WALKS ROUND HUDDERSFIELD.
By George S. Phillips.
ROBIN HOOD'S GRAVE.
I should like to speak about the Cresswell Crags and Markland Grips, which are close to Welbeck, the residence of the Duke of Portland, and are still pointed out by the peasantry as Robin's winter quarters. The river Wollen runs far below their summits into the lake at Welbeck, and there are subterranean caverns in the Crags, which are called Robin Hood's chamber, pantry, and parlour. But I have no time to dwell upon these matters, for we are already close to Mr. Firth's mansion, and I wish to occupy the remaining part of the time it will take us to walk to Brighouse, in giving you some idea of the size of the oaks of Sherwood, and of the glorious hays of Birkland.
The "Major Oak" is of almost incredible dimensions. When you stand in front of it, it looks like a huge castle, and although eleven persons can pack themselves inside it, the old wooden walls are not half worn out. Spenser Hall, about four years ago, led me blindfolded to this tree and made me feel it inside and out, before he took the bandage from my eyes. The illusion was wonderful. I could not, until I saw it with both eyes, believe that it was one concrete substance of a tree that I was handling. At 6 inches from the ground its trunk is 90 feet in circumference ; at 6 feet from the ground 30 feet it circumference ; circumference of one of the arms, at a distance of 4 feet from the trunk, 12 feet ! circumference at the extent of its branches 240 feet ; inferior of the trunk 20 feet in circumference, and 13 feet in height. Altogether, and in every inch of it, what I call a tree !
A few yards from this majestic oak, you cross the broad woodland glade, called Cockglade, because game cocks were once kept in the Major Oak, which divides the hays of Birkland from Bilhagh. And here a new world of wonder and beauty bursts upon you. As far as the eye can reach, over upland and valley, there is a magnificent array of birches, with their graceful silvery trunks and waving foliage, through which the breezes, when they are soft and low, make musical dirges, like the sounds of a far off sea. There could not be a more startling and picturesque contrast than the birches of Birkland and the oaks of Bilhagh. Caliban and Miranda are here married together, according to God's oldest ceremonies. As you pass up this broad glade or riding, you are often arrested by the grotesque forms of the oaks ; and not unfrequently a troop of young birches are seen waving their fair arms and tresses over some one of these solitaries who, grim and sullen, appears as if he was caught out of bounds and suddenly enchanted by these beautiful nymphs. Beautiful they are indeed ! for they have attained a stature and maturity which. I never saw in any similar trees. I should like to describe the ruined "Shambles Oak" to you, and the fine larch and heather scenery in the neighbourhood of it, and the vast forest of white thorn which in the month of May, when it is in full blossom and the sun shines oil it, looks like a burning sea of snow ; bat we are close to Brighouse now, and I can only speak of the "great glade" of Sherwood, which the Duke of Portland has cut and railed for eight miles through the forest, and planted with avenues of the dark green cedars of Lebanon. At the extremity of this magnificent riding, near Clipston, the good Duke has erected a splendid lodge, which in its architectural design, is a copy, as I have heard, of a certain monastic gateway at Worksop. If is used as a central school-house, although it is half a mile from any other dwelling, for the children who live in the scattered hamlets of the forest. On the north side, if I remember the quarters rightly, there are effigies of King Richard the Lionhearted, Allan O'Dale, and Friar Tuck ; on the south side there are similar sculptures of Robin Hood, Little John, and Maid Marian.
