Haworth and the Brontes Book ReviewPosted: 2019-04-03
The historic Yorkshire town of Haworth will forever be linked to one extraordinary family; the Brontes. Patrick Bronte was appointed as the vicar of Haworth in 1820 and moved into the 18th-century parsonage beside St Michael and All Angels Church with his wife Maria and their six children.
Maria and two of the six children tragically died shortly after, but the remaining four children - Anne, Charlotte, Emily and Branwell - carved out a remarkable literary legacy.
Today, the parsonage where the four Bronte siblings grew up is a destination for thousands of tourists each year, keen to experience for themselves the house where the Brontes lived and the landscape that shaped their lives and inspired timeless novels like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.
Our family have been among those tourists, and we enjoyed exploring the Old Parsonage, the picturesque town of Haworth itself, and taking the walk up into the moors to see Bronte Falls and Top Withens, the place that inspired Wuthering Heights.
We enjoyed exploring Haworth enormously, but I do have one regret.
I regret that we didn't have a copy of 'Haworth and the Brontes' by David F Walford and Catherine Rayner with us. If we had, we'd have enjoyed the experience so much more and discovered more of what makes Haworth and its surroundings such a wonderful literary landscape.
I can't praise this wonderful guidebook highly enough. The authors have created a 'must-have' guide to all things Haworth and Bronte, from history and biography to step-by-step maps and guides to Haworth and the moors that the Brontes knew so well.
This more than just a guidebook, it is a walking guide, biography, trip planner and illustrated 'how-to' for exploring Haworth and the surrounding moors. It even has a section on how to safely enjoy walking on the moors, where quickly changing weather conditions can surprise even the most experienced walkers.
You don't have to be an outdoor enthusiast to enjoy this book. One of the big surprises for me was a room by room guide to the Bronte Parsonage, detailing exactly what you are seeing in the museum displays and how the Bronte family lived in each part of the house. The detail in this section is extraordinary.
Then there is a guided walk of Haworth Church and a second tour around the graveyard. You can link this walk with a longer circular route taking in the new Haworth cemetery and a circular guided walk of Haworth's picturesque town centre.
Then there are nine longer walking trails into the neighbouring countryside. One walk takes you to Bronte Bridge and waterfall, and this can be combined with a longer walk up onto the moors to Top Withens. If you fancy something a bit more challenging there are several walks using the Worth Valley Railway (WVR) for an outward-bound leg to nearby stations, returning by footpaths.
All of the suggested walks include Ordnance Survey map recommendations, Grid References for the start/finish points, distance and difficulty ratings. What really makes the walks come alive, however, is the way the authors have included quotes from the Brontes showing how each area affected them personally or helped inspire their writing.
The final chapter is a very thought-provoking essay on 'The Art of Walking and its effect on the Brontes', showing how important walking was in the Brontes lives and how it helped bring them into a close connection with the landscape around the Haworth home.
The book is profusely illustrated with black & white photographs and 24 walking maps.
I wouldn't call this extremely readable book a walking guide (though it is that) or a travel guide (though it is that, too). I wouldn't even call it a biography (though it is certainly that). I would call it a companion, a friend to take with you as you explore Bronte Country. It is obvious that Rayner and Walkford have a deep knowledge and an abiding love of their subject matter, and they have done an outstanding job of bringing that knowledge and love to life in a very readable, extremely enjoyable way.
'Haworth and the Brontes' is available on Amazon and direct from the publishers, Pen and Sword Books.