Huddersfield Chronicle (30/Jun/1894) - Crosland Moor, Helme's Echo, and Folly Dolly
CROSLAND MOOR, HELME'S ECHO, AND FOLLY DOLLY.
(From Our Correspondent "Cid.")
I often marvel at the number of people I meet who have not been to the Rifle Butts and to Blackmoorfoot. They have missed much who have not enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the breezy bracing air found at all times at these places, which are within half an hour's walk from the centre of Huddersfield. Passing from Lockwood to the right of Beaumont Park you reach a tableland picturesquely fine, choice, and rare. Just before you catch a fall breath of the heather, and a sight of the western hills, you may, on facing the town, be gratified by a panoramic view, having an elevated background, fascinatingly charming. Not only is the picture delightful when the moving clouds emphasise the sunshine as their shades race over fields, down the slopes, over buildings, by the woodlands, bridging the valleys, and climbing the distant heights as unceasingly as the waves of the sea, but you are surrounded by an atmosphere that knows no smoke, and is so sweet and pure that you wonder why mankind prefer to live in a dingy hole, breathe their own breath over and over again, and sniff the belchings from thousands of chimneys and ten thousands of pipes and cigars, when by mounting to a tableland like Crosland Moor they might not only live nearer heaven, but bask in its brightness and breathe its breath. If there be a breeze anywhere you will find one here as you pass on to the heathery undulating plain of browns and blacks and piercing greens. Not only will the eye be satisfied and the sense of smell be gratified, but the bilberries offer you their ripe brown-black bloom to heighten your sense of taste by their bitter-sweet lusciousness, while the air is full of song, industrious life is feeding its young, the sheep and full-grown lambs are cropping their flowery food, and the roans and reds look at you in peace as they chew their cud. Here, too, is an open space that loyal and constitutional Huddersfield may well be proud of, and must ever hold in kindly remembrance the generous owner who so freely lets the volunteers have the use of this range to practise on and earn the praise of their supporters, and to some extent repay him by gallantly winning the Brigadier's Cup and the Bingham Shield. Many days during the week you may also hear the pinge, pinge, pinge of the rifle bullets, and the peculiar thud from the targets, as outers, inners, magpies, and frequent bull's-eyes are recorded by the markers, to the appreciation of the onlookers and to the great interest of the participants in the contests. If non-military you may certainly feel, as you pass to the right and catch a glimpse of Colne Valley, that a stray bullet, might reach you, and as a civilian you may be in the condition of those who are for the first time under fire, but so seldom is there silence after a shot when the Huddersfield Rifles are in earnest that you may take it for granted that anywhere outside the target is the safest place. As you pass on with your face to the west you are to be pitied if you do not enjoy the picture before you, especially when the crystal rippling store within the banks to the left catches your eye. This journey is ever new to me. No matter how languid or listless when I leave the town I no sooner get a breath of this moorland than I feel as hungry as hunters are said to be, but the edge of that feeling can soon be more than taken off in the "Travellers' Rest" neath the embankment. As you then get a full view of the broad sheet of water you have a worthy example of the forethought of your town's leading sons, and as I often wandered up the watercourse before the reservoir was made I feel able to appreciate the transformation all the more. It is a credit to all concerned in its construction. If Huddersfield and district lack anything to complete their varied beauty it is a lake or an imposing river. Yet, to those who have seen the mighty seas, the broadened sheets of water, and the resistless rivers of the earth, they can let their imaginations play with their memories and fully enjoy the rippling sheet of purity here displayed. When the breeze is strong it is delightful to watch the wavelets as they come along until they burst upon the embankment and dash their spray over you from a distance of some 30 yards. No ozone can be sweeter than that which kisses your cheeks and fills your lungs here, and no breeze more refreshing. Then it frequently has on its bosom wild fowl, which as they encircle the place keep your thoughts in touch with the gulls of the ocean, with this advantage that in its glassy purity you can see the sun, the clouds, the birds, the trees, and the hills duplicate themselves to perfection. If you fail to be satisfied with the quiet and wholesome surroundings of this place I fear you have become blasé with the sights of the world. If families would visit this easily accessible moorland and leave the grime and enviousness of the town they would renew their lease of life and lay in a store of satisfaction that would last them till their next visit. I never weary of it and never fail to see some of nature's strange visitants as I walk around it. There is the lapwing ready to tantalise you by swooping around and piercing you through and through with its shrill, weird cry. Wild geese make it a calling place as they roam in their unlimited freedom. The magpie chatters in the scanty cover near by, while the hawk hangs in the sky as if by an invisible thread as it watches the earth, ready to drop like a stone on its terror-stricken prey. There are the smaller birds glad to greet you on every hand, look you in the face, and make you feel that they have little cause to fear mankind. Then as you pass up the "catch-water" by Cop Hill in semi-circles to Deer Hill you will find a revelation of beauty at every step, while Helme Wood, with its mossy covered trunks and its charming echo, should never be missed.
