Posts Tagged ‘Haworth’

Monday morning and after a tough week of running my legs are finally starting to feel normal again and I’m enjoying running and walking once more.

It’s not till Tuesday that I go for a run. I’m not feeling up to it but do it to shake the ache from my legs. It’s a nice steady 8 mile run from Queensbury to the outskirts of Halifax town centre, a climb up to Shelf roundabout through Northowram and more climbing to home on the main road. On the way I’m toying with the idea of extending the run to 10 or more miles but in the end I decide to do the sensible thing and keep it at 8.

This turns out to be the right choice as I have an email from the organisers of the Yorkshireman Half that the recce’s are starting this weekend and with the club run on Thursday I will need all the energy I have to get through the week.

The Yorkshireman is a full or half marathon that starts from Haworth and goes over the surrounding moors finishing back at Haworth. It is a tough route and this has been my main goal for my running year. I am feeling in good form and hope that I can continue in this form right up to the race.

Thursday comes along and it is Queensbury Running Club run night. I decide to go on the slower of the off road runs and wear my fell shoes for it. Both of these options turn out to be a mistake. Firstly, some of the faster runners from the group above have opted to run with us this week and this has made the pace a lot faster than usual. In addition to get to our off road parts we are doing a lot of running on road and my Achilles are aching from having to run so fast on road in my fell shoes.

This makes my legs feel very tired very quickly and soon I am struggling to keep up with the faster, more experienced runners. However, this is one of those runs that makes you as I know that the struggle to keep up and maintain a decent pace will make me a stronger runner in the long run. Soon we are off road and I discover some new routes which will come in use for the future when I am out running on my own. Part of the route takes us on some of the Calderdale Way which I haven’t run before and it is quite a challenge to run but enjoyable none the less.

Saturday arrives and although I have had a good night’s sleep I am still feeling nervous about the upcoming recce. This is due to not know who will turn up, what the pace will be and exactly what the route is. I have an idea in my head of what the route is, but as has happened many times before what goes on inside my head and reality can be two very different things!

I arrive in time for the start and with another five runners set off on the recce. The first part, a climb up to Penistone Hill is as expected, a tough, uphill start designed to spread the field out. As we get to Penistone Hill we head up and over it rather than around it as I expected. This was the first surprise of the recce for me and highlights the value of doing a recce even if you are familiar with the surroundings and not assume you know the route and you can just follow everybody.

Heading down towards the carpark we bear left towards the bottom path that takes you to Top Withens and again I begin to again assume I know the route. Once again I assume wrongly as instead of heading right we turn left and down a path I have never run before. At this point I decide to stop assuming and just enjoy the run.

After a short downhill section, we bear right and begin ascending Haworth Old Road. This turns out to be one of those typical Yorkshire climbs where you think you have reached the top only to get there and see yet more uphill! But eventually we get as far as we are going and turn left and back towards Ogden Water on the conduit.

This is the best part of the run as the climb has taken us above Haworth and Oxenhope and on a warm day with the sun shining high there can be few better views than looking over the stunning Yorkshire landscape with the Three Peaks in the distance and marvelling at the sheer beauty that is on our doorstep.

Soon we are off the moors and heading back down towards Oxenhope via the Bronte Way. For some reason I have lost some confidence on the downhills and today proves no exception as the other runners are soon sprinting away from me and I seem to be tiptoeing down the hill and not feeling at my best.

At the bottom we regroup and soon we are running along trail and road through Oxenhope heading towards Haworth. For me these are often the most difficult parts of a race because of all the various turns you take getting back to the finish. I can usually remember the longer stretches and where to turn but these sections are often much shorter and you can easily run past where you are supposed to turn and find yourself miles off course. Again these are the benefits of doing a recce even if it is only to refresh your memory.

Soon we have finished and I have learnt a lot from the recce not least that I actually didn’t have a clue as to where the route went! Now I know enough to try the route on my own and see how I go without the benefit of someone who knows where they’re going!

So the next day I find myself in Haworth again and ready to see what I can remember of the route on my own. I head off towards the car park and immediately take a wrong turn at the top and end up further down the path than I should be. To anyone who knows me this won’t be a shock as I am more than capable of getting lost just going to the shops never mind heading out over the moors!

Soon I am back on track and heading up over Penistone Hill. Here again I take a wrong turn and end up adding distance on to my route which on the day will lose me valuable time. I am hoping to do more recces of the route and by the time race day comes I will be fully prepared for the course and know the best route to take.

