In recent days I have written about a village with a movie connection and two villages visited by vampires. This next one has an association with members of perhaps England’s most famous literary family ‘ the Brontes’ .
I have passed through Cowan Bridge numerous times as it sits on the busy A65 in between Ingleton and Kirkby Lonsdale, our usual route up to the Lake District. In days gone by it would have been much quieter, the continuous traffic noise definitely distances the imagination away from the 1820s , when siblings Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Emily attended The Clergy Daughter’s School in the village.
We had decided to stop off for lunch on the way home from Cumbria on a busy bank holiday Monday. I must admit I suggested Cowan Bridge because I thought it may be easier to get lunch there than its more touristy neighbors. I have also always been curious about where on earth the Bronte school is……
It turned out the Tea Room was busy inside, but there was space outside next to the noisy road with the traffic whooshing by. 😅 We just decided on coffee and prepackaged sandwiches and ate them in the pretty seating area.
Afterwards we pottered about the village in totally the wrong direction. Eventually a kind local pointed us toward the original bridge that Cowan Bridge takes its name from. After crossing it we came to a row of old stone cottages. These are what remain of The Clergy Daughter’s School.
An inscription on the end cottage wall reads :
Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte & Emily Bronte
Lived here as pupils of the Clergy Daughter’s School 18-24 – 25.
The school was moved to Casterton 1833.
Patrick Bronte was a clergyman living in Haworth with six young children. His wife Maria had sadly died a couple of years earlier. Sending four of their offspring to a respected boarding school for clergy children would no doubt have seemed the right thing for this busy man of the cloth to do.
Unfortunately the harsh environment at the school would contribute to the untimely deaths of the two eldest girls. Poor quality food, cold damp conditions and cruel unjust punishments were the norm. Maria, then Elizabeth were sent home suffering from consumption , both would die within weeks of one another. Patrick sent for Charlotte and Emily and they never returned to Cowan Bridge.
For Charlotte , her experiences at the Clergy Daughter’s School were to be drawn upon for her novel Jane Eyre. In the book young Jane is sent to Lowood School where she makes a new friend, Helen Burns. Helens and Jane’s life there mirrors that of her and her sisters harrowing time at Cowan Bridge.
Today one of the remaining cottages is available as an attractive Holiday Let , so fans of the Brontes’ can experience a little part of Bronte history. A short walk and you are away from the road noise and out into beautiful rolling countryside.
I am glad the buildings stand as a reminder of how harsh life could be back then, and also as a celebration of what the Bronte family would eventually achieve.
Have you visited any places where the Brontes’ lived, worked or played? 📖
Back in March when Wil and I spent a particularly Ice Cold Night In Haworth , I picked up a Railway children’s Walks leaflet from the train station. We eventually returned one showery ( but much warmer) day in September and tried out the longer of the two circular walks, which is six miles long.
The Railway Children is a 1970 dramatization of E Nesbit’s Classic novel about three children whose lives change dramatically when their father is sent to prison, and their mother takes them to live in rural Yorkshire, uprooting them from their middle class London life. Their new home backs onto a railway line , which brings unexpected adventures and also new friends, when the going gets tough. The film is an endearing family favourite, and one that can still be enjoyed today. 🙂
Although Howarth is definitely more well known as the home of the literary Bronte family, it’s cobbled streets, old-fashioned railway stations, surrounding buttercup meadows and even the Bronte parsonage itself, made for inspired location casting in the film. Hopefully Author E Nesbit would have been pleased with the result!
The walk starts at Howarth Station ( we parked in the main car-park , not far from Haworth Centre), where we were lucky enough to see a steam train puffing into the station:)
Before I could so much as wave a white hanky, we set off from Haworth Station forecourt, crossing the main road and turning right , before turning left up Brow Road. After a short distance we spied a footpath sign on the right and followed a well trodden path through farmyards and passing Oxenhope water treatment works as we walked along side Bridgehouse Beck and Worth Valley Railway, almost to Oxenhope Station.
This section of the walk wouldn’t normally take very long, but we found ourselves caught up in a Fell Race, and had to keep stopping and grabbing Hugo, making way for Fell Runner after Fell Runner. Talk about bad timing on our part! One poor runner nearly tripped over the dog! We were relieved when our paths finally divided and we crossed the railway.
