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I'm a consultant and trainer specialising in the recognition, evaluation and control of health hazards in the workplace. I'm based in the North West of England, but am willing to travel (almost) anywhere

Stratford – The Guild Chapel

We went back into Stratford on a sunny Wednesday. the offspring wanted to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, but we’d been before and as entry is quite expensive me and J decided to give it a miss and have a wander round the small town.

After visiting Waterstones (and ending up buying a couple of books – more to add tot he pile 😂), walking a little further down the street we spotted this chapel and a notice enticed us to have a look inside.

It’s the the chapel built for the Guild of the Holy Cross, a medieval religious organisation created in 1269 which existed until it was abolished in 1547. The Guild membership consisted of gentry, wealthy merchants and tradesmen from Stratford – it probably acted like a sort of Freemasons where the members looked after each other while carrying out some charity work as a public relations exercise. According to Wikipedia

The guild reached the peak of its influence in the late 15th century, when it had become the town’s semi-official governing body, and probably included all of the more important townsmen.

The picture at the top of this post shows their Guildhall and the adjacent alms houses. The chapel was built at the end of the Guildhall – you can see the tower in the photo.

The Medieval Guild Chapel is a Grade 1 listed building and the Historic England listing tells us that the chancel was built in the 13th Century, with some alterations done around1450. The nave and tower were added in around 1490 and comprehensively restored in1804. Further restoration and refurbishment in the 1950s.

During the 19th Century Medieval wall-paintings were rediscovered which had been covered over by limewash during the Reformation.

In Medieval times most churches would have had paintings on the walls to educate and, literally, put the fear of God into the congregation. Even those who were able to read would be unlikely to be able to read the words of the scriptures themselves because until the Reformation the Bible was only available in Latin. The clergy and the Feudal Ruling Class didn’t want the Lower Orders to get any ideas about equality from reading the New Testament!

Following the Reformation, when English translations of the bible became available, the paintings, images, statues and the like were banned by a Royal Injunction by Elizabeth I 1559 which required the “removal of all signs of superstition and idolatry from places of worship”. So the paintings were covered over with limewash (Shakespeare’s dad was allegedly involved in this), which actually served to protect the them – although some have been lost, including some scenes from the Legend of the True Cross when the Chapel was re-modelled in the 19th Century.

Today, however, some of the paintings have been uncovered and can be viewed by visitors to the chapel. A team of historical archaeologists and digital heritage specialists from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, have carried out a major study of the paintings and created a digital model.

The large mural painted above the chancel arch (probably at the beginning of the 16th Century) represents the Day of Judgement, otherwise known as the Doom,

This is what the York team think it would have looked like. (The large cross and silhouettes of two figures – one on either side – were not actually part oft eh painting. there was originally a physical cross and two statues there which were painted around. Now they’re gone they’ve left behind their “shadows”

Another large painting on lower west wall – the Allegory of Death is the best-preserved of the Chapel’s wall paintings.

The York team’s reconstruction can be seen here.

Not all of the paintings are on display. Most have been re-painted with limewash to preserve them, but there are a few which visitors can peek at!

There’s a couple of good websites about the chapel and the paintings here and here plus a website about the York University project.

After looking round the chapel we made our way to the river for a stroll before joining the offspring for a drink in the Garrick, the oldest pub (reputably!) in Stratford –  in a timber framed building dating back to the 1400’s.

After that we walked towards the river, crossed the bridge then walked along the other side

before crossing back over on the chain ferry.

We then made our way back to the RSC. Popping inside we asked how much it cost to go up the tower. It was free! (with the option of making a donation – which we did).

The tower was added during the renovation and remodelling between 2007 and 2010

and after taking the lift to the top we had some good views over the theatre, the town and the nearby countryside.

Wife and daugher took the lift back down an then went shopping. Son and I descended by the steps (more fun!) and sheltered in the shade while we waited for them. It was then back to the car for the short journey to our accommodation.

Chipping Campden

On the way back to our holiday accommodation from Snowshill, our route took us close to the small Cotswold town of Chipping Campden. As it was only mid afternoon, we decided to make a short diversion and stop to have a look. This holiday was out first experience of the Cotswolds which is famous for it’s pretty villages with buildings constructed from the golden-Cotswold stone, a type of oolitic Jurassic limestone. Chipping Camden certainly had plenty of them.

The town’s website tells us that its

an ancient wool town, jewel of the Cotswolds, centre of the Arts and Crafts movement, a beautiful place to visit, live or work

but there didn’t seem to be anything about its history. There is, however, plenty of information of the Chipping Campden History Society website.

