Making Hay while the Sun Shines

Making hay while the sun shines

 

 

The fields surrounding Elmet Farmhouse are grown for hay each summer. As well as feathery grasses, they are full of wild flowers, including buttercups and sorrel. During the spring they turn from bright green to golden yellow tinged with red, providing a wonderful backdrop to the cottage garden. Watching the meadows grow to their full height is one of the pleasures of midsummer.

 

 

Hay-making normally takes place at Elmet from mid July to early August, depending on the weather. Roger and William Tennant from Horse Hey Farm just along the road at Crimsworth Dean cut and bale the hay for use as winter feed by their cattle. Their brother Jonathan, who delivers milk to the farmhouse, also lends a hand.

After the grass has been cut, it is left to dry for a day or two, then turned so it dries out more. The cut grass is then gathered up into long rows so that it can be sucked up and compacted into bales. The bales are stacked up in the field, before being loaded onto trailers and driven off to the farm.

That’s it for another year. All that’s left behind is pale stubble. But the grass is so lush that it soon starts growing again. Within a week or two the fields are green once more.

 

 

Haymaking August 2016

 

 

Silaging July 2017

 

 

© Text and images copyright Lesley Jackson and Ian Fishwick

Snow-Capped Pennine Hills

Snow-Capped Pennine Hills

 

 

Last week we had our first dusting of snow overnight up here at Pecket Well above Hebden Bridge, but by the following day it had all disappeared. Yesterday we had our second dose, with blizzards for most of the day up on ‘the tops’. Today we’ve had alternating snow and rain, so it’s pretty slushy underfoot.

These photos show a snow-clad Elmet Farmhouse and wintry views of Heptonstall and Stoodley Pike. Below are the steep wooded valleys of Hardcastle Crags and Crimsworth Dean, with swathes of mist rising up from the trees.

 

November 2016

 

© Text and photos copyright Lesley Jackson

Autumn Glory

 

Autumn Glory

Wow! Just look at these astonishing colours in Hardcastle Crags and Crimsworth Dean. Autumn came late to the Upper Calder Valley this year. It wasn’t until mid to late October that the trees really began to turn because of the unseasonably warm weather. But when Autumn finally arrived, it was worth waiting for. Truly glorious! An explosion of russet, auburn and gold.

The woods in the deep, plunging steep-sided valleys around Hebden Bridge are amongst the best in Yorkshire. On a sunny October afternoon or a misty early November morning, there’s no greater pleasure than wandering along the riverside paths by Hebden Water and Crimsworth Dean Beck, drinking in the intoxicating colours.

Even now, in mid November, there are still leaves on the trees. Enjoy them while you can! All just a short walk from Elmet Farmhouse at Pecket Well, which has a bird’s eye view of this breathtaking panorama…

 

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© Text and photos copyright Lesley Jackson

Purple Haze

“I have fled my country and gone to the heather” 

Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë was right. August is the time to head to the hills and immerse yourself in the glorious heather moorlands. Because the hillsides of the Upper Calder Valley are so steep, the carpet of heather on the plateau-like uplands is barely visible from down in the dales. It’s only when you venture up onto ‘the tops’ beyond the hay meadows on the shoulders of the hills that you encounter the purple haze.

Last year the heather was late and didn’t come into the full bloom until mid August. But this year it’s early and has already come into flower by the end of July. As with the bilberries, it looks as though it’s a bumper year.

Good spots for heather walks are Wadsworth Moor above Pecket Well, Midgley Moor above Luddenden Dean, Heptonstall Moor above Colden, Walshaw Dean above Hardcastle Crags, and Great Edge above Widdop Reservoir. On a hot summer’s day with the sweet scent of the heather and the bees buzzing all around as they gather the nectar for honey, it’s an intoxicating sensory experience and a visual spectacle not to be missed.

 

 

High Waving Heather
Emily Brontë

High waving heather, ‘neath stormy blasts bending,
Midnight and moonlight and bright shining stars;
Darkness and glory rejoicingly blending,
Earth rising to heaven and heaven descending,
Man’s spirit away from its drear dongeon sending,
Bursting the fetters and breaking the bars.

All down the mountain sides, wild forest lending
One mighty voice to the life-giving wind;
Rivers their banks in the jubilee rending,
Fast through the valleys a reckless course wending,
Wider and deeper their waters extending,
Leaving a desolate desert behind.

Shining and lowering and swelling and dying,
Changing for ever from midnight to noon;
Roaring like thunder, like soft music sighing,
Shadows on shadows advancing and flying,
Lightning-bright flashes the deep gloom defying,
Coming as swiftly and fading as soon.

13 December 1836

 

© Main text and photos copyright Lesley Jackson

 

Bluebellerama!

The bluebells have been spectacular this year in Hardcastle Crags and Crimsworth Dean. These two beautiful National Trust woodlands – just a short walk from Elmet Farmhouse – are amongst the best bluebell woods in England. Mid May is the best time to see the bluebells, although they start flowering in late April and last through until early June.

As well as Crimsworth Dean and Hardcastle Crags, there are bluebells in Pecket Well Clough, Colden Clough, Luddenden Dean, Cragg Vale and many of the other narrow steep-sided wooded valleys around Hebden Bridge. These woods are beautiful are stunningly beautiful throughout the year, but you want to immerse yourself in bluebell heaven, come and stay at Elmet Farmhouse next May….

