Welcome to LEJoG Day 43, Mr Lockwood

Day 43 pre-amble

Let’s play charades. It’s a book. And a song. And indeed a film. First word… yeah, skip that. Second word, one syllable. Rhymes with bites, frights, tights, flights and quite a few other things. Yes, I’d be disappointed if Lionel or Una couldn’t get “Wuthering Heights” in under 2 minutes.

Today I was heading for Haworth, which is of course Bronte country. Shamefully I have to admit that, in spite of my A at English Literature A-Level and a ‘1’ Distinction on the special paper, Wuthering Heights remains the only Bronte novel I’ve read cover to cover. Did so at 18, during (not for) that A-Level. It became my favourite novel and remained so until I read this at the age of 25. I doubt anyone who read some of yesterday’s entry would be surprised at the latter choice. What really appealed then was the intricacy of plot and structure, the understanding of human passion and emotion, and certain lines that are still among my favourite in literature, notably:

  • the closing line of the novel from Lockwood, the unreliable narrator.
  • “It was a strange way of killing, not by inches, but by fractions of hair-breadths, to beguile me with the spectre of a hope, through eighteen years!” I’ve just this minute picked up my Penguin edition from the shelf after many years, to find the quote. The number 321 came straight to mind, I turned to that page, and there it was, at the bottom. The human brain is a remarkable thing.
  •  “My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath – a source of little visible delight, but necessary.” That one took more finding.

I haven’t read it since the early 90s and suspect it would not be so highly regarded now. “Passion” has become almost as deadened a word as “iconic”, thanks to people telling us how passionate they are about soulless, mundane things like business or marketing. Even on a 172-year-old page the words of Cathy and Heathcliff can easily come across as histrionics. Socio-cultural changes post Diana and reality TV don’t help with that either.

Don’t worry, by the way. This post isn’t as devoted to a highly influential and beloved book as Day 42 was. I’ll move on.

To the song. This I do love every bit as much as ever. In my top five songs with a female vocal, my second favourite female vocal of the 1970s (behind only ‘Heart of Glass’) and probably in my 20 favourite songs of all-time. And, as much as I adore her more sophisticated mid-80s singles (especially this), it’s my favourite Kate Bush song. One of the most incredible, genuinely original British pop singles ever made, and (fittingly enough) created by a teenager who was christened Catherine.

Obviously, today’s post title comes not from the book but from the opening line of Bush’s song. With one word changed, because those clouds busted all over me while walking up that hill.

LEJoG Day 43 (Friday 26 April 2019)

Hebden Bridge to Haworth (12½ miles)

Cumulative: 599½ miles

Facts: Time on walk: 4 hours 10 minutes. Average speed: 3.00 mph. Weather: Warmest temperatures of the week for the steep climb to Heptonstall, then cool, overcast; rained non-stop from Blacktop Lane to Haworth then stopped on arrival. Gee thanks.

Practicalities: Bus from Heptonstall to Hebden Bridge after breakfast and check-out.

The walk

Start: Bottom of Bridge Gate, Hebden Bridge, 10:25am. End: Stanbury bridleway sign, Haworth (linear, for LEJoG), 3:05pm. Actual end: Apothecary Guest House, Haworth, 3:15pm.

The Hebden Bridge Loop takes you from Bridge Gate to Heptonstall Road before following a steep footpath (lots of steps first) through trees overlooking the Calder Valley. Here’s the view back in the direction of Mytholm:

Calder Valley Hebden Bridge, LEJoG Day 43

Eventually you pass some rocks and emerge in Heptonstall village. Undoubtedly the best photo opportunity in the village itself is this:

Heptonstall Church, LEJoG Day 43

St Thomas the Apostle Church, Heptonstall. A little history here.

From there, a more gentle climb, along Smithwell Lane in the direction of Slack village. Come off the road just after the last buildings in Heptonstall and follow a very clear path NW (W after a quick descent). This one takes you all the way to the end of the Loop, near Hebble Hole on Trailblazer Map 23. It is marked by a very friendly sign:

End Hebden Bridge Loop sign, LEJoG Day 43

The next section, through the village of Colden to Mount Pleasant Farm at the edge of the moors, is nothing more than a steady rise. However it felt like hard going today and I can’t really explain why. The best progress of the day was made in the next couple of miles across Clough Head Hill and Heptonstall Moor. There is very little to see apart from slabs, an occasional bridge and some grouse butts. In the middle distance, more bleak and imposing moorland hills.

