A different kind of travelogue. As an avid young traveller I often wondered what would it would be like when I got older, gathered commitments, created children and accrued debt. This is what it's like.
Rainbows in Hebden Bridge
After a day on the Regents Canal and a hilarious night with old friends in Angel we had to move north.
We had planned to stay with more friends near Huddersfield and I was wondering if it was all a bit too far. Nope. England is not that big. If our route fitted with the bigger roads we would make rapid progress at the expense of interesting progress. Once you leave the big roads almost everywhere is beautiful and almost every journey takes a long time.
Take home message; Take your time.
We shot up to Cambridge; Brunch and a walk around a few colleges but it was exam time and you cannot visit many colleges during exam time.
We scooted up to Nottingham. In Nottingham we visited a friend based in one of the “rougher” areas where not that long ago there were riots.
We rolled on up to Huddersfield and stayed in a cold but beautiful area between the Peak District and the Dales.
It wasn’t that long a drive. Two days later we spent the same amount of time just driving across the Dales. No points for guessing which drive was the more rewarding.
While staying with me old mate Olly we spent a day in Hebden Bridge just south of the Yorkshire Dales. I love this part of the world. The topography, the colour, the food, the beer, the rivers and the canals. Hebden Bridge is one of many gorgeous little towns that looks like it does because development has been paused for many years. These days thoughts of the industrial revolution in England brings images of huge cities, great big chimneys, workhouses, orphans, coal pits and nasty industrialists. Bad, bleak, cold, poor. While there exists a side to the great northern cities of England that is pretty depressing there is also great hope and resilience. Oddly in between the bigger centres are the remnants of the same process of industrialisation on a smaller scale. Hebden Bridge is absolutely an industrial town, but a small one, with smaller mills and factories, with smaller canals and smaller rivers. While centralisation took a lot of activity to bigger centres the smaller towns became less profitable and declined earlier. Having been forgotten the better built structures have survived and now are being refilled with life. Hebden Bridge is now a tourism town with markets and small businesses, busy warm pubs, pretty waterways, festivals and one of the highest concentrations of Lesbian people in the UK.
I didn’t see that one coming, not in a cutesy Yorkshire Market town. But there it was all out and proud and rather refreshing. Our extended family includes loads of blended, same-sex, right-on types so we felt right at home. Some say its the coolest place in England. I don’t pay a lot of attention to those sorts of lists.
It is a lovely town though, with lovely walks all around. We strolled up the hill to Heptonstall and stared at old churches and beautiful vistas. The Pennine Way comes through here. I must admit I had one of those romantic moments where I wished I could just keep walking.
I have a sort of fantasy that I could become a true wandering fool and simply gather enough in a ruck sac and walk off into the sunset forever. Walk every great walk. Meet people and share stories or share silence. Each river valley draws me in. Each long beach stirs my imagination. Could I walk all the way around Ireland? Could I follow the paths of the great dividing range in Australia or the Te Araroa in New Zealand?
Probably not. A few too many commitments and I miss my children after just a few days never mind longer. Still, a dream it is and a dream it may well remain but you need dreams. You also need good knees.
Letting my mind wander down the Pennine way my family wandered down the hill to the Canal; part of the Aire and Calder Navigation.
We walk the towpaths again and a similar urge to walk on forever rises up. This time its counter balanced by an urge to live on the canal. Thus floating slowly, very slowly, off into the sunset. (Into the rain is more likely but we are talking dreams here.)
We stopped at a Canal side pub. We ate well with our friends and hosts Olly and Nicky.
I understand more and more each time I return to England, where I lived for 8-9 years, that it is a very nice place to visit. Much nicer than it was to live in. I was glad to be back but partly due to the knowledge that I would not have to stay.