Our guest Jim returned on Saturday night for Haworth’s 40s weekend with his wife Caroline and son Damon, and left us another verse. He is rapidly becoming our poet in residence!
Imagining the Past
Ponden Hall, the Heaton suite,
Amazing history at your feet.
Using imagination and your mind’s eye,
Visualising events of times gone by.
Three Bronte sisters admired this view,
Frequent visitors to the Hall – its library too –
Along with Branwell, when they were young,
The track well worn as they laughed and sung,
Up the hill from Haworth, over the falls and bridge,
Up and down hills, and along the ridge,
Sign posts point to Top Withens, Upper Heights,
Could have given Emily her foresight,
‘Wuthering Heights’ based on these names,
While they walked along, playing their games.
I’m sitting here thinking of times long gone,
Imagining lives and what went on.
A glass of wine, a roaring fire –
What more could a man desire?
Thank you again, Jim! You’re a marvel xxx
Jim Murphy from Wigan stayed last night with his wife Caroline and son Damon in the Heaton Room, and as he left handed me a folded piece of lined paper. Intrigued, I opened it to find he had been inspired in thie night to write us a poem!
‘Can I post it on our website?’ I asked him, and he agreed I could, so, with great pleasure, I present to you Jim’s poem about his stay at Ponden Hall! Thank you, Jim – we are honoured!
An exciting family trip, to Ponden Hall.
Not open for inspection, said the sign on the wall.
This national treasure, now in safe hands
With Steve and Julie doing what it commands.
As well as the Hall they have a family too.
With these responsibilities they have a lot to do.
It’s well documented the Brontës used to visit the Hall.
Julie tells the stories, excited by it all.
She worked in the old Parsonage not long ago,
Gathering information. In doing so,
Before you know it, you’re back in the past.
This window in time makes history last.
Young Kizzy and Noah, brought up in the Hall,
In these rolling hills they will always walk tall.
Photo: courtesy Jayne Clinton
Coffee cakes are a love them/hate them thing – I rarely make one for guests, since those who dislike coffee flavouring really dislike it – for a while they even tried to get rid of coffee-flavoured Revels, for goodness’ sake! Those who love them, meanwhile, really love them…
I was fortunate enough this weekend to have lovely Jayne, Mark and their son Harry staying, and I know from previous visits that they are proper cake lovers. Given that we’ve got pretty comfortable with each other over the last few months, and this was their fourth visit – God bless them! – I was confident enough to risk the excellent, and, I think, bomb-proof coffee-and-walnut recipe passed on to me by my friend Helen, who is what I think of as a proper cook.
Jayne took a photograph and was kind enough to say I could use it, so I thought it was time to share…
It apparently originated with the Two Fat Ladies, by the way.
Ingredients: for the cake
175g/6oz self-raising flour
pinch of salt
175g/6oz soft marge or unsalted butter
175g/6oz caster sugar
1tsp instant coffee granules
2tsp hot water
Ingredients: for the icing
1 tsp instant coffee granules plus extra to sprinkle on top (although cocoa powder also works a treat, I’ve found)
2tsp hot water
55g/2oz unsalted butter, softened
115g/4oz icing sugar
40g/1 1/2 oz walnuts for decoration
Great two 18cm/7in sandwich tins and line with greaseproof paper.
Beat together flour, salt, margarine and caster sugar. Dissolve the coffee in the hot water, then add this and the walnuts to the cake mixture. Divide evenly between the tins and bake in a preheated oven (170°C/350°F/Gas 3) for 25 mins.
To make the icing dissolve the coffee in the hot water, then cream together with the butter and icing sugar. Spread half the icing on top of one of the cooled cakes, and sandwich them together with the other half. Decorate with the walnuts and sprinkle with coffee granules (or cocoa powder!).
Photo: Courtesy Anneleen Lindsay www.anneleenphotography.com
We live here at Ponden Hall, and we’ve been here for 16 years. Although we fell in love with the house the moment we set foot over the threshold to stand in the long, L-shaped hallway sloping down into the house a little like a hobbit’s burrow, we’ve grown shamingly used to the place over the years.
