Sunday, 16 July 2017

Around Ponden, Brontë Country, July 2017

Last week I was back at Ponden Hall. Once a year I like to stay in this marvellous character home steeped in history with many Brontë Sisters connections. I blogged about it in the past here and here. Being situated three miles west of Haworth where the sisters lived and wrote, Ponden Hall is also a perfect place from which to explore and roam that part of Brontë Country. There are important landmarks related to the locations in Emily's "Wuthering Heights" book, the most significant being Ponden Kirk, or Ponden Crag as Emily called it in her novel. This was where G and I headed for on a rather cloudy, but still beautiful, breezy morning. I did this walk last September for a first time.

View of Ponden Reservoir from Ponden Cottage which is right next to Ponden Hall.

Upper Ponden Barn, always a lovely photogenic sight, especially under a dark, moody sky.

Approaching Ponden Kirk. a backdrop to Cathy and Heathcliff's tormented story in "Wuthering Heights". At the bottom of the crag there is a hole named "The Fairy Cave" to which Emily makes reference in her novel. According to tradition, if a young maid passes through the hole, she will marry within a year.

The magnificent view from the top of Ponden Kirk with Ponden Reservoir in the distance. I must admit, much as I enjoyed the view I felt a little uncomfortable with the steep drop below the rock and the narrow, uneven path close to the edge of the ravine, the more so because of the fairly strong wind. I thought of Emily who, being not only used to this landscape, but also inspired and intrigued by it, must have felt completely at home in this spot. I wished I was too.
In mid distance there is a lower path which I checked out when we left Ponden Kirk.

View over Ponden Clough and the path to Ponden Kirk. There had been little rain at the time, so the stream was narrow and low which made for an easier crossing since there is no bridge over the stream.

Ponden Kirk from the lower path.

I was overjoyed to see heather had just started to bloom. Can't wait to go back around the beginning of next month when it will be in its prime covering the moors with huge pink carpets.

I picked some heather, took it back to our room in Ponden Hall  and photographed it lying on the stone sill of the beautiful window. This was my second stay in this room, the Giddings Room. I love this window so much and have used it for still life photography before.

In the evening we walked to "The Old Silent Inn" for our evening meal, delightful old country pub, perfect for a rest and indulging in some gourmet food. This is one of our all time favourite pubs in England.

We passed Ponden Mill, where there is a cafe and two recently opened bed & breakfast rooms.

We walked back home just after the sunset when the whole countryside was enveloped in a pink and golden glow.

It was so gratifying to end the day taking photos in such beautiful surroundings and light. In fact, for me this is happiness that I cannot find in anything else.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Foxglove Season

Every year around June time these beauties catch my eye with their spire like appearance laden with purple bell shaped flowers. Some species of foxglove have speckled centres which gives them the intricate, blousy look. They all attract bumblebees, and I enjoy watching them fumble about in the bells. I love the way foxgloves grow in the Yorkshire countryside as wildflowers and the way they interact with other shapes and forms in the nature. You can buy them in pots at some florists and garden centres too; they are the cottage garden classic and work very well teamed up with say lupins and roses in evoking that nostalgia of a past age. For me, foxgloves are, above all, one of the perfect reasons to praise the beginning of summer.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Branwell Brontë's Bicentenary Birthday (1817-2017)

Self-portrait  c.1840
“Backward I look upon my life,
And see one waste of storm and strife,
One wrack of sorrows, hopes, and pain,
Vanishing to arise again!
That life has moved through evening, where
Continual shadows veiled my sphere;
From youth's horizon upward rolled
To life's meridian, dark and cold.” 
Patrick Branwell Brontë -

Branwell Brontë was the talented but troubled brother of the three famous literary sisters - Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë. They were all born in succession within five years 200 years ago, and 2017 is the second of the bicentenary years, Branwell's 200th birthday. Last year I paid tribute to Charlotte on her bicentenary here.

As the only boy in a family of six children, Branwell held a privileged status, and much was expected of him. From early childhood he showed as much artistic talent as his sisters did. Living an isolated life in a Parsonage on the edge of broody and windswept moors the children created and lived an imaginary world and wrote plays about fictional lands of Angria and Gondal. They also wrote poems, and Branwell was the first of the siblings to have his poems published. He was praised for his translations of Horace. He took up portrait painting too; was given lessons by an acclaimed artist of the time, and he worked as professional portrait painter in Bradford. Unlike his sisters, he was an outgoing and charismatic person who liked socialising and soon he came to indulge in the company of young artists and writers who met in the pubs of Bradford. Unfortunately, his career as a painter, as well as plans to apply to the Royal Academy of Arts came to nothing, and Branwell found himself looking for more mundane employment. He worked as tutor and as clerk at railway stations, but these posts ended up in disappointment too. By now Branwell was drinking heavily and had also become an opium addict. Perhaps the biggest blow in his life came when his employer's wife he allegedly had an affair with refused to marry him after the death of her husband. Unable to cope with disappointment, Branwell sank deeper and deeper into depression, alcoholism and severe drug abuse and he died tragically at the age of 31.

