SUMMER STROLLS in HEBEN BRIDGE
Winding through small summer towns lost in sleepy slumber, my train passes through long dark tunnels as it makes it way through the Southern Pennines of South Yorkshire. It’s midday and the sun is high in the sky – we’re deep into those special hours when bathing in the suns warmth, you feel like instinctively closing your eyes and yawning, and yawning and yawning …. and … back awake again! There is a group of boy-scouts on the train and one has succumbed completely to sleep, draped out across the whole row of seats much to the amusement of everyone else in the carriage, and the feeling is very much of a timeless England, how it always was and always will be.
Indeed, the English summer is blissful – full of wild meadows covered with sweet sunny buttercups and a white sea of daisies; fringed with hedgerows brimming with wild roses, hawthorn, meadowsweet, wild thistles and Queen Anne’s lace, frilly in abundance; hills layered on top of each other rolling past in valleys, and old English farmhouses with their rapeseed fields of sunshine. It feels like ‘England’ in the way that cities and tall skyscrapers just don’t; I’ve always been most at home in the embrace of the countryside, with my flowers and ferns and fallen petals covering the walkways and covering them in a bright dusting of colour.
When we arrive the sweet smell of homemade ice cream and wildflowers and the siren-call of the rushing river-water calls us to the town centre, across little bridges over the old canals and the lovely river – and finally on to a bustling centre of stone buildings and old couples. The river and canals are lined with people sitting and eating the sweet ice-cream and children with dogs wetting their feet in the shallow waters under the bridge.
River-water and still-canals are the lifeline of Hebden Bridge. Running like veins through the small village, cobblestones line the walkways and small locks let the water and houseboats glide by slowly, sleepily, into the heart of the place. Fragrant buddleia and graceful golden chain-trees draping their yellow blooms like wisteria line the canals, lush green trees and blue skies reflecting in the water, gentle breezes bringing the aromas of all the flowers up-river.
The town is in one of those picturesque English valleys, and the footpath upwards to the town of Heptonstall above with it’s old church (there was a fayte offering tea and cakes) is steep and cobbled, winding and passing by picturesque houses on the hills and an old, overgrown churchyard with a wonderful view over the valley and across the hills far away. There are pretty flowers and leaves growing from the walls on either side, and I collect some to use for my jewellery ..