THE SUNDAY WALK; In this, the 150th anniversary of the Bronte sisters' first publication, Mike Gerrard takes a stroll round their favourite walk
Emily Bronte's favourite walk was over the moors to a now-derelict farmhouse called Top Withens, which is thought to have inspired the setting for Wuthering Heights. The building, even when standing, bore no relation to its fictional counterpart, but the location is right and if you have time for one walk in Haworth to escape the crowds - or at least some of them - then retrace the steps of the sisters. It's a bracing 61/2 miles in all, for which you should allow 31/2 hours there and back, but if the Brontes managed it, then so can most fairly fit people. Wear strong shoes and take waterproof clothing, as bright sun can change to driving rain in this bleak but powerful landscape.

Walk past the Parsonage Museum following the footpath signs to Haworth Moor. An indication of Haworth's international popularity is the number of multilingual footpath signs, including Japanese. Cross a field to a stile in the far corner, which brings you out on to West Lane, where you turn left. Bear left at the fork, going straight ahead, past the cemetery to a T-junction. Cross over and follow the track opposite, which is now called the Bronte Way and signposted for the Bronte Falls.

The path from here is fairly well-trodden with regular signposts, and slowly drops down and converges with a stream in the valley on your right. You will eventually reach the Bronte Bridge, where a detour to the left will take you to the Bronte Falls. This was another favourite spot, and the last walk Charlotte Bronte ever took was to take one final look at these small falls. They are naturally best after heavy rain, which in my experience seems to be most of the time. In 1990 the bridge was swept away in a storm and had to be replaced.

Walk back down to the bridge and look for the large rock that's shaped like a seat and called, unsurprisingly, the Bronte Seat. Cross the bridge, turn left and follow the track upwards, aiming for the stiles to take you over the dry-stone walls. A few minor paths go off to the right and then the left, but you should follow the course of the valley, keeping the stream on your left. The path will drop down and cross another smaller stream, then go onwards and upwards, joining the Pennine Way where you turn left to the ruins of Top Withens. Top Withens was known as an "intake" farm, where the owner would slowly try to reclaim the surrounding moorland for cultivation, but as can be seen from the state of the farm today, it was the moorland which won. A plaque says no more than that this might have been the setting, in Emily's mind, for Wuthering Heights. Take a break and look out over the landscape which fired the imagination of the Brontes. Emily described the land around here as "a distant, dreamy, dim blue chain of mountains circling every side".

Walk back down along the route of the Pennine Way but keep straight ahead along the track instead of turning to the right and back towards the falls. This path takes you down to the main road near the village of Stanbury, though the Pennine Way shoots off to the left at one point. Look over to the left and you can see the Ponden Reservoir, and, near to it, Ponden Hall. If you have the time and the enthusiasm, the Pennine Way takes you up past the hall, which became Thrusscross Grange in Wuthering Heights.

At the main road turn right through Stanbury, and you can, if you wish, walk all the way back to Haworth along this road. A better option, though, is to take the first right after the village and walk over the dam wall beside Lower Laithe Reservoir. At the far end of the dam, a left turn up a lane takes you back past the cemetery to retrace your steps to the Parsonage Museum or, more likely, to one of Haworth's many tea shops for a slice of chocolate cake and a cup of tea.

6 Tourist Information Centre, 2-4 West Lane, Haworth BD22 8EF (tel: 01535- 642329, fax: 01535-647721). Weaver's, 15 West Lane, Haworth BD22 8DU (tel: 01535-643822). Highly rated restaurant with three ensuite rooms to rent, pounds 49.50 single and pounds 69.50 twin or double, b&b. Old White Lion Hotel, Haworth BD22 8DU (tel: 01535-642313, fax: 01535-646222). Old coaching inn with 15 ensuite rooms, pounds 40 single and pounds 55 double, b&b.

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