Day 49 - Hebden Bridge to Stanbury
Today has been a good day, with many of the things I’ve loved about this trek combining. I had company, both with those I love and those I’d never met before. The landscape has been my favourite type. There have been interesting things to observe on the way, and a couple of things that have made me laugh. And the weather’s been good. I wonder how much all of the first things are improved by the last. Possibly many. And I need to have really appreciated it, as there’s a lot more rain to come.
Mel drove to where we were going to get to at lunchtime and organised a taxi to bring her back to Hebden Bridge to meet me for the beginning of the walk. On previous forays into getting taxis for people walking there have been long delays or even none turning up at all, but the Hebden experience was seamless. I’d rerouted the beginning of the walk to give us a chance to see Heptonstall. It meant we started with a bracing climb up cobbled streets, on a footpath and a road that were both described as closed, but where both times the workmen let us pass.
Heptonstall is a picturesque ancient cobbled village which has been used for TV productions, and it has recently been used as the set for a new Shane Meadows production. It is about the Cragg Vale Coiners, some eighteenth century fraudsters who almost brought down the economy. The leader was David Hartley, whose remains are buried in the churchyard. We were heading there too, to pay our respects at Sylvia Plath’ grave. Unusually, the churchyard houses two churches, the earlier one allowed to fall into atmospheric ruins.
It was moving seeing where she was buried, with the grave tidier than some, but certainly not looking especially well cared for.
Reflective, we left the village behind, and skirted along the top of a steep valley, scrambling over boulders and tree roots, enjoying the glimpses over to the other side.
A short section of road, and then we were on the Pennine Way, heading towards Heptonstall Moor. I was so delighted that the weather was fair, and that we were out in this wonderful place with a clear path in front of us.
It was easy walking, with the path either stony or with large flags traversing the boggy sections. It made me realise how tiring it is to be doing the walking on overgrown footpaths, or on routes that are unclear. This was relaxed walking, with very little hesitation about navigation.
We could see the pub that was our lunch spot from a distance away, a solitary building calling weary walkers and cyclists in for refreshments. Except sadly they don’t do lunch - no food till 4pm. So we enjoyed a nourishing packet of crisps and a banana as our lunch before Mel set off on her long journey home.
Before she left we enjoyed a chat with Andy, Mick and Paul from Pontefract, which led to a discussion about liquorice and how it’s grown. Not locally any more, it seems, though a farmer is considering starting up again so that the eponymous cakes can be made from nearby ingredients. They are cycling the Pennine Bridleway. They were finding it all a bit of an effort, with some of the track very hard going to ride on. They left us cheerfully, equally fortified with bananas, and Mel and I said our goodbyes. She drove off south, whilst I walked in the opposite direction.
A little bit of road walking, and then I was in the Pennine Way for the rest of the day. Initially the path followed the edge of two reservoirs. Again, the water levels are alarming. The government yesterday announced that there will be water saving measures imposed on the country next month, and looking at Walshaw Dean reservoir it was clear why.
As I crossed the bridge, I saw a man taking photos of the water. He then paused to take his shirt off. It wasn’t that warm, but who was I to question. He was ahead of me, I didn’t want to interrupt his enjoyment of the wind on his skin. Except then he waited for me to cross. He asked me for some spurious directions, even though he later made it clear that he knew exactly where he was. He was called Norman, and he had lots of opinions on lots of things, including that I’d planned my route wrong. That didn’t make me warm to him, and then when he considered me appraisingly and said that he thought I was probably younger than I looked I was even less thrilled. Though it did make me laugh afterwards. He stuck with me for a mile or so until I eventually invented the need for a cup of tea and a pause, whilst looking over the water, and really hoped he wouldn’t join me. Fortunately he got the hint, and Half-Naked Norman, 80 year old rock climbing master and expert on so many things, walked out of my life.
After the reservoirs there was a slope over Wadsworth Moor up to Withins Height. This is the walking I love, open moorland and silence apart from the sound of the wind. And the excitement of getting to the top of the hill waiting to see what the view will be like over the summit.
Just along from Withins Height is the ruin of Top Withins farm, often cited to be the inspiration of the setting for Wuthering Heights. Whether or not that is the case, (and there is certainly a somewhat testy sign to say that it is disputed), it has the wildness and stark dourness that I’d imagined from the book.
Then it was a gentle downhill walk on the flagstones towards Stanbury. As an introduction to the Pennine Way today has been far less demanding than I feared. I had the pleasure of walking with George for the last mile or so, whose lost glasses I fortunately found. She’s walking part of the Way with a friend. We enjoyed a chat as we came off the hill, and then met again over dinner. It felt like the sorts of encounters I enjoyed on the Coast to Coast, and I hope that there’ll be more of these over the next couple of weeks.
Distance travelled: 12 miles
Total ascent: 2500 feet
Calories burned: 1800 calories
Local tipple - half of Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker
Dinner at Old Silent Inn - fine, though not the best of the trip, but after a small breakfast and crisps for lunch it was very gratefully received!
Peppered salmon with sweet potato fries and salad
Video of the day
New song of the day
Hard Drive - Cassandra Jenkins
Sections of her talking, with jazz saxophone and chilled instrumentals behind. And then smoky singing for the chorus. I didn’t like it to begin with, but on the third play it started to make more sense.