Soon I am heading up Haworth Old Road and trying to remember where the turn off is for the conduit. Unsurprisingly I take another wrong turn but after looking up to where I should be I soon realise my mistake and head back to the correct route.

I find the right turn off point and settle into a steady running rhythm alongside the conduit with plenty of sheep for company. My legs feel good and whilst the pace is nothing special I am moving freely and comfortably and I’m happy with my progress.

The run along the conduit goes on for a mile or so and takes you onto the road and here instead of heading over the Calderdale Way route I turn left and head back down towards Oxenhope. This is a steep hill and I relax my body as much as I can in order to maintain control on this fast descent. At the bottom it’s right into Oxenhope and then a short distance later left and the ascent up to Penistone Hill.

This is another long, steady climb and I pace myself accordingly so that I have the energy to get to the top and not burn myself out halfway up. At the top instead of turning right and returning through the carpark I head towards Stanbury and then Haworth via another long, steady hill.

I arrive back at my car tired but happy. I’ve done two tough runs back to back and I know that this will benefit me in the long run as the extra miles and climbing I have done will strengthen me physically and mentally. I am feeling good and with another four weeks to race day I am making steady progress and my aim of running the Yorkshireman Half in under three hours is looking on.


Yesterday, Sunday 31st May I went for my first long training run, the first of many. To be honest I don’t know many places where I can go on a long run off-road despite living in a semi-rural part of the country. This is as much to do with my knack of just getting out there and running or walking but not taking any notice of where I’m going as anything else!

However I do know Haworth, the world famous home of the Bronte’s and the moors are said to have provided the inspiration for Emily Bronte’s novel, Wuthering Heights. I have walked these moors many times myself and so they are an ideal place for me to start my off-road training as I know the paths and trails and can vary my route every time.

So off to Penistone Hill Country Park in my car I went and soon I was sat there in the car park looking towards Top Withens on a wet and windy Sunday morning. The scene could have come straight from Wuthering Heights and I would not have been surprised to have seen Cathy or Heathcliff come walking by, hand in hand, two lovers forever trapped on the moors…

This is the view that greeted me as I parked up

Haworth Moor 310515 Wet and Windy

But I didn’t have time to sit there daydreaming; I had a training run to do! So off I set on a familiar path to the Bronte waterfalls, Top Withens, then the Trig point on top of the moors and finally Alcomden Stones. This is around 3 ½ miles but always seems a lot further. The route starts off on trail before turning to rock and mud and then finally open moorland above Top Withens and on the way to the Trig point and Alcomden Stones.

Today though extra care was needed as the route was slippy and muddy because of the rain but I still made good progress up to the Stones getting there in around 45 minutes. Alcomden Stones are an outcrop of ancient stones allegedly where prehistoric men worshipped. I think it is a spectacular place simply because it is one of the few places where you can go and experience freedom from all the stresses of modern day life. There is nothing around for miles and you can feel free here.

But when you get here you also have a problem. You can go back to Top Withens on the trail that is easy to navigate or you can try and get down to Ponden Kirk. The problem here is that the trail runs out and you are left on open marshland and bog with no clear path. I of course took this option and followed the stream as closely as I could. If you follow a stream you will eventually come out at a point where you will be able to make a more informed choice of route.

I knew though where this stream came out but this did not make the run any easier. My feet got soaking wet standing in water and covered in thick mud as I made my way as quickly as possible across the marshland. But I enjoyed this, far more than I enjoy running on roads. This for me is true, pure running, in the wilds with the elements against you and you need all your wits about you to avoid coming a cropper and taking a wet and muddy fall!

But I managed to avoid falling and after a lot of jumping around over embankments and avoiding muddy bog I made it to the end of the route and Ponden Kirk. Most normal people at this point take the path over the top of the Kirk down towards the reservoir. Me however being a bit mad go down the side of the Kirk, a steep and narrow path just so I can go back up it. Yesterday it was very slippy so I had to be careful or I might fall and if you fall here that could be it…

Back up to the top path and having avoided falling I ploughed on down towards Ponden Reservoir and on to the path that would take me back up to the waterfalls and the path back towards my car. Apart from getting a bit lost the rest of the run was uneventful but satisfying as I was building up my distance training now.

That was apart from on the path from the waterfalls back to Penistone Hill. The path is narrow in parts and strewn with rocks, but I had a group of older hikers in front of me that were slowing my pace. To get round them I took some risks and jumped over and off rocks with a pace and agility that surprised me! The best moment came when one of them said ‘there’s a fell runner, bloody idiot!’ I took this as a compliment! Nobody had ever called me a fell runner before!