There were settlements in the vicinity going back a long way, but the town really started to grow between the 13th and 15th centuries due to the wool trade. Apparently many of the buildings in the town date from this period. By the 17th Century the wool trade had declined, but it continues to grow and prosper as a Market Town.

We didn’t spend very long in the town – one of us wanted to get back to the accommodation – so we only had time to take a brief wander along the main street.

Looking closely, the buildings may have been built with the same type of stone but there were different styles, reflecting the different periods when they were erected. The buildings in the High Street are apparently mainly from the 14th century to the 17th century. There were many good examples of vernacular buildings

but we also spotted a number of Georgian style properties, probably built as the town expanded as it became more prosperous.

“Campden” originates from the Saxon ‘campa’ ‘denu’ -meaning ‘a valley with cultivated fields ringed by unfenced hill pastures’. The “Chipping” part of the town’s name, added later during it’s history, is from Old English cēping, meaning ‘market’, ‘market-place’. There are several other towns in the area with the same element in the name, and only a few weeks ago I was in the old Lancashire Chipping on the edge of the Forest of Bowland. So, not surprisingly, the town has an old market square and it was here that we found the old market hall.

Funded by a wealthy benefactor, Sir Baptist Hicks, It was built in 1627 to provide shelter for traders in goods such as cheese, butter and poultry. Not surprisingly it’s a Grade 1 Listed Building.

Like just about every other building on the High Street it’s built of the local creamy limestone. It has a stone slate roof, and each of the slates is secured by a single wooden peg through a hole resting on the wooden cross strut.

The old cobbled stone floor was very uneven! It’s believed that this is the original floor.

Today it’s owned by the National Trust and their website tells us that

In the 1940s it was almost sold to an American, but local people heroically raised the money to buy it first. They gave it to the National Trust

The market hall is the start, or end, point of the 102 mile long Cotswold Way. Now that’s given me an idea!

Snowshill Manor Garden

When Charles Wade bought Snowshill Manor the area around the house was a “muddy farmyard” but he was determined that it should become “a garden of interest”. The original design was by Hugh Baillie Scott, modified by Wade who’d originally trained as an architect, and, with the assistance of a local builder, William Hodge, he then set about its transformation.

Like Hidcote the garden at Snowshill Manor was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement style as an extension of the house, based around a series of “garden rooms” with terraces, stone walls, buildings and features such as a sunken pool, a well, an obelisk and a model village. Although it is much small than that at Hidcote.

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Armillary Court. The pillar was made from a gate post found in the farmyard!
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Looking over the lawn to the sunken pool with its model village
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A close up of the model village – “Wolf’s Cove”. Originally meant to resemble a Cotswold settlement, the later addition of the harbour means it looks more like a Cornish fishing village
The Well Court with its 24-hour garden clock
another view of the Well Court
Quote from For Katrina’s Sun-Dial by Henry Van Dyke
A close up of the 24 hour garden clock. The inscriptions are from the teachings of St Bernard of Clairvaux. The metalwork was made locally by George Hart, a silversmith from Chipping Camden
Another view of the Well Court
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Looking over the orchard to the village church
The orchard
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The orchard – photo taken on first approaching the house

Snowshill

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The day after our trip to Hidcote we decided to drive back over to the north Cotswolds to visit another National Trust property – Snowshill Manor. We’d read that it had another Arts and Crafts style garden but that there was also a manor house to visit. We didn’t know quite what to expect.

There’s been house on this site since Tudor times but at the beginning of the 20th Century it had been used as a farmhouse and was surrounded by muddy fields. Then in 1919 it was bought by Charles Wade who’d heard was up for sale while he was serving in the trenches. Wade wrote that

the whole property was in a most deplorable state of ruin and neglect, but it had not been spoilt…in spite of the gloom of the day…I could visualize it as a delightful home…’

Charles Padget Wade came from a wealthy family who had made their money from sugar plantations in the Carribean. Of course, that would had meant that originally they would have been slave owners (who were very comprehensively compensated when the slavery was banned in the British Empire by the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833). When his father died Wade inherited a share in his father’s business, including property on the island of Saint Kitts. He’d originally trained as an architect, but his inheritance allowed him to devote his time to other pursuits, in particular his passion for collecting, and Snowshill manor became a home not for himself, but his growing collection of diverse objects and curiosities. He also decided to create a garden from the farmyard and messy fields behind the house, designed by the Arts and Crafts architect Hugh Baillie Scott – who amongst other creations design our favourite Blackwell in the Lake District.

