Mytholmroyd is an unassuming little village nestled in the Calder valley with four modes of transport running through it…river, rail, road and canal.
The village’s main claim to any kind of fame is that the poet, Ted Hughes, was born here. He moved away with his parents when he was seven but the memories of the place must have made a deep impression. One of his books, Elmet, (originally published as The Remains of Elmet in 1979) is still in print with the combination of his evocative poetry and the stunning photographs of the landscape and the people captured by Fay Godwin.
Elmet was the old name for this part of West Yorkshire, described in the book’s introduction as “the last independent Celtic kingdom in England”. And before the road, railway and canal were built, the valley had a reputation as a “badlands”; ideal terrain for lawbreakers’ hideouts.
On page 53 of the book, there is a photograph of Scout Rock. This is a tree covered cliff formation, which I can see across the valley from my kitchen window. So, where do the “toxic chickens come in”?
The 2015 Boxing Day flood caused a landslide, which damaged part of the road and everyone living in the houses nearby were evacuated and the primary school closed. It’s long been known that asbestos was dumped in this area and that a landslip like this was likely to happen at some point.
However, there’s a story going around that a local poultry business buried their dead chickens on the hillside sometime in the middle of the last century and the floods in December, uprooted not only some trees, but also the graves of these chickens. The problem is that the chickens had a high level of toxins in them.
Some days we see workers wearing biohazard suits working on the hillside. The cleared area is growing but progress seems to be slow. The road and the school are still closed.
I don’t know if the story of the chickens is true but I think it would make a great movie…forget your zombie apocalypse…we have The Toxic Chickens of Elmet.
Where to buy these books:
The Starling Hill Trilogy: