There is a difference between the moors and the Dales of Yorkshire. The moors are wilder, rougher and darker in some ways. The Dales are beautiful and can be bleak – especially in winter or on a stormy day, but for true drama and loneliness you can’t beat the moors. Maybe that is why Emily Brontë chose the moors as the setting for her only novel – ‘Wuthering Heights’. Emily spent much of her short life walking on the moors and was homesick when she was away from them.
Early one fine summer morning I decided to pay a visit to ‘Top Withins’, the now ruined farmhouse said to be the inspiration for the Earnshaw home in Emilys’ novel. The location is a few miles or so out of Howarth village, up on top of the moors with magnificent views all around. On a bright summer morning it is idyllic but in winter or bad weather it would be very easy to become lost or missing on the moors. There are deep ravines and the going can be rough with few way markers. Easy to lose your bearings. Or your life.
Haworth is a pretty little village trying to come to terms with it’s fame – everything seems to be ‘Brontë this…or Brontë that…’, but nontheless it is pleasant to visit and I arrived at the Parsonage car park at 6:30 am and had a quick wander around the village, taking in the smell of someone somewhere baking fresh bread.
Down the main street is the ‘Black Bull Inn’ where me and this girl once, a long summer ago, spent a delicious afternoon getting drunk. I was her ‘Heathcliffe’ – she was my ‘Cathy’. I never saw her again.
I eventually set off at the back of the Parsonage and followed the path that the Brontë children probably would have taken to the moors. The initial way is easy and eventually I found myself walking through fields of wild purple foxgloves and shortly after I arrived at the ‘Brontë waterfall’ and bridge. Today the waterfall was dry. On a normal day it can get a bit busy with children playing in the stream and families picnicking, but at 7 am no one was about.
This is as far as most people venture as the rest of the way to ‘Top Withins’ is a bit harder going, but it was 20 odd years or so since I was last there and I fancied another look.
Hook a right at the bridge and climb up onto the open moors – this is where the moor starts ‘proper’ and the going gets a bit harder. I walked through a field full of bright yellow buttercups and young bullocks grazing, and crossed a stream. A couple of miles further on I was at the ruin.
Not much to see except lots of sheep and a few broken down walls, but this place is famous as the inspration for ‘Wuthering Heights’. And what a better setting, surrounded by the deep and wild moorland – with just the curlew for company.
Not very mysterious today, I’ll admit – but maybe I’ll come back again when the weather is stormy and wintry…who knows, maybe I’ll bump into my friend ‘Cathy’.