Marsden Moor Revisited

Marsden Moor
I’ve written about Marsden Moor quite extensively already on this blog (here and here), but it is always good to revisit and take the opportunity to find something new.

I find that whenever I visit Pule Hill, the temptation is to head straight for the top. That is exactly what I did on a recent visit with my nephews and niece recently.

As I was pointing out the ventilation shafts for the Stanage Tunnel , it struck me that I hadn’t ever taken the time to go and photograph the area on the side of the hill, usually bypassing it in favour of the summit.

So the next day I went back, armed with my camera and a determination to capture those industrial towers rising from the hillside. I found that unlike Redbridge Engine House on the other side of the, road (another relic related to construction of the Stanage Tunnel), the ventilation shafts weren’t quite so photogenic. Despite frequently changing lens, moving around the brick towers and trying different compositions, I just couldn’t settle upon an image that quite captured what I wanted.

Pule Hill Ruins

Fortunately, Pule Hill is rich in other features and eventually I eventually settled on the image above, in which the ventilation tower is relegated to a middle distance feature, with the course of the path and a ruined hut providing foreground interest.

Telegraph poles and the boardwalk over a particularly boggy section of path, also provided good subjects and I couldn’t resist having another crack at the old milestone at the foot of Pule Hill, which dates from the old turnpike road, build by Blind Jack Metcalf of Knaresborough.

I was a little disappointed that no light managed to break through, but I think that the dark skies suite the nature of the place well.

Path to Pule HillPule Hill Milestone

Deadmanstone

DeadmanstoneThe Deadmanstone at Berry Brow near Huddersfield, is a nearly forgotten outcrop of rock, through which a natural tunnel runs. Numerous legends surround this unassuming eruption of rock from the hillside, that may or may not explain how it came about its name.

Local folklore tells that in the days when the church at Almondbury served as the parish church for the Holme Valley, funeral processions passing the stone would stop and rest the coffin. A distant local memory also recalls that corpses would be taken from their coffins and pulled through the hole, before recommencing on their journey to Almondbury. Perhaps this represented some symbolic form of passage to another world.

Another legend is equally gruesome and gives various accounts that the remains of a ‘soldier’ were found walled up either at the stone (possibly in the tunnel) or somewhere nearby. Variants state that the soldier was either Roman or maybe a victim of Scottish Boarder Reivers, who raided deep into England. The legend isn’t specific about where or when the soldier was found and could possibly be transposed from the site of the (now demolished) Deadmanstone House or its medieval predecessor, which was a fortified manor house with deep cellars.

A further possibility could be that the Deadmanstone was the site of the burial of a prehistoric chief or warrior and the legend has become confused over the years. Indeed the name ‘Deadman’ could have been derived from ‘Dobman’ or ‘Dobbie’, a legendary shape-shifting spirit, popular in local lore and often associated with guardianship of burial places. The hole in the stone may also be associated with healing or ritual purposes, by passing through the stone as above.

The stone is also associated with another enduring legend that a tunnel leads from the nearby ancient fort of Castle Hill, about a mile away. Castle Hill is associated with a number of tunnel legends, which could possibly denote solar or lunar alignments from the hill. Or may have been influenced by the deep cellars of the former manor house, that stood on the land directly above the Deadmanstone, now occupied by a modern housing estate.

That so many legends are still attached to this odd outcrop is heartening. Especially as it now sits enclosed by modern housing and is often passed by cars entering and leaving the estate. A small remainder of Huddersfield’s past clings doggedly to the hillside, despite how its surroundings have changed.
Deadmanstone Berry Brow
Deadmanstone: Door to the Other World: Steve Sneyd, Northern Earth No. 99, 2004
Legends & Traditions of Huddersfield & Its District: Philip Ahier, 1944
The Old Stones of Elmet: Paul Bennett, 2001

A Moorland Grave Mound

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O gentle Spirit of the hills,
Come stay with me, and rest
Where rolls this lonely heather sea,
Grey-billowed to the west ;
The passion of the day hath died
Along yon fading height,
And white the stars like flowering thong
The garden of the night.

