This is an extremely peculiar time for all of us. Routines have changed and our freedom has been greatly curtailed. We are all socially distancing ourselves, staying home unable to meet up with friends and loved ones. However, at the moment we are still able to go out for excerise and benefit from some fresh air, listen to birdsong and spot the optimistic signs of Spring.
I consider myself very lucky to live in a beautiful, all be it sometimes bleak, part of the world. High on a hill above Hebden Bridge my family and I are able to go for isolated walks straight from our front door. It’s easy to find yourself alone with nature, the only sounds being the call of the curlews and the keening of buzzards on the tops or the wind in the trees and rushing water in the enclosed valleys.
A local walk is also an opportunity to take photos of the landscape that is inspiration for the textile products I create. Ours is not a pretty Yorkshire landscape, it’s the dramatic, ravaged inspiration of artists, authors and poets, scarred with remnants of our industrial past. The moorland can be dark and intimidating, Emily Brontë’s use of the word “wuthering” which means blustery and turbulent, perfectly describes the fierce, noisy winds that blow across our hills, yet on a gloriously sunny day there is no better place to be. Ted Hughes poetically describes this bleak barren hill country in his collaboration with photographer Fay Godwin. ‘Remains of Elmet’ refers to the magical, ancient Brittonic Kingdom which encompasses our South Pennine landscape, and particularly the area in which I live. I often find myself walking in their footsteps, Ted Hughes whispering in the wind as I walk back in time through Fay’s atmospheric photography.
We’ve had the opportunity to take plenty of walks recently. On a glorious Spring day last week we walked across to the Bridestones, stopping off to say “Hello” to the Wizard of Whirlaw, a large carved stone head similar to those on Easter Island, keeping watch over the Kingdom, so named, we believe, after the book by local author William Holt…look him up – he’s a most fascinating character!
“The Bridestones” form a Millstone Grit outcrop that stand high on a ridge over the Pennine moorland. These rock formations have been sculpted by wind and rain over thousands of years, weathering away the gritstone, creating strange and curious shaped rocks, some looking like human heads and faces, others like animals. No-one really knows where the name ‘Bridestones’ comes from, some say it’s a derivative of Brigantia, whilst others believe they take their name simply from “bride and groom”, referring back to a past time when marriage ceremonies supposedly took place at this spot. The distinctive egg shaped stone being the Bride Stone and beside it a smaller rock, the Groom. Whatever the truth to the name, this is a fascinating and magical place steeped in myth and legend. Up here on a clear day you can see for miles. The perfect place to blow away the cobwebs, breathe deeply and forget the stress and worry of our current crisis; for a while at least.
This is a walk we have done many times yet each time there is something new to discover or be delighted by. This time, for the first time I found a stone that looked like a toad, and we sat a while to watch meadow pipits and snipe overhead, the large stones warm against our backs in the spring sunshine.
Last week, despite the day being grey and quite chilly, we had a bimble through the wonderfully named Jumble Hole, our favourite walk through a small wooded valley very close to our house. Binoculars and zoom lens to hand we walked quietly, hoping to spot deer. Unfortunately we were disappointed this time but were happy to see the local Alpaca grazing as we passed and were entertained by two pheasants making a show as they battled for territory.
Our walk took us past the picturesque ruin of Staups Mill, an old bobbin mill dating from the 18th Century. Sitting near the top of this enchanting little valley, the mill is slowly disintegrating, a little bit more masonry lost to the brambles below as wind and rain blows through the skeletal remains. Today however, all was still and the mill stood quiet and peaceful, hiding secrets of its past ‘neath the thicket that bars anyone from entering.
Our walk continued, heading home by circling round on to the topsand passing Great Rock, a large Gritstone Rock and local landmark which is also known as the Devil’s Rock, as an indentation on the top is said to be the Devil’s hoofmark! Standing on top of the rock offers incredible views towards Hebden Bridge and beyond….another perfect spot to stop and breathe deeply. Although not a particular long walk, this trek through valley and up onto moorland was a strenuous workout for both body and soul…so I think we earned our coffee and chocolate flapjack treat when we got home!
I hope that once the world has had a rest, you’ll visit us at Heart Gallery, and perhaps take time for a walk through the landscape that inspires not only me, but many of Heart Gallery’s artists and makers. Until then, take care and stay safe. X