Monday, July 11, 2005

First Week of July, Part 1

Bronte Country
I'm writing after a week's delay from Diss, in East Anglia. We have been without Internet access since we left Barnsley.
July 2, we drove over hill and down dale (such as Airedale and Wensleydale [Gromit!] and Calderdale) to the village of Haworth. We lunched at a shady table outside the Black Bull pub (one of many across this part of Yorkshire, but in this case the one frequented by Charlotte "Wuthering Heights" Bronte's sot of a brother, Branwell) and explored the steep main street and the park, where there were several heated lawn bowling matches taking place. The boys were attracted to a model shop, so we stopped in; I mentioned that we were to be staying in nearby Oakworth and it turned out that the proprietor knew our landlord, who had been his mailman, and pointed us to our cottage on a map.
Oakworth is only a mile away, on the other side of the Worth River (HaWORTH, OakWORTH, get it?) at the other end of a quite narow, twisty road by one of the defunct woollen mills in the area.  At one point, around a hairpin blind corner, someone has spraypainted "HOOT" on the wall to let oncoming traffic know you're approaching. Our cottage, rather rudely but accurately named "Bottom Cottage," is at the end (the bottom) of a lane that starts out disappointngly with modern houses - but was built in the 1500s and had a sweeping view of the valley, with the city of Keighley (pronounced "Keithly") and the Ilkley Moor in the distance.  Our landlady, Mrs. Brunskill, was pottering in the large flower/veg garden when we arrived;  tubby and middle-aged, with a halo of fuzzy grey hair, she was very friendly; she lives next door -- there are three cottages together. She and her husband spent 18 months restoring the buildings and have done a great job.

The boys spent much of the next week petting Prince, the horse next door, who would stick his brown bearded head over the stone wall, and there were several cats about as well.

A Day on the Trains
We walked down the hill to the smallest working train station in England, Damems Station, and took the steam train (!) down the line past Haworth to Oxenhope, a journey of perhaps 20 minutes.  There were several working-class commuters as well as a tourist or two.  We were lucky enough on this Sunday to catch the annual Straw Race, for which the whole town turned out.  This involved pairs of men, often in costuime (such as fully accoutered knights, and memorably a couple of grossly overweight tattooed guys naked except for undershorts, with large stuffed penises, complete with fuzzy brown hair, strapped to them [quite a roar of approval from the crowd]) running from pub to pub drinking pints while carrying a bale of hay, in their preferred method, up a nearby hill in the blazing sun.  A brass band played fairly badly while sitting in an open truck trailer in the Bay Horse pub's parking lot..
How to top that? We trained back to Haworth and had lunch in the Wharenui (odd name), walked through the fields in search of another deserted mill, watched the steam trains for awhile (great hoots, puff of hissing steam, and clouds of foul coal smoke) and trained to the Oakworth station.  Then we walked across the fields (black-and-white cows, tan goats, black-faced sheep) to our cottage in Goose Cote Lane. Whew!

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