In upland hollows lies the mist,
In folds of silver grey,
And sleeping lies the harvest wind
Among the new mown hay ;
The moor crags rise against the sky,
A dark and ragged line,
And red along the dusky hills
The farm-house windows shine.

Far from the rude and noisy throng,
By some sweet impulse led,
I like among the grass that hides
The long-forgotten dead ;
And thou, meek spirit of the hills,
O hearken to my plea !
For fain would I miss this summer night
Go down the past with thee.

The purple flame of August ling,
The bracken green and deep,
The sweet, clear bugles of the wind
That play along the steep ;
The flush of dawn, the grey of eve,
The storms that rip and rave,
Have they not brought thee secrets from
This lonely moorland grave ?

Then say in what departed age
This simple mound was reared,
By what strange people of the past
With pagan rites and weird ?
Whence did they come, and whither gone
The unknown mountain race ?
Who found on this bird-haunted hill
A noble burial place ?

How lived they on these windy heights ?
What simple span was theirs ?
To what strange customs were they bound ?
To what god said their prayers ?
A speck of dust, a smear on Time,
Is all that we can see !
So much will future ages know
Of all my friends and me.

And who was laid with reverence here,
What mother, youth, or maid ?
Or stalwart father don to death
In some wild hunting raid ?
Or heathen seer whose name by all
The hillmen was revered ?
Or warrior chief whose spear of flint
Had made him great and feared ?

Perchance some maid, the loved of all,
The flower of her race,
Here gave to earth all that was her’s
Of loveliness and grace !
And here, maybe, some valiant youth
Was stretched upon the pyre !
While hapless kindred wailed around
The red cremating fire.

O well it is these ancient dead –
That their last sleep should be
Upon the high and heathery moor
Where all is wild and free !
Though dark and rude their earthly path,
Their gods to us unknown !
Are they less sacred than the dead
Beneath the sculptured stone ?

I feel sweet Spirit, thou art near,
So holy and profound !
I feel thy presence in the night
Above this grassy mound !
I hear thee speak a mystic tongue
In accents all divine !
A language that immortals speak
In other worlds than mine.

Good-night ! sweet Spirit, I am earth,
And dark and dull and foul,
And all unfit to question thee
Who art the purest soul !
And as I came, so I return,
Still leaning in thy trust !
What far off ages gave to thee
An ancient Britain’s dust.

 

Ammon Wrigley (1861-1946)
Songs of a Moorland Parish, 1912.

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.

On A Yorkshire Moor

Millstone Edge at Standedge, Overlooking Ammon Wrigley's birthplace in Saddleworth.

Millstone Edge at Standedge, Overlooking Ammon Wrigley’s birthplace in Saddleworth.

Over a hill the west wind loves,
There lies a quiet glen,
Far away from the roaring world,
Far from the strife of men ;
Out to the south a lordly wall
Reared by no human hands,
A cloud-dark wall that overlooks
The windy heather lands.

Crags to the north like fortress bold,
A proud arrogant steep,
That shelters from the raiding storms
The winter-harassed sheep ;
Out to the east a rising fell,
Striped like a tiger’s skin,
With raking flank of yellow grass,
And ribs of darksome whin.

And one grey rock, like pagan god,
Solemn as death, and lone,
That oft, maybe, the hill tribes made
Their ancient worship stone ;
The strange wild people of the past
Have vanished race on race,
And we, like shadows on the grass,
Now pass before its face.

And one clear stream ordained to be
The singer of the heath,
A fairy rising with her songs
From mystic wells beneath ;
The silver mist on wet May moors,
The wild autumnal rain,
That gave their music to the hill,
The stream gives back again.

A singer, that from ancient days
Hath charmed this purple height,
Still singing through the bracken green,
A chorister in white ;
And I poor singer, doomed to seek
My songs with weary thought,
Can never like this streamlet feel
The songs that rise unsought.

O’er pebbles, laid like Eastern floor,
With tiles of every hue,
A jewelled houri flashing down
Long corridors of blue,
And roaming seaward takes the wave,
A gift from moorland wells,
North Sea hath its grandeur from
The rugged Yorkshire fells.

And here there comes on driving wings,
Red-singed by autumn fires,
The Moorcock, lordliest bird that loves
The lusty northern shires ;
And here a falcon strikes across
The lark-hushed spaces high,
A moment-poised, then comes to earth,
A dagger from the sky.

