Stage 4: Mirfield to Dewsbury
Setting off from Mirfield, Thursday 2nd September
Bob: What strikes you most walking through Mirfield are the generous displays flowers. It’s amazing. Even on the most unlovely corner of a back road you will find plenty of flower tubs. We dedicate today’s walk to ‘Mirfield in Bloom’.
Mirfield looks quite handsome, but there was little of visual art that caught my eye. It’s hard to avoid the long, long wall of graffiti art that has been commissioned for the railway underpass, but I am sorry to say it left me cold. Too predictable for me. Sorry folks. I hope others enjoy it. I preferred the surprise flower tub as toy train on the way out.
On the lovely long stretch of river walk to Dewsbury I spotted no art activity at all. Just some functional and dull graffiti tags. The disused railway line offered plenty of tarmac and wall space for guerrilla art, but nothing until we came upon a random panda. Annie agreed to pose with it.
We knew we would at some point enter into the art Badlands, the empty quarter, and today it felt we were there. This is ironic given that the Yorkshire Print Workshop (an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation) is situated in Mirfield and does amazing work. They have a shop and exhibition space and we recommend a visit.
Annie: Another completely different day of walking. After yesterday's challenging route finding, today was a piece of cake. There were roads or marked footpaths right on the river almost the whole way, mostly passable with ease, even where the sign said 'Trespassers will be prosecuted'... We ignored it.
There were a lot of firsts today. The first wheat field was a sign that we are heading out of the Pennines and into flat agricultural land. We also saw our first signs of real wealth and real poverty. Walking out of Mirfield on a road alongside the river we glimpsed huge houses and gardens as we passed their driveways, before walls and hedges obscured our view. Then finishing the walk and heading into Dewsbury to look for a cup of tea, the beautiful architecture speaks of the successful trade of the past, but the extreme 'left behind-ness' of the current life of this community is clear from the boarded up shops and bleak town centre. The town needs a huge investment to turn it around and give local people some options.
We also had our first conversation with a teenager. We clambered up a steep bank to get a better view and surprised the poor lad as he walked along the disused railway track that spans the river. But to his credit, he started up a conversation. 'You're daring coming up there, what's down there anyway?' We told him about the path along the river. 'It's marked private, but anyone can put up a private sign, and it doesn't mean that you can't walk there' we told him. 'Where does this path go' we asked, 'It goes to Heckmondwyke, have you heard of it?'. It was the perfect opportunity to tell him we were walking to Hull, but we were too shy.
Looking for a place to eat our lunch not long afterwards, we stepped down, off the path and sat on a patch of grass only a foot or so above the water, surrounded by tall grasses. The sun was hot on our backs and I wondered if we could swim. There is no sign that people do, and we have seen no boats today. The river feels like an underused resource.
This is the end of our first phase, and it has been a wonderful start. We'll walk again later in September.
Ending the fourth stage at Dewsbury
Finally, here is the last selection of river images until next time: