Huddersfield Chronicle (28/Apr/1894) - Wilshaw
(From Our Correspondent "Cid.")
Meltham! The very mention of the name is suggestive of meat and drink, good living, ruddy health, and fresh air. I have no sooner left Huddersfield and escaped the infernal regions at Springwood than I can all but hear the dinner bell, all but see mine host with his best smile actively preparing a spread of good things, which are sure to have satisfaction for their seasoning and thankfulness for sauce. Of course, when I reach the village in the hollow of the hills, I look in at the clubs, the institute, and the church, all excellent institutions. To the homely fane I require no welcome, to the institute I should get one if the cold formalities of introduction had not to be gone through, and in the clubs I might have greetings if billiards and other games did not absorb the attention of all except a few who are greedily devouring politics, with a relish I do not want to imitate, as I have enough of that kind of pabulum during the week to last me over Saturday and Sunday. I sometimes think that if these clubs would change their tobacco merchants or discard the weed their rooms would be sweeter and more wholesome. I am soon in the street again, and as soon am I receiving the hearty recognitions of mine host and men whom I may have seen before, but who, strangers or otherwise, need no introduction, and who criticise with the utmost freedom what may be done or said. Glasses are soon chinking and refreshments placed before me. The conversation is football, and is interlarded by expressions not often found in the best phrase-books. I quickly change the subject to dogs, horses, and the lower creation generally, and by judicious questioning gain more common sense information in half an hour than I could by reading volumes on the subject. I notice that men who use expletives about football and other games seldom make use of such expressions when their minds are lifted out of their daily grooves. I leave the company well satisfied and with good wishes, the lines of Bishop Shenstone involuntarily passing through my memory:—
- Whoe'er has travelled life's dull round,
Where're his stages may have been.
'May sigh to think he still has found
The warmest welcome at an inn.
I am in the fresh air again, and such fresh air. It must be breathed to be appreciated. I am soon in the Pleasure Grounds. These, too, must be seen to be fully valued. There is a charm about the trees just now that is entrancing. The Mag stream, so clear, so sweet, is laughing as it rolls past rocky obstructions and gambols over the weir. When you think of what it will be before it embraces the Colne you shudder, but feel some relief in the reflection that it, at any rate, has a pure birth, and that were it not for the bubbling springs that remind the Holme and Colne of their virginity the hope of their recovery would be gone. I have, however, an object in view, and such an object. If you want to see Wilshaw, don't be in a hurry. Don't ride through it on a bicycle, doublefold, with the veins in your neck ready to burst, and as if some fiend was in pursuit of you, or that your life depended on getting out of the place as soon as possible. Get into the fields and look at what you see. If you form this habit you will be surprised how time flies and how careless you are about its flight. One wonder will then suggest another. One beauty will open the door of thousands more. Wilshaw is always fresh to me. I have seen it when the dawn has painted its eastern hills and embellished it with ineffable glory ; when the sun has reached the zenith; have taken siestas on its moorland; seen the Backbone of dear old England lifted by the setting sun ; and have noted its twilight go to sleep in the arms of night. I have seen it when the blizzard has paid no respect to persons; when its pathways and roads have been lost in snow. I have seen it when the sun seemed determined to set it on fire and when the slightest shade was welcome. I have gathered its fruit and revelled among its bilberries, rolled down its steep valley sides, and listened to the tuneful music of its streams; still, no matter what the season, it is always beautiful and its last sight the best. Its peacefulness is ever suggestive of afternoon, indeed, so long as the sun is above the horizon the burden of the day's work seems to be done at the "Queen of the villages of the hills." One cannot pass Wilshaw without entering its churchyard. The few dead that lie there would be envied if death could be envied. I had to be content with a keyhole view of the interior of the sacred edifice. But what of that ? If one has the slightest love, religion, or veneration in his soul he must receive inspiration among its sylvan scenery. There are no sounds of humanity but those made by yourself, and if in a solemn mood you may here enjoy true solitude. If cheery and buoyant the winds will sing to you, the trees and their inhabitants will keep you in tune, while the larks will draw your thoughts to heaven and hold them there. It will repay anyone to stand on Wilshaw's highest ground and take in the grand panoramic view. Your line of sight is all but unlimited. Your surroundings are pleasing and picturesque. The well-fed kind are redolent of sweetness and comfort. The inhabitants breathe a quiet and peaceful existence, and its lower creation live a paradisical life. The horses in their leisure moments display their noble forms as only well-cared animals can, while the innocent lambs, as they frisk and play and crop their flowery food, fully show the wisdom of this creature being used as a symbol for so many lessons in Holy Writ. So seldom are the lower animals interfered with here that their gentle and unsuspecting nature is fully developed, so much so that even the wild birds pursue their natural instincts with provoking indifference to the lords of creation. There is no wonder that people "live on, live on for ever" at this healthy place, indeed the wonder is that they die, as they must be free from the sudden change, the babbling strife, the envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness, the seething sin, the tattle of scandal-mongers, six shilling in the pound rates, and the itching haste which townlings are in to make their pile and shuffle off this mortal coil. A procession of hills — and such hills, your native hills, the everlasting hills — is before you. The Pennine Range is at your back, West Nab and Deer Hill lead you on to Scapegoat, you then jump, to stately Fixby, Huddersfield is indicated by a cauldron of smoke, Dalton Bank and Roundabout give a grand centre to your picture, Whitley Beaumont peeps over Castle Hill, the spire at Farnley points to the sky, Tinker's noted height seems but over the way, while Cook's Study beckons you to pay it a visit on the first opportunity. Seen in its most seductive mood, the Happy Valley at your feet, guarded by Crosland Church, is a marvel of variety. Limpid waters are stored in front of you, and though at a distance the sight of them refreshes you, and strengthens your vision to look on the lovely bosom of nature as she unfolds her charms, and openly invites you to inspect her comeliness and partake of her fatness. The chestnut blossom and the cherry bloom relieve the varied greens of the tree-belted slopes, while buttercups and daisies, the powdered hawthorn in the hedgerows, and the lights and shades of the meadows blend with the promise of the cornfields. Look where you will there is a glorious harmony of gold and green, delicately-tinted foliage, and every conceivable shade of brown and red, which can only be seen when nature is dressing for her marriage with buoyant summer and is looking forward with unalloyed felicity to a fruitful autumn. The sky is flecked with feathery bliss, a woolpack form hides the sun from view, but is quickly dispersed, and as the sprinkling shower descends upon you, instead of hastening for shelter you court the sparkling drops and like the outstretched branches of the trees extend your arms to welcome the brilliant gems. Water was ever the key to open nature's casket, and as you stand you almost see the oak and the ash striving which shall be first in changing their rusty garments for robes of fairest green. Neither plant, nor herb, nor flower, nor anything else can withstand the seductive influence of rain and sunshine. Can it be possible that with such a scene as this within the reach of mankind, miserable men and women are asking themselves, "Is life worth living?"