Posts Tagged ‘history’


Or more specifically why does the Upper Calder Valley which is the area around Luddenden, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, feel like the place of dreams and mystery to me? This is something I’ve been wondering about ever since I discovered the Upper Calder Valley a couple of years ago and now I’ll try and answer my question.

How did I discover this stunning place? It came by chance when I get into running a couple of years ago. I started out on the roads, pounding the tarmac 2 or 3 times a week, gradually building up my distance and venturing further afield. Soon though I started to feel limited by where I could go. The roads were stunting my development as a runner and person and I realised that I was running past places when I could be running through them.

I started out running round Ogden Water a local reservoir and quickly progressed to running to the Top Withens of Bronte fame high above Haworth. I still remember my first run up there on a calm April evening. It was hard work going up but on the down to the Bronte waterfalls it was as if I was flying. Running was effortless and I flowed from one footstep to the next. I was free at last. No one around to hinder my progress the only limit was my imagination and my bravery in where I went. Out here there are no limits apart from you.

I started to explore Haworth Moor and the surrounding area and soon I wanted somewhere new to go and I discovered the Upper Calder Valley.

I can’t remember my first run round there or even my first walk. I wish I could. I’d been to Hebden Bridge before but that was many years ago and it was a far away place to me. I began going back to Hebden Bridge when I went to a writing group there and maybe it was the drive over the moors that sparked my interest in running around there. Seeing the vast expanse of wild, untamed moorland, inviting me to explore its insides and spit me out the other side, made me went to do so. Me against nature at its best and worse. Nature doesn’t care if I don’t try because someone else will but try and nature will reward you with beauty and adventures beyond your imagination.

And so somewhere the area around Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden slowly drew me into it’s fabric, it’s heart and soul, constantly challenging me as a runner and a person to come in and experience a little bit more before sending me away to reflect and digest on what I have just seen and heard before I go back for more.

It’s not just the landscapes that seem to stretch for miles that inspire me and give me food for thought. Nor the fact that you can go 100 yards and you are in a different village, another 100 yards and it’s somewhere else, but it’s the history of the place that you can feel seeping through the ground under every footstep, the history of men, women and children who walked these footpaths and packhorse trails going to work in the mills, going to try and sell cloth and bread to feed their families in all weathers, hot, draining summer sunshine and knee deep snow with bitter, cold winds blowing in their faces. It is said a lot these days that people back then were made of sterner stuff, hardy souls who went about their business without complaining.

Maybe they did complain but it’s just not recorded and maybe they had no choice but to just get on with it and not worry about what may happen to them if they undertook these arduous journeys but worry about what would happen if they didn’t. But now when I walk or run around this area I can only imagine how it must have been for these hardy people who did these journeys day after day because they had to not because they wanted to. At times it must have been soul destroying, other times they must have felt as I do that they have entered the Garden of Eden.

And maybe it is this that keeps drawing me back, this feeling of history down every footpath and trail that I run up and down, a wonderment of how people survived in what at times will have been an incredibly harsh environment but survive they did and when the sun is shining through the clouds on the valley below I can only hope that at least some of those people experienced the same view I did and felt at peace with themselves and the world even if only for a few minutes, taking in the natural beauty that is the Upper Calder Valley.


There used to be more here
More walls of stone
More roofs of slate
More paths to walk
More noise from looms
More people coming into the valley
And then we had more water
More brought less
Less people, less looms, less noise, less stones
But less can be more
Now there is more trees, more plants
More insects, more birds
More peace and tranquillity
Sometimes less seems more
It all depends how you look at it


On Tuesday 17th February I went to the Calderdale Industrial Museum in Halifax, West Yorkshire. Nothing extraordinary about a trip to a museum you might think, but the Calderdale Industrial Museum is different to other museums. The museum only started opening again last year after closing its doors to the public around 2000/01. Even now it only opens three or four times a year due to funding constraints and being staffed entirely by volunteers.

But this also makes it enchanting, mystical even. And this is because the museum at the moment is stuck in a time warp. Everything is as it was fourteen years ago, the signs, the machines even down to a jacket hung up on a wall. But what hits you most is the smell. The thought of fourteen years of grease, oil, soap and metal might sound disgusting to some people but to me it is so evocative, it fires up the senses and the smells turn into images and the imagination is set alight.

Why? Picture the men who made these amazing machines from a solid block of iron or steel weighing several tons or just a few pounds. These blocks of iron would be fashioned into lathes 50 feet long, drills 10 feet tall, multi-coloured weaving looms, machines that can turn reduce steel from 4 inches to 1 millimetre and something so intricate and delicate it is a true wonder of the industrial age. And all it does is make a staple!

And what of the men, women and children who worked these machines? Men,  women and children who would rise before the dawn chorus so that they wouldn’t be late for work and have to go through the special gate just for latecomers. Who would work for 12 hours or more in conditions that would leave their senses dulled by the noise, the lack of light, the dirt and grime they breathed into their lungs and having to keep up with this new machinery that moved as faster than a bird diving for prey hour after hour after hour all day, every day.

And what happened if one of them should fall asleep at their machine or miscalculate the speed of the iron arm going back and forth at 10,000 rpm or more? At worse they might lose a finger, a toe an arm or a leg. At worse they would be killed as they tried to earn a pittance to survive. If they were injured and became too ill or disabled to work they would be cast into the street to beg and steal to live.

It is their lives and deaths I smell as I wander round the museum, the blood, sweat and tears they split everyday onto the wooden floors, the relief at another day over without injury and some money to feed the hungry mouths at home or the cries of pain as a finger was lost in a split second and their life was changed forever. And these smells transform themselves beyond the machines sat there silent but gleaming in all their splendour for the descendants of the workers to admire in awe and wonder. The smells transform into a fully working factory with all the sensory experiences you would have lived through then.

The Calderdale Industrial Museum evokes all this and much more because of what it is in an age of metal boxes. A true step back in time to an era that we should not forget nor sugar coat in a romantic sheen. But experience and understand it for what it is, what it was and what it stands for today.

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Here is the latest blog Ryburn Ramblings from Simon Zonenblick. In this months blog Simon looks at the history and cultivation of the ornamental brassicas and how these plants can be grown for decoration and for human consumption too. The link to Simon’s blog is here: https://sites.google.com/site/ryburnramblings/poetry/01.