Nestled deep within a valley and surrounded on all sides by steep moorland, the little village of West End was virtually isolated from the world. It was always hard to get to, being so remote and had few visitors. Primarily a working village it boasted five mills, a church, a methodist chapel and a post office. But by the late 1840’s the rut had set in, mostly due to the village’s remote location and the increased competition from cities, and the village which had once a population of 600 plus fell into a slow decline with many leaving to find work in other areas. By the turn of the century West End was virtually abandoned, although there were a few hardy residents still living there right up to the 1960s.
In 1866 the Leeds Corporation Waterworks Committee commissioned a report on the feasibility of flooding the valley to provide fresh drinking water for the swelling city many miles away. It was decided that the valley in which West End lay would be perfect for the task and a compulsory purchase order was signed. It took 100 years but eventually work was started to build a reservoir and flood the valley. The resulting reservoir would be named ‘Thruscross’.
The inhabitants of the cemetery were reinterred a mile or so away here, and on 11th October 1965 a candlelight service was held at Holy Trinity Church, West End – with 140 people attending. The pews and stained glass were then moved uphill to a recently completed replacement church, safe from the flood waters which would soon engulf them.
Closing your eyes you can almost see the cold dark swirling waters rushing through the church door and rising up the interior walls to flood the building. During the trial flood, when the church was almost submerged a man braved the cold waters and swam out to the church and sat quite alone on the roof for several hours, alone with his memories.
When the trial flood waters subsided the church and other buildings were demolished by bulldozer and trees were cut down. Eventually on 7th September 1966 the dam gate was closed and the waters rose and covered the lost village of West End for ever…
Well not quite for ever, for during the severe droughts of 1989 and 1990 the village (or what remained of it) was briefly exposed and it attracted many people to view and walk amongst the ruins. Unfortunately I was out of the country when this happened and so I didn’t witness it – but there are photos on the internet and people I know who walked around the ruins said it was eerie (no shit!)…
On a beautiful October morning, when the air was as cold and clear as melt water, I donned my boots and grabbed a camera and headed off into the woods at the side of the reservoir. The woods at the west side are the lightest and they were carpeted with a beautiful show of leaves. The low early morning sun cast long shadows across the path and I strode along the way kicking up russet coloured leaves as I went.
Eventually I stopped at the side of the old flax mill and examined it’s ruined stones. Hard to imagine all those years ago people working long hours in this mill, and now it is just a pile of stones with a window in – the rest being underwater
Now I follow the path to the mill dam and across the Whit Moor road and back onto the other side of the water. Through muddy fields of ‘rose bay willowherb’ we arrive at more woods – only these are darker – the ‘dark woods’ as Shirl calls them. The first time I went in here was when I took Shirl for a walk – the woods were overgrown, the path muddy and we got tangled in barbed wire branches in the dark and had to backtrack. Now the path is clear and there is another way out of the woods – eventually – but you still have to go in for a bit. And most people find them eerie and are glad to get out. I was once on the moors late in the evening and I was hurrying to get home before it got dark. I was torn whether to take a ‘short cut’ through the woods but decided aginst it.
Once out of the dark woods you reach open moorland and the views across Greenhow and Nidderdale are stunning – this really is ‘Gods County’ – as Yorkshire folk like to say. And it is!
Following the path down you cross the river as it flows into the reservoir and walk along some duckboards, passing a road which just disappears under the water, to eventually you come the the dam itself. Looking down you can see the waters at the dam bottom 120 feet below – not for those suffering from vertigo. For those not too weary there are some steps which allow you to climb down and exit at the dam bottom where you can follow the water along it’s course to the next reservoir – Fewston. It is a lovely walk, part Nature Trail and the path takes you past an old mill dam which is now home to hundreds butterflies and dragonflies and includes a hide so the nature lovers amongst you can watch the different species of birds.
Despite living only a few miles from this beautiful place I have only walked it twice before and only within the last couple of years. I don’t know why, maybe because I used to think that unless you did 20 miles plus and included a mountain you weren’t really a ‘walker’ but I realise now that that isn’t the case. I shall certainly visit Thruscross again and see her in all her seasons. Stay posted!
http://vicshill.wordpress.com/ has very kindly sent me a video of the reservoir in drought and you can see some of the buildings and the bridge – thanks again Vicky!
You can view the video if you go to the Comments Section (by double clicking on the ‘The Lost Village’ title at the top of the page and then scrolling down).