We see the astonishing landscape of Ponden Reservoir, hills beyond, mist floating above, herons swooping, oystercatchers perching, every time we do the washing up. The ‘wily, windy moor’ is just minutes away up the hill past our neighbours’ very down-to-earth working farm. The window that inspired Emily Bronte to write of Cathy’s ghost frantically smashing and scratching to get in to her lost love Heathcliff is just one of several in a room that until recently was simply the place we went to sleep in every night and got up in every morning.
A few months ago, though, we opened the house as a B&B, and Carolyn Mendelsohn’s photographic residential was our first big workshop venture. Obviously Carolyn’s expertise was the top draw for workshopees, but ‘Come and photograph Wuthering Heights’, was next on the list. There’s no doubting the wealth of Brontë links in this historic house, but you still do wonder – does anyone really want to take pictures in my front room enough to pay for the privilege?
They did, it turned out. And they properly, deeply fell for the place. Like leafing through old wedding pics, it reminded both me and my husband Steve of why we ourselves had first fallen for this gracious, stone-flagged corner of West Yorkshire with all its attendant stories and legends.
Watching these experienced photographers honing their skills in our front garden; perched on the 18th century chest in our upstairs bedroom; ranged around the log fire or the long table in the hall – was a lesson in seeing differently, and not taking any of this beauty for granted. Our confidence grew each day, as we realised these people loved the Hall and could see aspects of it that were hidden even from us. Just as in all good photography, they had the skill to take that vision and share it, so that for a moment we saw it through their eyes.
There’s a magic about the place that draws interesting people here and infects them with the desire to return. There are the Brontë connections, certainly, but there are the legends of the family who built the house, the Heatons, some of which seem to have leached into Wuthering Heights. There are the numerous celebrities who’ve visited over the years and fallen under its spell. There are the strange coincidences, tales, juxtapositions, fascinating facts. There’s a great story about the Heatons hiding the Hall from Oliver Cromwell. Hell, trouser-splitting singing phenomenon P J Proby even lived next door for a while!
But the temptation to take it all for granted was blown away by the three days we’ve just experienced. Thank you, all of you, for your skill in helping us see again. And thank you especially, Carolyn, for the vision to see that this would work.
When we moved into the house 16 years ago it’s fair to say it was very, very cold… That winter we had a tarpaulin instead of a roof, since the building work on the new roof had gone on and on, through autumn, and well into the windy, wuthering weather of a Pennine winter. One night we got back late from a very posh do to find the tarpaulin had blown off in a high wind and was heading at some speed towards Lancashire… Rain was pouring through the naked rafters and filling up the house fast, so, at 2am, in ballgown and black tie, we set to with mops and buckets to sop up the worst of it. That was the beginning of our coldest ever winter.
Nights were perishing, even cocooned in bed in woolly hats and fingerless gloves, wound into a selection of duvets. We warmed 2p pieces – like Kay and Gerda in The Snow Queen – to make peepholes in the ice on the inside of the windows. We were using Calor gas stoves in a couple of rooms, but the warmth never reached further than a couple of feet from the stove, and you can’t spend your day anchored to a Calor-gas cylinder. Though we did try, to be fair…
Over the years to come we installed underfloor heating beneath the ground floor-flags, which hadn’t been moved since being laid in 1634. Underfloor heating revolutionised our lives, and downstairs was suddenly warm and cosy – you could use all the rooms! Upstairs, though, remained unheated until very recently, when, mindful of our poor guests visiting through the winter, we installed some extremely beautiful and powerful Swedish wood-burning stoves that kick out 7KW of heat.
Now we have our logs delivered by Tommy from Bingley Logs – two tonnes at a time – and this morning spent a very satisfying couple of hours wheeling and stacking this lot, ready to carry up to the bedrooms.
And when those logs are in the stove, and it’s burning away merrily on the hearth, it looks like this – the height of cosiness. Ponden Hall is finally warm, and it feels wonderful.