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After a 30 minute drive we arrived at the property. As the house isn’t very large they operate a timed entry ticket policy and we had about 40 minutes to wait for our turn. There was a lengthy walk along the drive to reach the house and gardens – it was another fine day so we were quite happy to start to explore the gardens before our turn.

At the back of the house there’s another smaller building Wade named the “Priest’s House” – said to be haunted by ghosts including a monk. Wade spent most of his time elsewhere but when he was at Snowshill this is where he lived – the main house was exclusively the home of his collection. We were able to look inside

This was his kitchen – notice the candles, there was no electricity. Cooking wasn’t allowed and he had his meals brought in by his housekeeper who lived in a nearby cottage. He did, however have a spirit stove that he used to boil water for his brew and to cook boiled eggs.

This was his living room with his favourite chair

and this was his bedroom with it’s Tudor box-bed and spooky religious statue and decor..

Yes, a real eccentric character.

We had a quick look around the garden, but then it was time for our turn to enter the house.

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It was a “self-guided” tour through a series of rooms that were packed to the rafters with an amazing collection of all sorts of objects. Nothing was labelled but there were the usual NT room guides who were extremely well informed.

Wade’s obsession for collecting was inspired by his “Grannie’s cabinet”. When he was seven years old he was sent to live with his maternal grandmother in Great Yarmouth. She was a strict woman, apparently, but on treat she allowed him was to explore her “cabinet of curiosities

Every Sunday she would allow Charles to open the cabinet with its ‘magic key’ and to marvel at its collections, hidden within drawers and recesses. The cabinet contained old ‘family treasures’, like a little wax angel with golden wings, musical boxes, shells, compasses, butterflies and silver spoons. 

NT Snowshill website

There were literally thousands of diverse objects in the house, which is effectively a giant “cabinet of curiosities”, and it was difficult to take everything in. By the end of the tour we were mentally exhausted!

Mechanical scorpion
A n “Armada chest” – which were used ti store and safeguard valuables – showing it’s elaborate locking mechanism.
the actual 18th-century black lacquer cabinet, known as Grannie’s cabinet, that inspired Charles Wade to start collecting
Samurai armour made in about 1830 in the Japanese province of Kaga
A collection of theatre masks and other objects from Indonesia
More samurai suits of armour dating from the 17th and 19th centuries – there are a total of 39 examples in the collection!
Part of the collection of musical instruments
Civil war armour
A hand loom
Lots of old bikes
Three penny farthings suspended from the ceiling
One of a sizeable collection of model wains showing the traditional styles from different counties
Toys

Wade married late – in his 60’s – and had no heirs so before he died, approached the National Trust and arranged to leave Snowshill to them to safeguard the future of his collection.

Having spent a good hour in the house we emerged into daylight to explore the garden. But this pot has been long enough. I think the garden deserves its own!

Hidcote Garden

Checking out what we might do while we were on holiday in Warwickshire, we found that there were several National Trust properties within 30 minutes drive. One that particularly took our fancy was Hidcote, only about 20 minutes away in the north Cotswolds. It’s famous for its “Arts and Crafts” style gardens and being interest in the movement we decided that a visit was a must. We drove over on the Bank Holiday Monday, but the traffic was light and, although busy, the gardens weren’t crowded.

The gardens were created by the American horticulturist, Major Lawrence Johnston who’d moved to Britain with his mother at the turn of the 20th Century. He became a British citizen and fought in the British army during the Boer war. His mother remarried and bought Hidcote Manor in the north of the Cotswolds and he set about turning the surrounding fields into gardens.

I mainly associate the Arts and Crafts movement with architecture, furniture and the decorative arts, but its principles also influenced garden design. Notable garden designers associated with the style include Gertrude Jekyll who designed the garden at Lindisfarne Castle we’d seen a few years ago at the end of our walk on the St Cuthbert’s Way, and the Lancastrian, Thomas Mawson whose works included Rydal Hall gardens and the Rivington terraced gardens. Mawson wrote an influential book – ‘The Art and Craft of Garden Making’.

Curious about what comprised an “Arts and Crafts” style garden I did (as I often do) a little research! I discovered that that moving away from the grand, large scale sweeping landscapes normally associated with grand country houses, the garden is seen as an extension of the house and a space for outdoor living and leisure. They were more intimate, with smaller scale “garden rooms” topiary and colourful plantings. They frequently have water features and structures such as terraces, pergolas, summer houses and dry stone walls and local materials and craftsmanship are utilised. All of this was certainly true at Hidcote.

There was a lot to see – you could wander around for hours – we certainly did.

