought us to the end of quite a tough day in the heat. The car was parked down the little lane leading to Stanbury.

 

*****

 

 

 

THE BRONTE WAY one.

Gawthorpe Hall to Thursden.

Sir Hugh and I started at Gawthorpe Hall in Padiham. Many of the places we walk through have some connection to the Brontes or their novels. Gawthorpe Hall was the family home of the Shuttleworth family which Charlotte Bronte visited frequently as a friend of John Kay-Shuttleworth.

And a very stately hall it looked, but was closed today. We walk out of the grounds through a grove of chestnut trees. We were into farmland where we immediately got into the wrong field, no waymarks, and receive some advice from the farmer’s wife. Soon we drop down to a bridge over the River Calder where I’d been before on the Burnley Way. The river was a placid stream today but there was evidence of harsher days. Pleasant rural walking took us along and over a motorway and onto a canal. There was a large marina with people pottering about but little traffic on the water.

“That’s what a fish looks like”

We crept round Burnley and joined the River Brun into a park where we stopped for lunch. Despite us sitting on a park bench Sir Hugh felt obliged to demonstrate, not very convincingly, his new pocket folding chair. Lots of Asian families were walking past and in conversation we realised that Ramadan meant fasting from 4am till 9pm at this time of year, that can’t  be good for children.

Further along the river the local fire brigade were enjoying the weather on a splashing about exercise. Into fields and along a stream our instincts to follow the trodden path were ignored and we ended up lost near the ruined and abandoned Tudor Extwistle Hall [no connection to the Brontes]. Some time later after difficult barbed wire negotiations we were back on route near a small reservoir. Crossing a road we picked up a good lane to Swinden Reservoir where two farmers were trying to burn  accumulated years of rubbish.

We crossed a moor in lovely evening sunlight and dropped down through trees into the delightful Thursden Valley, the river was low due to lack of rain but still gave us a sparkling accompaniment to the road where a car was waiting.

A very pleasant introduction to The Bronte Way which probably doesn’t get a lot of traffic and has been poorly waymarked today.

*****

THE BRONTE WAY.


 

First of all I have to admit getting my Bronte’s mixed up.

They were a nineteenth-century literary family, born in the village of Thornton and later associated with the village of Haworth.  The sisters, Charlotte (1816–1855), Emily (1818–1848), and Anne (1820–1849), are well known as poets and novelists. Two other sisters died at a young age as did a brother Patric.

Like many contemporary female writers, they originally published their poems and novels under male pseudonyms: Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Charlotte’s Jane Eyre was the first to know success, while Emily’s Wuthering Heights, Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall  were later to be accepted as masterpieces of literature.

The three sisters and their brother, Branwell  were very close and during childhood developed their imaginations first through oral storytelling and play set in an intricate imaginary world and then through the writing of increasingly complex stories.

The deaths of first their mother and then of their two older sisters marked them profoundly and influenced their writing, as did the relative isolation in which they were raised.

The ‘Bronte Way’ is a 44mile cross-Pennine route linking various places associated with the lives and works of the Bronte sisters. Starting at Gawthorpe Hall, visited by Charlotte, it goes by the Thursden Valley to Wycoller Hall (Ferndean Manor in the novel Jane Eyre), Ponden Hall [Thrushcross Grange in Emily’s Wuthering Heights] the moors to Top Withins (Earnshaw House in Wuthering Heights), Haworth Parsonage, where the Brontes lived and now a Bronte Museum, the Brontes’ birthplace at Thornton, along the hills west of Bradford to the Spen Valley (Shirley country) before finishing at Oakwell Hall (Fieldhead in the Charlotte’s novel Shirley).

You will be familiar with Sir Hugh from my previous posts, I should really have a tag to my walking companions. Well he has recently had his second knee replaced or whatever. He managed to walk thousands of miles on his first knee replacement much to the credit, amazement and interest of his orthopedic surgeon. He is keen to field test the latest operation so we have arranged a few short days walking on The Bronte Way. He has connections to the Yorkshire end of the walk so was keen to explore the route.

Sir Hugh’s new ‘new knee’

Guide books of the way are out of print but the route is marked on the OS maps so we should be OK.

*****

 

A WEE DONDER. 8 Glasgow to Milngavie.

Change of plan – Milngavie to Glasgow, the Kelvin Walkway.

I’m still not absolutely sure, and it was my idea I think, why we changed our direction for today. An early morning train was taken from the Exhibition Centre to Milngavie.It was years since I’d been here and I was surprised at the amount of signage for the obviously popular West Highland Way. Several groups of backpackers were setting off on that journey. There was no mention of The Kelvin Walkway and we realised the River Kelvin didn’t even come through here. We set off on paths marked on the map and our first sign after a while was for the Allander Way which we’d never heard of. Still it seemed to be going in the right direction so we moved on, we had a train to catch later in the day and didn’t want too many problems. The Allander was more of a drainage ditch than a river but gave easy walking through a dull landscape.

We began to notice on the river banks a large yellow flowered plant which turned out to be the American Yellow Skunk Plant. A garden escapee which apparently has an unpleasant odour as it matures.

The river was narrow and meandering, at one point a very substantial girder bridge had been installed by the Royal Engineers, it should last forever. That is more than can be said for ‘Stan’s seat’  We didn’t really notice where the Kelvin joined forces. Our next landmark was the Balmuildy Pipeline Bridge which deposited us on a rather busy road. The map showed nearby evidence of the Antonine Wall and Roman Forts but our brief diversion revealed nothing. The Antonine Wall was built in AD 142 between the Forth and Clyde. It didn’t last long and the Roman Legions retreated to Hadrian’s wall.  As it was built mainly of wood and turf there is not much apart from its course to see on the ground.

Some pleasant riverside walking followed until we were suddenly diverted away onto roads near Maryhill. Left high and dry we followed our noses once more across Dawsholm Park and luckily [skillfully] rejoined the river. Now in a gorge and a more urban setting there seemed to be a plethora of abandoned railway bridges and at some stage we must have gone under the Forth-Clyde canal aqueduct of 1790. I wish we’d known as steps take you up to see Maryhill locks.

Signs for Glasgow appeared although I suppose we were already in it. The grounds of the Botanical Gardens were on the opposite bank and next an old flint mill site was passed.  Kelvin Bridge was an impressive structure with some ‘homeless’ camping under its arches, not the best of campsites. Also beneath the bridge in the water a Heron was waiting patiently.

Kelvin park was next. The Highland Light Infantry memorial remembered those men who died in the Boer war. We looked into here yesterday evening when the place was packed with sunbathers – pale skin and ginger hair don’t make for tanning.  All around are university buildings, churches and museums suggesting that Glasgow is definitely worth an extended cultural visit.

After all that the Kelvin runs into the Clyde almost unnoticed.

We had time for a celebration meal and drink in the Counting House, an interesting old bank-house a Wetherspoons acquisition, near Queen Street. The Modern Art Museum nearby was disappointing. Then on the train home to Preston.

So we had accomplished our venture, the Lanarkshire Link,  to join up the Pennine Way with the West Highland Way. The journey was more interesting than I had envisaged, thankfully as JD had come along. It would be good to see in the future an official Tweed – Clyde linkup,  it is 70% viable now.

*****