Off to Heptonstall in Search of a Grave

Whew. Today was the first time in ages that I was able to get away for a few hours. I keep hoping to be able to get away to Leeds for a day, but that’s looking less and less likely. At least, I could look for something close by to do today and the answer was obvious, visit the ancient village of Heptonstall, which towers over Hebden Bridge. As the crow flies, I am about 0.5KM from the centre of Heptonstall, but I have to go all the way down into the valley, cross the river, and climb up to Heptonstall, so it is quite a trek!

Take a second here to check out the Heptonstall Parish website. You’ll know why when you get there. 😉

Heptonstall is a quaint place to visit for its churches and ancient buildings, but it is probably best known for being the final resting place of author Sylvia Plath. I don’t pretend to be a huge connoisseur of her (it’s been so long since I read The Bell Jar that I barely remember it), but she asked a question that I asked myself many times before setting off on my life by design:

Why can’t I try on different lives, like dresses, to see which one fits me and is most becoming?

Why not indeed? I sure didn’t find a valid answer.

Standing on my porch, sort of looking towards Heptonstall:

I headed down to the village, but where I normally turn left, I turned right to cross this bridge.

When I came home, there were archers practicing on this field.

Looking back towards Hebden before starting the climb up.

I somehow missed the staircase on the trip home and end up going down this super muddy path with only barbed wire to hold on to. That was fun.

At the top of the staircase, I followed a pretty path for a bit.

Climbing up above Hebden.

I eventually found myself on a very rough road with tons of caution signs to truck drivers.

My boots were a bit muddy.

I then had to walk along this road without a footpath.

Hebden’s layout is becoming clearer.

Just in case anyone has any doubt as to where I am, the slow sign being the wrong way should narrow it down.

Blue sky, just for a bit. I’d been switchbacking to this point and was at my final turn. I now have to follow that fence you see at the lower left. It’s now a straight climb to Heptonstall.

I loved how there were these super narrow breaks in the wall for people to squeeze through to reach sheds and footpaths.

I made it!

I made a note of the tearoom as I thought that I might have earned a cream tea!

There is a walk you can do in Heptonstall to see all the sights, but I really didn’t have that much time. So I headed straight for the churches and graveyards.

These are the ruins of the original village church.

And there’s new church.

Quoting from a plaque:

“The original church, dedicated to the martyred archbishop St Thomas à Becket, remained in use until the mid 19th century. Following storm damage in 1847, the decision was taken to raise money to build a replacement. The new church was completed in 1854 at a cost of £6,666. Instead of being demolished, the earlier building was left to become a ruin.”

It was very slippy and I had to be super cautious as I poked around.

Sylvia Plath is buried in the “overflow” cemetery across the street.

I had some limited instructions on my phone for how to find the grave, but of course, the stupid thing decided to die on me the second I arrived (despite having 85% battery life). I can’t wait to replace it!

So I walked among the gravestones looking for it. This stone caught my eye. Neville Longbottom is my favourite character in Harry Potter and I thought his unusual name was made up by JK Rowling. Nope!

I wandered the small graveyard a lot longer than I had planned to be there, looking for anything that had tributes by it. I eventually was able to discern a bit of a pattern to the dates on the markers and narrowed down in what rows Plath’s gravestone could be. On my final pass, I found it!

The gravestone has been damaged by vandals who removed “Hughes” from it, as some of her fans feel her estranged husband was to blame for her suicide.

Heading out, I passed this home with a lovely tower. Anyone who watches “Grand Designs” knows that a common way to update these old stone buildings in the UK and add on to them is by using glass and steel.

There were workers on site doing repairs to the church tower.

I did go for tea! 🙂 They didn’t have a cream tea per se, but I was able to order a pot of tea (Yorkshire blend), a raisin scone without butter, a pot of clotted cream, and a pot of jam à la carte for a total of £5. I was cold and tired and this was the prefect treat to get me home!

Of course, the walk down to Hebden was a lot quicker than the walk up to Heptonstall! I could see my front door from here!

I eventually found my way back to to the bridge after that harrowing downhill journey. It was only while going back over my photos that I realised where I missed a turn to get back to the staircase.

12 thoughts on “Off to Heptonstall in Search of a Grave

  1. What a beautiful place. I love all the pens stuck into the soil at the grave. Cold and damp here in Port Alberni as well, but it sure makes the forest pretty…

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. She had a huge influence on me in younger years — but with her nonfiction and letters, not her poetry! Like many amazing writers, she wasn’t a very nice person at times. But she had this quality about her.

    I’m not as big a fan of her husband Ted — but I don’t think he was the monster that her syncophants have suggested, either.

    I have always wondered what her grave looked like. I believe she lived near it for quite some time… many thanks.

    • Glad you appreciated the post! Ted Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd, right by Hebden Bridge, and Sylvia wrote “November Graveyard” about the Heptonstall cemetery.

  3. Hello Rae,
    What a lovely place to spend some time. I loved the charming English countryside. Thank you so much for sharing your day with us. I’d like to have been there with you.
    Elaine on Vancouver Island

  4. Loved this post, you really have captured the area and even the dampness. So glad you were extra careful and didn’t fall. Hope the knee is healing.

    • The knee is definitely much better, but it is still bruised. I’m shocked by how long it’s taking since I fell about a month ago!

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