Some References:

House and Garden “An introduction to the gardens of the Arts and Crafts Movement

Homes and Garden website – Arts and crafts garden design – 5 key elements for a backyard

Great British Gardens website – Arts and Crafts Gardens

A horse……

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

We’d booked tickets for the matinee performance of Richard III at the RSC in Strtatford on the Saturday of the August Bank Holiday weekend. We set off mid morning for the short drive into the town so that we could spend a few hours having a mooch around. Stratford is only a small, albeit pleasant, town  but it’s very pleasant on the waterfront of the Avon, near the RSC theatre building. There was a craft market taking place so we spent some time browsing

before buying ourselves some drinks and a bite to eat. It was a hot, sunny day and it was peasant sitting close to the water.

Afterwards we made our way over to the theatre, where the crowd was beginning to assemble

Built in 1932 the theatre was designed by the then 29-year-old Elisabeth Whitworth Scott, it was the first public building to be designed by a female architect.  There was a major renovation of the theatre at the beginning of the 21st Century. While the facade was retained the inside was gutted and completely rebuilt and there were additions, including the viewing tower and new roof top restaurant. This was the third time I’d seen a production in the theatre (I’ve also seen a performance in the Swan Theatre which is part of the complex). The first visit was with J way before we had children and well before the remodelling, to see a production of Julius Caeser. The auditorium was rather old style with a proscenium arch with seating in three tiers – a traditional stalls, circle and balcony arrangement. Not being so well off at the time we were in the cheap seats up on the upper level in “the Gods” with the stage some way off. During the renovation the facade with it’s Art Deco touches was retained, but the inside was completely gutted and remodelled. It now has a “thrust” stage with seats around on 3 sides and the audience much closer to the stage than previously. The other two productions we’ve seen have been in the the remodelled theatre which re-opened in November 2010. (correction – since writing this I realised that the second visit was when my daughter was 15 or 16 – we went to see MacBeth her GCSE play – so that would have been before the remodelling)

Shakespeare made Richard III to be an outright villain – no doubt to curry favour with the Tudor monarch Elizabeth, who’s grandfather, Henry VII, had defeated Richard at Bosworth to claim the crown. There’s been a reappraisal by some historians following the discovery of his body underneath a carpark in Leicester in September 2012. Being a loyal Lancastrian, I’m having none of that! I’m saying that with tongue in cheek, of course. The truth is the “nobility”, who were all related, were all a bunch of ruthless mafia-like gangsters squabbling for power and inflicting damage on the majority of the population. Nothing changes

So, what of the production? The casting was “colour blind” which may upset some people. But a play isn’t a documentary and the colour of an actor’s skin is irrelevant for this play – we can ignore it and concentrate on their acting.

What we can’t ignore is the disability of Richard III. He is known to have suffered from scoliosis or curvature of the spine (confirmed by the discovery of his skeleton) and Shakespeare portrays him as a hunchback, using this as a metaphor for a twisted personality. In the production we saw he was played by Arthur Hughes, a disabled actor who has a rare condition known as radial dysplasia which means he has a deformed arm. In an interview in the Guardian he tells us

“With me, when I walk out on stage, it’s completely apparent that I have a disability. I can’t hide that. There’s a truth to it immediately, before I’ve even opened my mouth.”

“It’s not to say [able bodied] people can never play these parts. But I think it’s time that we had that lived experience shown properly.”

Guardian
Source: RSC website

He was very good – a strong performance, really hamming it up and portraying Richard as a pantomime villain.

I also particularly liked Kirsty Bushell as Queen Elizabeth, the wife of Edward IV, who is the main female character in the play, Minnie Gale as the vengeful and mad Queen Margaret (wife of the deposed Henry VI) and and Micah Balfour as Lord Hastings – a duplicitous character who supports Richard in his rise to power and then is turned upon and murdered.

Source: RSC website

The victor of Bosworth, Henry Tudor who became Henry VII, comes across as a saintly character. He wasn’t really – in real life he was probably just as ruthless as his predecessor.

The set was simple – with a large reproduction of the London Cenotaph dominating the stage and with very few other props. Much of the atmosphere was created by the lighting with strong highlights and shadows

It’s a long play – 3 hrs 10 mins (including a 20 mins interval) – but the strong performances kept us glued to our seats. The longer first half showing Richard’s ruthless rise to power and the shorter second half portraying his downfall. The final battle scene was simply portrayed, using the ghosts of Richard’s victims, who had visited him before the battle (old Shakespeare loved his ghost scenes to haunt the villains before their downfall – he uses the same trick in MacBeth) to form the horse that Richard loses (“A horse, a horse, my Kingdom for a horse”) and then to act as Henry’s steed as he vanquishes the doomed Richard.

