Stage 1: Mytholmroyd to Sowerby Bridge
Setting off from Mytholmroyd, Monday 30th August.
Bob: Today we gathered a sample of water from the River Calder in Mytholmroyd, to carry with us, for our 100 mile walk to the mouth of the Humber, where we will pour it back into the water from the Humber Bridge. I felt like I said hello to the river, and then we were off.
About 100 meters downstream we made our first stop to make some sketches of the former riverside home of our friend Roger. He is a self-taught artist who creates beautiful charcoal landscapes. Roger had a loving relationship with the River Calder which flowed directly beneath his balcony. He used to wade into the water and sweep the river bed with a broom to remove the sediment, so he could see the fish more clearly.
Sadly flood management problems forced him out of his home, to a house on higher ground. We dedicate this section of the walk to Roger.
Annie drawing Roger's house on the Calder in Mytholmroyd
Along the road, an empty shop has maintained a tableau in its window for the last 5 years. It’s a collision of Halloween gothic kayaking on jet black water rapids, and friendly looking medieval figures portraying a variety of wholesome professions from dry stone walling to baking. I think it works best as a tribute to the dark river gods, riding the waves of fortune (in our case frequent flooding) and holding down a proper job. There is a more recent addition of a COVID mask, which keeps it topical.
Over in Dave the Barber’s window there is a painted clay model of a demon barber (more gargoyle than Sweeney Todd) cutting a Neanderthal’s hair. The demon barber is clearly Dave with his dapper moustache. I’m not commenting on the Neanderthal.
Then it all went quiet for a mile or two. Promising sites like the tyre dump, the caravan storage depot on the site of an old mill, all yielded no evidence of creativity.
Annie: I feel very connected to the river in Mytholmroyd. It is a dominating presence. Twice we have had it as an unwelcome guest in our cellar. Before our first experience of flooding in 2015, Bob and I would feel a sense of excitement when the river started to rise, but afterwards only dread. We and our neighbours knock on each other's doors. 'Are you fitting your flood gate yet?', 'I've checked the drains and they are ok so far', 'It's up to the top of the river wall and still rising'. But despite the challenges, I still love living near the Calder, and I love Mytholmroyd and the resilience of the community.
Today, our walk was on familiar territory. We ate our lunch only half a mile from our house. We sat in Brierley Fields, which will soon become a wetland nature reserve, next to the place where we swim when the weather is warm. This stretch from Mytholmroyd to Sowerby Bridge is one we have walked dozens of times, but normally along the canal. Here, the road, river, canal and railway often run in parallel and many houses sit on the islands between these transport routes. New industries needed new modes of transport and new transport routes made new industry possible. The relics of these changes are all around - the site of Moderna Blankets becomes the home of a dozen industrial units, Walkley's Clog Factory burnt down and will be replaced by executive housing, the old mill must have been the narrowest of buildings, there is only a grass verge on the other side of the old mill wall.
This walk was different from our normal experience, as we looked for ways to stay close to the river, sometimes walking alongside it and other times only being able to spy it beyond fenced off wasteland or between the trees. We collected a stone from the Calder, and another from the Ryeburn tributary and at Sowerby Bridge took another photo with the canoe slalom poles in sight, to mark the end of our first day's walk.
Ending the first day at Sowerby Bridge
Finally, here are a selection of today's river images: