It is a rare thing indeed for us to purposefully visit Hardcastle Crags in summer. Almost as rare (apart from holidays), we set off at 1 p.m. on a mid-July Sunday to catch Gibson Mill’s opening hours.
We took the most direct route via Hangingroyd Lane and the riverside path. New rock art stood in the centre of Hebden Water, where the banks were adorned with green and white flourishes.
At the bottom of the steps up to Midgehole Road, loud barking caused me to jump out of my skin. A large dog leapt up from behind tall grasses.
Phil let out an involuntary shout. Two women appeared, along with a smaller dog causing more commotion. The women apologised, saying it was a rescue dog responding to our fear. That sounded reasonable, except I hadn’t even seen the mutt, so how could I be fearful in advance? Later, Phil felt sorry for shouting at a rescue dog but I said (not for the first time) that dog owners should control their charges when they are likely to come into contact with other walkers.
On Midgehole Road, signs declared the Crags car park full. We weaved between parked cars and clumps of irritatingly slow people to the main gate. Staying on the top track, we walked speedily to Gibson Mill. We immediately entered the building and climbed to the top floor to be met by the sight of a Victorian-era kitchen. An iron range arrayed with a selection of contemporaneous cooking vessels stood against the back wall. To the right, a shallow Belfast sink perched on brick legs. Around the cracked windowsill, peeling whitewash revealed fading yellow paint.
Through a door on the left we found a larger room with tungsten bulbs suspended from a high ceiling. The ample space was occupied by Yan Wang-Preston’s ‘Forest’ exhibition, the main object of our visit. I had expected arty photos of trees. It turned out to be a project documenting the uprooting of mature trees in China and transplanting them to concrete cities where of course they die. Utter madness! Why can’t they grow new trees?
Downstairs, we made our way to the café for freshly-made sandwiches and tea. We chose a table on the terrace and got a different view of the mill pond.
From the upper floor, I had noticed small splashes hitting the water’s surface. What had looked like raindrops, I now realised, were being made by small fish.
After eating, we went out front to finish our drinks. On the surrounding tables, yet more barking dogs threatened to cause alarm but thankfully, they were kept at bay. I spotted an acquaintance sitting nearby with a friend. We exchanged greetings before they entered the mill to peruse the exhibition.
We took the slower, but less populous and pleasanter riverside route back to the main entrance. Tall pines stretched into the summer sky, the canopy giving respite from the muggy afternoon heat. Impossibly large stones punctuated the paths and stream, some sporting strange holes. Foliage made attractive greyscale patterns on eroding surfaces. At the almost-dry weir, dippers dived among square paving rendered visible by the low water level.
As we rested on a nearby bench, I heard something drop to the ground. At first, we could see nothing. Then Phil realised it was his phone. The screen had cracked (For the third time. Luckily, he has since discovered he can buy the parts to fix it himself).
On reaching the end of the crags, we continued on the riverside as much as possible, staying on the left-hand side towards town, foraging a few raspberries from sporadic bushes.
We paused briefly on Victoria Road where a tractor seemed imprisoned. Headlights gleamed wide-eyed behind an iron gate fastened with rusty iron chains. Polished blue paintwork reflected blue sky. Getting ready for the local show, no doubt.
More photos at: https://1drv.ms/f/s!AjkK19zVvfQti4JrYWA4b2_1LeHp3w