Surprises in store for Aled Jones on a mystery tour in West Yorkshire involving people who are passionate about Calder Valley. Plus hymn singing from Halifax Minster.
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Well, I've come to Halifax in West Yorkshire,
and I have to admit, I haven't got a clue where I'm going next.
I was told to prepare for an unusual journey
and to come here and await further instructions.
All very mysterious.
"Welcome, Mr Jones, to a marvellous mystery trail.
"You must follow the clues and be sure not to fail.
"Prepare for a journey uphill and through vale
"as you explore the place called Calderdale."
At least it rhymes. Better get going, I suppose.
So, join me as I set off into the unknown
on a tour of this beautiful part of Yorkshire.
I'll be meeting some fascinating people along the way
and there'll be some wonderful hymns.
Well, it wouldn't be Songs Of Praise without them.
The River Calder has flowed through the rugged landscape of West Yorkshire
for thousands of years, winding its way down from the glorious South Pennine moorland
into the Calder Valley, which is part of wider Calderdale.
Lining the Dale are textile towns and villages that flourished during the Industrial Revolution
and still remain close communities today.
Halifax, Calderdale's largest town,
has its own proud industrial heritage
and a rich musical tradition.
This building, blackened by centuries of industry, has been at its heart for 900 years.
MUSIC: "Jerusalem" by Sir Hubert Parry
Once Halifax's parish church, it was recently given the title Halifax Minster,
and it's where congregations and choirs from all over the area have gathered
to sing our hymns this week. The first one is Immortal Invisible.
Back on my quest, I reckoned what I needed was another clue,
and, sure enough, I found it, a few miles from Halifax,
in the town of Hebden Bridge.
"Be sure to pack a raincoat to keep the weather at bay,
"as many modes of transport will take you on your way.
"On foot, on wheels, on water onward like an arrow,
"but first go to the boat that is so long and narrow."
I think I'm in the right place!
This is the way to travel, is it?
It really is, isn't it? It's a wonderful, unique place, Aled.
I'm delighted you've come to see it because this is where I live
and I've lived for 40 years. I absolutely love it.
When you move into this valley, it's a whole different culture.
And it always has been.
If you were here 1,400 years ago,
this was the ancient Celtic kingdom of Elmet
and when you pass over here, you'd have to speak Welsh.
-You'd know all about that.
-That's why I'm feeling at home, obviously!
So, Calderdale, where does it start and where does it end?
If you go to the other side of Todmorden, we all call it Tod here.
So it starts there and ends...?
Starts there and if you go the other way,
you go to the other side of Brighouse and the canal goes right through.
Some of the place names, even for a Welshman, they're pretty bizarre.
Oh, yes! I was talking to evacuees who came here from Brighton during the war
and he said he'd never been able to say Mytholmroyd properly!
THEY BOTH LAUGH
What's so special about Calderdale?
Well, it's an area that's changed immensely
because if you came here, say, 50, 60 years ago even,
there'd be mills as far as the eye could see.
This was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution here
and they were handloom-weaving in the villages up there.
And when you go wandering now through those little valleys that come down into the Calder Valley,
you can still see the old ruins of the mills and that.
It's a wonderful place to go walking.
There are things that still exist here, there are practices,
there are traditions, that have died out elsewhere.
There's a lot of eccentric people, a lot of very arty people, actually. That's probably why I'm here!
These clues are getting more and more mysterious.
And more and more off the beaten track.
I've now come up into the hills where I'm supposed to find a rather different mode of transport.
And before I knew it,
round the corner cycled mountain bike instructor Stephen Hall.
Going back a long, long time, a guy lent me a mountain bike for a day.
He says, "Have a go at this, it's going to be the next big thing."
I had a go and I thought, "That's fantastic."
And then I met Ruth, who's now my wife.
She was a local Mytholmroyd lass, so just down the road from here.
And she took me out on these trails and I've stayed...
LAUGHS ..and just ridden here ever since.
What do you get out of it, would you say?
Partly it's a really good workout.
It's in a relatively safe environment in that it's away from cars.
You get to see this fantastic scenery in complete peace and quiet.
You're away from the crowds,
you've just got the sound of the wind, the curlews,
the grouse across the moorlands.
And it's just a complete escape.
It's funny. My wife, when she was at church on Sunday,
one of the chaps asked her, "Where does your husband worship?"
And she says, "In the great outdoors.
"There's no roof on his church."
You look at this scenery and you think,
well, as an ex-geography teacher, I can explain it
by river processes and climatic change and all things like that,
but really, just looking at it, the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts.
And as a local man, Ted Hughes, the ex-poet laureate,
he had a poem called Moors, and the opening line was,
"Moors are a stage for the performance of heaven."
And, you know, when you see the light shafting down through the clouds,
it really is quite an experience
and it's far more than just being out on a bike.
-So what's the best thing about being a mountain-biker here?
You get fit going up them and you have an absolutely fantastic time going down them again.
Here's the plan. I'll do the downhill bits and you can do the uphill bits. How's that?
-Have a look at some of the downhill bits and see if you really want to have a go.
'One of the reasons that it's so good here is as we're not a National Park,
'we don't get hundreds of thousands of people piling in
'like places like the Lake District and the Peak District at weekends.'
It's one of those places that you could ride forever
and still be exploring and finding new places.
It's a relatively small area
but it's absolutely riddled with bridleways
and it means that whatever your ability,
you can find something that's really good to ride.
And I think part of the motivation is getting people to realise
that themselves and the bike are a team.
You can be going at speeds up to 30, 40 miles an hour in quite rough terrain,
and if you do come off, it can be quite painful, to say the least.
You find that...
you more tend to lose yourself
just in the environment and in the sounds.
You become far more acutely aware of everything that's around,
whether it's the birdsong or just tiny bits of the landscape,
and, yeah, it is quite a spiritual experience going out and riding
in those sorts of conditions.
"Another clue, another rhyme
"For now, you must step back in time
"Discover the truth of an ancient tale
"of a man whose name is a brand-new ale."
Sounds good, though, doesn't it? Come on.
Inside the pub, I found that the local ale is named after the Archbishop of York.
Not the current one, but an early Christian missionary, Paulinus.
Three years ago, we were researching into early Christianity,
and Paulinus was part of the Augustine mission to Britain - 627 -
and we discovered, to our amazement,
that he spent most of his time in northern Britain.
And the more we explored, we felt, "Well, how has this man been so forgotten?"
He converted thousands and thousands and thousands of people.
And we thought, "Well, how had this man spread all of the word?"
And it was literally by walking mile after mile,
connecting one place to another.
He, basically, was definitely known to be in Dewsbury,
and definitely known to be in Burnley and Whalley on the other side.
And so, thinking, "How did he get across?"
Obviously it was through Todmorden Gap,
across the old Neolithic ways, and we found a Paulinus-style cross,
to our amazement, up on the moors above Todmorden.
We hoped that we could open a new pilgrim way.
And we looked through the old maps and the old routes
and we found that we could find a walkway in most of the area,
from Todmorden to York, so we set about organising a festival
and goodness knows what with all the people of Todmorden behind us.
We then had all the community getting involved. It sort of grew.
And we had the Lord Bishop of Wakefield coming along,
wanting to be involved, and supporting us from the beginning.
We had the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu,
who was also supportive and wanted to meet us in York when we arrived there.
And we even had someone creating a special footprint,
so that pilgrims setting off on their first journey
can place their foot in the footprint as they set off.
So what have you two taken from it?
I think one of the things for me is, when you are researching
someone like this, to actually walk in that person's footsteps,
actually makes you realise for the first time how important
these northern saints were, and the impact that they had on people, and people's lives.
And, actually, the impact they're still having on us now.
I feel that, after being on the pilgrimage,
it has given me a little closer connection to God.
And it has really made me, sort of, feel quite humble, actually,
to realise what these people actually achieved.
And just to walk for a little time in their footsteps
has been quite magical, and quite an amazing experience.
The village of Heptonstall provides a welcome rest stop
on the Paulinus Way.
But if the pilgrims choose to stop for longer,
then there's plenty to be discovered in this historic little community,
including Heptonstall Methodist Chapel.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, preached here frequently,
and he personally oversaw the unusual octagonal design.
Completed back in 1764, it's the oldest Methodist chapel in the world
that has been in continuous use,
and will soon celebrate 250 years of prayer and praise.
I'm now in Todmorden, the westernmost town of Calderdale
and the point at which Yorkshire meets Lancashire,
and there's definitely something strange going on.
All over the town, fruit and veg are growing in the most unusual places.
I discovered it was all part of a remarkable project that's the brainchild of Pam Warhurst.
We've got vegetables growing in very public places.
We've got them in not-so-public places.
We've got them in police stations, health centres. We've got them at the railway station, the bus station.
So, suddenly, people who only see things wrapped in cellophane in a supermarket
start to see where it grows in its natural state.