To mark Branwell's bicentenary Brontë Parsonage Museum have organized an exhibition named "Mansions in the Sky" - Branwell's words from one of his poems. The exhibition is curated by English poet and novelist Simon Armitage. Part of it is an installation of Branwell's room which represents the way it probably looked in the 1830's when Branwell was an ambitious and aspiring poet and artist. Here are some of my photos I took of the room.

When I first saw this moving installation I was astonished at how good it looked. It was created in collaboration with the producers of "To Walk Invisible", a recent TV movie by Sally Wainwright on the lives of the Brontë family between the years 1845 and 1848, the year Branwell died in.
Branwell has usually been perceived mainly as failure and embarrassment to his family, so I was both surprised and pleased to see that through this elaborate and remarkable exhibition he received a very good recognition for his bicentenary year.

Branwell's clothes and his sister Emily's dress, the costumes worn by the "To Walk Invisible" actors. The costumes are currently exhibited in the Bronte Parsonage.

A recent view of the "Black Bull" public house on top of Main Street, Branwell's favourite haunt only a two minute walk from the Parsonage he and his family lived in.

Opposite  the "Black Bull" there is a shop where Branwell used to buy his laudanum (it was legal to sell/buy it in his day) I took this shot of the front of the shop just after the filming of "To Walk Invisible", when it still had its makeover to look like it had done at the Brontës time. Today the shop is called "The Cabinet of Curiosity" and sells gifts alongside handmade personal care products.

The only existing group portrait of the Brontë sisters, oil on canvas, painted by Branwell cca 1834. It was not discovered until 1906 and it has been in the possession of the National Portrait Gallery in London since 1914. The painting is popularly called a "pillar" portrait because Branwell sketched himself in as well, but, for reasons we cannot be certain about, he decided to paint himself out by leaving a shadowy pillar between Emily and Charlotte. Did Branwell already have an inkling of how life was going to unfold for him?

  “Life is a downward journey; all concur in saying it carries us downhill.”
Patrick Branwell Brontë -

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Walker Ground Manor Inspired Still Life

Walker Ground Manor is a beautiful 17th century Bed & Breakfast accommodation where we stayed on our recent visit to Hawkshead; I blogged about it here. I loved its traditional interior and I could not resist shooting some still life in such an inviting and inspiring setting. The most obvious choice was to use the lovely sash windows in our room and en-suite bathroom.
Apart from my diary and my night dress everything else belonged to our room.
I was going to accompany the images with a narrative as usual, but then I decided there was no need for it this time. I'll let the photos speak for themselves. They will speak louder than words.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Walk to Top Withens, Brontë Country, 11/06/2107

Last Sunday, after a great session on Brontë treasures at the Parsonage, I went with G and our friends for one of my favourite walks. Top Withens is a ruined farmhouse on Haworth Moor whose location is believed to have inspired the location of the Wuthering Heights farmhouse in Emily Brontë's novel.
It was a warm, windy day with a lot of menacing clouds, some sunshine and scattered showers. We got wet twice, but we wore our waterproof jackets and didn't care. It was just great to be on those paths and tracks again.
I decided not to take many photos this time, but just enjoy the walk and countryside. Sometimes it is nice to do just that - totally immerse yourself in nature and forget about everything else. It is quite a long walk for our standards and I was surprised how much less time it takes if you don't stop every so often to take a shot. But it was impossible for me not take any pics at all, so here are the few I did take.

Looking back towards the narrow and short strip of woodland; once you pass it you are very close to Top Withens.

My friend with Top Withens in the distance above her head. We were all amazed at how, despite constant strong winds, her hair remained put with hardly any signs of disheveledness!

I was hoping that cotton grass would be in bloom and sure it was. I love its white fluffy balls bobbing in the wind. Cotton grass is such a lovely and distinctive moorland feature.

The two lone trees at Top Whitens. They are always very photogenic, and this time, for a change, I decided to picture them on their own, without the ruin. I love the moody atmosphere; after all that is what Top Withens is about.

Our friend discovered that the green door of the small barn is actually unlocked, and there is a small shelter with a wooden bench inside. Well, I didn't know that, and it was good to find out there is somewhere you can go for shelter if you are caught up in the usual wuthering weather at Top Withens.