Part two of Bronte Country

Packhorse Bridge photos

After exploring the ruins for some time, we began to get hungry, and we decided to find a good spot to eat the picnic that had been packed in Victorian style into a white wicker hamper. After wandering about for some while, we sat down upon the remains of mossy wall that stood on a damp bank overlooking a brook. The riverbed was stony and the water rushed, now trickling, now gurgling, now roaring over the rocks. The peat in the water caused it to look a rich, brownish red as it rushed and tumbled by. Across on the other side the bank rose high and sheer like a low cliff, the ferns and moss growing in the gaps covered the sharp rocks with soft greenery. We unpacked our abundant picnic; two tins of little quails eggs (traditional Victorian picnic food) a custard tart each, a plain bun each, an iced bun each, and a bag of rock buns which we were all too full to eat. We bought some hot milk from a small café that stood round the corner, and them continued walking about.

We took these paths and those paths, but wherever we went the terrain was nearly the same; rushing rivers and becks; pools and marshes, ferns and mosses, squelching mud, green valleys and hills, bare trees, and rising always around us, the Bronte moors, purple in the distance.

There are many famous and ancient bridges in Wycoler, but there are only three that we saw, or at least that we noticed; Clapper Bridge, Clam Bridge, and Packhorse Bridge. Each of these has something interesting to be said for it. For Clapper Bridge, there is a very interesting story. The bridge used to have grooves in it worn by the pattens of the weavers carrying across their bundles, but when a farmer’s daughter tripped and was killed on the rocks below, he had the bridge flattened out and it is now perfectly smooth. Still more interesting is Clam Bridge; it is one huge slab put across the beck, and it dates back to stone age times. Twice it fell and was smashed to pieces in floods, and twice it had to be stuck back together. As for Packhorse bridge, the main reason that it was interesting to us is because Bobbie sits on it in The Railway Children. It is one of my favourite films and my mother also used to watch it when she was child.

After passing over all these bridges, we made our way finally up the steep, muddy slope, with the scraggy blue ridge of the moors around us, and taking a last look at Ferndean Castle as we walked – that castle that was the inspiration of one of the most wonderful scenes ever to pass in of one of the most wonderful books ever to be written – we reached the top, and climbing into our car/carriage, we drove in the direction of Ponden Hall.

Clam Bridge photo 1                                  Clapper Bridge photo 2

 

Comparing two lovely pieces of spring poetry

My two favourite spring poems are, I believe, ‘To my sister’ by Wordsworth, and ‘Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere’ by Alfred Tennyson. My favourite parts of both are the first few verses;

 

‘It is the first mild day of March:

Each minute sweeter than before

The redbreast sings from the tall larch

That stands beside our door.

There is a blessing in the air,

Which seems a sense of joy to yield

To the bare trees, and mountains bare,

And grass in the green field.’

 

 

And,

 

Like souls that balance joy and pain,

With tears and smiles from heaven again

The maiden Spring upon the plain

Came in a sunlit fall of rain.

In crystal vapor everywhere

Blue isles of heaven laugh’d between,

And far, in forest-deeps unseen,

The topmost elm-tree gather’d green

From draughts of balmy air.

 

Sometimes the linnet piped his song;

Sometimes the throstle whistled strong;

Sometimes the sparhawk, wheel’d along,

Hush’d all the groves from fear of wrong;

By grassy capes with fuller sound

In curves the yellowing river ran,

And drooping chestnut-buds began

To spread into the perfect fan,

Above the teeming ground.’

 

There is, however a great different between these two lovely poems. Take the first few lines of each, for instance. Compare

 

‘It is the first mild day of March:

Each minute sweeter than before

The redbreast sings from the tall larch

That stands beside our door. ‘

 

 

With

 

‘Like souls that balance joy and pain,

With tears and smiles from heaven again

The maiden Spring upon the plain

Came in a sunlit fall of rain.’