For more information about the woods of the Calder Valley, click here

© Text and photos copyright Lesley Jackson

 

River of Mist

Magical River of Mist

If you’re lucky you might see the famous River of Mist during your stay at Elmet Farmhouse, a remarkable phenomenon unique to this area. Usually it forms early in the morning as the sun rises and fog starts to lift, but sometimes  it appears later in the day after heavy rain.

Moisture is trapped in the steep-sided wooded valleys. Swathes of mist swirl around clinging to the hills, with Stoodley Pike and Heptonstall church peeping through on the tops.

There is nothing quite like the magical River of Mist – and Elmet Farmhouse gives you a bird’s eye view.

 

© All photos copyright Lesley Jackson

It’s Cold in Colden!

It’s Cold in Colden… but cosy in May’s Farm Shop

 

The Colden Loop – An early morning walk along a stretch of the Pennine Way on a sparkling winter’s day on 25 February 2016, starting and finishing at the delightful May’s Aladdin’s Cave, a fabulously well-stocked farm shop tucked away on Edge Lane above the village of Colden, near Heptonstall

Overnight the temperature had dipped several degrees below freezing so there was an extremely hard frost at the start of the walk at 7.45 am. The fields below Stoodley Pike were so white that it looked as if it had snowed. Up on the Pennine Way crossing Heptonstall Moor above Hardcastle Crags, the heather and grasses were laden with glistening ice crystals. The low winter sunshine reflecting off the frosty Pennine hills created wonderful hues ranging from pale orange to pinkish purple.

On the crest of the hill heading back over Colden, the distant cries of curlews and golden plovers and the first lapwings of the season, dipping and diving erratically in their inimitable way. Next to the lane along to Colden, a large of flock of fieldfares grazing on the meadows.

Back at May’s Farm Shop, a cheery smile from the tireless proprietor and a huge sticky slab of delicious Yorkshire Parkin. The perfect end to the walk and the perfect start to the day.

 

© Text and photos copyright Lesley Jackson

Striding up Stoodley Pike

Stoodley Pike and the Mysterious Mists of Mankinholes

 

 

Stoodley Pike is such a prominent landmark in the Upper Calder Valley that it deserves special attention. Perched on the hilltop at 1300ft (400 metres) half way between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, it is visible throughout the area and can be clearly seen on the horizon from Elmet Farmhouse at Pecket Well. A huge stone obelisk measuring 121 ft, it sits on a ridge  at Langfield Common on the route of the Pennine Way.

Built to commemorate the end of the Napoleonic Wars,  Stoodley Pike was initially erected in 1815 following Wellington’s triumph over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. The original monument collapsed in 1854 after being struck by lightning, but it was rebuilt two years later by public subscription to designs by a local architect called James Green. A lightning conductor was added in 1889.

By strange coincidence, the day the original monument collapsed in 1854 coincided with the outbreak of the Crimean War and it was after peace was restored in 1856 that Stoodley Pike was rebuilt. Its significance as a symbol of peace was later highlighted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, who painted a large CND logo on the monument during the 1970s. Although subsequently removed, vestiges of this symbol can still be seen close up.

The above sequence of photos records an early morning walk from Mankinholes to Stoodley Pike on 18 February 2016. At 8 am it was cold and sunny with a heavy frost. An hour later, swathes of mist appeared on the hills above Todmorden, clinging to Langfield Common near the neighbouring village of Lumbutts.

 

© Text and photographs copyright Lesley Jackson

 

Hard Frost in Hardcastle Crags

Hard Frost in Hardcastle Crags

 

 

 

Even in the middle of winter, there’s a stark beauty to the landscape of the Upper Calder Valley. The National Trust estate of Hardcastle Crags  is a beautiful place to explore at any time of year, especially on a crisp, clear frosty day.

These photos record an early morning walk around the top end of Hardcastle Crags on a cold sunny day on 16 February 2016. The walk starts at Widdop Gate, near Lower Gorple Reservoir and crosses Graining Water at Blake Dean, just before it merges with Alcomden Water to form Hebden Water, which runs down through Hebden Dale towards Hebden Bridge. The valley is initially open countryside with bracken and heather-covered slopes. Lower down it is densely wooded and the hillsides become craggier and more gorge-like as the path descends to Gibson Mill.

After crossing the old toll bridge at the mill, there is a walkway by the side of the millpond – a good place to see herons fishing. The path then climbs up through the beech trees on to an embankment running along the top edge of the wood, with arresting views down the precipitous slopes to the river and across the valley to Walshaw Moor and Walshaw Lodge. 

 

© Text and images copyright Lesley Jackson

Autumn in Luddenden Dean

Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

 

Autumn is particularly beautiful in the countryside around Elmet Farmhouse because of the profusion of steep wooded valleys, known as cloughs or deans, branching off into the hills from the main Upper Calder Valley. As the leaves begin to turn in October, the woods take on rich gold and chestnut hues. The beech trees are particularly vibrant, creating a canopy of burnished gold, while the silver birch and larch turn an arresting shade of bright yellow.

Whether you’re up on the hillside looking down onto the woods in the valley below, or standing under the trees looking up to the sky through the golden canopy, it’s a glorious sight. 

These photographs record a late autumn walk around the  idyllic Luddenden Dean valley on a wonderfully sunny afternoon on 1 November 2015,  starting at Jerusalem Farm and looping round via the impressive crenellated gatehouses of Castle Carr.

 

© Text and images copyright Lesley Jackson