A Morning at Whitley Edge

A cloudy morning on Royd Moor

A cloudy morning on Royd Moor

As far as sunrises go, it was about as bad as it could get. I could see when I awoke, that the skies were laden with cloud. But you don’t really know what it is going to happen until you are there and often some of the best shots come from the worst conditions. Those moments when the sun punches through the cloud and produces dramatic light don’t come from clear blue skies.

Besides, it feels like a bit of a cop-out to go back to sleep once you have taken the trouble to haul yourself up at stupid o’clock and I was keen to get out anyway. So at 5.15am on a Sunday morning in Spring, I found myself gazing at grey leaden skies above Royd Moor, near Penistone.

An 18th century guide stoop, with wall built around it.

An 18th century guide stoop, with wall built around it.

I’ve shot around Royd Moor numerous times, as there are some wonderful views towards Woodhead Pass and Black Hill. Also, it has some fascinating old stone walls that probably date back to the Enclosures Act (I have written about High Bank Lane on this blog previously), but I’ve not been there for sunrise before and was curious to see how it would pan out.

Even when the sky is obscured by cloud, there is often a bright patch to indicate where the sun will rise. Sometimes even a gap in the cloud through which a chink of light can develop. This morning there was nothing! I had parked near the observation point that looks out over the wind turbines on Spicer Hill, as I knew that this would offer the clearest views of the eastern horizon and walked a short way down High Bank Lane. Sunrise came and went unheralded, not even a noticeable increase in light levels. Still, it was a good morning for black and white, so I rattled off a few hopeful shots of some of my favourite views.

Across the fields to Crow Edge.

Across the fields to Crow Edge.

As the time was about 5.45am, it was far too early to admit defeat, so I decided to head for nearby Whitley Edge. Another favourite spot that is hidden away above Crow Edge that hasn’t been photographed to death, like some of the more popular locations.

I was also keen to take another look at the ruins of Lower Whitley Farm, as it had been used as the set for external shots of Jamaica Inn, in the recent BBC adaptation. This is another spot that I have photographed a few times and I noticed that the production team had made quite a few changes, such as removing the wall around the yard, clearing rubble and building a few extra bits of set.

The ruins of Lower Whitley Farm at Crow Edge.

The ruins of Lower Whitley Farm at Crow Edge.

The ruins of the old farm are a perfect setting for a period tale of dark doings. Brooding on Crow Edge, the decaying hulk is surrounded by boggy fields and collapsing dry stone walls. I find that abandoned buildings often have a melancholy air about them. It is as if the fabric of the building soaks up the lives of its past inhabitants, their hopes and fears, laughter and arguments and allows those stored up emotions to seep out as the building decays. Lower Whitley Farm has this in spades.

The building is now fenced off, although just a few years ago, it was open for exploration. A small farmhouse is attached to a series of barns, with the largest of these set centrally behind a fantastic arched doorway. One of the smaller barns still has the rotting remains of wooden stalls for animals. How many more winters the old roof will last is anyone’s guess.

I worked my way around the house, lining up views through old gateways and trying a few shots through the fence. It was then that I noticed scurrying movement around me, in the reeds that cluster around the boggy patches. Hares were racing after each other in pursuit of a female, oblivious to my presence. I sat and watched them for a while. I may not have got much by the way of light but sometimes it’s just good to be out!

Whitley Edge, looking towards Crow Edge and Hepworth.

Whitley Edge, looking towards Crow Edge and Hepworth.

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Royd Moor, Thurlstone

The view across Millhouse Green towards Thurlstone Moor and the Woodhead Pass.

The view across Millhouse Green towards Thurlstone Moor and the Woodhead Pass.

Rising high out of the Pennine mill village of Thurlstone, near Penistone, is an unprepossessing side road named High Bank Lane. As it rises up the hillside it becomes a trackway, leading to Royd Moor, some spectacular Yorkshire views and a few interesting fragments of history along the way.

Thurlstone dates from at least the Saxon period and derives its name from a combination of the Anglo-Saxon term ‘tun’ (meaning fenced area or enclosure) and the Old Danish personal name ‘Thurulf’, suggesting that a settlement already existed when it was taken over by the Vikings and named after the local lord.

A possible ancient boundary stone on High Bank Lane

A possible ancient boundary stone on High Bank Lane

As the track climbs out of the village and past the fields, a very peculiar stone stands out from its drystone wall surround. A roughly triangular shaped boulder (which would once have stood alone before the wall was built), with a sub-circular depression in the centre. On here a rude cross has been carved (looking very much like it has been carried out with modern tools, and is very smooth and polished to the touch).

My guess is that it once existed as some form of marker, possibly a boundary stone. Despite searching, references have been impossible to find, so if there is anyone out there that has any information of any kind about this curious stone, I would love to learn more about it.

An old guide stoop, embedded in the wall

An old guide stoop, embedded in the wall

It seems almost certain that the track would once have been used as a packhorse route and this is supported by a very old guide stoop near the top of the lane. In 1697, it was ordered that guide posts be erected on the moors where routes intersected. Mile posts were made compulsory on all turnpike roads in 1767, although it is unlikely that this track was ever a turnpike.

Pointing the way to Huddersfield (other directions are no doubt hidden by the wall), the guide stoop certainly predates the drystone wall that is built around it. Probably built around the time of Thurlstone’s Act for enclosing common land, which was passed in 1812 (Penistone followed in 1819). The style of carving looks to place the stoop around the mid 18th century.

The track becomes a modern road surface, once it reaches Spicer House Lane, which continues for approximately a further 4km, until it reaches the A635 Doncaster to Manchester road, near New Mill.

Spicer Hill observation platform

Spicer Hill observation platform

A noticeable feature of the moor at this point, are the wind turbines on Spicer Hill. In fact, a viewing platform has been built that commands an excellent view over them. As well as a number of reservoirs that catch the water draining off of these moors.

Continue past Broadstone Revervoir, to the junction of Windmill Lane, turn towards High Flats and you will find the faint remains of an earthwork dating from either the Iron Age, or Romano-British period, at a place appropriately named Castle Hill.

If anyone does have any information regarding the stone described above on High Bank Lane, please contact me via my website.

Sunset on High Bank Lane

Sunset on High Bank Lane