PLACE: Haworth, West Yorkshire, England
JOURNAL ENTRY: The Search for Penistone Crag (Aug. 28, 2013)
Today I can truthfully say I’ve been from the heights of the moors on Penistone Crag all the way to the heart of London. I can’t believe as I sit here at the desk in my dorm room, that just a few hours ago I was standing atop a giant rock overlooking the vast empty moors of Haworth.
After doing some digging online, I found a walk to Ponden Kirk that someone had posted, complete with pictures. I painstakingly wrote down the directions, and this morning I set out again on my search for the kirk that Emily Bronte calls "Penistone Crag" in Wuthering Heights.
This time I take the bus into Stanbury to save time. Then I walk down a very steep hill to Ponden Mill. Completely deserted. I’m not sure if it’s still a working mill, but it doesn’t look like it. A little creepy, I have to say. But at the same time very beautiful. There’s a stream running alongside the mill, and horses grazing in a field on the other side. As I walk down the lane toward Ponden Reservoir, I can’t help thinking what a great walk this would be in the autumn, around Halloween.
I reach the reservoir, and it’s here that my directions begin. Now I’ll find out if I’m going to get lost again, or if I’ll finally find Penistone Crag. The directions tell me to follow the reservoir around to the west and up a steep hill. And guess what? I’m on the very road I was on yesterday before I turned around and headed back up Pennine Way! Turns out I was going the right way after all.
I climb to the top of the hill and there before me is Ponden Hall – the house that was Emily’s inspiration for Thrushcross Grange in Wuthering Heights. Dark, brownish stone. Kind of foreboding but elegant at the same time. Emily, Charlotte, and Anne had friends here that they used to visit. And guess who they were? The Heatons! I have to wonder if our mason, Joseph Heaton, wasn’t related in some way. But there’s no mention of him in the history of Ponden Hall that I’ve been able to find.
I continue past Ponden Hall up the hill, pass some old farm cottages. At the top of the hill is a large, wonderful tree and Height Laithe Farm across the road. I take the road winding past the tree to the right, up to a metal gate that I have to climb over. Then along a cart path on which you can still see the ruts of the carts’ wheels in the old stones.
Now a lonely signpost directs me to take a left directly onto the moors. I walk up a heather-choked trail along a crumbling wall until I’m as high as I can go. Here the wall ends. I turn and look down and let out a little gasp. The moors are spread out below me, with a breathtaking view of Ponden Reservoir and the town of Stanbury.
Now I’m well and truly on my way. I turn and walk deeper onto the moors. The path winds above a deep valley and before long I can hear the sounds of a stream. According to my directions, this is a clue that I’m getting closer to Ponden Kirk!
I have to look carefully for a safe place to cross the stream. Last thing I want to do is fall and break my leg out here in the middle of nowhere! I did pass a couple of hikers on my way up, but I haven’t seen them since I left the wall. I step across the stream and continue on along the trail. And there it is, just ahead of me – Emily’s Penistone Crag. I can’t believe it. I’m here! I found it!
I walk slowly toward the crag, take far too many photos. I want to capture this moment so I can look back later and remember. There are actually two stones jutting out from the hillside, but I think Emily’s must be the larger one further up. There’s a hollow at the base that you can crawl through, and a wonderful legend attached to it – according to tradition, if a maiden passes through the hollowed stone she will marry within a year. Guess I’ll stay single because there’s no way I’m scooting down to that hollow. It’s far too steep and a good drop down. But I walk onto the crag and sit. Look out over the valley. I can see Ponden Reservoir from here, just a silver sliver off in the distance.
Wow. I’m actually here. I pick a few wildflowers from the crag. Think about Emily’s story. I can feel how this place suffused her writing. How it would begin to seep into my own if I lived here for very long. It’s hard to get up and walk away, but I have a train to catch. And it’s pretty lonely up here. Time to leave.
Back in Haworth, I have lunch at the Black Bull Inn. Charlotte’s brother Branwell was a regular here. Sad story. He seems to have struggled all his life to find a sense of purpose and died an alcoholic and opium addict at just 31. I wonder if he didn’t feel shadowed by the success of his sisters.
I get the train from Haworth to Keighley, a lovely old-fashioned steam train. Then back to London. In just a few days I’ll be heading back across the Atlantic to New York. And I think I can definitely say that Haworth is the part of my journey here that I’ll treasure the most.
GUEST WRITER'S BIO
Vicki Speegle is an award-winning screenwriter whose feature script LOVED ONES was in development at Amazon Studios and was a finalist for best screenplay. Her screenplay DEAREST was a finalist for the 2011 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and her television pilot THE WAKES OF WILBUR POE recently placed in the finals of Slamdance.
Vicki grew up the daughter of a gay single mom turned pastor in Akron, Ohio, where she helped take care of her two younger brothers, an experience that provided fodder for a number of short stories and scripts. Her infatuation with storytelling began at the age of five when she sent a love letter to Donny Osmond, and since then she has worked an eclectic mix of jobs to support her writing habit, including 4 years in the U.S. Navy tracking nuclear submarines on a tiny island called Adak, Alaska, assistant to a very eccentric New York City artist, and a brief bout as the world’s worst waitress. Vicki studied music performance and education at Akron University before making the move to New York University, where she earned her BFA in Film & Television Production. During her studies at NYU she interned as assistant to the editor for Ken Burns’ production of THE WEST. She wrote, directed, and produced several shorts, including her thesis film OLDER, which went on to screen at the Tribeca Underground Film Festival and won 2nd place in the Pioneer Theatre Short Film Slam in New York City.
After graduating from NYU, Vicki joined Rigas Entertainment as assistant to the Director of Development, helping in the development of feature films with directors Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) and Maggie Greenwald (SongCatcher). In 2005 Vicki began shooting a documentary about her mother’s struggle to reconcile her faith as a pastor with her advancing Alzheimer’s. The project is currently in post-production and has garnered the support of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). In 2007 Vicki’s screenplay LOVED ONES placed in the top 5 of the Bluecat Screenplay Competition and won Screenplay Live at the Rochester Film Festival. Her works have placed in several other competitions, including Women in Film, Chesterfield, and American Zoetrope. Vicki’s credits include a teen comedy for Applause Films and radio scripts for Wynton Marsalis, Director of Jazz At Lincoln Center.
Vicki lives and works as a writer, filmmaker, and web producer in New Jersey. She is still waiting for Donny’s response.