Stage 3: Brighouse to Mirfield
Setting off from Brighouse, Wednesday1st September
Annie: Today, I have really had the sense that we have travelled with the river. It's character has changed dramatically. In Mytholmroyd, when not in flood, the river is shallow and narrow. If you didn't mind getting your feet wet, you could walk across it, definitely with wellies. In the first two days, the Calder grew and shrank as it gained water from tributaries and then lost it to the canal system. But today, it became a magnificent body of water, wide, deep and navigable.
For the majority of today's walk, the river was only accompanied by short stretches of canal where the topography meant that a lock was needed. Unlike the canal, the river often has no marked tow path, and even where there is one, it is sometimes unpassable. Near Colne Bridge, we had to retrace our steps when the path became so overgrown and washed away in parts that we couldn't get any further. But we found another way under a railway bridge and past an old mill, it's chimney now used for mobile transmitters. Back at the waterside, at a complicated junction of two rivers, a canal and two aquaducts, we had a lucky meeting with a cyclist and boat dweller who knew that there was an unmarked riverside path which would take us all the way to Mirfield. And what a beautiful route. We are now beyond our existing knowledge of this river and every view is new to us. I can't wait for tomorrow's journey.
So far we have been coming home at night, ending our walks at places where we could pick up a train. There is pleasure at seeing familiar landscapes from the train window, which we now view with an insider's knowledge. But the speed of the return is a bit disorientating, like slowly stretching a rubber band and then seeing it snap back. I also feel that we miss out on getting under the skin of the places where we start and end our walks, and I'm looking forward to the days when we will stay in the places we walk through.
Bob: Having our elevenses in The Secret Tea Rooms in Brighouse allowed us to have a close up look at their ‘cosy vintage décor,’ which is a daring blend of dolly mixture pinks and greys and white, stripes and roses. A montage of Marilyn Monroe photos, plus black and white art deco tiling takes it all stateside while the chintzy collection of quirky teapots pulls it back to West Yorkshire. But my favourite thing was the Daliesque picture of teapots flying over a very grand and serious looking neo classical building. I don’t think this tea room has settled on a theme yet, but that’s partly why I liked it. And the toasted tea cakes were good too.
Below the footbridge there was a figurative graffiti mural featuring a cartoon woman with a space gun. It was hard to see the mural behind the growing vegetation, it looked efficiently done, but we couldn’t really appreciate it.
Much further along we chanced upon another teenage drinking den. Usually these are under the arches of bridges, but this was deep in woodland and had been constructed from felled young trees. Clearly these kids had done time at forest school. Along with the usual Stella tins, there was evidence of gin and tonic. There was also a discarded 18’’ butchers hack saw, which was a bit unnerving.
Just when I thought that the walk would yield no further creative works we found a series of trees that had been turned into fairy homes. I have come across a fairy tree before, but this was an entire fairy forest. They were enchanting, but I thought I detected the influence of Tracy Emin at work on the domestic scenes of some of the more distressed Cindy Doll fairies.
At a footbridge over the river we sadly had our first encounter with a commemorative shrine for a suicide victim. I had been expecting this at some point, and we were sorry to know that someone's life had ended there. Relatives and friends had left their personal tributes. We dedicate today’s walk to all those who struggle with suicidal feelings. (Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123)
Ending the third stage at Mirfield in the sun for the first time.
Finally, here are a selection of today's river images: