More North – June, 2008

Although we spent a night in so-so hotel near a village called Cranster, and had a good meal of fresh fish beside the North Sea, it was really only a stopover on our way to the Yorkshire Dales, another high point of our trip. 

As we traveled into Yorkshire, the countryside became spare, sheep fields sectioned by dry stone walls instead of hedgerows.   The clouds were low and dark,  the rain sporadic to heavy, but the vistas were so enchanting we didn’t mind (what we could see of them).   We stopped in a village called Kettlewell, where the film, CALENDAR GIRLS was shot.   It has a  stream running through it, and is  renowned for its trout fishing.  Fly fishermen come from everywhere to try their luck, and if they don’t catch any fish it doesn’t matter, because it is so unspoiled. 

The Amerdale, a restaurant-hotel, in that order, is tucked away in a dale, the Amer, presumably, as most of the dales are named after the river running through them.   We drove up the crunchy gravel drive to a  manor house, ran into the reception hall (it was raining) and met our host, a roundish, friendly fellow, who showed us  to our rooms before sending up the luggage.   The rooms were pretty and comfortable, and after a shower – nice and hot – and a rest broken only by the baa-ing of the lambs, we went to the huge, two storied sitting room for our aperitif.   We ordered our dinner in the comfort of the sitting room, and were summoned when it was ready.  The food was superb, but unfortunately I didn’t write down what we ate and I can’t remember.  (Lora?)

Breakfast was copious and delicious, not always the case with English cooked breakfasts.   The sausage was tasty and light, the bacon tender, the black pudding one of the best I’ve eaten.  We could have opted for porridge laced with whisky, but we declined.  Who says the Scots have a high rate of alcoholism? 


We had to decide whether to stop at Haworth, the home of the Brontes, or Hadrian’s Wall on our way home.  . We decided that for this time, at least, a wall is a wall is a wall, and the Bronte house and village would be more interesting.

Interesting, it was.  The town looks dreary and shuttered, except for the tiny square near the house, where rock music blared bizarrely from a loudspeaker on the corner.  Midweek, there were still plenty of tourists nosing around, like us.  The house is up the hill from Mr. Bronte’s church and the churchyard.  I had heard that the early deaths of most of the family were due to their well, polluted by bodies decaying in the church grounds.  But the house is uphill from the churchyard, and the docents told us that it isn’t true.  Haworth  wasn’t exactly a healthy place in the 19th century, and the town well may have been polluted; tuberculosis and infectious diseases carried off more citizens than would be expected for a town of its size.  It was notorious even at the time, and an extensive government report on the insalubrious conditions of Haworth is on display in the Bronte house.  The report apparently did not generate much action, though. 

The house itself  is tiny, especially for so many family members.  You can imagine the wind howling around the house and through the trees, and cold mists hanging low through the graveyard.  Ideal conditions for creating a book like Wuthering Heights.  But the extraordinary thing about the Bronte’s is that all three sisters created blockbuster novels – Emily authored WUTHERING HEIGHTS, Charlotte, JANE EYRE, and Anne, THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL.  Winter nights were long, and tv and films were a long way off, but that doesn’t entirely explain the creativity of the family.  Other people of the age were thrown onto their own imaginations to fill the hours, but not all produced  novels and poetry.  They must have been mutually supportive rather than competitive, unusual in a same sex family, and helped each other with the many chores an early 19th century woman was expected to do. 

Unfortunately, Emily died at 30 of tuberculosis, Anne, at 29, and Charlotte died pregnant, after a brief marriage, at the age of 38.  I don’t know of what. 

Their father, Patrick, outlived all his six children, as well as wife.  He died at 84, presumably of old age. 

2 thoughts on “More North – June, 2008

  1. Jim

    You seem to have experienced directly the atmosphere that the Bronte sisters created in their novels. Brrrr. It gave this native Californian the creeps–well, except for the fly-fishing stream! The sisters had a brother, who, of course, being male, was destined to be the success in the family: dad & the girls all deferred to him. He turned out to be a real flake, losing job after job in a number of areas and becoming a drunk (though he painted a well-known portrait of the three novelists). The cause of Charlotte’s death is disputed: she did have terrible morning sickness, if I remember correctly. But you are certainly right about TB ravishing the whole town–I assume you got your shots before the trip.
    I loved Jane Eyre more than Wuthering Heights, which I felt was a bit over the top, but maybe that’s because I read the former at a later age.

  2. Nalle, Alexander, one each

    1. The whisky in the porrage allows the Scots to stand their own thoughts during the day.
    2. It also helps them to forget that it was they, the Scots, who taught the Irish how to walk on their hind legs.
    3. Anyone living close to the Brontes would naturally drink in the morning.
    Regards –
    The Phantom