CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Yorkshire Life today CLICK HERE

South Pennines walk - Marsden

PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 November 2017

Looking back to Blakely Reservoir

Looking back to Blakely Reservoir

Terry Fletcher

Terry Fletcher leads a walk from Marsden which passes six reservoirs, all of which have a story to tell

The easy to follow Pennine Way above Blakely CloughThe easy to follow Pennine Way above Blakely Clough

Marsden, on the western fringe of the moors just before Yorkshire tumbles downhill into Lancashire is one of those sturdy Pennine villages which still carry the supremely self-confident stamp of their Victorian inhabitants. It grew wealthy on weaving and still boasts some impressive buildings from those days. Though not as tourist-dominated as its Summer Wine neighbour, Holmfirth, it nevertheless has a familiar air, thanks to its frequent use as a film location.

This walk sets off from the town centre and makes its way past a procession of no fewer than half a dozen reservoirs strung out across the moors. All have played their part in Marsden’s history for good and ill, powering the mills, feeding the canal and domestic taps but also bringing tragedy to the valley.


1. From the bridge over the River Colne in the centre of Marsden, turn up Peel Street (the main shopping parade) and carry on up to the A62. Turn right along this and after a couple of hundred yards turn left in Fall Lane, signed to Butterley Reservoir and Golf Club. At the first junction carry on directly ahead up Binn Road, which is discreetly signed as the Kirklees Way. The road passes a mill and a row of stone cottages. Carry on, and on the brow of the hill the views open out to the moors and the green dam of the reservoir appears. Take the second of a pair of footpaths on the right, still signed Kirklees Way and heading along the side of the reservoir.

The Victorian dam is flanked by an impressively broad spillway which was designed to be ornamental as well as practical, It was originally faced with Ashlar Stone and had curved steps. First built to supply water power to Marsden’s mills, it was later bought by Huddersfield Corporation to slake the town’s thirst.

2. The unmade road presses on up the valley to reach a second dam, this time impounding Blakeley Reservoir. Just after passing the dam look out for a gap in the fence on the right with a Walkers are Welcome badge marked ‘Swellands’. Go through the gap and follow the narrow green track as it shadows the water’s edge and then climb up beside the inflow stream into the Wessenden valley. The path crosses the beck by a footbridge and then climbs steeply up the hillside to reach a concrete water tank.

From here there is a view of yet another reservoir at Wessenden. However, turn right away from this to follow the shoulder of Blakeley Clough on a clear track. The path eventually crosses the clough by clambering down over rocks and climbs the other side before heading out onto the open moor.

3. Although there are few, if any, landmarks on this section the way is clear thanks to the partially-flagged path, which is now part of the Pennine Way long distance trail. The stone flagging becomes even more pronounced as the path approaches the lonely water of the twin reservoirs of Swellands and Black Moss. On a grey day this can seem a gloomy spot and it has a history to match. In 1810 the earth bank of the still only partially-built Swellands dam burst, releasing a flood which drowned six people, five of them from a single family and the body of one victim was found six miles downstream from where she had vanished.

4. Cross the dam of Black Moss still following the Pennine Way. Carry on along the flagged path which lead down to the final reservoir of the day at Red Brook. However, a couple of hundred yards before reaching it the Pennine Way meets a broad track, the Standedge Trail, coming in from the left. Turn right along this, signed to Marsden, on a post erected by the Peak and Northern Footpath Society.

The views are already extensive but those who want even wider panoramas can make the short detour to climb Pule Hill, the green wedge-shaped summit just to the left. Whichever is chosen, the Standedge Trail is followed across the moor to reach Mount Road, which has climbed out of Marsden heading for Lancashire and which has been a Pennine crossing since before the Romans came here. The easiest way back is to follow this road all the way into Marsden. However a quieter but much rougher way is described below.

5. Cross straight over into Old Mount Road and follow it for a few steps before switching to an unmade track signed to Hades Farm. This fine level track has views rightwards to Butterley Reservoir and the opening section of the walk. When the wall on the right hand side starts to drift away take the signed path down beside it. This is the steepest and most difficult section of the whole route and look out for a more enclosed track heading down leftwards to rejoin Old Mount Road, which is followed steeply all the way back to Marsden.

Compass Points

Start/finish: Marsden

Distance: 7.5miles/12km

Ascent: 1150ft/350m

Terrain: Moorland tracks

Time: 4 hours

Parking: Roadside in Marsden

Refreshment: Wide choice in Marsden

Maps: OS OL 1 Dark Peak and OS OL 21 South Pennines

10 great walks in the South Pennines

More from Out & About

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Bizarre shapes and many different sizes of rock make this as fascinating for walkers as it is for climbers

Read more
Pateley Bridge
Wednesday, November 7, 2018

We talk to the woman charged with keeping the National Railway Museum on track

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

In recent years, Harrogate has suffered from shop closures like any other town. It’s fighting back with various initiatives designed to bring in shoppers, tourists and businesses, reports Tony Greenway

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

The time is right to claim the South Pennines as England’s first regional park, say campaigners

Read more
Monday, October 22, 2018

The Yorkshire Dales market town of Settle has much to offer at the turn of the season, as Tony Greenway discovers

Read more
Settle Autumn
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Is Doncaster soaring in the slipstream of success created by its award-winning airport?

Read more
Doncaster Sheffield
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Thousands of people come through Ingleton every year to tackle the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks, but there are plenty of other walking options available in the area.

Read more
Thursday, October 11, 2018

Explore an historic North Yorkshire town and its countryside with some guidance from Richard Darn.

Read more
Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A grand upland walk without too much effort

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Why the fascination with this popular village on the Yorkshire coast? Richard Darn goes exploring.

Read more

Topics of Interest

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Property Search