We had packed some lunch and after our fraught run ins with the fell runners we decided to sit a while on a bench overlooking the railway line, watching a few straggling runners appear now and again. The race did remind me of the paper chase in the film though. 🙂
After our impromptu picnic we carried on over the stile in the wall behind us and up the meadow where Bents House appears on the left. Better known as Three Chimneys, this is the Yorkshire home of The Railway Children. 🙂
By now it had started raining heavily, so we changed into our waterproofs after passing the stone gap stile which “Perks the Station master” has difficulty squeezing through, whilst delivering a basket hamper to Three Chimneys in the film.
The walk then took us to the hamlet of Hole after passing through a farmyard and a large field full of very frisky cows, who were a bit too interested in Hugo. After much shooing we managed to negotiate ourselves around the cattle and the mud. Even though I grew up on a farm and don’t usually mind walking through livestock, these ones were a bit lively, even for me! After this adventure we got a bit lost ( which does usually happen on our walks ;0) ), so we were very glad when the Railway Children Walk signs re-appeared, and we found ourselves walking the short way from Hole into Haworth, via Haworth Churchyard and the Bronte Parsonage Museum, the Doctor’s house in the film.
Various houses and shops in Haworth doubled up as locations in the film. We had a wander down the Main street and shared a ‘ Yorkshire Scallywag’ in the Bronte Boardwalk Café, before continuing with the walk.
The next part of the walk took us to Oakworth Station, which is the railway station used in the film. We headed down Main Street , turning left opposite The Fleece Public House, crossed over the busy main road and walked down the cobblestones of Butt Lane ,before following a diagonal path over some playing fields onto Mytholmes Lane. We then ambled down hill and the route re-joined the footpath after a row of cottages on the right. The path follows the railway and in the winter when the views aren’t obscured by foilage, you can apparently get a better view of the embankment where the landslide was filmed and the children waved the girls red petticoats to warn the driver of the 11.29 train of the danger.
We then encountered some danger ourselves, when two curious ( and very mahoosive! ) horses came cantering up out of nowhere, as we were giving Hugo a drink from his portable water dish. The gigantic beasts probably thought food was on the menu, and chased us to the nearest stile. Presently we found ourselves walking down a main road toward the station , and noticed some unusual little houses painted into the wall.
Oakworth Station is an Edwardian Railway Station with a very olde worlde charm. We purchased a platform ticket for 50p and had a quick wander round. Much of the action in The Railway Children movie features on the platform and in the station rooms here.
The station even has a ladies waiting room, decked out as a perfect replica of the Edwardian one in the film. There are also Railway Children merchandise and mementos on display.
Its a nice thought that you can actually sit in such a nostalgic lounge and wait for your train. I wonder if the fire is lit on cold winters days? I did spot a couple of burly British Rail workers in the station enjoying a tea break at a tea clothed table , complete with doilys and vintage China. 🙂 Both steamers and diesel trains pass through Oakworth Station on a regular basis. 🙂
We continued the walk, crossing over the level crossings and passing Station Cottage which is Mr Perks home in the film. We kept following the road past Vale Fold Cottages and crossed a stile onto the footpath which runs parallel to the railway line again.
It was fun to see another Steam Train puffing its way towards us as we followed the footpath over a road and watched it chug under the bridge below us. We then walked up a main road again ( Ebor Lane) and back into Haworth.
I really enjoyed our Railway Children Walk despite the rain, run-ins with fell runners, frisky cows and hungry horses. ; )
Here I am snug as a bug in a rug. The radiators are piping hot , I have numerous throws to wrap round myself and two fur babies to snuggle up with. Bliss !
Friday night though was spent ( mostly shivering!) In a little B&B in the Yorkshire town of Haworth. I won’t say it was our accomodations fault. I couldn’t properly get warm anywhere at all. I think Yorkshire folk must be alot hardier than us Lancashire lot. The heating was on everywhere but didn’t seem to make much of a difference. I layered myself up and was tempted to keep my coat and hat on….even in bed. I have turned into a right softy!
