Author: Helen Cox

Helen Cox is a UK author. She made her on-screen debut in The Krankies in 1990. Given the choice, her Mastermind topic would be Grease 2 and when someone asks her if she is a god she says 'yes.' Oh, you want to know about her books? Best click some of the links below.

A Hike to Heptonstall: Visiting Sylvia

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For our second wedding anniversary the Hubster and I spent a night away in Hebden Bridge, Calderdale.

Until my better half mentioned it, I hadn’t given any thought to the fact that Plath was buried in the next village. I was too distracted by the glint of the canal and the gritty texture of the buildings. But my husband knows Plath is one of my literary heroes (it’s no coincidence I wrote my own story about an Esther in New York) and he had a premeditated pilgrimage to Plath’s grave penciled in the following day.

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I’m using the term ‘hike’ in the title very lightly. The walk from Hebden Bridge to Heptonstall is not at all far, but since Hebden sits in the bottom of a valley, the walk is all uphill. About half way, you’ll pass the small Methodist graveyard pictured above that overlooks the village below.

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It dawned on me as I walked towards Plath’s burial site that for all I’d read of and about her, I had no idea why she was buried in Heptonstall. Hughes was from Mytholmroyd which is very close to Heptonstall and his parents lived in the parish. Sylvia Plath did visit her in-laws just after she married Hughes but I’m struggling to find any deeper connections with Heptonstall and Plath herself (if you know anymore please tweet me). Plath’s burial place seems  more related to her husband than her own identity, an issue which has caused a great deal of anger among fans of the famous novelist and poet. 

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The churchyard at Heptonstall actually houses two separate churches. One, a ruin that began decaying after a major gale in 1847 and a new church built to replace the one that was all but destroyed by the weather.

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Some of the remaining gravestones lying on what would have been the floor of the church are still legible even though the church was founded in the 13th Century. The ornate nature of the typography is just breathtaking.

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Even if the main point of your visit to Heptonstall is to visit Plath’s grave, it would be criminal to pass so close to this beautiful relic and not take a few minutes to roam around what remains of its former glory.

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In a separate graveyard, near Back Lane, you will find Sylvia Plath’s grave. Don’t do what me and the Hubster did and rock up without any information as to the grave’s whereabouts and hope for the best. You will end up, as we did, praying you have enough battery left on your phones to bring up the stone’s precise location.

Finding Plath’s grave is actually very easy if you’re organised. Open the gate and walk straight ahead with the gravestones on your right. When you get about three quarters of the way across the cemetery, look right and you should see a small trail through the grass, walked by many others who have come to visit the site. It will lead you to what you’re looking for.

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Alongside the flowers brought by other visitors, someone had left a small pot containing pens and paper. Something had been written on the paper but it seemed inappropriate to read it. Even if it had been left in a public place, it was likely a very personal message.

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The epitaph on Plath’s grave is a quote from Hindu scriptures, though it reminds me very much of the kind of imagery seen in poems like Lady Lazarus.

Looking back on these photographs now, it seems perhaps a little odd that I spent a portion of my wedding anniversary in a cemetery. The Hubster and I are both big Buffy fans but this may have been taking things a bit too far. Still, I’m  glad I visited Plath’s resting place. Her poetry has, on so many occasions, given me strength, perspective and solace. Though perhaps few would think to turn to her verse for any of those things.

I was struck by a strange sense of peace to see for my own eyes where her body ended up, and there was a comfort afforded to know for myself just how beautiful a place it was.

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This entry was posted on August 4, 2016 by in Author Blog and tagged , , , , , .
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