There is so much to see and do in and around Haworth that we made three separate journeys. It could all be done in one day if you get there early enough, are prepared to stay late, and don’t suffer with any health issues.
As we’re quite late risers, as I can’t always manage a long-distance walk, and as we’re also filming for much of our visit, we chose to to go three times. Perhaps it would be easier for us to stay in the area for a few days and explore all that this lovely little place has to offer at a relaxing. leisurely pace.
Haworth is a small town or large village in West Yorkshire, 3 miles south-west of Keighley, 10 miles west of Bradford, nestling in the beautiful Pennines. It’s a popular tourist destination made famous by the Bronte family and the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.
On our first visit, the intention was to visit the town and then walk over the moors to a place called Top Withens, a ruined farmhouse last occupied in the 1920s that was apparently the inspiration for the Earnshaw residence in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
However, our new alphabet adventurers t-shirts became quite the conversation-starter, and we found ourselves chatting with some complete strangers for ages outside the old schoolroom.
Incidentally, if you would like to win an alphabet adventurers t-shirt, read to the end and then follow the instructions on how to enter the competition. The question is also on the vlog.
Once we were able to explore the village again, we visited the schoolroom, the Bronte Parsonage and the visitors’ centre. We didn’t go into the museum because dogs aren’t allowed (other than assistance dogs). We treated ourselves to some old-fashioned sweeties, and made our way back to the car via the graveyard and Parson’s Field.
The Bronte sisters were born in Thornton, which also isn’t far from Bradford. Their father, Patrick, was appointed as rector to Haworth. Their mother died in 1821 and their aunt, her sister, came to look after them and their brother. Branwell was very close to this aunt. There were two other sisters who sadly died following a typhoid epidemic at Cowan Bridge.
I have to admit to not knowing very much at all about the Brontes. I’m not a fan. I remember reading Jane Eyre and thinking it was “all right”, but I hated Wuthering Heights. The only reason I finished it was to see what all the fuss was about. I’m really not surprised it didn’t sell very well in 1848, and I still don’t know what all the fuss is about.
Branwell was the fourth of the surviving Bronte children to live to adulthood, and he too had ambitions to be a writer and an artist. He painted the only known picture of the three Bronte sisters together, which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London. Recent tests have shown that the pillar in the background of the painting was once an image of Branwell himself, painted out.
There were rumours at one point that he had, in fact, written his sisters’ books. However, the sad truth is that he was addicted to alcohol and to drugs, and he died of TB in September 1848.
Emily also died of TB, in December 1848, closely followed by Anne in 1849. Charlotte was the only sibling to be married, in 1854, but she died, also of TB, in 1855.
Patrick had survived all of his children, his wife, his sister-in-law and many, many of his parishioners – Haworth was not a healthy place to live in the mid-1800s, and it’s estimated that the cemetery there contains the remains of more than 40,000 people. He lived to the grand old age of 84, suffered cataracts in his 60s and 70s, but it was apparently the dyspepsia and bronchitis that had plagued him all his life that finally contributed to his death, in 1861.
When we got back to the car it was already getting on for 4pm. As the walk to Top Withens was 3½miles, we decided against it and went home with the firm intention of going back.
It was just one week later when we returned, with Son #1 along for company. Our intention was to do the walk. However, I’d managed to twist my knee, DS1 had injured his thigh, and it was pouring down with rain. So instead we decided to go for a ride on the stream train.
The Worth Valley railway line opened in 1867 to serve the many woollen mills that lined the route. Indeed, it was the wealthy mill owners who predominantly funded the line. It became part of the Midland Railway until 1923 and then the new London Midland and Scottish Railway, until nationalisation in 1948. The branch closed in 1962 but was reopened in 1968 do to local opposition to the closure which, in turn, led to the creation of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Preservation Society (KWVRPS).
Instead of having to raise thousands of pounds and paying British Rail up front to buy the line, Keighley and Worth Valley Railway managed to secure an interest-free 25-year repayment agreement. The final instalment was paid in 1992.
We paid £12 each for a full adult return ticket and Rufus went for free. From Haworth we went to Oakworth (famous for the 1970 film adaptation of The Railway Children), Damems (request stop only), Ingrow and Keighley, then all the way back again, but this time via Oxenhope at the other end.
We lost Ian at Oxenhope for a short while. Apparently he found a shed full of engines that were on display.
The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway has been used extensively for film, television and commercials and, more recently, it has been used for Peaky Blinders.
We returned to Haworth and walked into the village for a spot of lunch at the Kings Arms, where dogs are welcome, and we did some shopping too. As the rain didn’t seem to be holding off, we headed home again.
Seven weeks after our first visit we finally made it back to Haworth for our 7-mile return walk to Top Withens. We left glorious sunshine in South Yorkshire thinking it was a lovely day for a walk on the moors. By the time we reached our destination, it had clouded over.
On our previous visit we’d asked about parking and were assured that the car park in Penistone Hill Country Park was probably the closest we could get to the walk that would take us over the tops. It cost us £4 for “over 3 hours”, and we remembered to get our ticket in the bottom car park before driving all the way to the top and then having to walk down again.
By the time we hit the moors, a fine drizzle had started to fall. After we’d walked about ½mile, we discovered there was indeed another car park right next to a picnic area, and this one was free. Next time …
The walk started uphill and was quite hard going for me, yet fairly easy for seasoned walkers and the fit. We got as far as the Bronte Bridge, after about 1½ hours of walking, and that was enough for me.
Bronte Bridge was actually washed away in 1989, during flash floods. The present bridge was built in 1990. It’s a lovely location only a few yards away from Bronte Falls. But there was no time for us to carry on over the top and then get all the way back before the public toilets in Haworth closed at 5pm – we weren’t aware there were other toilets on the moors.
So Ian took some photos and we called it a wrap before turning around and heading back.
The building that is said to have been inspiration for Wuthering Heights doesn’t actually bear any resemblance to the house in the story. It’s possible that Emily Bronte may have simply borrowed the location, but there is no evidence that she ever went this way on any of her walks. It’s a nice story, though, and a good excuse for a longer walk. Hopefully we’ll go back another day and park a little closer.
By the time we got back to the car park, more than 3½ hours after we left, we’d walked more than 5 miles, at a pace of 37 minutes per mile, we walked more than 17,750 steps, and we burnt more than 850 calories. Plus we’d each had a facial-and-spritz on the way up, thanks to the wind and the rain.
We’ll certainly go back again. If nothing else, we really do like Haworth itself.
Which of the Bronte sisters taught at the schoolroom in Haworth?
Please “like” our Facebook page (if you haven’t already) and then look for the Facebook post ‘H’ is for … Haworth Question. Write your answer in the replies before midnight GMT on 9 November 2018. The winner, chosen at random by Rufus, will win their very own alphabet adventurers t-shirt.
Don’t worry if someone has already beaten you to it, even if you know their answer is correct. All of the names of the winning entries will go into a hat and the winner will be drawn at random.
(IMPORTANT: COMPETITION SITES – PLEASE DO NOT POST THE ANSWER, BUT FEEL FREE TO POST THE LINK. THANK YOU.)