 

The first has a simple, natural sound, it depicts the plain, unsophisticated charm of nature. It sounds fresh, pure, and real. The second is full of similes, metaphors, and sophisticated language, difficult to read and to understand, but intricate as carving in the gold of a palace wall, or as silken embroidered hangings. It has not nearly so fresh and pure a sound, therefore it is perhaps less suited to describing spring, which is naturally a pure and unsophisticated season. However, there is a charm also in the more sophisticated and difficult language of Tennyson; he finds a lovely description for everything, especially in the beautiful lines

 

‘In crystal vapor everywhere

Blue isles of heaven laugh’d between’

 

To Wordsworth it would seem that there was enough beauty in the sky as it really was without having to depict it as ‘blue isles of heaven’. He would probably think it gilding the lily to describe it in that manner. I think however that it is a lovely description, in a different way. Yet to single out another lovely line of spring poetry, Wordsworth this time,

‘To the bare trees, and mountains bare,

And grass in the green field.’

it does seem that the joyful simplicity of ‘To my sister,’ suits the season better.

 

Somebody comment and tell me which they prefer.

Part one of Bronte Country

This narrative begins a few pages into the story of my holiday; I have written to this point in ink and paper, and I now continue my narrative on my laptop; for the inconvenience of writing with pen and ink is really very great. What has already happened can be explained with very few words, though with less detailed descriptions than the original first pages.

It must be understood that we went to Haworth for a surprise on my tenth birthday. On the morning of that day I received a real letter from Charlotte Bronte herself. I seem to be very cool; but were I not so I should fill the whole page with expostulations of incredulous joy and wonder, and this is not my intention. Instead, I will copy in my history.

 

The letter was an invitation to stay at Ponden Hall. (Ponden Hall, it must be explained, in the house upon which Emily based Wuthering Heights, and Anne Wildfell Hall. Charlotte’s writing also may have been inspired by it). I am so confused as to whether the letter was really from Charlotte or not; I cannot say what I really think. It seems impossible, she died so many years ago, and yet it was her real signature; it was written with a dip pen, and in the style of a Victorian letter. I shall remain puzzled on the point all my days, and for all my days too I will jump for joy at the recollection of receiving that letter.

On the bed I discovered a pair of pantalets, a yellow velvet spencer, a cream coloured regency dress and a choice between three rolls of ribbon for my sash. There was also a pair of black boots with laces, and a real period pelice and bonnet. Tassy had already received his regency and Victorian clothes; and thus attired, I, Tass, Mum and Dad set off on our journey.

Us, playing in the garden in our regency clothes, just before we left for Bronte Country

 

FERNDEAN

Ferndean is the old castle in which Jane meets Mr Rochester. It is ‘a building of considerable antiquity, moderate size, and no architectural pretensions, deep buried in a wood.’ Such is Jane’s description of the place. She says also that as Mr Rochester’s father purchased the estate for the sake of the game covers, Rochester could get no tenant for it, so it remained ‘uninhabited and unfurnished, with the exception of a few rooms fitted up for the accommodation of the squire when he went there in season to shoot.’ To continue with Jane’s narrative, she came to the house

“just ere dark on an evening marked by the characteristics of sad sky, cold gale, and continued small penetrating rain. The last mile I performed on foot, having dismissed the chaise and driver with the double remuneration I had promised. Even when within a very short distance of the manor-house, you could see nothing of it, so thick and dark grew the timber of the gloomy wood about it. Iron gates between granite pillars showed me where to enter, and passing through them, I found myself at once in the twilight of close-ranked trees. There was a grass-grown track descending the forest aisle between hoar and knotty shafts and under branched arches. I followed it, expecting soon to reach the dwelling; but it stretched on and on, it would far and farther: no sign of habitation or grounds was visible.

I thought I had taken a wrong direction and lost my way. The darkness of natural as well as of sylvan dusk gathered over me. I looked round in search of another road. There was none: all was interwoven stem, columnar trunk, dense summer foliage — no opening anywhere.

I proceeded: at last my way opened, the trees thinned a little; presently I beheld a railing, then the house — scarce, by this dim light, distinguishable from the trees; so dank and green were its decaying walls. Entering a portal, fastened only by a latch, I stood amidst a space of enclosed ground, from which the wood swept away in a semicircle. There were no flowers, no garden-beds; only a broad gravel-walk girdling a grass-plat, and this set in the heavy frame of the forest. The house presented two pointed gables in its front; the windows were latticed and narrow: the front door was narrow too, one step led up to it. The whole looked, as the host of the Rochester Arms had said, “quite a desolate spot.” It was as still as a church on a week-day: the pattering rain on the forest leaves was the only sound audible in its vicinage.”

