By Easter, I became quite anxious as idiots (including neighbours who appeared to have friends round and flit from one house to another) seemed heedless of ‘social distancing’. But a fine Easter Sunday convinced me I should get out of the house. We ventured down the Cuckoo Steps onto the all but deserted main road. As we waited for cyclists at the corner taking photos of the eeriness, we chatted about how rammed town would be normally during a Bank Holiday weekend.
On Oldgate, Canada Geese sat unflustered by the river. On Hangingroyd Road a mother and child cycled round an empty carpark fringed with white and orange tree blossom. Continuing to Victoria Road, rainbows decorated windows and chalk Easter eggs adorned pavements. People chatted, straddling the road as a mad cat lady took her cats for a jog.
We discussed the loveliness of the pink cherry blooms with a woman on the balcony above until, coast clear, we could proceed.
From Foster Mill Bridge, we saw several people occupying the riverside path. A woman with a dog came towards us necessitating a hasty move. The grassy riverbank was resplendent with daffodils. Horse chestnuts started to sprout, heedless of parasitic moss hijacking their drier branches. Hebden Water resembled silvery ribbons flowing downstream.
As the path narrowed, we turned, re-crossed the bridge, and quickened our pace to keep clear of a walking group following close behind. On Valley Road, we side-stepped back alongside the river. A man sat on the wall. Unsure if he waited for us, he seemed oblivious. We hurried past to see him stuff 3 chocolate bars in his gob; essential eating, judging by the size of him! In the town centre, even the square was deserted.
Ten days later, following a bout of sinusitis, we visited Nutclough. Walking via The Buttress onto Hangingroyd Lane, we encountered very few people on quiet mid-week streets. At the Little Park, we cautiously took narrow steps between houses to Foster Lane, tricky to navigate with all the parked cars. Crossing at the lights, workmen occupied the entrance path to the clough. We hung back for a small group coming the other way then ran through, holding our breath.
Gasping for air amidst the spring foliage, flowers shone in the brilliant sunlight, including impossibly yellow celandine and soft-toned early bluebells. We jumped over the wall to the top of the swamp. Our shadows lay atop the stagnant water of the old mill ponds and glinting fish swam just below the surface.
Returning via Birchcliffe, boxes dotted on street corners contained random items including child’s toys, rucksacks, kitchen gadgets and bric-a-brac. Normally, I would have derided the practice as ‘middle class dumping’ but with charity shops shut, it seemed acceptable. I availed myself of a couple of free books.