Beyond Wuthering Heights

Top Withins


MAPPING OUT a walk for my next book we make our way from Howarth up onto the moor-top plateau, crossing Dick Delf Hill, which rises to 452 metres up beyond the ruined farm of Top Withins, a remote cattle farm at the top end of the valley which is often suggested as the inspiration for the setting of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.

We return via an easier route along sections of the Pennine Way and the Brontë Way, a hill path that is unique in having footpath signs in English and in Japanese, although the parties of Japanese visitors that we passed on our walk today were back around the Brontë Parsonage Museum and main street in Howarth.


11.50 a.m., Sand Delf Hill, Haworth Moor; There are occasional drifts of cotton-grass, looking very much like the tail of the small startled rabbit that runs along the track in front of us.

round-upA shepherd is moving on his flock without the aid of a sheep dog, hooting and hollering as he drives his Land Rover across the moor.

Small Heath

small heathWith so much checking out to do, including a whole new section of the walk, there isn’t time to stop and sketch except when we take a break for a flask of coffee at Top Withins.

A small butterfly that flies low over the bracken in the valley below. It suns itself with it wings folded shut but we see enough to be able to identify it later as a Small Heath, a smaller cousin of the more familiar Meadow Brown but more typical of rough grassland, from coastal dunes up to 2,000 feet (600 metres) in the mountains.

The name of the butterfly is a neat description of the habitat where we found it.

tiger beetleAlso on a sunny bank, on the rocky path above the Brontë bridge, this Green Tiger Beetle is hunting.

My little Olympus Tough is useful for insects like this which will pause when you crouch near them but it’s not so handy for butterflies which are likely to take flight, which is why I stood a few paces away and quickly sketched the Small Heath, adding the colour later.

The Very Hairy Caterpillar

oak eggar caterpillarUp on the plateau Barbara spots this Oak Eggar Moth caterpillar. Despite the name it is equally at home on the moors as one of its alternative foodplants is heather. The name ‘eggar’ apparently means just what it appears to mean; that it’s a moth that lays its eggs on a particular plant.

oak eggar caterpillar

This caterpillar has stopped, motionless as we take a look at it. It’s just had a narrow escape as my size 13 hiking boots passed over it, so it’s a good subject for the macro setting on the Tough. I try to do a bit of ‘gardening’ to get a better shot of its head but when I try to gently lift up the heather twig it wraps itself around it. No chance of seeing either the head or the tail in this pose but at least I get a record of the black bands and white marks on its body.

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  1. I wonder if you took the same route as we did when we visited the Bronte Parsonage a few years ago. We followed a guide book that took us up behind the cemetery and through a field marked “Beware of Bull,” though the guide book assured us that the bull was long gone. Have you ever seen It’s a way to plot out your hikes on a map and determine mileage and elevation, as well as get a screen-capture map of your route. There are settings for walking, cycling, etc. Of course, if you have a smart phone, there are apps that allow you to track your route on a map and save it as you are walking, provided your phone can get a good signal.

    1. No, we missed out on that field as we made a big sausage-shaped circuit of it, out via Penistone Hill and as a special treat after all those hill paths back along the road to the back entrance of the Parsonage. I’m using Memory Map at the moment but unfortunately it doesn’t work on my iMac but it does have all the footpaths on it, which gmap doesn’t seem to have. I keep looking at sat nav devices, for instance there’s a new Garmin that includes OS maps, tracks your route, records notes and takes photographs. When it includes a cappuccino maker too I’ll go for one of those.

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