And where the wind-song shakes the grass,
And all the hollow fills,
I lie and hold communion with
The spirit of the hills ;
And nought of greed of petty strife,
Or human fret is here,
But one great feeling sways the heart, –
To worship and revere.

A temple built by nature’s hands,
With transept, nave and aisle,
And hallowed by the holiness
Of some cathedral pile ;
A minster where Eternal rites
And harmonies abound,
The sky above, the moor below,
And the great God around.

Ammon Wrigley (1861-1946)
Songs of a Moorland Parish, 1912.

Here I’ve presented Ammon Wrigley’s ‘On a Yorkshire Moor’ in complete form, as there is little of Ammon’s work on-line and what there is, is either snippets or fragments.

Ammon Wrigley was one a Yorkshire’s greatest poets and as his books are now long out of print, only to be found via second hand book sellers (which can be a bit on the expensive side), I’ll be occasionally posting his work here to make sure that at least a small selection is freely accessible.

Ammon Wrigley’s work has been a huge inspiration to me and I hope to do my bit to make sure that he is not forgotten.

The many layers of landscape photography

What is it about landscape photography that makes me keep going back for more?

I spent much of one Sunday morning asking myself this question, as a ferocious wind did its damnedest to blast me off of Marsden Moor.

A wind blasted morning at Millstone Edge

A wind blasted morning at Millstone Edge

Crouched behind a large rock, which provided at least a little shelter from the grasping fingers of the Pennine wind, waiting for a break in the clouds, I began to ponder just what it was that had coaxed me out of bed at 4.00am and up on to the moor on a day like this. I spotted a jogger approaching, the only other living soul that I saw all morning. We waved at each other in grim solidarity, in recognition of each other’s battle with the elements.

It was this that made me realise that it was a question of motivation. I could have been happily snoozing in a warm bed, but it was the promise of possibilities that had lured me up to the moor. The prospect of capturing something unique and beautiful, that told a little of the story of this amazing and often overlooked corner of the British Isles.

In my mind, landscape photography is about much more than taking photographs. It isn’t about the amount of kit that you carry with you. All of the stuff that you read in photography magazines is about making you buy more products from their advertisers, not about making you a better photographer.

To me, landscape photography is about getting to know your locations inside out. Appreciating how  geology has formed the shape of the land, how human interaction has affected its appearance and the values that have been placed upon it. Going back time after time, experiencing locations in all seasons and weather conditions. After a while, you learn to read the landscape before you. Knowing where the sun will rise and set at any given time of year and which angles you can effectively photograph. How history has interacted with the landscape, building up layers of meaning and telling the story of the location.

Muddy moorland tracks

Muddy moorland tracks

Hidden beauty! It is surprising what beauty can be found in a bit of boggy moorland

Hidden beauty! It is surprising what beauty can be found in a bit of boggy moorland

I have already written about the history of Marsden Moor here and here. Also about the area’s greatest son, Ammon Wrigley here. As you walk (or on this occasion, stagger) across the moor, you are surrounded by history. Every hilltop around you has something on it. Fragments of flint left by Mesolithic hunters, or burials left by Bronze Age farmers. Down in the valley of Castleshaw, the Romans built two forts, driving their road northwards over the moor and around Pule Hill. Angles, Saxons and Vikings made their farmsteads in the area (one Viking losing a gold ring in Chew Valley, over the hill in Saddleworth). The Normans used much of the area around Huddersfield for hunting, building their castle at Castle Hill nearby.

The industrial revolution swept through the area, bringing textile manufacture and sowing the seeds of the early Labour Movement throughout the valleys, in the shape of Luddites, Plug Rioters and Chartists. History even passes under your feet here, in the shape of the Standedge Tunnels. Redbrook engine house was used to haul rock out of the tunnel and you can still even see the rows in which the rock was tipped from carts on the spoil heaps surrounding the building. As the narrowest point of the Pennines, Standedge has for millennia, been the place where transport routes cross the hills.