There’s a sharp right near a stone wall, followed by a descent to Gorple Cottages and a stream where (according to Trailblazer) “generations of PW walkers have eaten their lunch.” It was indeed an ideal spot, and I hit it at an ideal time, but all seats were taken so I carried on.

Stream near Widdop (Graining Water)

Lunch spot at Graining Water

Targeted the bench at the corner of Blacktop Lane and the service road to Walshaw Dean Reservoir for my lunch. Returned to roads soon after Graining Water, taking a right along Blacktop Lane. This is where it started raining, quite heavily. Barely removed my hood for the rest of the walk. I did stop for lunch at the bench (3½ miles from Top Withens) but without much opportunity for shelter it wasn’t an enjoyable experience.

Speaking of walking experiences that aren’t particularly enjoyable, guess what’s next? More reservoirs. These two even have the same name, distinguished only by ‘Lower’ and ‘Middle’. First cross Walshaw Dean Lower, turning left to the dam and then walking two thirds of the length of Walshaw Dean Middle. Look out for the sign which tells you when to leave the reservoirs and head for Top Withens on the moorland path. It’s only steep at the very start: after that it’s very steady. No denying it’s barren; I would question whether it’s also atmospheric, even in the rain. Really, I don’t think this section would be at all outstanding were it not for the Bronte connection.

Path to Top Withens, LEJoG Day 43

The wiley, windy (and wet) moors. Top Withens near the top left.

As for Top Withens itself – it’s not just me, is it? I cannot understand how or why tourists flock from all over the world to see this, even when the information board outside and the sign on the side of the ruin basically say “Thanks for coming, but this building is nothing like the one described in the book.” I photographed both in order to back this up:

Top Withens info board

The information board at Top Withens

Top Withens sign, LEJoG Day 43

The plaque on the wall of so-called “Wuthering Heights”

I felt even more underwhelmed than I did after my first visit to the tourist spots in Shakespeare’s Stratford. Then, I just spent all day wishing I was reading a play or watching a performance instead. I never felt as if the various houses and so on would inspire people to do just that unless they’d already discovered the Bard. Here, I just thought: “Is that it?” and wondered how I’d feel if I’d travelled thousands of miles to see it rather than a few dozen.

Branched off the Pennine Way right after Top Withens, to follow the Bronte Way directly to Haworth, a journey of 3½ miles. This means I skip Stanbury Moor and Upper Heights Farm. My LEJoG route makes two sides of an elongated triangle between Top Withens and Buckley Farm. The first mile of the Bronte Way seemed endless. At the Bronte Bridge (below) I noted a sign saying it was still 2½ miles to Haworth and felt like chucking my pack into the stream.

Bronte Bridge, LEJoG Day 43

Bronte Bridge

There’s nothing difficult about the terrain – indeed it’s a grand little walk heading generally downhill, reminiscent of the stretch between Laddow Rocks and the climb to Black Hill two days earlier. I think I was infuriated by the weather and the deceptive scale on the Trailblazer map (Bronte Bridge seemed halfway to Haworth, but was actually less than a third). This was compounded when I arrived at the road to Haworth, and the guidebook annotation said it was ½ mile to the village while the sign in front of me said 1 mile. Only 20 more minutes of plodding, I told myself, but it rounded off one of the more forgettable days of my LEJoG trip.

Stopped the Fitbit at a bridleway sign for Stanbury near the end of Cemetery Road. This is where I would branch off when re-starting, and it meant that the last 10 minutes to my accommodation wouldn’t be double-counted.

After the walk

Checked in at the Apothecary at 3:15pm. At the start of the day I expected to arrive in Haworth by 2. Whatever I said earlier about Stratford and Top Withens, I really had been keen to visit the Bronte Parsonage Museum today. It closed at 5:30pm, but by the time I had showered and changed out of my near enough drenched walking clothes, I didn’t feel I had time to make the most of the visit. Also I was too hungry to wait until peak time for my evening meal. Had the usual tea (no biscuits!) instead, and went to the Haworth Old Hall Inn for food and a couple of drinks.

The following morning, caught a bus to Keighley and a train home from there (one change in Leeds).

Postscript – My Listening Pleasure

Beyoncé’s Homecoming: The Live Album again.

Picture (taken 26 April 2019) shows Top Withens, accepted as the inspiration for Wuthering Heights, even though the plaque says it “bore no resemblance, even when complete”.

Next: Day 44 (4 May 2019)… in which the varying landscape and a new podcast make for a more memorable day’s walk.

Leave a Reply