A week in Warwickshire

For our family summer holiday this year we ventured into (relatively) unknown territory, venturing past the Black Country, braving the horrors of travelling down the M6 and past Birmingham at the start of a Bank Holiday weekend to stay in the countryside a few miles to the south west of Stratford upon Avon. The Friday before was a significant birthday for our son and it’s usually difficult to think of a suitable present for him, but J hit on the idea of taking him to see a performance at the RSC in Stratford and basing our family holiday around that. We had a choice between Alls Well that Ends Well or Richard III – well there was only one suitable option so the date of our holiday was determined by when the latter was showing – so it meant travelling down on the Friday so we could see the matinee performance on the Saturday of the Bank Holiday weekend.

Source: https://www.rsc.org.uk/richard-iii/

As it happened the journey wasn’t as horrendous as I was expecting. The motorway was busy but mainly kept moving – it was much worse the other way with long queues of traffic travelling north.

We’d booked a property which was part of a converted farm building on a small complex in the countryside near the village of Weston on Avon and Weford on Avon, a couple of rather posh Warwickshire villages, complete with a number of thatched Olde Worlde properties.

It was a good base – very quiet yet only 4 miles to the centre of Stratford and 20 to 30 minutes drive from places of interest in a part of the country that we’d never previously explored, including the Cotswolds.

Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds

As usual, we had a busy week. After a relaxing evening to recover from the travelling on the Saturday we drove into Stratford and spent a few hours mooching around before the performance, which we enjoyed very much,

Craft Market in Stratford
The River Avon at Stratford

and afterwards had a Thai banquet before returning to our accommodation.

During the week we visited two Arts and Crafts influenced National Trust properties in the Cotswolds, had another day in Stratford and on our final day drove over to Compton Verney, somewhere I’d wanted to visit for some time. Not much walking as this was a family holiday, but plenty of arts and culture – something we’ve not indulged in as much during the last few years due to “you know what”.

Compton Verney

We struck lucky with the weather all week too; generally sunny but not too hot. So all in all a good week – and a lot to write up!

Scout Scar and Cunswick Fell from Sizergh

I’m trying to get the hang of my new “arrangements” – so far with only limited success. However, last Wednesday promised to be a fine day for a walk. I didn’t fancy going too far in peak holiday period so I drove up the M6 towards Kendal, parked up at Sizergh Hall, and set off for a walk along the limestone ridge of Scout Scar. I’d been up there a few times, but previously from the other end.

At first I retraced our return route from a walk during our visit to Sizergh Castle a few weeks ago – across the fields and through woodland

up to the viewpoint near to the “Chapel of Ease” of St John Helsington – and on a sunny morning with decent long range visibility, what a fine view it was.

the view over to the Lakeland fells
the limestone escarpment of Whitbarrow (I must get up there one day soon)
Looking over to Arnside Knott and the Kent estuary

This was as far as we’d got during our previous visit, but this time I carried on heading north

crossing a minor road and then taking a path on to Scout Scar

The views over to Lakeland just got better and better and opened up so that I could see over to the Fairfield horseshoe, Red Screes and the Kentmere fells

I reached the “mushroom”, a popular destination, not far from the car park on the Kendal to Underbarrow road, where I stopped for a bite to eat.

I carried on to the end of the ridge

I’d intended to turn back from here, taking the path along the edge of the scar, but a moment of madness came over me and I decided to carry on for another couple of miles over Cunswick Fell to the other limestone edge of Cunswick Scar.

It was quieter along here – its obviously not as popular as its more dramatic companion. But there were a few people about.

The walking is easy going, and at the summit I was rewarded with excellent views over to the Kentmere horseshoe

and over Kendal towards the lonely hills of Borowdale (the lesser known Westmorland variant, not the more well known one south of Derwent Water) and the Shap Fells

over to the Howgills

and the major fells to the west

Outstanding views and the photos don’t really do them justice.

I turned around and more or less retraced my steps back towards Scout Scar

I crossed over the minor road and climbed back up onto the ridge of Scout Scar

and set off along the edge of the ridge heading south.

There’s the mushroom again

This is the view looking backwards that shows the limestone escarpment. It is quite a steep drop down to the bottom

As I walked along the ridge the Kent estuary began to dominate the view

along with Whitbarrow over to the west

At the end of the ridge I descend down to the Brigsteer road, crossed over and retraced my steps back to Sizergh, with a slight variation at the end, following a different path than the one I’d come. I arrived back in time to buy myself a well earned brew and tasty peach crumble cake.

