Walk Archive 2015: Marsden Moor and Standedge with Denis Brook and Phil Hinchliffe

Walking with The Dalesman

Walk Archive December 2015: Marsden Moor and Standedge

The exterior of The Thornhill Arms, located in Yorkshire's Calverley

Walking route:

Start/Parking: Roadside parking at Hey Green (hotel now closed), about one and a half miles (3km) west of Marsden at the end of Waters Road. SE 031122

Distance: 7.5 miles (12km)

Time: 4 hours

Terrain: The route takes you from the Colne Valley, up the old packhorse route to the Pennine Way running along Standedge Edge. This part of the route can be very boggy, especially after sustained rainy periods, but ways around the more boggy parts are not difficult to find

Facilities: Pubs on A62. Also, Standedge Visitor Centre at Tunnel End, plus many places in Marsden.

Maps: OL21 South Pennines and OL1 Dark Peak

You can walk to Marsden across the Pennine hills and you can reach it by train, road or canal boat, but you cannot travel by river, as the River Colne is not navigable.

The village lies at the head of the Colne Valley, about seven and a half miles (12 km) from Huddersfield and nineteen miles (30 km) from Manchester.

Marchdene, meaning “a swampy valley”, as it was originally known, was once a thriving transport hub, as nearby Standedge (pronounced Stannidge), being a low point in the watershed, became a natural place to cross the Pennine hills.

Firstly came the packhorse roads, used to transport goods, including the all-important textiles, between Yorkshire and Lancashire. Then came the toll roads, or turnpikes. The one across Standedge was built by civil engineer John Metcalf, known as “Blind Jack of Knaresborough”, and it is said that this road was his finest achievement. As well as being an accomplished violin player, Metcalf, despite being blind from the age of six, built about 180 miles (290 km) of turnpike roads. He developed a technique of building roads across moorland bogs by using rafts made from heather and gorse. He became probably the first professional road builder of the Industrial Revolution.

The canals were not far behind. The Standedge Canal Tunnel, begun by Benjamin Outram in 1784, became an icon in the history of British inland waterways. With a length of about three miles (5km) it is the longest canal tunnel in the UK and a masterpiece of the Industrial Revolution. In 1845, work began on the first railway tunnel which, when completed, was the longest in the world. Due to increasing rail traffic, two more tunnels were built between 1868 and 1894, making a grand total of four tunnels beneath the Pennines.

Having parked your vehicle, walk ahead to the entrance road to Hey Green (hotel now closed) and take a look over the river bridge into the field on the right. The collection of stone posts in this field are “tenter stones” which, together with tenterhooks, were used for stretching cloth during the manufacturing process. Continuing ahead on the route, you will soon arrive at another reminder of the industrial heritage of this area, Close Gate (packhorse) Bridge. This seventeenth-century scheduled ancient monument is also known as Eastergate Bridge, possibly referring to the time when a certain EstherSchofield ran the Packhorse Inn on this site.

When you arrive at the Pennine Way, views of Lancashire open up and the walk along the escarpment is quite magnificent. Look out for the Dinner Stone, so called because it is said to be “flat enough to eat your dinner off”. Nearby is the Ammon Wrigley Memorial, together with three others. Wrigley (1861-1946) was a local poet and writer who liked to walk the countryside from his local village of Saddleworth.

When you leave the Pennine Way, you will be walking among the spoil heaps and old workings of the tunnels under the Pennines. The several ventilating and working shafts serve as a reminder of some of the greatest Victorian engineering achievements.


Tunnel End at the visitor centre


1. Leave the parking area forward (westerly). Ascend the narrow Blake Lea Lane for about 110 yards (100m), then take the footpath to the left along the bank of the swiftlyflowing, peat-stained river. Cross Close Gate Bridge and bear right on the well-defined path. At the waymark sign, turn left to ascend very steeply on the packhorse route up Willykay Clough, signed as “The Station to Station Walk”. Follow this well-defined path (the Packhorse Road) all the way to the highest point – about two miles (3.2 km). Beware of false summits.

2. At the crossing of paths marked by a packhorse road stone, turn left on the welldefined path to join the Pennine Way, southerly, paved with stone slabs. Follow the Pennine Way all the way to the A62.

3. Cross the A62 and turn left to ascend the steps, still following the Pennine Way. Leave the Pennine Way at a stile/gate, turning left to follow a defined path with a fence on your right, duly becoming parallel with the A62 and then joining it. Descend the A62, passing the Great Western pub on your left, to Mount Road on the right (there is another pub just down the A62).

4. Proceed on Mount Road for about 380 yards (350m) to a waymarker post on the left and take the left path becoming parallel with the A62. Follow this well-defined path, boggy in places. As you approach a house, you will discover the concrete remains of the rectangular base of an outbuilding. Bear right of this, ascending into disused quarry workings. Wend your way through the quarries (several paths), keeping roughly parallel with and mostly in sight of the A62 on your left. The path duly descends to a stile on the roadside opposite the private access road to Hey Green at SE018095.

5. Cross the stile and the A62, turn right on the footway and descend towards Marsden. After about 400 yards (370m), turn sharp left into the narrow lane, identified by a bus stop, which leads down to the Standedge Visitor Centre at Tunnel End. At the Tjunction (pub shown on OS now closed), turn left into Waters Road and after a few yards pass into the footpath on the left through the gate. Follow this path as far as possible to re-enter Waters Road. Turn left and proceed back to the car parking area.

Walking can be strenuous, and it is up to you to approach it with caution and if you are inexperienced to do so under appropriate supervision. You should also carry appropriate clothing, equipment and maps, and wear suitable footwear. The details given here were believed to be correct at the time of going to press but neither the author nor Country Publications Ltd can accept responsibility for inaccuracies.


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