Saturday, 16 April 2011

Spring Walk 2011

IMS writes:
 'We had to walk to Brocklebridge Church, where our patron officiated. We set out cold, we arrived at church colder.'
Not so for the twenty four members of the Society who met, in the car park at Cowan Bridge, to walk in the steps of the Brontës. It was one of those rare April days which seem more like June or July for the sun was shining brightly and copious amounts of sun cream were being applied before the group set off. The busy A65 was negotiated and soon we were outside the school where Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Emily had been for a short time and where it is thought Charlotte was provided with some of her deepest emotional experiences which are brought to the fore in Jane Eyre.

‘I was stiff with long sitting and bewildered with noise and motion of the coach.’
‘I dimly discerned a wall before me and a door open in it.’
‘There was now visible a house or houses- for the building spread far-with many windows’.
‘A large building- half of which seemed grey and old- the other half quite new. The new part containing the school-room and dormitory’.
We stayed awhile looking at the building- now three cottages- perhaps the top row of windows had been the dormitories- we imagined Emily peering out, south east,  in the direction of Haworth thinking of her animals, her brother and youngest sister she had left behind. We were brought back into the present by the rattling of a long ladder as one of the cottage residents prepared to clean his windows- it was time to move on. We passed through fields resplendent with spring flowers, watched the lambs gambolling together and eventually reached Tunstall church.

‘It was too far to return to dinner, and an allowance of cold meat and bread, in the same penurious proportion observed in our ordinary meals, was served round between services’
Soon rucksacks were being unpacked and shady spots sought and after sandwiches had been eaten, even on such a lovely day, there was a coolness as we entered the interior of the church and in the depths of winter it would have been miserable for the girls to eat their meagre allowance of cold meat and bread in the little room- its only access now up a very steep ladder- above the porch.
 The second part of the walk beckoned and as I walked toward the gate leading out of the churchyard I saw something very interesting. I love coincidences- chance occurrences or some connected persons and events- and it was quite by chance that I was drawn to read the inscription on one of the headstones. I was so surprised to read the name of an infant male with the first name of Hindley. The only time I have ever encountered this name before was in ‘Wuthering Heights’. I asked myself- was this a common name in use in that area- had Emily known someone at Cowan Bridge who had a brother with that name? Very intriguing- but that’s the Brontë story of course!

 Great grey hills heaved up round the horizon’

Onwards we went. The scenery was magnificent. We saw Ingleborough, with its flat top, standing sentinel in the distance, we looked to the west and saw the gentler hills of Bowland, and away to the north the Lakeland hills stood out bold and proud.

‘We returned by an exposed and hilly road, where the bitter winter wind, blowing over a range of snowy summits to the north, almost flayed the skin from our faces.’
We crossed a ford, waded through a stream, we even carried out ingenious repairs to the sole of someone’s walking boot, and we commented many times how difficult the walk would have been for the schoolgirls with long skirts and thin shoes.

‘Her grave is in Brocklebridge churchyard;’ ‘a grey marble tablet marks the spot, inscribed with her name.’
We crossed over the busy main road once again and made our way on a green path towards the church of Leck. Here we paused for a while around the grave of a girl from the school, who had died in the epidemic when the Brontës were there.

I discovered that a great pleasure lay all outside the high and spike-guarded walls of the garden: in a bright beck full of dark stones and sparkling eddies’
One evening, in the beginning of June, I had stayed out very late, with Mary Jane, in the wood.’
We made our way back towards the car park- making a detour through the wood. We imagined the girls, during the time when death was a frequent visitor to the school, enjoying their new found freedom, eating their repast of thick slices of bread and cheese amongst the majestic elms, ashes and oaks and the woodland plants which sprang up all around.

My favourite seat was a smooth and broad stone, rising white and dry from the very middle of the beck.’
Any of the many boulders and stones, in the babbling brook, fitted that description but it was good to think that the girls could give way to childish things even in the midst of much suffering and sorrow.

I would not now have exchanged Lowood with all its privations, for Gateshead and its daily luxuries.’
 So our walk came to an end, farewells were made and soon I was joining the long queue of traffic returning home to West Yorkshire from the Lake District or perhaps the Lancashire coast. Had those people, impatient now to get home, enjoyed the day- eating in the many cafes- looking round the shops in the towns, partaking of ice creams, hot dogs and the like. Probably they had and I hope so, but I would not have exchanged my day with them for anything!

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