Cragg Vale, Yorkshire. The Gallows Pole.

May 3 2019 – Calder Valley, Yorkshire.

I do like a good book. However, they seem to be quite hard to find and I have started many that turn out to not be as good as I hoped. I am sure there are loads of very good books being released right now, though probably not that many that I will like today. I might like them tomorrow, who knows? My emotional need for books changes and what thrills or interests me today may completely bore me next week.

One of the very few good things about being constantly busy and constantly tired is that I have much less time, desire or energy to read. I can make a good book last a long time, thus reducing the need to have a lot of good books to hand.

Earlier this year I read ‘The Gallows Pole’ by Benjamin Myers. It is set in Cragg Vale, Yorkshire as the industrial revolution of the 18th century starts to bite into traditional rural working class lives. It is not a book that I would normally read, but it was highly recommended by people I follow on Twitter and it subsequently won an award for historical fiction. I really enjoyed it, read slowly.

The books foundation is the story of the Cragg Vale Coiners, a group of counterfeiters making new coins by ‘clipping’ the edges of real coins, melting the clippings down and casting new money. It was a very evocative read and very much made me want to visit the area and see it for myself. Times may change, but environments less so.

Cragg Vale is very close to Hebden bridge, a ‘now’ sort of place, a place where lots of bands I like play, that seems to have lots of art and artists and somewhere that sounds like a fairly cool place to live. It was also sort of on the way to Settle in North Yorkshire where I have a photo walk on Monday. The detour seemed like a good option.

It was not the best of days when I left London for the supposed five hour drive north. I elected to follow the recommendation on Google Maps to take the A1 rather than the M1, even though my gut was telling me that was the wrong choice. I followed my gut on the return journey. There were a lot of trucks on the A1.

I arrived in Hebden Bridge in the early afternoon. I was hungry and dying for a wee. It took me ages to find a car park and the public toilets were closed. I think this rather soured my view of Hebden Bridge. I wasn’t overly enthralled by the place, it is extremely commercial, most of the buildings seemed to have been converted into an establishment to suck money out of tourists. It reminded me of Canterbury, another historic town laid ruin by tourism. After weeing and eating a sandwich in that order, I left.

The River Calder and Rochdale Canal that run through the Calder Valley and past Hebden Bridge are glorious, the whole area is beautiful and I have to go back some day and spend a bit more time exploring more slowly.

Leaving town the way I came in, it was a short drive before I turned off the main road and headed up to Cragg Vale. The road is narrow and gently winding and quite fast and there were not a lot of places to stop and take photos. The village is so small that a long blink would blank it out from your journey. I carried on up the valley towards the top, and the burnt black and dry brown of the moor. This is what I wanted to see; bleak and barren open moor land. I was blessed with almost perfect weather, dark low cloud. Lovely.

Cragg Valley with Turvin Clough flowing through to the reservoir below.

I stopped outside St Johns Cragg Vale and took a couple of photos of the church and the stream, before getting back into the car and heading towards Settle and my Air B and B for the next three nights.

I took the most direct route, it may not have been the fastest, but it was a very nice drive, particularly driving up the road from Hebden bridge. There was no where easy to stop, but I can see why the place is so popular, it is a very attractive town when you are not up close and confronted with dozens of shops.

On the way I passed the small, but perfectly formed Lower Laithe Reserve, stopping to take a couple of photos before continuing my journey northward. 

About wheresphil

Originally from Auckland, New Zealand, now living in London.
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