And 9.3 miles later I was back at my car. Feet soaking, dripping wet, muscles already aching, tired but having an immense feeling of satisfaction and achievement deep inside me from having achieved so much more in my first proper training session than I thought I could. I already have a route in mind for next week. But that’s another story.

I can still remember the day I discovered the Bronte’s. I had heard of them before of course, but had never visited the Parsonage in Haworth where they spent so much of their short lives. The reason why I had never been before? Well I only live twenty minutes or so from Haworth so in my mind I could visit them anytime. And to be honest I wasn’t that interested in them at the time!

It was a warm and sunny day in late September and a friend of mine had a special birthday coming up, so knowing he likes whisky I decided to visit a shop I know in Haworth that sells some lovely single malts. Upon arriving at Haworth I found a car park and to my horror I didn’t have the right change for the meter. It was £1.60 for two hours parking and the smallest change I had was £2. Applying true Yorkshire logic I decided to spend £3 on four hours car parking rather than lose 40p on two hours car parking! Trouble was this meant I got four hours parking instead of two.

Getting a bottle of whisky took me nearly an hour, there was such a great selection to choose from and I’m very indecisive when it comes to choosing anything at the best of times. However after much dithering I had managed to buy a bottle of single malt whisky for my friend and discovered I still had around three hours left on my car parking so decided to have a wander round Haworth something I had not done for a very long time.

Haworth as many people know is a lovely rural Yorkshire village well known for its links with the Bronte’s and much more. However once you’ve been up and down the cobbled Main Street, you’ve pretty much done all you can unless you want to start walking short distances. At this time I wasn’t familiar with the surrounding countryside so I was unaware of where I could walk to. And it was this lack of local knowledge and being a traditional tight Yorkshireman that led me to the Bronte Parsonage. I wanted to use as much of my car parking time as I could.

I had heard of the Parsonage of course but I had never been in there. To get to the Parsonage you go past the church and the graveyard and then you are at the Parsonage itself. You enter through a large wooden door into the nicely kept gardens that are a place of tranquillity looking out over the church and the graveyard. They are set up high from the path but level with the house. You could easily imagine the Bronte’s relaxing there on a warm summer’s day or taking in the nip of a cold, frosty morning in winter. And I turned and entered the Parsonage for the very first time.

And there I was stood in the actual hallway that the Bronte’s used to frequent so often going about their daily business, discussing village gossip and thinking of stories to write. I turned left and I was in the dining room where Emily Bronte died looking at the actual settee she was lying on when she died. The sense of history got to me immediately and I began to feel overcome with emotion at the thought of what had happened in this very room. The atmosphere was one of awe and wonder, of inspiration and reverence of being in a very special place where so much happened in such a short space of time.

And the opposite room was the study where the Revd Patrick Bronte would spend a lot of his time at his desk. And there on the desk where some of his possessions including the largest magnifying glass I have ever seen! And onwards to the kitchen and then to Mr Nicholls’ study taking my time to look the exhibits and read the information about them.

Up the stairs I went pausing at the Grandfather clock and touching it ever so gently. I felt a tingle run up my arm as I touched it and imagined the Revd Bronte winding it up every night at the same time precisely. Upstairs and more rooms to see inside. I felt like a kid in a sweet shop, looking at tiny shoes, dresses, gloves, everything seemed to be in miniature. It felt as if I was in a large dolls house which was only missing the dolls.

And I discovered Branwell Bronte. Up until this point I never knew that the Bronte’s had a brother who was more famous for his addictions to alcohol and opium than for his work. But even for his lack of being as famous as his sisters or maybe because of it I found him a fascinating character and one that has more depth to him than many people realise. Branwell was and still is for me an integral part of the Bronte’s history. Would the three sisters have had quite the same lives if Branwell had not been alive? Quite possibly but it is important to remember that Branwell played a massive part in the early lives of his sisters playing with the toy soldiers and making up stories of fantasy lands.

Into the exhibition room and the hairs on the back of my arms stood up as a shiver went down my spine. It was as if a spirit from the past had walked through me. And it was in this room I finally discovered the extent of the Bronte’s writing. From books written so small it was impossible to read to poetry so powerful it brought a tear to your eye. And the novels were all there too. The novels that made the Bronte’s famous the world over, the novels that everybody knows them by.

