Every time I arrive in the car park at Haworth, having driven over the bleak Yorkshire moors, I get that growing tingle of anticipation. I do this every week, sometimes more and yet it never diminishes. As we motor up the hill to the village, a sense of excitement grows and an anxious hush descends. We are nearly there.
As we stop in the car park, it is all I can do to stop a stampede up the steps and into the Parsonage. It isn’t time yet though.
Lunch first so restraint is required as we walk down Parsonage Lane, past the church, through the gate and spill out onto the top of the High Street where tourists are milling about. Then suddenly we seem to be all alone for a few minutes and the real sense of where we are sinks in.
The buildings may have different signs and in many cases, uses, but their place on the High Street is still the same as it was when the Bronte family walked on these very same cobbles. The present fades away and we drift into another century to look with their eyes at the village, still familiar and strangely unchanged, they knew so well. To the left of us, the post office where Charlotte Bronte posted the manuscripts for Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey and The Professor never knowing the shock-wave that they would send through english literature in the years to come.
Almost opposite the post office is the Old Apothecary, the place where her brother Branwell Bronte would stagger for his opiates when his fund of money was too small for more alcohol. It was and still is just a very short stagger across the cobbled crest of Haworth High Street to the Apothecary from the Black Bull Inn, his favourite place to sit, drowning his anger, his dissapointment, his sorrows of unfulfilled potential and unrequited love.
The sound of a car approaching up the High Street breaks the spell. Lunch must be sought and then on, back up the hill to our goal. Torn between the need for food and the desire to explore, the party disperses for an hour with strict instructions to meet under the iconic Bronte Parsonage Museum sign.
Only and hour and yet we can’t get it over with soon enough, an hour when we want to rush into every shop, try the typical Yorkshire fare offered at the cafes, buy souvenirs and revel in the place, the place where they grew up, the place where they lived, the place they would still easily recognise. And yet, the hour seems too long, suppressed excitement can barely be controlled as the minutes wear away and the time to “go in” approaches.
I can feel the growing anticipation, anxious glances at watches and phones signal a growing urge to move on to what we came for. Alone I climb back up the steep cobbles, past the church, the awful graveyard, Sexton House, the school and so back to the Parsonage itself at the top of the lane.
Tickets bought, I step back out into the chill air blowing straight down the lane and remember Charlotte always worried about this harbinger of coughs, colds and illness blasting down in icy breaths off the moors.
Glancing left, there they are. I’m always surprised every time I stand here at how close the moors are to the Parsonage. A few steps from their back door and the Bronte brood would be free, away on the moors to act out their childish plays, roam the stark landscape, plunder nature’s bounty, store away their wild imaginings. Emily. I can never look out to the moors without thinking of Emily, willing her shade to reveal itself just for a moment, whisper to me the answer that I desperately want to know…did her fertile imagination ever nurture the embryo of another book after Wuthering Heights? She never comes yet still I hope time and time again.
I hear a call, turn to my right to see my fellow Pilgrims labouring up the hill, excitement shining in their eyes, breathless from the steepness of the walk and knowledge that it is time, it is about to happen.
I’ve done this many, many times, since I was about 12 years old but I still get a shiver of anticipation, a tingle down my back, a quick drawing in of breath, almost afraid to let it out incase something happens when I’m so close to being there again. I turn, meet the eager little group gripped in the beguiling Bronte spell, giggling nervously stealing excited glances at the Parsonage gate.
As one, we sweep up the steps into the garden. We have arrived. At last we enter the Bronte shrine. This is where it all happened and we are here.
If you want to experience this excitement for yourself then you can on our Bronte Tour
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