MARSDEN AND WESSENDEN VALLEY.
(From Our Correspondent "Cid.")
It was not wise for any of Marsden's sons to try to wall in the cuckoo. This spring migrant, heartless as it is in the rearing of its young, is much better at liberty than confined at Scout. It can now go to its summer residence in South Africa, and in the spring return to the meadows and moorlands of this village in the hollow of the hills at the head of silvery Colne. This bird is always welcome at Marsden, sings as sweetly there and is appreciated as highly as anywhere else. Its simple tune is full of pleasant memories for young and old. The cold winds of late have rather checked its jubilance, but now that they are tempered by the sunshine of June the cuckoo, as well as other feathered songsters, may be heard piping there. I always look upon this place as being closely related to Meltham, both in appearance and in their inhabitants. There is a heartiness about the two that is healthy, and their dialects are similar. If you don't feel at home with them it is not their fault, for both are generous, manly, and straight-spoken. Further, if you fancy yourself physically, or even mentally, and think you can get the better of these hard-headed mountaineers you will soon discover there is knowledge outside your own and strength that equals, if it does not surpass, yours. Many of them are ready to settle their disputes without going through the tedious processes of the law, and have no objection to give you a second trial if you are not satisfied with the first. Of course they are as civilised and as law-abiding as most men, but during the tunnel-making and the navvy invasion, you might have seen a war-proceeding inside and outside the many places of refreshment at Marsden several times during the day. The fighting element in these rough and uncouth men is strangely prominent, while feats of strength and endurance seem to be their constant thought and talk. They are always ready for war, and like many armed nations will engage in it on the slightest pretext in order to keep in practice. These migrants fully show what a difficult problem their betterment is. Like nomads, they have little interest in their present location. Here to-day and gone to-morrow. I always wonder, when I consider what strength is required to perform their arduous toil, what becomes of their old and weak. Still they are brave, and ever ready to do and dare. No soldiers show more pluck, and no class of men do more to bring the nations of the earth together by bridging the seas and boring the hills, and thus developing trade and commerce, than they. Taking their lives in their hands, they show stamina and endurance which will put to shame many who think themselves superior, higher in the moral scale, and more righteous than they. If you have not been to Marsden during the last few years, you will scarcely know it now. The railway company has transformed it, made some of its rough places smooth, and given to it an appearance which leads one to think that its people intend to take a lead in trade. Of course it is well known that its ancient road and street makers cared little for the straight line — to them the curve and the right-angle had more attraction. Its builders seem to have been their own architects, masons, joiners, and Local Board, and to have followed the least point of resistance, until a medley of corners, semi-circles, ups and downs, broads and narrows, mostly narrows, twistings and turnings is the result. Still, in passing through its devious ways and bye-ways you need not be lost for long, because you always have the hills to guide you. You certainly may look for its church, pass and re-pass it as I have done, without finding it, but now that the foundations of a new one have been well and truly laid for 30 years, surely the Church Building Committee will make it a guide and a landmark in their midst. For a long time I took the old one to be a factory or warehouse, and when I made enquiries about the Parish Church and explained the way I had passed through the village, I have been told more than once "A mester yov come close past it." When at last I did succeed in getting my head through its doors, during dusting operations, I liked its quaint appearance, and as I have little sympathy with carrying improvements to excess in church-building I cling to the old ones veneratingly. New-fangled fashion is too fickle to be followed in institutions that are and should be designed for the present and the great future, and though beauty and comfort should be aimed at, stability, utility, and the linking of the past with the now, and the now with the to come, has for me a charm I do not wish to have eradicated. I have pleasant memories of Marsden Church, and especially of its late old vicar, the Rev. Thomas Whitney. He was a type of man that you must like, because you could not help it. The inhabitants are most cheery and healthy. They consider that the human face is made to be looked at, and the human voice to be used, especially in the recognition of friends and strangers. Their "How do you lo ?" has no affectation about it. It comes from the heart and expects a reciprocal response. They do not pass each other like icebergs afraid of melting. Their handshakings, once experienced, are always remembered. They require no introduction before looking at or speaking to you. You may take it for granted that you are welcome, and