Tag Archives: St. Thomas A Becket church

A Mystery Solved? (Heptonstall and Northwell Lane)

Northwell Panorama

In the heat of July, Marisa and I took the bus up to Heptonstall for lunch at The Towngate Tearooms.  We discussed options for walking back to Hebden and I asked her to confirm for me which path was Tinker Bank Lane and see if I could determine if there was another path between that and Northwell Lane.

FleecedShe led me through the old co-op yard into a carpark and up a grassy path parallel to Northgate.  I noted a washing line being used to hang sheep fleeces and the pinfold.  Now a picnic area, this little enclave was once used communally to house livestock.  At the end of the path we turned immediately right, onto Tinker Bank Lane.   With no apparent right of way ahead of us, I still wondered if I had imagined the middle path and resolved to clear up the mystery at some future date.  We descended to Draper Lane and crossed into the wood, through Hollins and into town.

The days leading up to the autumn equinox brought a resurgence of summer.  Still tired from an outing earlier in the week, I consented to a short hike through Eaves Wood.  We walked along the ridge slowly, pausing to examine details close up.  Tall grassed framed the hamlet below.  Fat spiders lay in wait on delicate webs.  Baby oak trees sprouted from the ground, their tiny red leaves bright amidst the grass.

At Hell Hole Rock, we waited as a dorky-looking couple descended the steep stone staircase, carrying mattresses on their backs.  I joked they planned on camping but obviously they were climbers.  Steps clear,  we went up to ‘photographer’s corner’ and clambered onto the dodgy ledge overlooking the rock, the climbing couple hampering attempts to take good shots.

Lit ruin 1Back on the proper path, we turned right to Southfield.  Loud bellringing emanated from the church where the afternoon sun glinted yellow on the stonework.  We had the ruin to ourselves for a spell, enjoying seeing it in a different light, until a few other walkers appeared.  A woman with young boy in tow enquired as to the location of ‘King David’s’ grave (aka David Hartley of the Cragg Vale coiners).  She was horrified that we had never made a point of seeking it out.  Phil commented it made a change from women asking about Sylvia Plath’s resting place.  I suggested she may well end up there but was probably trying to make the visit more engaging for her son.

Normally we would tarry awhile in  the churchyard but the persistent bell-ringing played havoc with my tinnitus.  We retreated onto West Laithe and walked down the road to a snicket into the old co-op yard.  Dismayed at the apparent lack of maintenance , I joked  they should get the stocks back out.  A man stood in front of the adjacent garage.  Imposingly large, with a bushy beard and arms crossed, he regarded us suspiciously. Unperturbed, I bade him a cheery “hello!”.  He reluctantly returned the greeting.  At a side door, an even surlier-looking fellow eyed us warily.

Tinker Bank chickensWe stifled sniggers as we continued up the small path to the pinfold which I had wanted to explore since discovering in July.  Through the small square doorway, worn picnic tables inhabited an oasis of dappled shade.  We agreed it was a good spot for a rest although we ended up covered in particles raining down on us from the nearby trees.  As we chatted, I expressed amazement that in spite of  gentrification,  real yokels still existed in little enclaves.  Phil said he was not in the least bit surprised.  He regaled me with tales of Dick the ‘beech nut god’ and the ‘bramble spirit’, claiming people round here still believed in these pagan deities.

We continued to Tinker Bank Lane, being chased by chickens as we went back up a short way onto Northgate and turned right to the top of Northwell Lane.  We took in the views and my eyes were drawn to the private garden immediately below us.  A distinctly wide section with stone walls on either side, seemed to solve the mystery of the middle path; seemingly once a lane joining Tinker Bank with Northwell but now repurposed.

Northwell HouseBrightness at the top of the lane gave way dramatically to darkness as we walked down Northwell to Draper Lane.  Crossing, we followed the footpath towards Lee Wood, even darker and decidedly cool.  I picked up the pace as we headed down to a junction.  Of three routes, we chose one leading to Hebden Water in the hope of returning to warmth.  Snaking round bends, we noted the horsey holiday farm had become even bigger, though the military vehicles we had spotted a couple of years ago were no longer in evidence

On the riverside, a woman walking purposefully ahead f us and game of croquet underway at the bowling club were the only signs of life.  Disappointingly still in shade, we finally regained sunlight on Valley Road.  We dawdled into town and considered staying out for a pint to make the most of it.  Inevitably though, hordes of after-work drinkers had descended.  With barely a scrap of outdoor seating to be had. We went for coffee instead.

More photos at: https://1drv.ms/u/s!AjkK19zVvfQti8w-WdOR1IKkqBqWHQ?e=fGxd5B

Pinfold 2

Early Spring in Common Bank and Nutclough

Common Bank Trees 3

The mild weather continued into late February.  On the last Sunday, we took one of our familiar circular walks, starting out along Oldgate, over the packhorse bridge, up Bridge Gate and across Commercial Street onto the historic cobbled route towards Birchcliffe.  At the top of the steps, we proceeded upwards on School Street to the start of Common Bank Wood.

Common Bank Bark Close Up 4We could hear a dog barking from within a house when a woman with a dog came past.  She thought we were spooked by her hound, put it on a lead and walked ahead which was considerate.  However, the dog kept stopping to sniff interesting things!  We made the most of being held back on the narrow path to examine the interesting shapes and shadows.

Sycamore bark reflected filtered sunlight.  Shadows of tree trunks fell on the ground still littered with autumnal leaves.  A flawless blue sky framed tightly-packed twisty branches.

At the top, the bridge over the stream looked more precarious than ever but fortunately the water level was low thus not difficult to navigate.  Up the path between the fields, a jay (aka pink crow!) flitted from tree top to post.  We crept along to try and capture it on camera but we had more luck with the magpies and jackdaws.

