13 August 2010

Pilgrimage

Stanbury Moor with Top Withins upper left
Yesterday I had a day out with two former work colleagues. There was Emma - a very dogged and hard-working young English teacher who I am proud to say I appointed four years ago - and Sofia, our "worth her weight in gold" English teaching assistant.

I picked Emma up and we headed to the northern suburbs of Sheffield to collect Sofia. Then it was up through Greno Woods to the A629 towards darkest West Yorkshire - where the Pennine moors vie with Victorian milltowns for supremacy. Shelley to Huddersfield to Halifax to Oxenhope and so to Haworth. Haworth - the home of the Brontes.

But we didn't stop there at first, instead we made our way to the little moorland village of Stanbury. Just beyond it, as my map research had predicted, there was Back Lane. We drove along this winding track as far as we could and parked up. We were really on the edge of the moors now - purple heather, summer-dried grasses and gorse, ancient stone walls painstakingly constructed by long dead moorland sheep farmers, billowing cumulo-nimbus clouds scudding over the horizon from Lancashire.

The weather forecast had predicted rain showers but thankfully they held off as we made our way along a section of the Pennine Way towards two remote farms - Lower Heights and Upper Heights - now upgraded countryside getaway homes. Outside the second I noticed a sign:"Please Respect our Privacy". I might have a similar one made for the entrance to our suburban semi.

Emma and Sofia are not great walkers so I was strolling in first gear. I didn't want to push them. We had just under two miles to go. But up ahead I could see our destination. Some dark specks near the bleak horizon - Top Withins. A farm that was finally abandoned and left to fall into ruins in the 1930's.

Why were we heading there? Well I know one or two of my revered readers will have already guessed. We were on our way to Wuthering Heights. It is said - though this may be fanciful speculation - that Emily Bronte the authoress of the wonderful Yorkshire novel "Wuthering Heights" modelled the Earnshaws' remote farmstead on this very place.
Top Withins - Wuthering Heights
Emily, daughter of Patrick Bronte - the vicar of Haworth, was born in 1818 but died of tuberculosis at the age of thirty, just a year after her masterpiece was first published. As a teenager, it is known that she was prone to rambling round the local area - visiting remote villages and farms, observing geographical features of the wild landscape around her. It is entirely possible that she knew Top Withins and I for one believe that it was indeed a significant ingredient in her creative thinking.

After the lovely walk up to Top Withins we returned to Stanbury and a pub called - yes, you guessed it - "Wuthering Heights" where we had what the menu called a "Walkers' Lunch" of homemade cauliflower and broccoli soup with fresh filled baguettes. Thunder rumbled overhead and rain lashed down but as we left the sun broke through again and we made our way into Haworth to visit the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

A wonderful day out with two lovely women and me - the brooding Heathcliff - glowering at the heavens - "Get thissens movin' else ah shall thrash thee!" (Translation - "I would be extremely grateful if you could possibly walk a little faster").
Sofia and Emma at Top Withins

9 comments:

  1. "Darkest" West Yorkshire? It's all light in the West Riding. Have to say though, that I never 'got' the Brontes. Wuthering Heights never did anything for me. Heathcliffe was scally. The Brontes come across as very estranged/alienated from their Yorkshire surroundings.

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  2. I can never keep the Bronte sisters straight. Same thing with the Gabors.

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  3. How lovely.....but makes me slightly sad. Many years ago a friend of ours took us on such a trip to Bronte country......we walked and talked and had a lovely day...she also told me (unsure if this is correct or not but nevermind) some lines from a poem...'there is no use in crying though we are forced to be apart, there is such a thing as keeping a rememberance in ones heart...' and our friend died some years later.

    And a little over an hour ago me and the mister arrived back from a 5 hour drive...we had been to Northumberland for the first time and loved it.....I waved at you as we passed Sheffield...did you see??

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  4. Lucky you went yesterday, YP. We have been over to Lincolnshire today and the weather was unbelievable in its appallingness. ;)

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  5. MICHAEL It's true that the Brontes were "outsiders" but they had warm relationships with servants they recruited from the neighbourhood and with some of the children they taught or helped to bring up as governesses. "Wuthering Heights" is arguably the finest novel ever written though to read it appreciatively one must approach it rather differently from an easy-read modern novel.
    RHYMES I hope you were simply being mischievous. Comparing the Bronte sisters with the Gabors is like comparing the Atlanta Braves with Creekview High School baseball teams!
    LIBBY I was waiting for you with cucumber sandwiches - no crusts - and best Darjeeling from our bone china tea service. Who's this mister? In cars we have demisters. He would have had to wait in the car while I served you. Glad you liked Northumberland. When the weather's fair it is so lovely up there.

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  6. Elizabeth12:01 pm

    The Brontes were, of course, fine examples of home-schooling and their mother obviously had the foresight to write an LEA philosophy that had the word, 'creative' written through it from top to bottom.

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  7. It all sounds great to me. Wuthering Heights was the novel we studied in Senior ( final year of high school over here )and though I appreciated it then, could not read it and get as much out of it now.
    However the images I have in my head of "the moors" comes from that book. One day I'll get to those moors and see if the reality is anything like my imagination.
    Cheers
    Helen

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  8. Playful? Yes. Mischievous? No.

    The images in my head of "the moors" are in black and white and have Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon in them.

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  9. Heathcliffe and his Cathys senior and junior?

    More like Ted Hughes and his emotionally fraught 'wives' on the same moors.

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