Improvements to the Rochdale Canal at Mytholmroyd

Posted: 30.08.13

Sculptor Kenny Hunter and Hargreaves Foundry in Halifax are putting the finishing touches to a new piece of canalside interpretation that will soon be positioned beside Broadbottom Lock in Mytholmroyd. The project is part of a wider programme to improve the facilities and interpretation of the Rochdale Canal, including the refurbishment of the towpath from Redacre to White Lee in Mytholmroyd.
Pennine Prospects has allocated funding from the South Pennines Leader programme for the project and commissioned Kenny Hunter to design the sculpture. Kenny has been inspired by the work of former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes who was born in Mytholmroyd and spent his formative childhood years in the fields and woods around the town.

Kenny has designed a Hawk with its prey, perched on a tree stump and cast in iron. This piece takes inspiration not only from the poem but also from the local place names, ‘Hawks Clough” and “Red Acre Wood”. Hawk Roosting” is one of Ted Hughes’s best-loved poems and describes very honestly the raw side of nature. It is a very accessible yet complex poem with many possible interpretations. Kenny Hunter says

‘What ultimately made the subject of the Hawk irresistible to me was hearing a memory from Ted Hughes’ childhood friend Donald Crossley, on my visit to Mytholmroyd. He told me how he and Ted had seen a Hawk holding a bird in its claws in Red Acre Wood, when they were small boys, and this event directly informed the poem. I believe this work can simultaneously reveal the site’s industrial and natural heritage alongside honouring the work of Poet Laureate Ted Hughes.’
The eye of the hawk is at human eye level and the artist was keen for people to connect to the spirit of the bird, a strong theme of Hughes’ work. The overall height of the sculpture allows it to function from a distance as a signpost as people enter the village by car or foot and it also by marks the entrance on to the canal towpath.

The artist was chosen by a panel which included several local representatives and experts on canal history. Jade Smith, one of the panel members said ‘ It has been an honour to be involved in this project and see an artist develop an idea from first discussions through to the final artwork. This piece feels like it really belongs here’

The sculpture is made of cast iron which is extremely durable and self-protecting, and it also has strong associations with the Industrial Heritage of the Area. Mytholmroyd was home to ‘Pickles Foundry, opened in 1890, later to become Broadbent’s Foundry, which was described in the Hughes poem “Under the Worlds Wild Rims”.

Hargreaves Foundry in Halifax has a long tradition of working with Canals and also helping artists to create interesting artworks in durable materials. They will be installing the sculpture in early September.

In the following weeks an interpretation panel will be positioned canalside to increase the amount of information available to canal and towpath users. This is being designed by a team of artists and designers from Hebden Bridge including Jane Revitt and Andy Plant. They have been consulting widely with canal experts, historians, local residents and members of the Elmet Trust, who look after Ted Hughes’ poetic legacy, all to ensure the information reflects the area accurately.

Yorkshire Water United Utilities Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council National Farmers Union
South Pennines Association Lancashire County Council Pennine Heritage Kirklees Council Calderdale Council
Bradford District Council Northern Rail Natural England Environment Agency The National Trust