We're working with all the schools.
We've got children now doing qualifications in agriculture.
This is a town that isn't naturally, you know, a farming community.
So, suddenly, there are job opportunities around local food.
You've got people thinking about it, people growing it, kids learning about it.
That means that they start to think about how they spend their money.
So that means they start to support the local market.
That means they start to support local farmers. And suddenly, the town starts to work again as a community,
as market towns always used to be.
You know, every year we have a harvest festival,
and it's where we bring all the produce from the town and cook it up.
And we have a really fantastic time. It doesn't cost anybody anything.
So if I'm walking past one of these spaces
and I see a cabbage growing, I just help myself?
You help yourself. You absolutely help yourself.
We're trying to spread kindness, we're trying to reconnect people,
and when people are reconnected - particularly in hard times -
fabulous and magical things happen.
The story that I tell, which, to me, really touches my heart -
my friend, Mary, turned her front garden, which was a rose garden,
into a veg patch with a great big "please help yourself" sign on it.
So we found local families going past and picking with the kids.
And one particular local family did that, and the next day,
they left the soup they'd made from the veg on Mary's doorstep.
Now, these people - never spoken to Mary before in their entire life.
That, for me, is what communities are all about,
and we're starting to see that all over the place.
The churches in Todmorden have also embraced the spirit of Incredible Edible.
I met with a vicar who's helped open up one local graveyard to gardening.
I suppose, if we put a positive spin on it, the rain is good for the vegetables.
Very good for the vegetables. They're doing remarkably well.
-I have to say, it's a normal day for Todmorden, really.
It's not often you see vegetables growing in a graveyard.
It's not. It's been four years now, and the community have accepted it.
Originally, I think people thought, "That's a bit strange. People won't like it."
But Incredible got in touch with us and said, "How about putting some vegetable beds in here?"
We thought about it, went through the channels and said, "We'd welcome it."
It's been a really good opportunity for the community.
So who comes up here?
A lot of the time, you'll see the children from the school through the back there.
The children will come and tend the vegetables,
but any vegetables are there to be taken by the community.
So people who visit family graves come, people who just come
and walk their dog through the woods and churchyard will come.
-Everybody in the community comes and takes a look and enjoys.
-It's a great idea.
Absolutely fabulous. It's quite anarchical,
I think, to have a churchyard that is a sacred space,
but actually to give it over to God's creation
in a lateral-thinking sense, really.
This sounds absolutely perfect, so why isn't it happening in every community around the world?
It's starting to happen. We have 20 communities and we've got people working in Africa
and in Spain and in Northern Ireland and in Holland, so it's starting to happen.
We do have some wonderful leaders.
We do have churches that have put fruit trees and bushes,
and we are working in the local church
to put a nut orchard at the back.
But if we could actually have that push - that drive -
by the churches in every single town, to say,
"We are the heart of the town,
"and edible churches is the way forward, so let's bring our community together and grow collectively."
You've obviously got a massive passion for it - do you feel this is, er, a calling for you, in a way?
I've done lots in my life, in the private and public sector.
I've never done anything more important than this, ever,
because this is about trying to change the world around us for our children.
Instead of being victims, it says,
"If we're positive about it, we can make a heck of a difference and pass on a better world."
So there... There is nothing more important to do than this.
Well, having reached the end of Calderdale in one direction,
I guessed it was time for me to head back.
But if I was hoping for an easy ride, I was in for a shock.
Heavenly Father, as we look at the world around us,
open our eyes to see you.
Help us to see your hand in the beauty of creation.
To see your heart in our communities.
To see your footsteps in those that have gone before us,
and to see your face in everyone that we meet.
"The final rhyme, the final clue
"There's nothing more for you to do
"Congratulations - you've passed the test
"We hope you enjoyed your Calderdale quest."
Well, it's not been the most straightforward way
of exploring an area, but I've thoroughly enjoyed my mystery tour of Calderdale.
But if you don't mind, I think I'll go home using a more conventional mode of transport.
Until next time, goodbye.
Have you ever heard of a town in Essex called Camulodunum?
Well, Pam will be there next week to discover how Ancient Rome
meets the hi-tech future.
And as well as great hymns - ancient and modern -
there's some wonderful music from new opera star Noah Stewart.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
There are surprises in store for Aled Jones on a mystery tour in West Yorkshire, involving all kinds of transport and people who are passionate about the beautiful Calder Valley. Plus glorious hymn singing from Halifax Minster.