The exhibition room is very special, very impressive for the shear amount of history it holds within its walls. Here are original manuscripts of the Bronte’s stories written in their own handwriting by their own hands. In this one room there is so much of the lives of the Bronte’s that you expect one of them to appear at any moment and start telling you about the inspiration behind their poems and novels. Seeing exhibits and reading letters and stories written by such famous writers is something very special for me I was in awe and felt I was in the presence of greatness, of legends of people who will live forever, who will always be immortal and who will never die because their books and their lives will always be read and spoken about.

And then I was out of there. Back into reality, back into the 21st century. I felt a little bit deflated going down the stairs towards the shop and back out into the real world but I also felt elated too.

I had done something I had always promised myself I would do one day but never got round to. And reflecting on the experience it was something I wished I had done many years before but I was glad I did it in the end. The Parsonage, Haworth and the history of the Bronte’s exceeded all my expectations and made me realise how important and valuable history is to us as human beings?

The Parsonage itself is a combination of remaining true and authentic to how the Bronte’s lived there in their time with many of the rooms being furnished and decorated as they were in the Bronte’s time. A nod to the modern is with the exhibition room displaying some of the important artefacts for people to view. The Parsonage conveys a feeling of history, of a time gone by reflecting the history of the most important literary families in history. But more than that you get a lesson in the wider history of the Bronte’s and the culture of the time that shaped their personalities and in turn shaped their writing too. It is this that gave this first trip and every subsequent trip real meaning for me because there is depth here behind the novels and you get a real glimpse into the lives of the family and what made them the people we all love and know now.

Last night was another auspicious moment in my poetry experience. I lost my poetry reading virginity! I was very, very nervous as you can imagine, but the evening was made far more relaxing by being held in a small restaurant called the Kava based in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. I had never been to the Kava before but it is a lovely little vegetarian restaurant with a very pleasant and convivial atmosphere, helped by the intimate surroundings.

I went there with two friends, Nuala Robinson and Gaia Holmes. Both Nuala and myself attend a workshop run by Gaia called ‘Igniting the Spark’. The workshop is held every week although we are taking a break for the summer. The workshop is a very friendly environment and achieves what it sets out to do. It has certainly ignited my spark and I am enjoying writing poetry and having my creative side challenged every week by the various activities Gaia sets us. It is the other writers who go to the workshop who also inspire me to write better poetry and without them I would not have come so far in such a short space of time.

In the Kava was another friend who I knew and this helped to settle my nerves knowing that there were people there who had come to support me and the other poets based purely on our performance on the night and nothing else. Gaia was the guest poet and performed several of her amazing poems to a spell bound audience. All of Gaia’s poetry was very well received and she had well deserved rapturous applause at the end of her readings. The compare Anthony then read a poem and after two other poets had performed some outstanding poetry it was my turn to perform.

I got up and very nervously began to read my first poem ‘She Dreams’. All of a sudden my first night nerves had disappeared and I just concentrated on reading my poetry to the best of what I consider to be my limited ability. My next reading was ‘My Eyes’ which is a very personal poem about how I see not being able to read and understand non-verbal communication because of my Asperger’s Syndrome and how I imagine it is for someone else. The last reading was ‘Emily Bronte’s Pen’ which is my interpretation of what it must have been like to be the pen with which Emily Bronte wrote ‘Wuthering Heights’, Every since discovering the Bronte’s and Haworth last year they have held a special place in my heart and every time I visit Haworth Moor or the Bronte Parsonage I feel a tingle down my spine at the thought of walking in the footsteps of literary geniuses who changed the literary world forever with there outstanding poems and novels which have stood the test of time and always will do. At the end of my reading everybody applauded loudly and vigorously, especially my friend Simon who should be a professional applauder! The relief from finishing my very first poetry reading and losing my virginity was immense. All I wanted to do was find a bed and lie down for a very long time! But being 20 miles from home and with other poets still to read I couldn’t lie down anywhere. 

The rest of the poets were equally impressive and I realised how much I have to learn about poetry and I took inspiration from the other poets and their readings. After the event had finished everybody congratulated me on losing my poetry reading virginity and said I was a natural. To hear this gave me a boost to my confidence and has inspired me to carry on writing and reading poetry. Having Asperger’s and suffered from bullying has severely dented my confidence, but I am slowly getting it back through my new found passion.

I cannot thank Gaia Holmes enough for the lovely words she said to me at the end of the night, nor for the owners of the Kava Café who let us have the venue and all of the other poets and people who made it a magical evening for everybody. I got some ideas for a theme for my poetry and I cannot wait to read some poetry again whether it is one of my poor attempts or poetry by one of the greats.