2018 has been one of the snowiest winters we have ever known, with repeated snowfall from January right through to April. In late February and March we were hit by two onslaughts from the Beast from the East (see snow sculpture portrait below) bringing icy blasts straight from Siberia. The combination of blizzards and strong winds caused deep snowdrifts on roads and footpaths, so our guests in Elmet Farmhouse were (happily) snowed in for several days.
The snow proved a big hit with our February half-term guests, who borrowed our vintage wooden sledge. The gently sloping fields at Elmet Farmhouse are ideal for sledging. Many of our visitors come from parts of the country which rarely see snow, whereas for us, 1000 ft up on top of the Pennines, it’s a fairly regular occurrence during the winter months. This year has been exceptional though and we’re not even sure whether we’ve seen the last of it yet. The last snowfall was over Easter.
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.
Good spots for heather walks are Wadsworth Moor above Pecket Well, Midgley Moor above Luddenden Dean, Heptonstall Moor above Colden, and Walshaw Dean and Widdop Reservoir above Hardcastle Crags. 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
High Summer on Midgley Moor
The moorland above Luddenden Dean is carpeted with heather, which blooms throughout the month of August and into early September. As the heather comes into flower, the moors take on a vivid purple hue, which becomes more and more intense.
These photographs were taken on a walk from Pecket Well to Luddenden Dean over Wadsworth Moor and Midgley Moor. Perched on the hilltop overlooking the Luddenden valley are two small reservoirs where the heather grows right up to the water’s edge.
Walking on the Wild Side at Widdop
Two hikes near Widdop above Hardcastle Crags in mid August with the heather in full bloom.
First walk along Great Edge, the ridge above Widdop Reservoir, early one sunny morning. Tramping through the heather via a series of rocky outcrops known variously as Slack Stones, Raven Stones and The Scout that lead up to Great Edge. Beyond, a sea of heather on Widdop Moor, sliced through in the distance by the blade-like rocks of Dove Stones.
Returning along a bridlepath by the shores of Widdop Reservoir. The low water levels revealing sand and rocks give the impression of a beach. Looming above, the sheer cliffs below Great Edge. Very few humans, just a solitary buzzard and a few skylarks.
Second walk starting at Widdop Gate and climbing up to Gorple Lower Reservoir via Low Moor and King Common Rough, looking down on the narrow gorge of Graining Water. Ascending over the tussocky slopes of Flask to Cludders Slack, a fine vantage point high up above Widdop Reservoir at 390 metres, with dramatic views towards Great Edge.
Circling the shores of Widdop Reservoir, then cutting across to Alcomden Water and along to Blake Dean at the top end of Hardcastle Crags. A blustery afternoon which started out with dark brooding skies but culminated in bright warm sunshine. Captivating light effects on the purple hills and the steep lush heather-covered slopes of Blake Dean.