It had been a good walk and I’ve got in mind to come up here again on a fine day during the autumn or winter when I’d get a different perspective of the landscape. I think I’ll cut out the diversion over Cunswick Fell though.

Coiner Country

For my second walk last week, on Tuesday I caught the train to Hebden Bridge and set off for a wander in the hills to the south of the small former industrial town. The landscape here at one time would not have been dissimilar to that of Bowland where I’d been walking the previous day. Hills and deep valleys that, before the arrival of humans, would have been covered with woodland, but the trees were felled and the flocks of sheep sent up on the hills resulting in a landscape of peat covered millstone grit moorland. The underlying landscape may be similar, but there’s a big difference between how the two areas evolved and, so, how they look today.

Bowland was a forest – and way back ‘forest’ that meant that it was reserved for hunting by nobility. Consequently, human settlements were small and scattered. Landowners weren’t allowed to clear and cultivate the land, restricting development and prohibiting change. In many ways time seems to have passed it by. That isn’t entirely true as during the 18th Century it wasn’t completely untouched by the industrial revolution; there were some mills and facories and mining activity, but on a relatively small scale, with litle trace of it now. And for many years the land was still dominated by hunting of a sort, with large shooting estates restricting develoment and prohibiting access.

The Calder Valley, however, developed differently. Like much of the South Pennine regions of both Lancashire and Yorkshire a textile industry emerged. Initially with spinning and weaving done in the home, providing a second income for subsistence farmers. Raw wool or yarn would be provided by merchants, which was processed by a family of spinsters and a hand loom weaver, the finished cloth then collected by the merchant. This was known as the “putting out” system. The architecture of the traditional farmhouses and cottages reflect this. They were built with workrooms on the upper floor and windows constructed to allow as much daylight in as possible. Commonly there was a row of multiple small panes divided by stone mullions.

Then with the advent of the Industrial Revolution the narrow valleys with their fast running rivers were ideal for water powered mills. This all led to a very different human landscape than in Bowland with a much denser population with larger settlements and with houses and farms scattered across the valleys and on the lower slopes of the hills. This was very evident during my walk when, before I was up on top of the moors, I seemed to be passing old farms and dwellings every few minutes!

I caught the direct train from Wigan alighting at Hebden Bridge station. It was like travelling back in time to the middle of the 20th century – but, then, it is Yorkshire.

I set off turning right from the station and under the tracks to join a steep track up the hill.

and then took a track alongside fields heading in the direction of Mytholmroyd.

I passed several old houses

before turning crossing a stile and setting off up a path up the steep hill side.

Looking back down to Mytholmroyd

At the top of the climb I reached Erringden Moor – the purple heather was out!

The moor here is a notorious bog and boardwalks have been lain across the worst sections by the local Community Rights Of Way Service (CROWS). Without the work done by CROWS this route would be pretty much impassable for much of the year. Walkers who wander of the path can easily become stuck in the bog up to their knees, and in the past the bog has allegedly swallowed numerous sheep and even a horse. However, thanks to the efforts by CROWS’ volunteers, it’s now become a popular route, particularly due to it’s historical associations,

for I was now in the stomping ground of the Cragg Vale Coiners, a notorious counterfeiting gang who lived in what was then an inaccessible territory in the late 18th century. The gang used to take gold coins and shave or file the edges. The shavings of precious metal were then melted and cast to produce new counterfeit coins which were put into circulation along with the originals. That’s why modern coins have a milled edge as that allows such tampering to be detected.

A large proportion of the local population were involved in this and they were led by “King David” Hartley, who lived in a remote farmhouse on top of the moor, which was on my route. (His brothers were known as the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke of York). Some consider the coiners to be local heroes, Calderdale “Robin Hoods”. Others consider them as a bunch of vicious rogues. I think there’s an element of truth in both points of view.

The Coiners are the subject of a rather excellent prize winning novel, The Gallows Pole by Ben Myers, who lives in the area. It’s being adapted for TV for the renowned director Shane Meadows. I’m looking forward to watching it.

I followed the path that took me along the top of the steep, wooded narrow valley known as Broadhead Clough, now a nature reserve. Given the impassable nature of the moors, this was the main way up to “King David’s” house. It would have been easy for the gang to control access through the clough.

There was a good view over Mytholmroyd as I carried on along the moor.

I reached Bell House

Bell House – the Home of “King David” Hartley

There was an elderly gent with a younger man (his grandson?) working on a vehicle parked outside the bounds of the property. He was the father of the owner and was staying in the house. He called over and told me I could have a look inside the courtyard if I wanted. I took him up on the offer.