they will answer your questions with the utmost readiness, glad to show you their patriotism by describing tneir hills and vales. I have entered into conversation with them, and on asking the names of their beauty spots I never had to wait for a true answer, and, what is more, they would suddenly remember, though going in an opposite direction, that they had a call to make along the way I was going. On we should go, climbing, talking, and laughing, they somehow forgetting to call anywhere, until I discovered that it was their pure good-heartedness that induced them to accompany me and act as my guide; indeed, when we parted I have found them a couple of miles from home, and plainly saw that it was for my pleasure and company that they had been unselfishly spending their time. In this matter they are more Scriptural. Instead of having to be asked to go with you a mile, and be compelled to go twain, they will go with you twain without being asked. There is an air of freedom about them suggestive of the hills and breezes around them. Their ruddy cheeks show that fresh air is their best medicine, and wholesome food their best physic. Their upgrown and their little ones show that they are glad to see each other. They do not, like some inarticulate people, suddenly seem to remember that something in a shop window requires very close inspection, that some cloud in the zenith has to be gazed at, or some dark passage, without a thoroughfare, has to be entered rather than that they should meet or speak to each other. Above all things they are natural, look you in the face, and show that affection is for out-door use as well as for home. Their laughter, too, is like the gurgling of their streams and the bubbling of their springs, while the clear ring of their voices may be heard from crest to crest on their healthy heights. They have no need of building pyramids, Pule Hill is ready made, and is an elevation they are rightly proud of. You may walk around this pyramid, but do not be content with that. Scale its highest peak, and if you have not seen the Matterhorn reply to those who belittle the hills of Britain by telling them that foreign hills are no grander than, nor half so fine as, your own native mountains. There is nothing much more repulsive to me than to be told, by those whose pockets are full of money, that I should see Mont Blanc, that I should climb the Mountains of the Moon, scale the Himalayas, see the Rocky Mountains, gaze on the Andes, mount the Pyramids of Egypt, be awestruck by the Niagara, go up the Rapids of the Nile, as salmon jump the streams at home, cross the Alps, bore through Mont Cenis, and spend as much money in doing so as one earns in a lifetime. My own hills are good enough for me, my own rivers are broad enough and sweet enough, and I can go through the Standedge and back, if once is not sufficient, or, what is far better, climb that noted height and see two or three counties at once. Give me Pule Hill, West Nab, Rocking Stone Hill, Deer Hill, Hard End, Pole Moor, Scapegoat and Nettleton Hills' tableland, Wood Head's Backbone, Cook's Study, Tinker's Monument, Thurstonland Bank, Whitley Beaumont's line of trees, dear old Castle Hill, the Roundabout, see Ossett's hills draw a straight line for miles along the horizon, continue unbrokenly the moorlands which overlook Leeds and surround Bradford, move on to Beacon Hill at Halifax, jump to the Ripponden mountains of the west, see Lancashire shake hands with Yorkshire and Cheshire and Derbyshire, and in several directions note four tiers of hills. Give me my native unassuming streams, my unpretentious cataracts, my leaping crystal cascades, my bursting, babbling springs and busy water-ways, and you may box the compass, swim the seas, lose yourselves among savages, run the risk of breaking your bodies in Switzerland, or be frozen to death at the North Pole; you may pass along the Equator so as to be able to boast of having walked beneath the sun without seeing a trace of your own shadow, you may see the eruption of Mount Erebus, and run the risk of being engulfed in lands where earthquakes wake you in the morning, and keep you from going to sleep at nights. I should certainly not refuse to see these places if in the locality, but till then my own hills, streams, plains, canals, tunnels, and the happy variety of the British Isles shall be my delight, which I shall be prepared to defend against all comers, rich or poor, proud or humble, wise or unwise, bad or good. You might walk for weeks along the hills of Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Derbyshire and be as hospitably treated, and much more cheaply, at the wayside inns, as anywhere in the world. Away with the belittlers of one's native country, and especially of one's native Yorkshire, but more especially of one's native Huddersfield. There is in this district as much charming variety, and as tine, and as beautiful, and as grand, and as awe-inspiring scenery as anywhere, and what is more, it is at home, within the reach of tram or tram. Why, bless you, legend has it Meltham way that when Satan first visited the earth he alighted on West Nab, and if Yorkshire had been the scene of the great events that occurred more than 1,800 years ago in Palestine, the tempter would probably have chosen Pule Hill or West Nab as the elevation from which to offer the riches of the earth as a reward for the falling down and worshipping him.
