Yorkshire reservoir nestles in Brontë’s land of ‘bleak solitude’

PIC: Ian Day
PIC: Ian Day
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Birds line the metalwork going out towards the octagonal valve tower at Lower Laithe Reservoir near the Brontë beauty spot of Haworth.

Lower Laithe Reservoir is a man-made upland reservoir that lies 1.2 miles west of Haworth in West Yorkshire. It was built with the intention of providing the town of Keighley with a more reliable water supply. When full, it contains 1.275m cubic metres of water.

Work began on the reservoir in 1912 but was disrupted by the outbreak of the First World War, so was not finished until 1925. Stone from Dimples Quarry on Penistone Hill was transported down the valley by a narrow gauge railway that ran along the current footpath back towards Haworth.

In 2010, the reservoir was inspected as part of a £60m maintenance and modernisation programme by Yorkshire Water and in 2015 remedial works were undertaken to shore up its overflow spillway.

Its embankment is just over 1,000ft long and stands 80ft high and supports a road, known as Waterhead Lane, which runs between Oxenhope and Stanbury village.

The quarry from which stone was taken during construction now forms part of Penistone Hill Country Park, which offers a range of walks giving impressive views over the surrounding countryside.

It is said that the hill was named after the gambling game Gamepenny Stone because men working in the quarries would gather together to play, as the quarries afforded them some degree of privacy and lessened the chances of being caught and hauled before local magistrates.

The park and the moors it comprises would have been familiar to the Brontës, who drew much inspiration from them and the “bleak solitude” they afforded.

The park is also the starting point of the six-mile Auld Lang Syne fell race, which began in 1994 and is held on New Year’s Eve. The race is sponsored by Daleside Brewery and has been won in past years by both Alistair and Jonny Brownlee.

Technical details: Leica M9 camera, Summicron 50mm lens with an exposure of 1/750th sec @ f4, ISO 160.