|The stunning ruined church at Heptonstall|
|Endless steep steps – tough for us but not for Brian|
Our target for the first day was the hillside village of Heptonstall, only a mile or so outside Hebden – but a mile at a 45 degree angle (or worse) to the horizontal. Three hundred years ago Heptonstall was the bigger of the two communities. This was in the pre-industrial revolution, pre-canal era when the village was at the crossroads of several major packhorse trails. It was also a centre for hand loom weaving – the original 'cottage industry'.
|The secretive charms of hillside Heptonstall|
It is certainly worth the effort though. The road into the village turns from tarmac to cobble and the quiet stone houses, smoke-stained from the years or industry in the valley, look timeless. Built into the steep hillside, the little village squeezes houses into impossible spaces down little paths and alleys. It is very reminiscent of the sort of secretive hillside village you'd find in southern France. But behind the sleepy facade is a lively village with two pubs, a post office and plenty else going on.
|Sylvia Plath, wife of Ted Hughes, lies in the churchyard|
After the congregation had moved into the new one, the old church was left to fall into decay and it is now a spectacular ruin, made even more macabre by being surrounded by many dozens of old tombstones laid flat on the ground like a rough and ready patio across which you must walk to reach the church itself. Surrounded by its dark stone village houses, the skeletal church looks like a set from a Gothic horror.
We headed back into Hebden down a hill-edge trail that led us a steep, winding route to yet more steep steps (no easier going down than up) and finally back into the town.
|Sheer rock face with climbers practising|
|Even on a dull day, the views are stunning|
Finally after three hours we were back at the boat and ready for some beer and pub grub at the excellent canalside Stubbing Wharf pub. We slept well that night – well at least we did for a couple of hours....ah but that's for the next post!