Sunday, 4 July 2010


Sorry to have so rubbish about keeping this up to date recently. My companion blog about my moth trap has kept me busy, and there's always a little light journalism for the Guardian to get done. But I have to post today, after one of the most extraordinary experiences in my Northern reporting life: Penny and I spent the day at Castle Carr and saw its amazing fountain come to life.

I'm blogging about this on my True North blogspot because it is a wonderful example of the 'green and the grey' Northern countryside which forms one of the chapters in the book. The ruined Victorian hunting 'lodge' (actually a 17-bedroom castle which makes the Devonshires' place at Bolton Abbey look like a cottage) is at the head of a lovely, lovely valley which is also full of monuments to Calderdale's great industrial past. Some bring tears to your eyes, such as the gravestones of 'orphan child workers' at Wainstalls mill (now converted into flats), but others like Castle Carr have you jumping up and down with glee. The estate belongs to a characterful farmer and retired magistrate called Frank Schofield, a piratical figure with an eye patch and long white hair, who opens it every now and then for good causes.

The fountain is its glory. Even at Chatsworth, I have not seen a plume to match this - a vast column of peaty spray thrust upwards by simple gravity descent from a reservoir on the moors high above. On the way home with our friends Brian and Elaine Craven, to whom unlimited thanks for inviting us along, we went through little paradises such as Jowlers (see pic above) and Booth. I could die of happiness but won't. Here are some more pics...

The ruined castle from across the valley:

And here it is close-up (a previous owner seems to have had ambitions to use it as a quarry, but what's left is in good hands now):

Here's the ground-plan when it was sold in 1874 after the poor guy who built it, Captain Joseph Priestley Edwards of Fixby Hall, near the M62 at Ainley Top, died in a train crash and his family weren't interested in keeping it on. Thanks to the very nice gentleman who lives nearby and brought these plans along to the Cat-i-th-Well pub where we ended the walk with Timothy Taylor's and a hog roast:

Now, this is what the fuss is all about. Looks quiet, doesn't it?

But what's this?

And this?

and THIS?

No wonder that brollies sprouted like mushrooms....

Because here's the fountain at its glorious peak (and it lasted for 15 minutes, until the moor-top reservoir was almost drained):

I'll find out when it's next going to be open and will post here, to let you know and spread the word. Oh, and further to prove my True North points, P and I and the Cravens saw a notice at a farm on the way back saying Eggs For Sale. A lad appeared and we asked to buy half-a-dozen. "We've only quails' eggs left," he said, apologetically. New North - True North - or what?


  1. Dear Martin,

    I was very interested to see your pictures of Castle Carr. Luddenden is one of my favourite places and although I have walked around the edge of the grounds, I have never been there when it is open, so will keep an eye out for next time - though it's a long way from Oxford where I am a Yorkshireman in exile.

    I've just finished True North (hence finding your blog). It struck so many chords, and at a personal level too as I knew your father through my involvement with the Liberal Party. I ran the Delph area in the 1966 election (when I was an undergraduate at Manchester) and met him many times later. Whilst I think your emphasis on the 'new' north is absolutely right, there is a price to be paid. Your mention of the invasion of Headingley by students was one sour note. I lived there from 1996 to 2004 and saw the local community badly damaged by private landlords buying up all the houses and the subsebquent closure of useful shops and their replacement by fast food and bars aimed at students. The same thing has happened in areas of Manchester and Sheffield, two other cities I have lived in and still have links with. And the Miners' Strike - my head agrees with you but my heart finds it difficult. I was living in Sheffield then; it felt like being in a country under occupation and clarified a lot of my political views which until then had been rather cloudy and nebulous - woolly liberalism, I suppose.

    Sorry to go on at such length!

    Best wishes,


  2. Hi John!

    How nice to hear from you - and happy memories of those great campaigning days in Colne Valley. I'm just chatting to my wife while preparing supper together, and your message reminded her of how I canvassed in the 1979 election which fell - tacingly so far as family emotions went - only a week before our wedding. Conscious that Dad losing the seat would cast a shadow over my own bliss, I promised a family in Running Hill Gate that I would send them a postcard from my honeymoon nest if they voted Liberal. I did, and Penny always teases me about the fact that I did this when I should have been concentrating on her (many) charms in Crete. At least I concentrated on them for the rest of the fortnight...

    I take your points about Headingley and South Yorkshire, though I think the students do more harm than good on balance, and SY has emerged a better, more diverse and interesting place from the admittedly agonising drama of the strike and the attrition of jobs in steel.

    All warmest wishes - do get in touch via My Mum thrives. Oh and check out Castle Carr via the Courier and other means. It is wonderfully worth the walk.


  3. Was up at the gravyard to-day.It has taken me some time to find it. I cycled over there from Colne lancs. THE grave is very poignant but good to see that someone cares for it; I wonder who. I don't doubt that the Calverts, like most slave owners, would have said that they cared well for the chidren. I really cannot get it out of my mind. Joe M.

  4. If you mean the orphans grave in the little graveyard, I used to walk up there with my dog, always found the gravestone and thought about the poor children. one day I went further over among the graves, just felt a bit strange, my dog came running past me towards the gate, I was right behind her, never felt able to go in there again, don't know why.