Did you ever hear an echo, a proper country echo, one that could almost reply to your thoughts? Here is such a one ; ever ready to talk, to laugh, or to sing to you. I met with a grandfather not long ago who said he had never heard an echo. I was startled by the admission. Some townlings so seldom trust themselves alone in the country that they miss most of nature's glorious wonders. Still even such, when they want to hear an echo, might do worse than ask a policeman. There is scarcely a street in the borough without its echo, some of them remarkably clear. If you can neither sleep yourself nor let others, walk the streets before the pun or the world gets up and you may hear the sound of your own steps, your whistle, your laughter, or your song returned to you from walls and crescents. Still, if you want to fully enjoy the confidence and mystery of the hidden, and ever ready echo, you will find it in the wood overlooking Helme. It is not reflected from the clouds, it is not so far away as to lose its distinctness, nor is it of the multiple or repeating class like those of Killarney, or that of the castle of Simonetta, near Milan, which repeats the report of a pistol 60 times, but it is a quiet, homely, unassuming, and coy nymph, singly faithful and true at all times. If, in a meditative mood, it will talk to you of the hollowness and insincerity of mankind. It will tell you of the envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness that pervade all grades of society, in varying degrees, but still there. It will also speak to you of the marvels of creation, and as you wonder it will wonder why the air, the land, and the sea are teeming with life and death everywhere, what it all means, what there is beyond, whence it comes, and whither it trends. It will, likewise, marvel with you why there is so much discontentedness ; why people refuse to enjoy the present for fear of the to come, why both old and young knit and wrinkle their features as they chase pleasure without catching it, and why ambition blinds men to justice, tarnishes their honour, and sears or thrusts from them respect for the rights of others. If, in a despondent mood, you might hear it ascribe all the ills that flesh is heir to, and all the moral defects of mind or soul, to drink, to gaming, to gluttony, to ignorance, to over-education, to fads, to cranks, to sins you have no mind to, to delights you refuse to enjoy, to spasms of the diaphragm, to cloudy weather, all of which will pass away when the mood changes, or when the sun melts them into tears or warms them to a healthy glow. If in a merry mood the echo will refuse to talk of sorrow, will forget its misery, and reflect joyousness night or day. No season will then come amiss to it. As May passes into June, and as June espouses Midsummer, and they are wed by the sunshine, it will tell you of the glorious dells and woodlands, the mighty hills and plains, the bubbling springs and leaping streams, and of delightful satisfaction and contentment in everything. As the nights shorten and the days lengthen, as the dawn breaks earlier and the twilight linger later, and as the afternoons hold long the glow of the life-giving sun, it will fascinate you with whisperings of love which will stream through the air in company with the fragrance that scents the gales, or breathes in the all but imperceptible zephyrs. As you are hopeful, so will this echo be. It will cheer you with stories of the fruit time as you sit beneath the leafy shade, and bid you garner health and sufficiency before the harvest is past and the summer ended. As you stand among the flowers beneath the branches and the bloom it will tell you tales of buttercups and daisies, violets and primroses, and name the herbs that will give forth their balm and heal you by the virtue of their influence. It will faithfully and ungrudgingly enjoy and then return to the full your song, your laughter, and your jubilance, pure as the cloudless sky, calm as the restful eve, and as sweet as the breath of early morn. As you delight in the past, enjoy the present, and voice forth your hope of the future so will your echo accompany you and reflect your inner and your outer self with undeviating truthfulness ; will listen to your every word as youth merges into adolescence, as adolescence ripens into prime, and as prime, with dignity and grace, moves on to old age ; yea, in all these stages it will reply, "The profit of the earth is for all, the King himself is served by the field," and then, as
- The hawthorn whitens, and the joyous groves
Put forth their buds, unfolding by degrees,
Till the whole living forest stands displayed
In full luxuriance to the sighing gales,
- The hawthorn whitens, and the joyous groves
echo will reply to you without hesitation, Life is worth living."
As I leave my seat, which has been the trunk of a fallen tree, and feel anxious to make a closer acquaintance with my confidant, she at once retires either into the air, some barn, or may-be into the church steeple, and refuses to hold further converse with me. She knows how to keep a proper distance and will admit of no close familiarities, no matter how meant. Entering the village I ask a pleasant, healthy house-wife, whoso eves are full of laughter, and whose features seem strangers to anything but smiles, what there is worth seeing at Helme. She readily points out the glen, the church and its surroundings, and tells me that Folly Dolly should not be missed under any circumstances. With thanks I pass on and see restful satisfaction everywhere. The young and brave are engaged in cricket, while the old and fair look on encouragingly. I seldom pass this place without seeing a cricket match and thinking of the memorable engagement between Dingley Dell and All Muggleton. I don't know why, because the cricketers here, although always greatly interested and rivalrous, do not show the unbounded enthusiasm and party feeling that the Dingley Dellers and the All Muggletons did. The scene from this place is delightful. The land seems like a mighty chess-board. There is the scent of fruitfulness everywhere. It seems always calm and peaceful as a summer's afternoon. The church and churchyard are close at hand, so I turn to inspect them. The doors are locked, but it seems to me impossible to say why. Judging of Helme by its inhabitants, I should conclude that locks, bolts, and bars would be at a discount here. I can, however, through the iron gates in the church porch, see a great portion of the interior. As I lingeringly examine what is visible, "O rest in the Lord," on single key, streams from the organ. Having found all means of entrance barred I am at once more than interested. As the tune proceeds in the gentlest and most harmonious breath, wonderment and imagination strive within me. Can the organist be the echo materialised, and having no answers to give, is it devoting its leisure to sacred song ? No matter who or what the musician there is the soul of reverence in the music, and a calmness that is appropriate to the words of that tune for all time. In fact, there is rest everywhere. The few graves speak of rest, the lovely churchyard is a picture of rest, and the flowers on the well-cared mounds bring to my memory the lines of the master poet :—
- Lay her i' the earth ;
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring!