Thus is Ferndean Manor as portrayed in Jane Eyre. The old manor and the valley it is set in is based on a real place, the name of which is Wycoler. We were to pass Wycoler during our journey, and the plan was to stop here and look at the famed Ferndean, the ruins of which still remained in the heart of Wycoler Valley. Like Jane, we stopped about a mile from the old house. We ought to have dismounted; instead we climbed out of the car. Tass made the best amends that could be made for the lack of horses by helping me down gracefully, quite in the character of a regency gentleman.

In terms of setting Wycoler is just as the book describes, therefore I need not really describe it; if any future reader of my history wishes to know what it looked like, they have only to read over Jane’s description with the changes of full daylight, and bleak winter landscape, dripping trees and muddy grass instead of ‘dense summer foliage’.

However, I will describe it at least a little, for these are not quite the only changes that must be made. We walked first over a few yards of flat, moorish scraggy grass, wet with recent rain, and then descended down into the valley. A wooden gate blocked us a little way down; probably in replacement of Jane’s ‘iron gates with granite pillars’. Once opened it led to a small path through the valley with little difference from the one outside the gate except that the bank rose higher on either side, and the trees spread wider overhead, to make the path somewhat tunnel-like. It was just the same as the ‘grass-grown track descending the forest aisle between hoar and knotty shafts and under branched arches’ that is described in the book. As also in the book the path soon widened and the trees thinned. The small grassy path spread into a wider, fully formed track. We passed a house and we continued along the track; Tass jumped up onto the wooden railing that now edged the track and shouted ‘ahoy!’ What reason he had for doing so God only knows.

Ferndean itself now stood before us, but half deserted in the Brontes time, it was now merely a mass of ruins. It had little similarity to the Ferndean in the book other than the description of the ‘dank and green decaying walls’ and the fact that it was clearly a ruined castle or manor-house. There was a long stone seat in the midst of the ruins with the remains of a dome roof over it. Upon this I took my seat, and looked out through the ruins at the countryside around.

 

The next part of this history will be published soon.

 

 

Me and Tass, exploring the ruined Ferndean, and me sitting under the ruined dome described.

Persuasion

 

PERSUASION

Without question the softest, and often said to be the most lonely and melancholic of the Jane Austen novels, Persuasion is nevertheless one of my favourites. Though Anne does not have the lively spirit of Lizzy, she is such a gentle, pensive, good-natured heroine that I like her just as well. I am just like her about not liking cities. I always think though, that if she disliked beautiful old fashioned Bath, where it would be a treat for me to go, what would she think of a modern city? the roaring of cars and the flashing of traffic lights would seem far worse than “the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays, the bawling of newsmen, muffin-men, and milk-men, and the ceaseless clink of pattens”, and the tall skyscrapers of our cities would be horrid in comparison with ‘extensive buildings, smoking in rain’ which no doubt were some gorgeous regency houses. But had I lived in Anne’s time, I no doubt would have considered Bath as I consider Manchester and London. I wish I did live at Anne’s time – no I don’t – there would be no computer for me to have this blog on.

To continue, I will talk about some of what I consider the highlights of the book.  I am sure everybody who has ever read Persuasion remembers the thrill of horror at the moment when Louisa falls from the Cob in Lime; and still more the softer bitterness of Captain Wentworth’s grief, showing (as we all think) the excessiveness of his attachment to Louisa. But the dramatic, intense parts essential to the plot are not the only highlights. I always have a great pleasure in reading the part about the autumn walk, especially the paragraph describing Anne’s delight in the charm of the countryside in autumn, and the many poems describing that charm –

”Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn –that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness –that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.”

But alas, Anne cannot keep her mind from wandering to sorrow, and “The sweet scenes of autumn were for a while put by, unless some tender sonnet, fraught with the apt analogy of the declining year, with declining happiness, and the images of youth and hope, and spring, all gone together, blessed her memory.”