Wil and I ( minus the pets) stopped over in Haworth as we were attending a talk in nearby Keighley by the Arctic adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes. It certainly seemed touch and go whether the event would take place. But of course ‘ the world’s greatest living explorer’ was easily up to the challenge of travelling from Exmoor to bleakest Yorkshire, whatever the conditions. 🙂
Despite my whinging, we did have a lovely time. The snow gave the cobbled streets of Haworth a wintery charm. The town is of course, famed for being the home of an extraordinary literary family, the Bronte’s. Writers Charlotte, Emily and Anne lived in the parsonage with their father the Reverend Bronte and brother Branwell. We had the Bronte Parsonage Museum all to ourselves on Saturday morning. Photography is no longer prohibited inside the museum,so I took a few pictures and imagined the Bronte siblings sitting at the dining room table, scribbling away. How frozen must their fingers have felt in the perishing south pennine winters.
We ended our visit to Haworth with a winter warming lunch in The Hawthorn on Main Street, whilst browsing our purchases. I bought ‘The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne by Catherine Reef ( Can’t wait to start it! ) and Wil had purchased a signed copy of Ranulph Fiennes appropriately titled ‘Cold’, the evening before.
In the past when Wil and I have driven to the Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge, we have arrived there completely frazzled, because our old sat nav loves magical mystery tours. Or we just couldn’t find the place at all! Happily on Saturday the Gods did not conspire against us, and we pulled up in a sunshiney Hebden before ten in the morning.
Hebden Bridge is a market town in Calderdale. , famed for its independent stores and creative community . Artisan shops and pavement cafes adorn the cobbles and Victorian terraces cling to the steep hillsides. On a bright September morning, it really did look like we had arrived in the ‘Happy Valley’.
As we were accompanied by a certain ‘ hungry black labrador’ , I suggested we stop by at The Lamppost Cafe for coffee and flapjacks for us…and a pup cake for him. On the Lampposts facebook page it says ‘Because every dog deserves to feel special and be treated so! Don’t tie your best friend to a lamppost, bring them in The Lamppost!’
Hugo and new friend ‘Lucky’.
Waiting for a Pup Cake.
Help yourself to water for your doog.
We loved the rustic decor in this very dog friendly cafe, and it was fun choosing Hugo a mouthwatering muffin from their impressive pup cake collection. It’s a pity he wolfed it down before I could get a picture ! His new friend Lucky was most happy to pose though. Isn’t she adorable. 🙂 Lucky is sat on a hessian coffee sack , which you can help yourself to, if your dog doesn’t want to lie on the wooden floor. I really enjoyed my fruity flapjack and the coffee was good too.
After a wander round the shops and the market ( I found a lady who makes felt fairy lamps ~ Christmas present sorted for one goddaughter! ), we had lunch at Green’s ( a veggie cafe) and then went for a walk by the canal.
We headed in the direction of Hebden Bridge’s neighbor Mytholmroyd, where poet Ted Hughes was born. Along the way there were were many barge businesses and floating homes.
On the outskirts of Hebden Bridge a rust coloured sculpture of a hawk, roosts in memorial to the Yorkshire born poet. I’m not sure it looks hawk-like enough. What do you think? Hughes first wife writer ‘ Sylvia Plath’ is buried in the churchyard at nearby Heptonstall.
Mid afternoon and Hebden Bridge was crazy busy , so we left the town and headed for nearby Haworth, another Yorkshire parish with famed literary connections. But first we stopped off for a walk on the rolling moorland above Oxenhope. Hugo decided to leap onto this wall and nearly ended up in the steep ravine below, tangled with the purple heather and brambles. Luckily he decided that running amongst the rushes was just as much fun!
Beautiful Haworth is still so evocative of its famous residents, the Brontes. Surrounded by wild moor land , Haworth’s cobbled streets are brimming with old fashioned shops and is little changed from the days when Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell lived with their father in the parsonage , now a museum.
I love the cute shops in Haworth and make no apologies for buying a couple more Christmas gifts. I just couldn’t resist and ‘ Wave of Nostalgia ‘ especially, really drew me in.
There are lots of Tea shops on the cobbled main street, but Wil can certainly recommend the Jamaican Peaberry Coffee from 10 the coffee house, where all coffees are freshly ground to order. As you can see the African Lime cake we shared is tiny! But I’m kind of glad, as it has been my only cheat in a fortnight of abstaining from cake, pastry, crisps , bread and chocolate …..so far. 😉
It’s been a few years since I have wandered round the wonderful Bronte Museum, and on this visit I contented myself with a stroll in the garden and a quick glance in the museum shop.
I’ve already decided that I would like to return soon and follow in the footsteps of the Bronte’s ,up onto the South Pennine Moors, via the path that passes the parsonage. Watch this space. 🙂