The drystone wall outlines of fields wrestled from the moor, now lie jumbled, as the moor once again takes back its own. The Pennine Way crosses the moor. A symbol of hard won victories by our forefathers (in this case particularly Tom Stephenson) in wrestling access to the land from the ownership of the privileged few, for the enjoyment of the many. A battle fought famously on Kinder Scout, just a couple of hilltops away from here.

A small section of the Pennine Way, as it crosses Marsden Moor
A small section of the Pennine Way, as it crosses Marsden Moor

 

Light breaking around the Pennine Way on Marsden Moor
Light breaking around the Pennine Way on Marsden Moor

I feel a deep connection with the Southern Pennines, particularly the areas around Huddersfield where I was born and where my father took me walking when I was as a child. The sense of wonder at the contrasts between the industrialised valleys, with dark mills and grim looking factories, clustering around the rivers and canals, and the wild hilltops has never left me. Once I left school and began work in those foreboding places, where daylight hardly penetrated through over a century of accumulated grime, those wild and airy hilltops became even more important as a means of escape. A liminal place to dream of better things. Maybe this is one of the reasons why the Chartists took their meetings on to the hills. Not just to evade the watchful eye of authority, but to take their ideas to a place where freedom is tangible and ideas are received by the expansive sky, rather than the stamping boot of oppression.

Most of those factories are now gone. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Milnsbridge, which once bristled with mill chimneys. I am just about old enough to remember the last few that rose out of Colne Valley. I would stand on the hillside above Manchester Road, where I played as a child and marvel at their height, the sense of space and depth that they created. But they have now passed into history and many of the mills have been scoured of that accumulated grime and turned into flats.

Even though those old places of toil are now largely gone, the open spaces of the Pennines are still as important now as they ever were. Work in places of production may have been replaced with work in places of service. Job security has been replaced with fear of redundancy, our wages stagnated and our rights eroded by temporary or zero hour contracts. Where austerity has replaced hope of a better future for ordinary people, we once again need those open spaces to dream of better things. Places that allow the human spirit to soar and our ideas to take form, away from the suffocating grasp of an increasingly judgemental media and the authoritarian tone that is pervading society.

Fast moving clouds on a windy Millstone Edge

Fast moving clouds on a windy Millstone Edge

It is these layers of history, threads of intertwining meaning stretching back in to early human development and beyond, that fuel my passion for these hills. Over the course of thousands of years, people have come and gone, each using the landscape in different ways, each placing different meanings on the land.

Those layers remain, waiting for us to discover them. And that is the thing that motivates me out of bed and onto the hills, to take up the promise of discovery. Another chance to untangle those layers, using my viewfinder as a frame to tell those stories and the various screens that we place in front of ourselves to advertise the importance of these places. To remind people in the present, that those who went before us placed values on the landscape that transcend our modern interpretations.

Our landscapes and access to them must be protected, for they belong to us all. Including everyone who has been here before us, those of us who are here now and those who will follow us. The weight of custodianship is upon us and in order to protect them, we need to understand and appreciate our landscapes first.

As I crouched behind that stone on Marsden Moor, I could almost see Ammon Wrigley striding up onto the moor as he would have done 100 years ago. The Pennine wind pulling at his coat and scarf, past the Dinner Stone, where his ashes were scattered. It is his words that I think may be most pertinent to end this piece.

The strange wild people of the past
Have vanished race on race,
And we, like shadows on the grass,
Now pass before its face.

Ammon Wrigley, On a Yorkshire Moor

Sunrise at Northern Rotcher

Sunrise on Northern Rotcher

 

 

 

Ammon Wrigley

Ammon Wrigley

Ammon Wrigley

If you venture up on to Millstone Edge, at Standedge on Marsden Moor, you will be in good company. This little corner of the Pennines was so loved by local poet, writer and historian Ammon Wrigley, that his ashes were scattered near the Dinner Stone.

The views over Saddleworth overlook the places where he was born, raised and lived his whole, long life. Look closer and you will spot his memorial plaque. Now sat between those of his two daughters.