Bell House

I stopped to chat for a while before carrying on, taking a path across the moor

from another old farmhouse (nicely converted and modernised) a couple of hundred metres or so from Bell House.

This took me to a track overlooking the steep valley of Cragg Vale.

I carried on along the track towards Withins Clough Reservoir, which was built to supply water to Morley, near Leeds. Construction, which drowned a number of farms in the valley, started in 1891 .

I took the path alongside the side of the reservoir. Due to the lack of rain over many weeks the water level was very low

Then I turned off to take a path across the moor leading to Stoodley Pike

Looking back towards the reservoir

As I climbed up the hillside, the monument on top of Stoodley Pike came into view

Reaching the top of the hill I stopped to take a rest, grab a bite to eat, and take in the view over the moors towards Todmorden and the hills beyond, where I’d been walking earlier in the year.

Rested, I carried on towards Hebden Bridge. The cloud that had provided some relief from the heat of he sun had dispersed and it was getting hot as the heat wave we’d been promised stared to arrive.

Looking back to Stoodley Pike

As I crossed the fields the hilltop village of Heptonstall came into view

as well as Hebden Village down in the bottom of the valley.

After crossing the fields I took the path down through the woods (some welcome shade provided by the trees) which would lead back down into the valley.

There were glimpses of Hebden Bridge with it’s distinctive architecture through the trees. The tall terraced houses that can be seen in the photograph below are “over and under” houses built due to the limited space in the narrow Calder valley. In most northern industrial cities and towns workers’ houses were often built “back to back” – i.e. two houses sharing a common rear wall. This wasn’t so feasible in Hebden Bridge so they built one house on top of another. One house occupies the upper storeys which face uphill while the second house in the lower two storeys face downhill with their back wall against the hillside.

Arriving back at the station, I wasn’t quite ready to return home, so I decided to wander along the canal and pop into the town centre.

I had in mind to climb up to Heptonstall and take a look at the grave of “King David”. He was buried there following his hanging at York on 28 April 1770. However, the temperature had risen considerably during the day and I was tired after what had been a long walk, so instead bought myself a couple of bottles of cold diet coke from the Co-op and returned to the station. I didn’t have too long to wait for the direct train to Wigan North Western.

The route

Brennand and Whitendale

Trying to make the best of a spell of good weather before another heat wave arrived, I had a couple of days out at the beginning of the week. On Monday I drove back over to the Forest of Bowland as I’d enjoyed my walk there a few days before. It’s a wild, remote area and this, combined with the lack of access to large areas of shooting estates until relatively recently, means that there aren’t a great deal of “ready made routes”. There are now large areas of Access Land that were forbidden territory in the past, which means that it’s possible to strike out on your own way, but in Bowland that would almost inevitably mean traversing over large stretches of soggy peat bog. But I remembered a blog post by Michael of the Rivendale Review just a week ago describing his walk over to the Brennand Valley and that sounded like exactly the sort of walk I fancied. I did extend it a little, though, circumnavigating the Middle Knoll to Whitendale.

I drove along the narrow, twisting roads to Dunsop Bridge and then along the Trough of Bowland as far as the car park on the side of the road by Langdon Brook at the point where it emerges from the fells before running alongside the Trough road. I expect it gets busy on a sunny weekend but there was plenty of room when I arrived. I’m avoiding going out at weekends during the summer, taking advantage of my increased leisure time and reasonably flexible working arrangements to get out and about when there’s a good chance of avoiding the crowds. It worked that day!

The start of the walk required walking along the Trough road for a kilometre or so, but traffic was light. I passed a farm

Sykes farm on the Trough of Bowland Road

and then an old lime kiln

before reaching an old barn where I turned off the road onto a track that would take me up on to the fells.

As I climbed I looked back to the Trough road

I carried on climbing steadily, making gradual progress. The path wasn’t too steep for most of the way and with the recent lack of rainfall the ground was mainly dry underfoot.

There was a final short, steep pull and then I’d reached the top of the fell. Now the peat was much wetter, but nothing too bad!

Large areas of the fell were covered in purple heather

I could have decided to head over to the summit of Whin fell but that would have required some bog hopping over the moor. However, a good walk doesn’t have to involve summit bagging. I was enjoying the solitude and the wild, scenery, which was dramatic enough.

