Ponden Hall & Penistone Crag, Stanbury, West Yorkshire

 

Here I am in Stanbury following in the footsteps of the Bronte children.I drove their to walk to two places: (1) Ponden Hall, a friend's home which the Bronteís often visited and (2) Penistone Crag which - a rock which was the fictional meeting place for Cathy and Heathcliffe in Emily's Wuthering Heights. I parked near the reservoir on a Sunday afternoon about three pm and had a jam sandwich before setting off. To keep me company I put on an audio book - a four hour comedy romance that started and ended on a train.

 

Ponden Hall

First I walked around Ponden Reservoir to get up to the hall. Was an expanse of water was there in the 1800's? All the Bronte siblings had died before the reservoir was built in the 1870's to supply water to the thirsty mills of the Worth Valley. Perhaps there was a lake or just fields. I reached Ponden Hall and ensured I walked up to the door just to truly walk in the footsteps of the Bronteís. All three girls came here regularly as they knew the Heaton family and played with their children. The Heaton's were textile manufacturers and financially comfortable. Itís thought Emily Bronte made this place "Thrushcross Grange" which was home of the Linton family in Wuthering Heights. Nowadays itís a guest house and is for sale for £1.25 million.

 

I stood outside and had a look around. I could easily imagine the children of the two families playing in the sun in the small yard at the front. In the Bronte's era the hall was supposed to have held the largest private library in Yorkshire which must have been a draw for the studious girls. The garden bears two entwined pear trees said to be planted by Robert Heaton as he was attracted to Emily (she was older and nothing would happen). Sadly the last Heaton heir died in a mental asylum in Austrialia. Opposite the yard is a raised mount so riders could laterally get onto horses. Iíve read the girls travelled by horse and carriage on long distances but I've never read about them riding horses.

 

 

Pennistone Crag

From here I walked up and up through magnificent moorland to end up at Penistone Crag. I didnít pass a single person but lapwings and meadow pippets darted around. I passed four balloons tied together caught on heather and wondered where they had been released. I started across the knee-deep heather to get them but three surprised grouse shot up and I felt mean and returned to the path. I continued up and up, getting deeper into the comedy romance in my ears. Paths merged into one that led up to the crag. Farm houses once populated the moor but after the reservoir was finished tenants moved out and they fell into disrepair. Walking up and up was sweaty work even in the late afternoon. I had a late started after a disappointing search for a grave in a Halifax cemetery but it was still hot. The Bronte's must have washed their clothes regularly after so many hearty walks. There were no knickers to worry about as women didn't wear knickers until about 1900. Only prostitutes wore knickers.

 

I saw the crag across a valley before I reached it. Emily Bronte furnished it with this name and in Wuthering Heights itís the meeting place of the fictional Cathy and Heathcliffe. I continued up the path looking at it and wondered how many Japanese people had made this walk (the wooden signs for this walk and the one up to Top Withinís are in Japanese.) Eventually I stepped onto the gritstone crag and wondered how many fans had stood near the edge. At the base of the rock is hole and Emily talks of this as the ďFairy CaveĒ. Itís just big enough for a human being to crawl through. I couldnít come all this way and not have a look so I clambered down and found she was right. I pushed myself through the hole just to sate my appetite.

 

I stood there and enjoyed the solitude and the sprawl of Stanbury. A nearby crag was where the camera must have stood to film one of the versions of Wuthering Heights. A pigeon was stood on it looking at me quizzically. People debate if the Bronte locations are apocryphal - did they really write about these places? They were probably in their minds when they wrote as they rarely left Haworth as they were poor. They were the daughters of an impoverished vicar of Irish peasant stock and until they left Haworth for work they walked everywhere. Emily and Anne had dogs and a hawk to exercise and were so socially inept they went on the moors to avoid people. They often walked four miles to Keighley to buy stuff they couldn't get in Haworth's shops. I hope theyíd stood on the crag. With its cracking view back toward Haworth it begs to be stood on.

 

When did a Bronte last walk up here? Branwell who was the only male died at the parsonage in autumn 1848. At this funeral Emily caught a cold and died weeks later aged 30. Anne was next, expiring the next year aged 28 in Scarborough. Charlotte lived for another five years and though Jane Eyre had made her an overnight sensation she remained at the parsonage. Did she walk up to Penistone Crag alone - or with her fiancť while pregnant?

 

I had a Kitkat at some ruins and made my way back down, enveloped in the play in my ears. Walking along the bottom wall of a moorland farm a woman came out to feed some dogs and saw me. I waved but she did not wave back. In one field I passed a black water tub as wide as a car about four feet deep. There was a much-bloated snail about 20cm under the water. It must have fallen in so I scooped up and laid it on a stone and it shrunk back to normal proportions. Down by the reservoir I got chatting with a local man walking his arthritic dog. Though heíd lived there for decades heíd never once walked up to the crag. Blimey, people come from Japan and America to do the two-hour walk and heíd not even got up to Ponden Hall. Iím glad Iím nosey and need to see things.

 

I took a bit of a footage from the crag and the link is here...

 

https://youtu.be/GbXDvsdY-NI

 

https://www.wuthering-heights.co.uk/wh/locations/ponden-kirk.php

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nearly there...

 

 

The view of the reservoir from Ponden Hall...

 

 

 

 

Up and up, pointing back To Haworth village...

 

 

 

The Fairy Cave..

 

A film version of Wuthering Heights...

 

 

 

Time for a Kitkat...

 

Back to the car...