There's an almost dismissive sign on the A1 leading out of London that simply bears the words 'The North'!
When I was young I was never quite sure whether this was some kind of warning sign for Londoners suggesting that they abandon all hope and prospects of civilised life the moment they ventured beyond it. Or had it been for the Romans? Or a sign for intrepid adventurers leaving the confines of their great metropolis in search of the unknown? Or simply an 'escape' sign for those who dwelt in The North and wished to return from a fantasy world back to the reality of their own hometowns.
In more recent times the fuzzy defining limit line of 'The North' moved up to Watford. For me, I would move it even further up England with at least Nottingham or Derby as the southern aspects, Sheffield and beyond, The Pennines for its backbone, until you hit the defining wall of Hadrian.
Be that as it may, whatever it means to you, and whichever meaning was attribtued to the old sign on the A1, there is something very special about 'The North'! To try to define it would be pointless; it will not be robbed of its enigma. The North is as much felt - a spitiual encounter - as it is walked or seen.
For those who 'get it', you'll know what I mean. For those who don't 'get it', then don your walking boots, best rain gear and go and visit....and do it soon, because 'progress' is making its dull mark all over our land.
Our family home used to be in Altrincham for many years (talking about 'progress' visiting our land, my advice would be to give the town centre a wide berth) and now I visit the area closer to Manchetser from time to time, occasionally striking out to some randomly picked town within the region, out of shear curiosity!
At the bottom of this screen you'll find a short video slideshow of some photographs I took when the pin was stuck into the map on the small town of Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. The images, in black & white, capture very well the emotions of that day. The weather was, let's say, 'familiar' to the area, dimly lit and it rained. Oh, yes, it rained! But none of the charm of this little town nestling on the steep banks of the River Hebden had been washed away. Rather charmingly, Hebden comes from the Anglo-Saxon Heopa Denu, 'Bramble (or possibly Wild Rose) Valley'.
As usual, I wandered as I was led by my curiosity, taking photographs from time to time. My thoughts were mainly about what this place must have been like in the 'real' past when work was manual and gritty. There is still a little industry about, many of the houses are now well 'done-up' and provide homes for people working in the comfort of business premises a short commute away. Thankfully, though, there was a steamy cafe into which I retreated for strong brew of tea and cake.
The soundtrack on the slideshow is the Grimethorpe Colliery RJB Band beautifully playing an arrangement of Nimrod from Elgar's variations on a theme 'Enigma'. Grimethorpe is about 45 miles to the SE of Hebden Bridge.