A Bronte Walk



This year sees the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Bronte eldest sister of the remarkable trio of Brontes and so over the next four years we will see a veritable Bronte-fest as we celebrate Emily’s 200th (2018) and Anne’s (2020). Their lives were a) remarkable and b) short so their achievement in the world of literature is even more remarkable because their lives were so short! How was it that three clergyman’s daughters closeted away in a backwater parsonage in Haworth Yorkshire have the genius, the sensibility and the confidence to write in such a way that all became major literary figures? This walk takes you through the landscape that gave inspiration to their work

Start. Penistone Hill Country Park GR SE018363. Drive through Stanbury village, then immediately turn right signposted Oxenhope 2 miles. Parking is on left, a few hundred yards after crossing reservoir dam. A nearby Postcode: BD22 0HB

Distance: 6 miles 10k

Time: 3 - 4hours

Grade: Mainly easy but with a short climb from Bronte Falls and a more sustained climb to Top Withens

Map: OS OL21 The South Pennines.


Map by kind permission of Johnston Press 


1. From the car park cross Moorside Lane to a footpath opposite. This traverses the moor below Enshaw Knoll to intercept a broad farm track. Turn left.


Keep on the track for a further ¾ of a mile to where it begins to dip into an attractive tree lined valley.


As you reach its bottom on an altogether more rugged track you'll see to the left the Bronte Waterfall and nearby the Bronte Bridge.


In the summer months the waterfall can be a rather disappointing dribble but Charlotte Bronte writes of it in glowing terms after visiting it in November 1854.

2. To the right of the waterfall a steep narrow path


climbs to the moorland shelf above and then crosses past grouse shooting butts


to the isolated but substantial property of Harbour Lodge - its tree adorned grounds in sharp contrast to the treeless moors. As you near it turn right at a signpost onto a path in the direction of Top Withens. The path follows the wall to the left skirting Harbour Hill to the right.


At the next junction of paths about 350yds beyond the wall turn right.


The path is obvious but narrow. For 300yds it maintains height and then slants down to a double wooden bridge over a small stream.


On the far side keep on the path as it climbs through heather and then after crossing another stream by stepping stones continues to intercept a broad track that is the Pennine Way.


Turn left and keep climbing to reach Top Withens.

3. Top Withens has a claim to be one of the most famous ruins in the country. In the minds of most people it is the very essence of Emily Bronte's novel "Wuthering Heights" although as a rather irritable notice explains the farmhouse "bore no resemblance to the house she described".


In other words if you have trudged three miles across the moors from Haworth as an act of homage to the great novel/film/Kate Bush song it has been a complete waste of time! "Wuthering" or not it is still a great location and one with a fine view over the way you came and the way you'll return. Head downhill on the Pennine Way.


After a mile and a half just beyond Upper Heights Farm the Pennine Way turns left towards Ponden but you keep ahead reaching Back Lane


which leads onto Hob Lane on the edge of Stanbury.


Turn right and walk through the village. On the far side turn right in the direction of Oxenhope. This lane crosses the dam of Lower Laithe Reservoir


and climbs up the hill to the car park.


POI: At the time of writing Haworth's Parsonage, church, churchyard and school are being recreated as a film set on top of Penistone Hill for a one off BBC drama "To Walk Invisible" written and directed by Sally Wainwright.


This will take a new look at the extraordinary family. Given that all the buildings have changed little over the intervening years this begs the question why build a new set? The reason is because of the trees which now form a backdrop to the Parsonage and churchyard. In the time of the Brontes there were no trees which is why a set built at what must be considerable expense is necessary.

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