Wonderful as all of Persuasion is, there is only one more part – the crowning of the whole book – that particularly dwells upon my memory, that I especially think has to be mentioned. One of the many merits of Jane Austen, I think, is the overpowering happiness of her endings – it is impossible not to smile as you read the end . And of all the endings, Persuasion’s is, perhaps, the happiest of all. Oh the indescribable joy of that letter! How our hearts leap at the words! How the joy rushes through body and head! I believe one of the happiest moment in my life was reading that letter.

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means
as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony,
half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings
are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart
even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years
and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman,
that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you.
Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been,
but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath.
For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this?
Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even
these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have
penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing
something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can
distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others.
Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed.
You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men.
Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.’

And before this joy, there is are gentler but just as memorable emotions exited in her conversation with Captain Harville. Never have Jane Austen’s powers of creating conversation been so wonderfully exercised. The story of Anne’s life can be traced in her words.

 

 

Snorkeling

We went to some Spanish beaches in the Caba De Gata last summer (I am writing a book about the holiday called Turquoise Waters) and the snorkeling – especially at a beach called Cala enmedio – was astonishing. Snorkeling is truly an amazing thing. You can spend long hours watching the underwater world; swimming over rocks full of sea anemones and sea urchins, seeing the most brightly coloured fishes swim through the turquoise blueness. Here is a part about snorkelling from one of my stories inspired by the Spanish holiday:

”Parting the turquoise water with her hands, Maggie plunged her face in and looked through into an underwater world where radiant fish swam amid the different shades of blue. Her legs floated up behind her and she was swimming, swimming; swimming with the fishes. Out of the corner of her eye she saw something glinting like tinfoil, and turned in time to watch a shimmering silver shoal flurry past like liquid rushing through a sieve. The shoal swerved – every fish bending itself gracefully in the same instant like one body – and swam away into the blueness. Then a new fish that she had never seen before swum into sight. It was extremely colourful, ever changing colour in the different lights; now it was deep purple, now bright gold, now almost black. Four shimmering bright turquoise stripes were drawn across its body, and its face was patterned with wide turquoise rivers like a map. It also swum away, and Maggie continued with her journey through the water world. After a moment she decided to play a game; picking out one fish brighter in colour and more distinguished looking than the rest she began to follow it through the fields of Poseidon sea grass and between rocks. This one little fish she followed for nearly twenty minutes. As she swam over the rocks, she reached out to touch the streaming yellow and red sea anemones, and felt the tickling, sucking sensation on the tips of her fingers. She fingered also the strange underwater mosses and seaweeds that grew along the rocks, and the spines of dark red and black sea-urchins.”

Most of the paragraph is an accurate description of the snorkeling, with very little enhancing; in fact a few of the amazing things are not mentioned. I really saw the fish with a face like a map (its real is name an Ornate Wrasse), and the shoals of silver fish; and they did look like tinfoil. I also saw the anemones and urchins and played the game of following one fish through the rest.

First signs of spring

These photographs were taken in the garden yesterday, on a January evening. I was out with my brother playing, and as the evening was beautiful I borowed my dad’s phone and took some photos. The smallish brick house with the sun and shadow on it and the plant pots by the door is where I live, and the doorway of the larger house with the fanlight above the door is my grandmother’s house. Both houses share the shame garden. The little boy walking up the lawn in the picture of my house is my brother, Tasgall.

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Christmas things to make

1 Orange peel shapes

At christmas a few years back we discovered that it a lovely christmas activity is cutting up orange peel into the shapes of stars, christmas trees, angels e.c.t. drying them, and putting them into little golden gauze bags with cloves and all-spice. These bags can be tied onto presents with tags, given as christmas gifts, tied onto a string and hung up to cent the house, or anything else you like.

2 Wrapping Paper

Wrapping paper is very expensive and not always very pretty; therefore if you have any spare time, a much better idea is instead of buying paper to make your own. If you buy thing from Amazon you  can begin with decorating strips of the recycled brown paper that comes in amazon packages. We cut stamps out of card and printed christmas trees, stars, and other shapes onto the paper. You can also spray the paper with gold spray paint, cover it with glitter, or anything else you like.

3 christmas cards

There are many different ways of making a christmas cards, and many different styles; too many to every right down. However, I will state a few of the ways of making them that I have found particularly successful.

