At the beginning of the year we took advantage of the YHA New Year sale and booked a couple of short breaks away. The first being two nights at Haworth Youth Hostel. Haworth was one of the only places left that had a room for all five of us, and it felt pretty serendipitous after watching and enjoying the BBC drama ‘To Walk Invisible’ over the Chrsitmas period. Haworth is only a short drive away from where we live, but we decided to make the couple of days into an adventure by backpacking and using trains for travel. A couple of days of slow travel.
We made an early start on the Sunday, backpacks at the ready, and walked to our local train station to catch a train to Leeds, and then onto Keighley. The girls are used to carrying a rucksack, but it was a bit of a test to see how they’d get on with 2 days of stuff in their packs (and in Winter!).
Keighley train station is a lovely old Victorian station, with lots of beautiful features still in place. This set the tone for most of our journey, as we ventured from Keighley to Haworth and back, immersed in a world long gone, and almost forgotten, but one that still stands proud. From the train station we walked through Keighley to the Cliffe Castle Museum. Keighley has some impressive old buildings left from the Industrial Revolution, a stunning old picture house still in use, and a beautiful public library building (that i must go back and visit). I wonder what kind of legacy todays philanthropists will leave behind?, do philanthropists still exist?
The Cliffe Castle Museum was equally as impressive, built by the textile millionaire Henry Isaac Butterfield. We had a wonderful time, it’s a real treasure trove, and I highly recommend a visit. It has a great mix of exhibitions, from period rooms, collections belonging to the owner, a geology and fossil exhibition, and my favourite a natural history gallery. A stunning hall full of taxidermy dioramas. It had a very magical feel to it, made even more so by a snow storm blowing outside the window.
I got my sketching stuff out while the kids made clay thumb pots, and looked at all the glittery geodes in the geology section.
We retrieved our backpacks (which the staff had kindly let us store somewhere safe), and head out into the snow, back to the train station. This time to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, a refurbished old line running from Keighley to Oxenhope, using steam trains and old diesel engines. It couldn’t have been any more atmospheric when the steam train rolled in, murky snowy skies, and the station filled with steam, the girls faces lit up. It felt like a scene from an old movie.
It was an atmospheric journey to Haworth with snow on the hills. Moving slowly through the landscape, steam billowing up the hillsides. A lovely way to arrive in Haworth. It was bitter cold, snowy and a biting wind in Haworth. Very Wuthering Heights!! We walked up to the Youth Hostel, and settled to some nice food and a cosy evening, and talk of our day.
We wrapped up well and walked back into Haworth and headed for the Brontë Parsonage Museum, the home of Ann, Charlotte and Emily Brontë of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre fame.
I wasn’t sure what the girls would think, even though they love museums, but they really loved it. They loved looking at the old rooms, writing desks and clothing. The staff were wonderful at explaining and making the displays come to life. My middle daughter, who has ambitions to become an author actually became overwhelmed being in the room, and seeing the table and writing slope where a real author had written a book. The house has a really nice feel to it, calm and homely. The girls bought quill pens in the gift shop, ready to create a literary masterpiece of their own.
We had lunch at a cafe, mooched around the lovely cobbled streets of Haworth, before heading for the Brontë Way for a walk ‘ont moor, following in the footsteps of the Brontë sisters.
The snow from the previous day had completely disappeared, leaving the ground very soggy, but the sun was shining. We got a little lost as we didn’t have the proper map with us! We had a good wander over Penistone Hill and the moor, before we found the route down to the Brontë bridge. We didn’t quite make it the Brontë bridge as the sun began to go down, and it got very cold, so we about turned and headed back into Haworth.
There was only one way to warm up, and that was with a pint in The Black Bull. The Black Bull is the pub where Branwell Brontë spent most of his time, so we felt like we’d had the full Brontë experience.
Time to head home today. I love how time seems to stretch and seem longer when you travel differently, seeing new things and places. A couple of days away can seem like a full week. We decided to retrace our steps on foot back to Keighley, via The Worth Way. The Worth Way is a circular route that takes in part of the area that The Railway Children was filmed in, and travels up and down the Worth valley following the route of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. It’s a shame the trains weren’t running as it would have been lovely watching them pootle through the landscape as we walked. We walked 6 miles of the Worth Way back to Keighley.
The route took us past old mill buildings made of solid stone, still standing proud. Old railway yards, taken over by nature. Forgotten walled walkways that seemed to go on forever, routes that must have been busy with activity and people in their day, now left to scrub and litter. We weaved up the valley from Haworth into sheep farming land, and back down to the river and station at Damems, spotting a group of Muntjac Deer minding their own business in the grounds of a disused mill. It was like a land that time had forgotten. Amazing structures, and buildings being swallowed back up by nature.
As we neared Keighley the route takes you along a busy main road, and urban life is boss, then you’re directed back down along the river Worths edge, which is filthy and full of litter, but surrounded by beautifully engineered Victorian Walls. It was really interesting walking from the countryside back into an urban area, the kids really noticed the change in noise, and the amount of litter everywhere.
We made good time back to Keighley train station, and jumped on our train. Back to outskirts of Leeds and routine life, but feeling happy and full of memories of our couple of days adventuring from our doorstep.