The Wrigley Plaques

THE ASHES OF
AMMON WRIGLEY
BELOVED WRITER OF SADDLEWORTH
FOLK-LORE, PROSE AND POEMS,
WERE SCATTERED FROM THIS SPOT

ON THE 14TH SEPTEMBER
— 1946 —

HIS WAS THE SWEET AND GENEROUS SOUL
THAT LOVED NOT SELF ALONE
BUT TO OUR POORER NATURES GAVE
THE FRAGRANCE OF HIS OWN.

WINDS OF THE PENNINES FRESH AND FREE
YOU WERE EVER GOOD FRIENDS TO ME
OUT ON THE MOORS FROM MORN TILL EVE
HAPPY WITH YOU AND LOATHE TO LEAVE.

SO OVER THE HILLS I’LL TAKE MY WAY
AND MATE WITH THE WILD AND FREE
TILL MY DUST IS FLUNG TO THE WINDS
IN MY HILL COUNTRY.

Ammon Wrigley’s writings display the heart and soul of the Pennines. His love of those rocky uplands and the people that inhabited them, shines through his work. This is his story.

Born on October 10th 1861, at Far Hey, near Oxhey in Denshaw, into a typical working class family of the time. His father Thomas worked in the local mills, as did his mother Mary (nee Waddington). They later moved to Millcroft in Castleshaws Valley, where Ammon attended school.

Young Ammon received only the most basic education and suffered at the hands of poverty:

One of the blackest memories of my early years is of a Christmas time. Work at the mill had been bad for over a month, and we were never more poverty stricken. We had no paraffin for our lamp and barely a barrowful of coal. If a neighbour woman had come into our house on the Christmas Eve, she would have seen a father, mother and two little lads sitting in silence and gloom as they watched a few red cinders die down in the grate.”

And one grey rock, like pagan god, Solemn as death, and lone, That oft, maybe, the hill tribes made Their ancient worship stone. On a Yorkshire Moor (except)

And one grey rock, like pagan god,
Solemn as death, and lone,
That oft, maybe, the hill tribes made
Their ancient worship stone.
On a Yorkshire Moor (excerpt)

In 1870 at the age of nine, Ammon began working half days at Johnny Mill, where his mother and father worked, later moving to Linfitts Mill. Ammon was quick to observe the irony that man had to toil away his days, while the cattle could laze away their days in the sunlight fields.

His love of writing began early. He was seven when his father awarded him three pence in appreciation of a poem that he had written about a wayside well. He would often recite Shakespeare for the amusement of his father’s friends.

Ammon was more than just a poet. His books gather up the soul of Saddleworth and describe a world now lost to us. He wrote of the local characters of the area, such as Joe of Ragstones:

The only scrap of homestead left in the neighbourhood is on the edge of the moors, a gable of Ragstones, famous as being once the home of an eccentric and somewhat scholarly recluse named Joseph Radcliffe, better known in the dales as “Joe o’th’ Ragstones.” The old-folk custom of calling men by the names of their farmsteads still prevails in Saddleworth.

Old Joe had a great deal of the hermit in his nature, and cared little for human company. He lived what is now called the simple life, just for the love of it, not as men do now, – merely to advertise themselves. The thing he set great store upon were his books, his dogs, and his lonely, battered old homestead. He had read much, and his knowledge of French history, particularly of the great Napoleonic period, was held to be fairly exhaustive. (1)

He had a keen interest in the history of Saddleworth and would often collect flints from March Hill. He rediscovered the Roman fort at Castleshaw. Originally rediscovered by Thomas Percival in 1752, but subsequently lost again under the plough.

One warm, dreamy morning in the August of 1897, I chanced to be idling away and hour in one of the high fields above Broadhead. As I looked lazily across the valley, I suddenly saw the complete outlines of the Roman Station at Castleshaw. Giving the field a careful survey I quickly realised that what I had just seen was no trick of the imagination, but, on the contrary, was a very tangible fact. Perhaps I was assisted to the identification by the fact that I was fresh from reading “Forty miles round Manchester,” an old 18th century work which contains a plan of the Castleshaw fort. It may seem a remarkable confession, yet it is none the less true that, although I was reared close to Castleshaw and had roamed over the camp field hundreds of times both before and after I knew something of its archaeological importance, I had seen nothing. I had entirely failed to observe the outlines which had been so clearly revealed to me that morning from the fields across the valley. What had remained, at close quarters, broken, detached, and unintelligible, when seen from a distance formed a compact whole, easily identified. (2)

Overlooking Castleshaws from Northern Rotcher on Millstone Edge

Overlooking Castleshaws from Northern Rotcher on Millstone Edge

He also carried out excavation work at the fort, although his methods would undoubtedly make modern archaeologist baulk!

