Due to recurring bouts of sinusitis and a family bereavement, there had been little opportunity to enjoy local walks for quite a few weeks. The first Sunday in August, I felt slightly unwell but we sorely needed fresh air. Phil needed the shop. I thought we might have a short walk first but he was intent on the errand. The centre was rammed again, particularly the square, as it had been since the easement of lockdown earlier in the summer. The recently imposed new restrictions in the region had made no difference as far as we could tell. A gang of ageing bikers inhabited a favoured spot opposite the pub. One wore a fox stole – very Mad Max! Acquiring the essentials, we wandered up to the large charity shop.
Emerging empty-handed, we found the others shut, dithered about what to do, then returned briefly to the packed square to buy pies for a handy lunch. We walked on the riverside and continued to the end of Victoria Road until it became a cul-de-sac. Hebden Water gushed enthusiastically beyond a low stone wall. Ubiquitous Himalayan Balsam sprouted amid rusting car wrecks. Piles of tyres were artily arranged in front of patchwork buildings.
Towards Foster Mill Bridge, a for sale sign grandly claimed a dilapidated workshop included a garden – actually a strip of scrappy grass. Over the small humped bridge, waterside flowers already went to seed. Unable to identify the tall white blooms (so many looked similar), we compared their characteristics to the willowy features of the wild carrot – dominant in the park this year. We’d planned to sit and eat our pies but the beaches and benches were occupied. As the wind whipped up, I suddenly felt worse. I suggested a different route home instead.
Overgrown stone steps took us past the glorious sycamore up to a rough path. Dodging a couple of women conversing on the corner, we turned left and paused to catch our breath. Here, the balsam grew tall, lower stems entwined with bindweed, providing a foreground for lines of terraced houses climbing the hills.
Further up, thick garden walls were encrusted with escapees, the bright orange and yellow flowers contrasting brightly with grey granite.
We soon reached Lee Wood Road and walked a short distance westwards, amused by a ‘Cross Lee’ installation, to the top of The Buttress. I momentarily hesitated as the well-worn packhorse trail all but disappeared in a spookily distant vanishing point. “Do you want to go this way?” asked Phil. I shrugged “It’s the quickest way back.” Stealing myself for a slippery descent on cobbles edged with lush seasonal growth, I soon found my stride.
We nipped in the small cemetery. Spruced up a few years ago, large clumps of yellow flowers now inhabited narrow spaces between Victorian gravestones. Slippery paths led precariously to a back wall. Hillside settlements across the valley seemed remote. Proceeding downwards, we reached the last turn-off before the bottom leading home.