Wessenden Valley is at all times worth visiting. It is one of nature's beauty spots of grand moorland scenery. The last time I visited it the sun was shining gloriously, the clouds were arrayed in their gayest robes, and the bills were wondrously painted up to the sky-line. There was, however, a large black cloud creeping over the right of Wessenden Head, which was far from inviting. Meeting a ruddy six-foot-three son of the moors I asked him about the weather. He replied, "I've come thrut Isle, lad, and thal find it soft," and strode away before I could well thank him or ask him another. Far from being afraid of a storm I proceeded, notwithstanding that I knew the journey would be long and arduous before the haven was reached in the "Skye." Within five minutes of passing the man who said "Thal find it soft, lad," and just as I was opposite the great puddle trench of the Butterley Reservoir, the clouds bridged the valley, a flash of lightning opened the windows of heaven, and before the thunder had finished rolling from hill to hill I was in a deluge. Flash after flash, and thunder after thunder, came in quick succession, and the scene was awfully grand. The rain came down straight as a plumb-line in streams that seemed as thick as one's fingers, and which, as they struck the ground, the heather, the walls, and the rooks, leaped back into the air before they commenced their gambols and meanderings in miniature rivulets into the rushing river below. As these nascent streams leaped over the stones, dashed through the heather, jumped from point to point in numerous cascades, divided and joined hands, hid themselves in the ground, then burst forth stronger than ever as they proceeded until they were lost in the flood, they reminded me of youths and maidens without a full knowledge of the limit of their strength, their joyousness, and their buoyancy, rushing headlong and unthinkingly down the steeps of life, leaving the sweet chastity of the high ground of their birth, anxious to mingle with the swaying multitude, little recking that soon, very soon, their sweetness and beauty, their wholesome breath and sparkling eyes, will change their hue, lose their purity, be enveloped in pollution, move in filthy stagnancy, or violently roll past hamlets, towns, and cities to the great grave of the restless ocean, there to remain, lost in its immensity, until the sun of day shall draw them to the air again, purify them, drive them over sea and land that they may fall on the mountains as before. As the storm increased I crouched beneath my umbrella and had brooklets passing around me and through my legs immediately. There was no shelter or means of escaping it; the walls offered no protection, and I then, to some extent, realised what it would be like when Noah entered the Ark just before the world was drowned. I had also a capital object-lesson on the latter part of the passage, "Thy bread shall be given thee and thy water shall be sure." It seemed to me that half a day's rain like this would fill our reservoirs and supply Huddersfield and district for half a year. On the appearance of the first streak of light in the zenith up sprang a lark and fluttered through the opening, trilling in the sunshine while I appreciated it in the shade. The clouds then left the hills as quickly as they came. The sun's bright beams seemed to chase them and destroy their rearguard in the grand retreat. It was a glorious sight. I was soon bathed in sunshine, and walking on the sandy, gravelly, pebbly pathways. When Butterley Reservoir is finished Huddersfield may drink when thirsty, wash when dirty, or before, and be clean for half a century at least. Higher and higher I climbed, and, if possible, the scene became more grand. When I find such a beauty spot as this I strive to see it at all seasons.
I do not wonder that Sir Joseph Crosland, M.P., chose hereabouts for his shooting box. Our worthy Knight in doing so has fully shown his love of the grand and the beautiful. Seen when the hoar frost paints everything with dazzling purity, this place is a marvel. When nature's winter artist has been at work during the night, the results of his handiwork are indescribably beautiful. He graces our windows with tracery of surprisingly accurate outline and with filigree of wonderful conception. While we enjoy our cosy slumber he dips his brush and works out his designs with delightful smoothness and remarkable grace. He clothes the trees, the ferns, the heather, the grass, the rocks, and the watercourses with unspeakable variety, earringing the crags with giant icicles, the slopes with microscopic formations, and the level ground with clearly cut figures, distinctly marked angles and circles, and all with crystal delight. He covers the green pastures with thin white films of ice, and makes the slender blades of grass hold their spearlike points to the sky ready to bravely greet the morning star and glisten in the dawn. Unassisted by the wind, he turns black to white, bedecks everything with myriad dazzling diamonds, and spangles the shrubs with uncounted pearls. At such a scene as this the young and the healthy rejoice and go forth buoyantly to take part in the fairy transformation and to fully inspire the bracing and pure air. To see all this as the sun peeps over the hills and melts the gems to liquidity, and watch the breeze shake the delicate frames into dry green blades, must ever be enjoyed by all. I reached Wessenden Old and saw the waters leap in a grand cascade from the right. Half-frightened sheep looked at me enquiringly, and as I drew nearer them they dashed off startlingly. Another shower mixed with sunshine came on apparently for my sole behoof, as there was no other sign of human life anywhere. I passed through the cloud and then watched it as it settled and dissolved in the valley. The sun then seemed to be but a yard above the hills, yet still he joined earth with the sky by mighty shafts of light. After a brisk climb the waters of Wessenden Head were seen shimmering in their settings of blacks and browns fringed with greens. Streamlets bubbled and sang down the ravines, and mingled with the bleating of the sheep. I bent and drank the delightful wine of nature. A flock of wild geese then fell from heaven, and plunged into the rippled lake in front of me, the curlew cried from the distant height, and the grouse gave voice as they flitted hither and thither. The stones on the embankment were draped with mossy verdure, the lights and shades played on the heights and in the depths, the wind-swept cliffs held in their crevices the persistent bilberry and the charming cloudberry, and I gazed with satisfaction on the grandeur and majesty of it all. I passed on and up and from the solitude until I saw men who seemed little bigger than monkeys on the rim of the sky. West Nab then reared its rugged head to the left, and Pule Hill lost its magnificence in the valley. Another world then seemed to open to my view. To south, to east, and to north well-known hills greeted me as I passed into the "Isle of Skye," thankful that there was a public-house there in which I could rest, be refreshed, and hold free converse with its visitors and its landlord. As the shades of evening fell I turned my face towards Huddersfield, which in the dim distance, compared with my then surroundings, looked like the valley of the shadow of death, from which great clouds of smoke were being belched as if from the place of torments.