Castleshaw (extract)
Where the lordly moors of Stanedge
Shake the meadows from their feet,
Where the wind-words heather-scented,
Shape themselves to language sweet :

There in the weeds of silent mourning,
Lines of pain about thy brow,
Grey, old-fashioned country hamlet,
Sad and ruined standest thou.

Widely published during his lifetime, the Ammon Wrigley Fellowship was formed in 1931, to meet annually and celebrate his work while he was still alive. The Fellowship, already numbering over 200 members, held its first annual dinner in 1933. Ammon, well known for disliking public functions, did not attend due to the sudden onset of a ‘cold’. He was persuaded to attend subsequent dinners however and the Fellowship also organised outings to many of the locations featured in Ammon’s poems. The Fellowship lasted up to 1983.

Ammon died on 31st August 1946. His ashes were scattered near the Dinner Stone, as per his instructions, on a stormy September 14th by members of the Ammon Wrigley Fellowship. It is said that when Harry Walne, President of the Fellowship, opened the casket, the wind seized the ashes and carried them up and away.

The Dinner Stone

The Dinner Stone

The Dinner Stone
Where the old rock stands weathered and lone
And black as night, turned into stone,
There’s a green church I call my own,
Take my ashes and scatter them there,
Roughly or kindly, just as you care.

Ammon loved Saddleworth and its people, but his main love was the Pennine Moorland around the area that he was born and raised. Most of his books are now long out of print and can be hard to find. However, it is still possible to piece together a collection by scouring second hand bookshops and keeping watch on various websites.

My response to Ammon’s work is very personal. I find it a source of wonder and inspiration that this man visited the exact same places that I now visit, one hundred years before me and felt much the same awe and attachment that I now feel. His words echo perfectly the sentiment of my photographs of this area, although separated by the passage of a century. When out on the moors around Saddleworth and Marsden, his words ring through my head and I am very conscious that I am following his footsteps.

Ammon's spot

Ammon’s spot

Ammon died twenty years before I was born. I would have loved to have met him and walked the moors with him, or conversed with him in the corner of an old stone Saddleworth pub. We are fortunate however that he left his knowledge behind in his numerous books and that his collections are preserved in the area where they were compiled, at Saddleworth Museum. I would urge anyone to visit that wonderful facility. The £2 admission fee is more than worthwhile and I would even suggest a small donation to help keep it open.

It seems fitting to leave the final words with Ammon:

I could wander through a hundred cathedrals, I could hear a hundred learned divines preach from carved oak pulpits, I could hear a hundred surpliced choirs sing the Nunc Dimittis and feel more impressed than if someone had whistled in my ear ; but I could not tramp across a solitary stretch of moor without being moved by some deep and incomprehensible influence ; the silence, the vastness, and the awesome mystery of the great waste lands awake a feeling which, if not exactly reverence, is closely akin to it. I sometimes wonder if this feeling is merely an impression produced by great contrasts, say, where one has been hemmed in all week by man, ­− his works and his artificialities, − and then comes to be set down among the calm sincerities of lonely moorlands, where mighty forces, obeying unwritten laws, work silently and unceasingly age after age. The moors take the pride out of a man, the humble him by making the span of his life seem even more trivial than it really is ; their vastness makes his smallness even smaller ; to be conscious of this feeling now and then does a man good, it sets him square with himself and prevents him from having a “ swellhead.” (3)

Saddleworth from Millstone Edge, Standedge

Saddleworth from Millstone Edge, Standedge

(1)  Lurden and Joe o’th’ Ragstones – Songs of a Moorland Parish 1912.

(2)  The First Excavations of the Roman Camp at Castleshaw – Songs of a Moorland Parish 1912.

(3)  Songs of a Moorland Parish 1912.

Many of the details of Ammon’s life were taken from Sam Seville’s book, With Ammon Wrigley in Saddleworth.