My final jaunt as a secret judge for the Dorset Cereals Bed and Breakfast Awards, took me to West Yorkshire to the very beautiful Ponden Hall, much of which was built in the 1500s and which has some exceptionally special literary ties to those clever Brontës…
I arrived at Keighley and jumped into a taxi to take me to the B&B, which it did, via some of the loveliest scenery and landscapes I’d seen for a long time. I could feel my lungs open. And my mind clear of its cobwebs. (There are always I couple I miss each time I clean).
I arrived at Ponden Hall and was welcomed warmly by the owners Steve and Julie, whom had me ensconced on an enormous sofa in the living room eating a gigantic piece of homemade Victoria Sponge and drinking tea with their other guests, within a few minutes of my arrival.
In 10 minutes we had all shared enough stories to fill a book ( a big book) and that pretty much sums up my entire experience at Ponden Hall; guests are welcomed like old family friends and very quickly, you feel as though you are home… and part of the fabric of this very special place…
Grade II listed Ponden Hall is less than two miles away from the picturesque Yorkshire town of Haworth, where the Brontë sisters grew up with their brother Branwell.
Emily Brontë, who visited the house with Branwell to use its extensive library – which still has its original shelves – is traditionally said to have based Thrushcross Grange, the grand home of the wealthy Linton family in Wuthering Heights, on the property.
Some argue that the hall may have been the inspiration for the Wuthering Heights farmhouse itself and a Victorian account tells how Reverend Patrick Bronte, the Bronte siblings’ father, described the house to a visitor to Haworth as being “the original model of Wuthering Heights”… so who knows…
But, what is for certain is that the Brontë sisters visited on many occasions and they were greatly inspired by their visits. And who could blame them…
Steve and Julie were the perfect hosts – warm, friendly, suggesting places where I could have dinner that evening and even offering to drive me there and collect me themselves. An offer that I gladly accepted.
Steve drove me to one of their local pubs – The Old Silent Inn -a gorgeous atmospheric old pub, where I enjoyed a delicious fish pie and marvelled at their Halloween decorations…. seriously impressive.
During my meal I was called ‘Petal, ‘Flower’ and ‘Young Lady’ more times than I could count – I loved it… it felt as though they were genuinely pleased to have me sitting there, reading my book and demolishing their pie.
When I had finished my meal I asked the girl at the bar to call Ponden Hall to ask for someone to come and collect me, and five minutes later Steve appeared, much to the delight of the barman who insisted on giving him half a pint on the house as he’s “such a lovely man”.
We had a drink, chatted about British politics, Icelandic music and the merits of fish pie, before heading back to the B&B.
I had rather a lot of work to catch up on that night (what with me zipping about the country like a lunatic the entire week) and so, after having a tinkle on their piano, I settled myself at their enormously long table in the living area to work, while Steve bashed on his laptop at the other end of the table.
In the same room, Julie caught up with her dear friend Jayne (who incidentally was the first guest they ever had at their B&B. She came with her husband, everyone got on like a house on fire and they’ve all been firm friends ever since) and their son came in for a chat and some advice about homework…. entirely un-phased about me being in his home, tapping away on my laptop.
Soon it became clear that my eyes weren’t as open as they should be, so I took myself off to bed, in my very warm and cosy room, thanks to the fire that had been stoked while I’d been at dinner…
I awoke to the smell of bacon and eggs and came downstairs to a breakfast feast of toasted homemade bread, fruit and cereals… and placed my order for their full English breakfast, which was delicious.
After breakfast Steve, again, went above and beyond and drove me into Keighley where I caught my train back home to London and had some time to really think about the week I’d just had.
Now that I had visited all three places I was finally able to announce on Twitter and Instagram what I’d been up the past week and come clean about being a judge for Dorset Cereals, rather than just randomly popping over to Norfolk or Yorkshire for the night from London (some of my back stories were a little sketchy…)
Ponden Hall were the first to react on instagram…
And finally, I could relax.
Going undercover isn’t easy, you know. I have a newly found respect for James Bond and all other spies, fictitious or otherwise.
I loved my three stays in all the different B&Bs and have since passed on all my thoughts to Dorset Cereals, who will be announcing the winners of the B&B Awards, very soon indeed…
Thank you for having me Steve & Julie – I’ll definitely be back, and with my walking shoes!
This post was shot on my Leica camera – link below.
This post was written in collaboration with Dorset Cereals and all thoughts and opinions are my own.