Blooming 6Opposite the residential area of Dod Naze, low-hanging catkins swayed gently in the breeze.  We paused briefly on the corner where a smattering of spring flowers grew behind the bench before turning up onto Rowland Lane.  Mist topping the uplands created eerie scenes with the church towers of Heptonstall emerging ethereally from a grey landscape.

At the end of the lane, we waited for a group of walkers accompanied by a dog with stick to pass by then curved round sharp left down Sandy Gate.  Buds adorned small trees and shrubs, some appearing like miniature flowers.

Budding 6Part-way down, Phil had problems with his camera and I had a bit of tummy ache so we took a breather on the low wall.  A passing driver shouted through his open window at us as he raced up the hill, which made me jump.  Both feeling irritated, I decided to remove myself from the situation and marched off.  I had calmed down somewhat as he caught up with me.

Among the low springtime growth, I easily located the path descending into Nutclough and spotted a dead shrew under a tree– fluffy on the top, mouldy on the bottom!  As we crossed the stone bridge, fading afternoon sun glinted on the water’s surface making silvery patterns. The air became noticeably cooler as we followed the well-trodden route through the clough. Feeling disinclined to traverse to the ‘islands’, we rested instead on the top bench before a brisk walk homewards via Keighley Road.  Removing my boots to rest on the sofa, I reflected that I did not feel as tired as I would have a few weeks ago.  Although not a massive walk, it would usually be more than enough for me.

More photos at: https://1drv.ms/f/s!AjkK19zVvfQti5xgZ-49clE15sZOIg

Misty Field 2

 

Snow Wonders (Eaves Wood and Heptonstall)

Pike and spikes 2

The penultimate day of January, overnight sub-zero temperatures preserved the snowfall, to be followed by a beautiful sunny day.  We left home early afternoon, noting that it did not feel as bitingly cold outdoors as the snowy scenes and internal temperature suggested.  We climbed the Cuckoo steps, pausing to crane our necks towards the sound of tits twittering in stick-like branches above us.  This also allowed me to catch my breath.  On Heptonstall Road, roadworks blocked the pavement so we crossed over straight away and headed left up the path.

Ice lumps 1Initially, the path was sheltered by trees and remained snow-free.  At the top of the ridge, lumps of ice clung to sprouting trees growing precariously at the cliff edge.  White blankets weighed down heather bushes.  Snow melted slowly from the branches.  Water droplets created soft dripping sounds.

 

Further up, two dogs bounded towards us, then turned and ran the other way.  I could hear voices slightly further up and supposing they accompanied the hounds, suggested waiting for them to go by.  However, when a group of hippies appeared with no dogs, I was rather puzzled.  We proceeded warily wondering if the dogs might re-appear but thankfully, they did not.

Hell Hole in snow 1At Hell Hole Rocks, the pristine snow lay deep and squeaky underfoot.  Lumps on nearby trees resembled Japanese blossom.  From above, layers of white contrasted starkly with the dark rock.  We climbed the narrow steps, taking care to avoid muddy icy patches and stood at the top awhile for archetypal views across the valley.  Phil started walking North on the path, headed for the dank part of the wood.  I refused to follow him in such wintry conditions. Instead, we took the path in the opposite direction, through a gate and along the top of the quarry.

Breath-taking scenes arrested us.  Blue mist topped Snow-covered hills towards Lancashire in the west. Stoodley Pike appeared ethereal in the distance.  Plants punctuated the cliff edge, their spike-like stalks adorned with snow crystals forming needle-like blooms.

We followed the path round, through a second gate marking the start of the newly-planted ‘wood’.  Here too, snow studded the hedgerows where glacial thawing made wondrous shapes beneath  a perfect deep blue sky.  At the other end of the field, we noticed that the snowline stopped abruptly to the east with green fields visible below the white.

Starling roost 1On Southfield, jackdaws gathered atop trees, while two magpies looked totally unflustered at being outnumbered.  At the churchyard, a flock of starlings replaced the crows. They had descended from their usual roost in the clock tower onto trees by the outer wall.  Their loud chattering sounded musical; almost choral – I had never heard anything like it!

A pair of staffies made a big fuss, to be berated by the woman walking them.  We waited patiently until they calmed down before continuing into the churchyard.  Inevitably, the ruin looked delightful in the snow.

All the way up, I had been attempting to keep my boots and jeans snow-free.  I tried to shake some off when I noticed a massive lump on the bottom of my hem.  Phil was a little way ahead of me and I called after him to stop so I could tackle it.  Eventually, he came to look, declared “it’s frozen solid” and promptly walked off.  I became annoyed but eventually managed to break the ice into smaller lumps and prise them off, to be left with a big rip in the hem and freezing cold hands.

Desperate for a proper rest, I headed for chairs outside Towngate Tearoom.  I checked the time, surprised to find it had taken almost two hours to get to the village (it normally took 50 minutes).  No wonder I felt tired and narky!  I had thought the tearoom would be shut but thankfully, it was not.  Phil ordered us a cuppa.  A tray appeared, complete with china teapot and froufrou dolly-sized cups.  We huddled under the awning, doing our best to avoid melting drips from splashing in our warming drinks.  As we returned home via the road, I tried to keep my trouser hems from getting under my boots.  This proved exceedingly difficult on slippery stretches.  Near home, he volunteered to go for milk while I headed straight indoors to take my ruined clothes off and collapse on the sofa.

More photos at: https://1drv.ms/f/s!AjkK19zVvfQti5pTvcnw242kyhoLDg

Snowy ruin 1