While writing this post a comment popped up Michael of the Rivendale Review mentioning an incident back in 2011 where a well known fell runner was found dead in the peat on Saddle Fell, not far from where I’d been walking on Friday. He’d been up there for about 3 week before he was found. It is so quiet up there. Other than the cyclists, I only saw one other person when I was going across the bogs. And even if a few other people did pass by him he could have been hidden amongst all the peat hags. A real illustration why it’s important to take care up on these lonely fells and make sure someone knows you’re up there. The difficulty is that I often decide my route “on the hoof”, changing my plans as I walk and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

On a brighter note, from the top of the fell I could see right down into the lonely Brennand Valley. It was a breathtakingly beautiful view – if you like wild and lonely moorland scenery, and I certainly do!

I was on the edge of a large stretch of wild moorland where there are very few signs of human habituation other than scattered farms, like the one in the middle of the above picture. Brennand farm is at the end of a road a couple of miles out of Dunsop Bridge. There’s another farm, Lower Brennand, a short distance away but there’s no other houses until you approach the village.

As I looked down into the valley contemplating this, I was reminded of a novel I’d read by Andrew Michael Hurley. Devil’s Day is a modern “Gothic” novel set on a remote farm up in Bowland. The atmosphere of the book is bleak and claustrophobic, and I can imagine how it would feel living up here on a farm in the winter when it’s pouring down with rain, with a gale blowing, when the days are short and there are sheep to rescue from the fell. But on a sunny day, with enough cloud to provide some shade, it was a pretty glorious place to be.

I started to descend the narrow path of Ouster Rake down into the valley.

Looking back up Ouster Rake

Reaching the farm, I had options. I could head straight down to Dunsop Bridge, a couple of miles away, but it was too good a day to cut short the walk so soon. I could have followed the Shooter’s track along the valley and up the fell, getting right into the deep moor. I was tempted but decided to save that for another day. Instead I stuck to my original plan for the day which was to carry on round the Middle Knoll over to Whitendale, another lonely valley with a farm.

Looking up to the head of the valley – I decided to leave that until another day.
The path I took which skirts the lower slopes of Middle Knoll

Starting to stride along my chosen route I saw a couple on bikes descending from the higher level track coming from the bottom of the valley. We stopped to chat. I could see that they were riding e-bikes so I asked what they thought of them 9I’m still pondering whether to buy one!). They told me that they’d hired them from a shop in Dunsop Bridge (when I checked my emails later in the day I’d received one from another “bloggy friend”, Bowland Climber, who had mentioned this in a comment, posting around the time I was having this chat!) I decided I’d hire one to try in the near future.

I carried on along the track which eventually changed to a fairly indistinct path back in the bogs.

Passing a small tarn

After a while the valley of Whitendale came into view.

These are really the lonely moors of Bowland, miles from “civilisation” and difficult to access. There are few paths to follow. I have some ideas for routes – but It would be a long day walking up there. But that wasn’t where I was going that day. Instead I carried on the path round Middle Knoll and then made my way down into Whitendale and another isolated farm. It was a steep descent, the toughest part of that day’s walk, but nothing too difficult even though my blood sugar had dropped.

I’d been past this farm before – quite a few years ago – when I’d been over Dunsop Fell – another good walk I’ll have to repeat soon.

Passing the farm

From then on I was on tarmac on the road down the valley to Dunsop Bridge.

Looking back to Whitendale farm

and the road ahead

I stopped for a short while at the junction with the road coming in from Brennand – there was a handy memorial bench there.

Looking down the Brennand Valley

I carried on down the road towards Dunsop Bridge, looking back from time to time

Looking back to Middle Knoll

I’d walked up and down this valley several times in the past and my recollection was that I wasn’t so fond of it. I remember the hills were covered in dense pine forest and the valley had something of an industrial feel due to the forestry and structures associated with United Utilities who extract water from the river. However, this time I didn’t feel that way. There had been some clearance of the pines, but perhaps it was the blue skies that were putting me in a mood more receptive to the delights of the fells on either side of the river.

Towards the end of the valley I passed a row of houses

and then it didn’t take long to reach the small village of Dunsop Bridge and, most importantly, Puddleducks Tearooms!

Time for an obligatory brew and cake!

Refreshed it was time to walk the final leg of my journey, along the Trough back to the car.

Dunsop Bridge bridge!
The Working Men’s Institute
The war memorial
An old road sign
and a newer one!
looking over to Mellor Knoll
the village church

The first half of this final leg of my walk was on the tarmac of the Trough of Bowland road, which is hard going after a fairly long walk

but the views were pretty good!

Looking back over the river to Mellor Knoll

At the junction with the road up to Harenden, I was able to leave the road and take a path along the south of the river which led back to Langden brook and the car park

The Bowland Mountain Rescue HQ up of the hillside
Arriving at Langden Brook

Well, that was another cracking walk up in Bowland, and I’d managed to survive the bogs. I’ll be back up this way soon!