Saturday, 26 February 2011

Home Tourist - Jerusalem Farm

#HomeTourist is another great idea to have found popularity on Twitter. The idea is simple; in these straightened times, why spend money travelling to far flung places when you can rediscover the exoticly familiar on your own doorstep. It is always good to stop and re-evaluate what you have, to look at things afresh, and see things with new eyes. It was just this impulse (plus a little inspiration from the twitterverse) that took the family to Jerusalem Farm.

Hidden away in one of the many secluded valleys of Calderdale, Jerusalem Farm is a small piece of heaven not far from the bustling and creative town of Hebden Bridge. We drove up the winding road from Luddenden marvelling at the scenery. The houses clinging to the hillsides, huddled together for companionship, their small gardens looking like a rumpled patchwork quilt of colour amongst the dark stone buildings. This is no journey for the faint-hearted and drivers of a nervous disposition may well baulk at the thought of hairpin bends and single lane roads. We talked of how remote this area must feel in the winter when these tiny roads must surely become impassable. However, on an early Spring day, we had no such cause to worry.

The view towards the campsite

Jerusalem Farm is a favourite spot for walkers, both with and without their dogs, and it is soon easy to see why. Once you walk down from the car park you can see the river valley stretching out in front of you. A fair proportion of the valley bottom is given over to a basic campsite (no electric hook-ups, communal shower blocks or patrons' bar here) but this doesn't open until Easter. It does get busy at weekends in the summer but we have it on good authority that it can be quieter during the week. The kids made a bee-line straight for the adventure playground before we all took a very pleasant walk along the river bank.

The crystal clear water sparkled in the bright sunshine as it ran between the rocks providing a perfect white-water slalom for the stick and twig boats that we made. The river, though barely more than a brook at this point, runs quite quickly and so smaller adventurers are best supervised, but for older children there is plenty of scope for paddling, dam-building and river walking.

The river offers lots of play potential

As we carried on up the valley we passed the man-made 'river-steps' (as our youngest christened the weir) before bearing left into the woods. Here we discovered a natural amphitheatre bounded by logs and home to some great, carved chairs. A norse-like wooden warrior guards the path, lending the clearing a vaguely Tolkein air. Our imaginative (not to say theatrical) troupe were soon recreating mythic battles with armies of goblins, stopping only to investigate some wondrous fungi growing on the logs. If nature is your thing, then this place has much to offer. We watched a pair of birds flitting about in the trees, building their nest. A kindly lady out walking her dog stopped to chat and the kids took advantage of the opportunity to make a fuss of the dog. A little way further on and we were walking up above the river again along a rather narrow footpath.

The woodland walk
Winding our way along here, the beauty and tranquility of the valley worked its magic and we slowed right down to dawdle in the sunshine. In the hour or so that we had been at Jerusalem Farm we had only seen a handful of other people. A lone walker, map in hand, passed as we played 'pooh-sticks' from the wooden bridge that marked the turning point for our walk. A man and his dog ran by but had time, as they slowed to cross the bridge, to make conversation. "Cracking day", he said. "I've got to be at work at half-four but I couldn't miss out on a day like today" and on they ran, back to their car and the everyday routine.

Nature lovers will love it here
Our own return journey took us along the valley bottom to the stone bridge that marks the end of the camping ground. We stood and watched the vapour trails criss-cross the blue sky, listening to the river sounds before strolling up the hill to the car park. If it all sounds idyllic then I'm glad to confirm that it was. A lovely, family day-out that had cost us nothing but our time. As we drove back down the narrow roads towards Luddenden, bound for Hebden Bridge and the traditional family 'teas and wees' stop, I couldn't help but steal a line fromWilliam Blake and note that Jerusalem had indeed been 'builded here in England's green and pleasant land'
Details of Jerusalem Farm can be found here.

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