Literary Trails: Haworth and the Brontës (David F. Walford and Catherine Rayner)

Here is a  review by Cally Phillips from the latest newsletter of  the Alliance of Literary Societies (ALS) –  of a publication on literary trails – which may be of interest to our members.

Review:
A new publication from Sword and Pen titled ‘Literary Trails: Haworth and the Brontës’, co-authored by siblings David F. Walford and Catherine Rayner, does a great job of evoking a sense of place in and around Haworth at the time of the Brontës.

The book comprises 20 chapters, featuring 19 walks, including all the places you would expect (and a few more). There are walks in and around the built and natural environment suitable for all from easy to strenuous – as well as those undertaken from the armchair. There is a pleasing structure, with each walk broken down into clear sections including: context, description, fact file, map and photographs; so that even if you can’t personally undertake the walks, you feel as if you have been there.

It is a very practical guide for walkers, but still of general interest to Brontë enthusiasts. The first five chapters provide both some basic guidelines regarding the area and walking, and a brief history of the area and the Brontë family. While this offers nothing really new for those who ‘know their Brontës’, the pictures give a good sense of place and the background is good for those who are coming to the Brontës for the first time. The whole book is well illustrated with black and white pictures and twenty four maps which are both valuable and interesting, making this the kind of book you could read before your walk. Of course colour pictures would have been better, but that would have seriously increased the cost of the publication, and this is not a coffee table book, it’s a practical book which is portable enough to throw in a daysack as you head out to explore Brontë country.
I particularly enjoyed reading about the walks in Haworth itself. It’s many years since I was there and the photographs and description brought it clearly back to my memory while adding some images and information I was not familiar with. The detailed guide through Haworth church and graveyard was particularly informative. The outdoor walks sometimes felt a bit loose in their Brontë connection, and I never figured out exactly where or what ‘The Brontë Way’ was, but beyond the most obvious locations of Penistone Crags and Top Withins, there are walks which evoke the natural landscape as it might have been when the Brontës walked it, and with Ponden Hall, Brontë Bridge, Oxenthorpe, Lumb Foot, Thornton and the local railways all included it really does offer a comprehensive experience.

At £14.99 if you are interested in the Brontës, and fancy taking your own personal literary tour, this is a purchase well worth making. Or if you are far away from Haworth but want to feel as if you are there – this is the best book I’ve read to achieve that goal!
Cally Phillips
Galloway Raiders/J.M.Barrie Society

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