Bleak beauty of wind-scoured rooftop of Yorkshire

PIC: Bruce Rollinson
PIC: Bruce Rollinson
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It’s not hard to see where the Brontë sisters got inspiration for their bleak descriptions of Yorkshire – especially when you glance at this week’s picture, which shows the sun rising above the frosty ruins of Top Withens, Haworth, high in the Pennines.

The landscape evokes images from Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, while the skeletal remains of the farmhouse stand forlorn and largely roofless, with only two nearby trees for company, their leafless branches scratching at an azure winter sky.

Every year thousands of visitors to Haworth follow the three-mile moorland track to that ruined farmhouse, which is thought to have been built in the latter half of the 16th century. It was certainly inhabited when the Brontës were alive – in fact, it was inhabited right up to 1926.

Although there is no direct mention of the farmhouse in any of the Brontë writings, comments made in 1827 by Birstall-born Ellen Nussey, a lifelong friend of Charlotte, seem to indicate the sisters would have been familiar with it and furthermore that it was used as the inspiration for the farmhouse of Wuthering Heights.

If proof were needed that it remains a bleak spot, it came in March last year when the Calder Valley Mountain Rescue team notched up their 1,000th rescue after responding to reports of a woman having injured her leg in the area.

Top Withens is also the turning point for the annual New Year’s Eve Auld Lang Syne race, organised by Calder Valley Fell Runners. The event attracts hundreds of entrants, many of whom take part in fancy dress, meeting at the old quarry at Penistone Hill, Haworth, before setting out across the windswept landscape toward the old farmhouse.

Although there were no crops to harvest, Top Withens was an important outpost for the textile trade.

The last of Top Withens’ residents was Ernest Roddie who moved in to the farm building in 1921. He reportedly once said: “A man can’t be lonely at Wuthering Heights. I’ve been here the worst half of the year and I’ve been surprised to see people here on the most wretched of days.”

Tech details: Nikon D4, 17-35mm Nikkor, 30th sec @f11, 100asa.