But here we are on the bridge, under which the Leeds and Manchester railway runs, leading to Brighouse. The "Railway Hotel," and the Brighouse station are on the right of us, and that road to the left leads up to Raistrick, where my old and much-loved friends, the Quakers, have founded a noble school, which is taught by a good and capable man named Lundy. Brighouse is a manufacturing village, as you may see by the tall chimnies and troops of factory children who are playing at shuttlecock in the streets. We have very little to do, however, with Brighouse ; so let us pass through it, and turn away upon the Clifton road, in the direction of Leeds ; for Kirklees Park lies up that way. This wood by the roadside, covering the hills on our left, is called Clifton Wood ; and as I am pretty well known now for a trespasser, it will require no apology on my part, for the fresh trespass which most here be perpetrated. So let us climb over the stone wall and enter the wood. Here we are knee deep in blue bells, which in this month of May literally cover the whole aide of the hills like a garment of azure, and look you ! we have startled a little bird from the brown grass at our feet, and here is its nest. See what rich beautiful eggs are there ! And behold how the tiny warbler perches itself upon the spray of yonder hazle, and with sad musical utterances seems to beseech us not to disturb its little home. Ah, no ! thou piping denizen of the wild woods ; God has given thee a borne — and I, indeed, will not injure either it or thee. The wood is full of young, graceful trees ; the ash, hazle, oak, and flowering alder, all all here. But if you would command the vale of Calder you must mount higher, up to the very top of the hill. You will find a path there, close to the hawthorn hedge which divides the wood from the pastures on the other side. If you look through the hedge you will see another wood over the pastures, arrayed in glorious brown and green foliage. Houses dot the wood-side, and there are many little children playing before them and around them. Right over the valley rise other hills, clad in the richest verdure, which face us with a kingly majesty. We have a full view of Brighouse, with its smoky chimnies, also on the right ; and at the foot of the hills on the other side of the valley the white iron rails of the steam road gleam in the sunshine, like the trail of a fiery serpent. What a still, calm day it is ! As you walk along through the shady avenues of the trees, you can hear the roar of steam engines, and the thunder and hammering in the Brighouse foundries. Almost every step you take, discovers new beauties in the vast expanse of landscape which lies in and beyond the vale of Calder. Here, through a vista in the trees, you look down upon a quiet pastoral country, with the sheep lying in the sun, and scattered oxen grazing amongst them. All else is shut out from sight ; there is no sign of manufactures ; or of any modern enterprise. Our old friend, Pan, rules there ; and you might fancy the mask of that rill which comes up to us from below, was the sound of his oaten-pipe. And then, as you advance a little further, the scene changes. The "great dumb monsters " of hills frown upon you from the opposite side of the valley — the river flashes along the brown fields ; and whilst you are gazing, a fiery courser, harnessed to a cumbrous train of carriages, rashes out of the throat of the rocks, and with mighty galloping, tears the huge length of his burden after him, and vanishes amongst deep cuttings and overhanging trees out of your sight. Then you come upon shady nooks and "tiny glades," as Tom Miller calls them ; and all around you, through the woody openings, the sunlight bursts in gorgeous streams over the blue bells, and white starry flowers, and golden kingcups. Here is a wild gooseberry bush growing, full of berries — and bark ! how the music gushes out of the throat of that startled blackbird. A dog barks in the neighbouring wood, and that double-barrelled fire has carried death to some one or more of nature's speechless children.
We now come to a break in the wood — the bushes are few and scattered, and upon a green platform, rising over the dell below which we must presently cross, there are some fine stately trees. On the left hand of the platform with Clifton village for a back ground, rises the chimney of a coal pit with its iron wheels and smoky chimney. There is a ruined water dam in the field just before you come to the coal pit, beside which a cow is feeding. At the bottom of the dell runs a small railway upon which the coal is conveyed from the pit to a wharf by the road side. When the carriages are foil they ran down to the wharf by their own weight and the impetus of descent ; they are then drawn back by the engine. See there are a man and a boy leaning over the rails below, waiting to receive a cargo of coals for their craft which is now lying moored in the Calder, After crossing this dell you still continue your course upon the hill top, making your way through the trees and tangled underwood as well as you can, and seeing at intervals, all the various scenes which present themselves there. At the end of this wood the land in the valleys is getting arable — and yonder is a veritable hay stack with a heap of lime close by it, and a water cart painted red, flung on its stern sheets, as an old Salt would say, with the shafts turned up, upon which a chain hangs. We will descend the hill here, and leave the wood for the high road, not forgetting to quench our thirst with the water which issues midway down the hill, from a rocky cavern.
Now after all this walking and talking we have out advanced above a mile from Brighouse, for looking hack we can see the church, houses, factories, and the strong dark hills on the other side of them. We are not for however from Kirklees, and still nearer to Clifton where we will go and dine. The path is flagged all the way to Cooper Bridge, and the scenery upon the road looks as beautiful, I think, as it did awhile ago from the hill top. Look there are three villainous school-boys, who have seated themselves by a stone heap on the road side (for it is Saturday afternoon) and not knowing what to do with themselves they are pulling up the grass and pelting one another. Now there is a cuffing and tumbling, and such latching as boys can laugh ; and now one hat thrown himself all his length on die green sward, and lies there kicking up his heels, out of a very excess of joy and merriment. Good afternoon friend ! Thou who passest with the pack on thy back I mean ! and all good betide thee with thy weary back and shoulders.
We, that is thou, and I, O reader ! will turn up this lane to the left and go as I said before and dine at the "Black Horse" in Clifton. We must not forget however when we arrive at the top of the lane to turn round and survey the landscape. It is of no use to tell you what sort of a landscape it is for I am tired of these descriptions. I will only advise you then to go and see it. The entrance to Clifton is both wild and beautiful, especially in the spring, for the gardens are all blooming then with rich apple blossom, and through the fine orchard trees we get glimpses of the valley, lying for below us. We pass some huge atone quarries on the left hand, and the next turn of the road brings us to the "Black Horse" one of Isaac Walton's "Wayside Inns," with "lavender in the window, and twenty ballads stuck about the walls." And here I will promise you such good entertainment, as to use another Waltonism, is fit for none but "honest men." So reader ! if thou be a rogue, do not call at the "Black Horse."
When you leave this good old fashioned Inn enquire the way to Kirklees Park. Directly you are dear of the village it rises before you with its gorgeous trees, stretching far away. Keep the road until you come to a green gate on the left hand side. This is the chief Park Gate, and leads past the Ice house through a beautiful avenue up to the Porter's Lodge, and thence to the old hall of Sir George Armitage. At that lodge door you may knock if you like, and send a messenger from amongst the inmates to ask permission for you to walk along the terrace to Robin Hood's Grave. So much time however is lost in doing so, that I prefer to go a trespassing again ; quite sure that the gentleman who now occupies the hall, would not interfere with me, if he knew my errand on his grounds, which were I to come across him l should not be long in telling him, for I go upon no man's land to do harm, but merely to get what beauty I can out of it. We will pass boldly down by that lodge side therefore, and take the first turn to the left which will lead us up to the terrace. And here, all language would fail to convey any idea of the scenery which bursts upon us from the beautiful wooded platform upon which we have entered. Far below us lie the woods of Kirklees, for we are on the very top of the terrace which nature has formed here, walking amongst lofty trees whose rich foilage seems to inlay the azure of heaven as we look up at them. On one side of us stands the Hall, with its fine broad park which is fenced off from the terrace, and in which herds of deer are cropping the rich grass. Oft the other side lie those interminable mountains, and all the unspeakable glories of the valley. And here we walk along for a. good mile, occasionally resting on the rustik seats which are placed so as to command the finest prospects, until at last we come to the noblest seat, inlaid with wood at the back in the shape of diamond pannels, and the noblest prospect of all. It is close to Robin's grave, and is the highest point of that mighty table land. Here then rest awhile, as I did, when I made my first pilgrimage to Robin's Tomb. Collect yourself ; and thee advance with what reverence you have, and get what lesson you can from your visit. I will confess to have had the strangest emotions when I first stood over the remains of this old forest hero. With all my Sherwood associations, and such historical, traditional, and ballad recollections as lay within me, I stood there, and no words, nor can I now find any, to tell what ay feelings were, nor my thoughts. Brave hearted Robin ! Thou at least, hast a fitting resting place, in this glorious park, amongst these solemn yews, and silent trees. Farewell !
Ne'er archers wer az hie sa geud
An pipl kanld im robin heud.
outlawz az hi an is men
England niver si agen.