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A Pennine portrait

by Nicky Gardner


Heptonstall is a place where gritstone ledges and neat green fields play backdrop to the moods of Pennine weather. This is Yorkshire. We visit gritty moodscapes populated by folk whom poet Ted Hughes described as "bleak as Sunday rose-gardens".

Some landscapes are very moody ones. Catch the Donegal coast as a blustery spring shower whips in off the Atlantic and you learn something of the Irish temperament. Be it a Venetian sunset, snow sweeping over the Ukrainian plains or the summer heat on the parched red soils of La Mancha, Europe is a wonderful medley of moodscapes. Travel too fast and you'll miss them all. Linger for a while and they are there for the taking.

Yorkshire is a place for moods. See the last of the summer sun catching the white stone walls of the Ribble valley, feel wild winter waves lash the harbour wall at Whitby and hear voices echo down York's back alleys on a spring evening. In the Pennines in particular, land and light conspire to create truly memorable moodscapes.

You may see the Pennines as you travel by the trains that cut through the hills west of Leeds. Old Yorkshire mill towns like Huddersfield and Halifax nestle in traffic-choked valleys flanked by wild moors. But seeing the Pennines is not the point. You have to feel the Pennines.

You need good legs to make it to the top of the Buttress. Good lungs too. There was a time when roundheads and cavaliers tussled on the rocky packhorse trail that climbs steeply up the side of the valley above Hebden Bridge. God never intended the Pennine traveller to reach Heptonstall without a struggle. But it is worth the climb, for Heptonstall is pure Pennine grit. Another world from Hebden down in the valley. Hebden is solid, protected, almost sedate in its canalside setting. All silent mills and the bustle of Saturday shoppers.

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