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back to Book Reviews

Walking with the Brontës in West Yorkshire
by Norman and June Buckley
Published by Frances Lincoln
ISBN 978-0-7712-3254-9

This pocket-sized book is the third written by Norman and June Buckley that introduces the reader to a series of walks with a literary connection. The first two books, Walking with Beatrix Potter (reviewed in Footsteps September 2007) and Walking with Wordsworth (reviewed September 2010) both covered walks in the Lake District.

For this latest book, Norman and Jean have journeyed from their Cumbrian home in Windermere to West Yorkshire and east Lancashire to devise a series of walks where there are connections with the Brontë family – their homes, their places of education, their workplaces and the buildings and landscape which so influenced the content of their novels.

At the eastern side of the area covered by the book is ‘Shirley Country’, so called because it provided the setting for Charlotte’s novel Shirley. From here, at Oakwell Hall near Birstall, across to the fifteenth and final walk in the book around Gawthorpe Hall near Burnley, runs a linear footpath, the Brontë Way. It is 42 miles long and links many of the sites associated with this historic family. Several of the walks in the book incorporate part of this long-distance footpath.

Most of the walks are relatively short, ranging from 1½ to 6¼ miles in length, which gives time to visit some of the places lived in or visited by the Brontë family. These could include Tunstall Church, which the girls would have visited each Sunday, and the school at Cowan Bridge where the girls were educated for a number of years and which later became the setting for Lowood in Jane Eyre.

Other places worthy of visits on the walks include Oakwell Hall, Shibden Hall, The Bell Chapel at Thornton (the village on the outskirts of Bradford where Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne were all born), East Riddlesden Hall, Ponden Reservoir and Hall, plus of course Top Withens, high on the moors above the Parsonage at Haworth and the inspiration for Emily’s Wuthering Heights.

The book begins with a brief history of the Brontë family. Apart from a detailed description of the walk, each chapter has a hand-drawn map and photographs mostly taken by the authors, followed by notes about the Brontë association with the locations, and extracts from their writings.

My wife and I walked several of the routes described in the authors’ previous books and thoroughly enjoyed doing so. This latest book, containing walks much nearer to our home in Wharfedale, will be well used this summer and autumn and I am sure will give us as much walking pleasure as the others did.

reviewed by John Burland - Member No. 2