To Yorkshire with Love
Or, My Day Searching for Heathcliff
Yorkshire offers a variety of attractions to the pedestrian historian. The county's lineage is full of Vikings and Romans, Normans and Tudors. Whatever era strikes your fancy there is something for everyone. I, myself, am a literature nerd and knew that no excursion to the North would be complete without visiting the Brontë Parsonage.
The Parsonage by itself is a unique experience. The rooms are laid out as you would expect them to be when the family lived there. The dining room table was where many of the Bronte sisters' works like Jane Eyre were penned. Currently, the museum is hosting Clare Twomey, who is working with guests to create a handwritten manuscript of the Brontë classic, Wuthering Heights. It was such an honor to sit in a dim little room alone with Twomey, writing a single line from Chapter 23. As a lover of this particular book and a writer myself, it was incredibly nerve-wracking and exciting to be sitting there writing out each word just as Emily Brontë would have over 150 years ago. The completed manuscript will be on display next year at the Parsonage and you can see the work of the hundreds of people who contributed to this unique piece of art.
Haworth, where the Parsonage resides, is a small town set deep into the moors. As you drive through the narrow roads along the hills of Yorkshire to get to the Parsonage, you'll see miles of wide-open fields laden with heather and thistle casting a warm purple hue over every ridge. Driving through the moors gives you a real sense of what Emily Brontë was referring to when she wrote, "I’m sure I should be myself were I once among the heather on those hills."
If you don't mind a bit of a hike and want to get a closer look at the area which inspired much of Brontë sisters' works, take a wander down to the Brontë Waterfall. Only a few miles away from the Parsonage itself, the trail leads you through rich Yorkshire farmlands. You can get up close with sheep as they casually graze, walk past derelict stonework barns that would have been functioning when the Brontës were alive, touch the soft wisps of damp green for which the moors are known, and really feel as if you are experiencing a place outside of any timeline. The way to the waterfall can be a bit hazardous if you're not prepared (like I was when I took visited), the hills become quite steep as you near the waterfall and the stone steps towards the end of the route, while helpful can be slick when it's rainy. Come prepared with some good hiking shoes and a camera because the area is lush and beautiful and demands to be remembered.
As Virginia Wolfe said on her visit to the now famous Yorkshire town, "Haworth expresses the Brontës; the Brontës express Haworth; they fit like a snail to its shell."