The opening line of Jane Eyre – "There was no possibility of taking a walk that day" – has been savoured over and over again by fans of the Brontë sisters. Now, locals in the literary family's home village of Haworth are concerned about their own hikes being spoiled by a very modern hazard.
Anger has erupted over plans to build a £12m wind farm in the middle of the "wild and wonderful" moorland that inspired all three sisters. Thornton Moor at Haworth was a source of inspiration to Emily, Charlotte and Anne, who enjoyed its exceptional views during their frequent walks from the Parsonage, where they lived.
Now the Brontë Society and local villagers have been devastated by moves to build four 328ft wind turbines on the beauty spot – flanking both sides of the Brontë Way tourist trail.
Bradford councillors are due to vote on an application to install a data-gathering mast next week, and objectors fear the full scheme could go to planning by September and be built within a year. Thornton Moor is less than five miles from Haworth, where the Brontës spent most of their lives.
Sally McDonald, chairman of the Brontë Society board of trustees, said: "These moors should continue undisturbed for generations to come and for the swathes of visitors from the UK and overseas drawn to Haworth and Yorkshire by their interest in the lives and works of the Brontës. We are concerned it is more skyline pollution in an area of international historical interest.
"Haworth is regarded as a heritage at-risk area in its own right. The Brontës were passionate about the landscape, and the moorland hugely influenced the writing of all three sisters.
"Wuthering Heights was set in and around that area. Four 100m-tall turbines will have a huge visual impact.
"The moorland... is a wild and wonderful place. It is a very special part of the Yorkshire landscape, which draws a huge number of visitors every year, including visitors who want to see what is represented in the writings of the Brontës – and I don't think that includes wind masts."
Campaigners say the turbines will be less than 700 yards from the nearest homes in the tiny village of Denholme Gate, where nearly all the residents have signed a protest.
Anthea Orchard, who chairs the Thornton Moor Wind farm Action Group, said: "It is devastating for everybody and everything. The damage to the landscape is going to be irreparable. Our whole way of life is going to suffer and we will fight it to the death. It is behind a smoke screen of renewable energy."
Mrs Orchard, 34, added: "The Brontë Way, which links the Brontë landmarks, actually goes through the middle of the proposed wind farm. So you would have two turbines on the left and two on the right. Everyone affected is very angry and scared. They are going to be seen for miles because we are so high above sea level here."
However, Phil Dyke, development director at Banks Renewables, a green energy firm, said: "The visual impact of a test mast at Thornton Moor would be very slight as it would be a slender structure. Details will also have to be agreed with Natural England to minimise ecological impacts." He said the proposed scheme at Thornton Moor would have an installed capacity of up to 8MW, enough to meet the annual electricity requirements of up to 4,500 homes.