 

Card 1

Try writing a poem or christmas carol, preferably with a fountain tip pen or dip pen, and in neat and attractive handwriting, on your card. Then decorate the edges with christmasy patters (you could do a branch of holly growing out of each corner) or else draw scenes from the song/poem round the writing. Then write the name of the poem/carol above in large colourful calligraphy or other pretty writing.

 

Card 2

Cut a picture out of an old christmas card or calendar and stick it on a card on top of a doily or piece of lace.

Card 3

Cut a piece out of your card, leaving a window in it, either round, or pointy at the top, the same as windows in a gothic church. Then draw a christmasy picture on tracing paper or some other transparent material. Then, outline your picture with a black marker. Colour in the background so that all the part of the tracing paper that you are using for your picture is covered. Then stick your picture into the inside of the card so that you can see it through the window you have cut.

 

Seal Beach

This adventure happened on a beach in Norfolk called Horsey Gap. We had hired a boat called the ‘Brink of Joy’, and sailed all about the Norfolk broads for a few days. Near the end of the trip we came on shore to spend a day at Horsey Gap. We had heard rumours that it was a good place for seals. As seals are not a rare animal we were not particularly excited; however when we reached the beach the site was amazing.

It was an ordinary beach –  very like Newborough the beach by the house we used to live in on Anglesey – surrounded by high dunes grown over with maram grass, with  gentle sloping sands and wide expanse of silver blue ocean and white capped waves. But along the beach, stretching as far as the eye could see – we thought at first they must be rocks – was a long line of seals. There must have been over a thousand of them; some were fighting, some mating; there were even seal cubs, slithering along the sand. It was like being inside a nature documentary. I have said seals were common; so many seal were not common at all. A lady photographing them stood on the bank. As she stood, a little seal cub slithered right up to the lady, and to me, who was standing by her. It was brown and grey speckled, and rather fat, with shiny black eyes. We had some work getting it back to the others. The only downside was the seal poo, which there was some quantity of. We spent hours watching the seals, and came home to the ‘Brink of Joy’ talking of nothing else.

A Tale of the Moors

(picture above is of me, standing on Bronte moors in Howarth

 

BRONTES

Wuthering Heights

It is impossible to imagine the impulse that made Emily write such a strange, such a powerful, such a passionate, such an unaccountable – in short such a unearthly book – impossible, that is, until you stand on the Bronte moors by Penistone Crag, and look down on that incredible expanse of wild land, with the wind stirring  the heather and moaning through the hills. Then and only then can you image how such characters as Heathcliff where invented. The moors can stir strange power in you; you might say it is they who had written Wuthering Heights, not Emily.

 

 

On the snowy moors

We went out to the moors the day before yesterday to see the snow. Only a short drive away lies a new realm, a new region, a new earth. When you look up from below at those mountains and moors, blue and beautiful in the misty distance, little do you guess what an experience it is to be up among them. Snow is here, snow is there – everywhere is snow – it glitters like millions of diamonds. The brightness is almost dazzling; hills surround you. The closest of the hills is white with snow like where you stand, the ones a little further, a little lower, are only dusted with snow and the colours of the moor shine through as from beneath a silver veil. Further away still they are blue and purple, and misty like dream mountains.

At first we walked along the track; when we came to the end of the track we decided to leave it and wander a little into the wilderness of snow. It was easy walking at first; the snow was not deep, rocks and heather peeped up above it. But as we walked on the deepness increased. We determined to go to the top of the hill we were walking up, where the view was best. But once up at the summit of hill it is not nearly as easy to get back down again to the car. And partly because we were lost; partly because the snow was far deeper here, the way back seemed to take several times as long as the way up. Several times we encountered huge deep ditches with streams at the bottom. Mum and Dad leaped across but they were to wide for me and my brother to cross. Luckily, we had another way. The ditches were all filled up with snow; in some parts so deep it would reach far above my head were I to try walking over it. But by lying down flat, spreading out arms and legs and slithering  or rolling across the surface of the snow, we got safely across. While crossing one of these ditches we encountered a strange little miniture wooden house with a hole for a door. What is was is still a mystery. We found also a beautiful little mossy cave of icicles, too gorgeous for description with words. After many adventures, and with soaked feet and legs, we reached at last the safety of the car.