- Lay her i' the earth ;
I pass on and down to the glen, which is a charming bit of quiet scenery, and which, if designated by a foreign name, and transported to where it would cost much to reach, would, of course, become famous and be noised abroad as grand by those who delight in discovering that they have seen something you have not. Helme Glen is its own advertisement, and it, like good wine, needs no bush. As Folly Dolly is now uppermost in my mind, I cling to the stream, join in its mirth, am ravished by its sparkling eyes, delight in following it in the shade and seeing it dance to right and left in beautiful racings, cascades, and miniature cataracts. I gather milkmaids, marsh-mallows, marsh-marigolds, and pinks and whites in profusion. Down and down we go past mossy-covered stones and smoothly-worn rocks, and as the incline increases so do the waters gambol and play leap-frog with each other. When the dell becomes deeper the trees become taller by striving to greet the sun with their topmost branches, and thus escape the shade. There is ivy on the trunks, a network of roots bridge or overhang the stream, and all is wonderfully pretty. No one should miss this lovely place. The rushings, the splashings, and the gushings increase, and the stream is now in a hurry, anxious to plunge in the depths. One fall jumps a couple of yards, then another to the left a couple more, churning the waters into snowy foam. After swerving to the right and left the stream takes a breath ere it plunges in myriad crystals over the precipice into the gulf below. From the bottom the scene is one to be remembered with gladness. As the sun glistens through the gurglings and the babblings, and peeps through the foliage of the holly, the oak, the sycamore, the birch, and the luxuriant growths on the banks, draping the stratified rocks, a picture is completed worth going far to see. Here, too, is solitude of the sweetest and the truest. Nature sings and speaks to you and you want no one else. It is, moreover, free to all and is a beauty spot that must be seen to be fully appreciated. I have seen nothing to surpass it in this neighbourhood. I am loth to leave, but pass beneath the railway for 20 yards in the stream, and on emerging am greeted by the ever sweet notes of a brave and spruce cock-robin. A spink then flits from bough to bough. A peggy perches within reach of my umbrella and bobs hither and thither exurberantly, eyeing me with fearless familiarity. To right and left the bluebells are still ringing the spring out and the summer in. The hawthorns drop their snowy petals as the blackbird visits them, preparatory to piping its roundelay of bursting joy, while the thrush flashes over me laden with food for its young. The honey bee darts in a straight line to gather its nectar and aid in the fructifying of the flowers that are smiling at the sun on the distant slope. Of course it is needless to say the larks are here, for larks are everywhere, but what surprises me is the absence of the voice of the cuckoo. I cannot account for this, as I know this district, especially Honley Wood and Healey House, to be famous for cuckoos. What, however, warms my heart and fascinates my fancy and rivets my attention is a prim and perfect little wren. Of all the birds in creation this darling is multum in parvo. There is no bird more brave, or more spry, or more up-to-date. With tail erect and feathers pruned to perfect smoothness it flits about in movements almost too quick for sight. It ever seems conscious of its ability to escape its friends or foes. As I stand, it perches within three yards of me and at once commences its charming song. I had never heard one do other than chirp before, so this is a revelation to me which will never fade from my memory. Consisting of half-a-dozen notes, with all the quavers and lights and shades between, it repeats its musical warblings to its own and my full satisfaction. Unless careful attention be paid to it, its song seems but a monotone, but on close examination it is a stream of varied melodies. Its first attempt is perfect and so is its second, on and on, but it is so full of joy that it does not wait to be encored, its last being, if possible, better than its first. Words fail to describe the pleasure it gives me, and had its mate not called it way it seemed to be determined to sing me away. A shower comes on and the sun paints the falling drops into rainbows. I find I am within a minute's walk of the Silk Factory, so I cross and re-cross the stream, now over stepping stones, then by jumping, until to my sorrow my pure and sparking companion comes in contact with a foul flow from Meltham, and though it struggles against the pollution for a moment or two, it soon loses its wholesomeness, and the twain, black and repulsive, roll down the Happy Valley towards Huddersfield.
- In the 1890s, an area of land close to where Crosland Moor Airfield is now situated, was used as a rifle range. The 1892 Ordnance Survey map shows firing positions from 100 to 1,000 yards from the targets.