South Pennines Walk - Marsden Moor and Standedge
PUBLISHED: 00:08 10 July 2013 | UPDATED: 00:35 30 December 2014
An ancient route linking Marsden to neighbouring Lancashire
Before the coming of the canals and railways, trade in the deep valleys and high moors of the Pennines depended on trains of pack ponies bringing the essentials of life across the hills. The weaving village of Marsden still has a railway station and a revitalised canal but this walk takes one of the more ancient routes that once linked it with neighbouring Lancashire
Start by the railway station and walk down to the canal towpath, turning westwards following the brown tourist signs for the Standedge Visitor Centre at Tunnel End. This first half mile makes for a gentle leg stretcher, admiring the narrow boats and enjoying the birdlife on the water. After the canal passes beneath the railway take a footbridge across the water to the visitor centre. Here an old warehouse has been converted to tell the epic story of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and the Standedge Tunnel, which at more than three miles (5kms) is the longest in Britain. The tunnel opened in 1811 after 17 years hard digging. Superseded by railways, the canal finally closed in 1944 only to be re-opened for recreational traffic after a massive restoration effort in 2001.
From the visitor centre climb the road towards the Tunnel End Inn. By the pub turn left into Waters Road but after a few paces go through a gate on the left and take a firm path which runs parallel to the road.
Eventually the path runs out and you are forced back onto the lane. Continue leftwards along this to a vague crossroads. Carry on straight ahead up Blake Lea Lane for 100 yards to take a public footpath on the left just before Eastergate Cottage. The route has now left the bustle of Marsden far behind and curls peacefully above the beck heading into the hills and crossing the delightful little Eastergate packhorse bridge. The name has nothing to do with the religious festival but is said to be a corruption of the name of Esther Schofield, who ran a nearby pub. In the days before turnpike roads were built these now-abandoned trails were an essential link between communities.
Take the broad bridleway following the right hand stream for 100 yards or so before turning left up a steep little clough. After a short, stiff climb the path levels out with the rounded hummock of March Hill on the skyline in front. The path meanders vaguely towards this before passing well to its left to reach a road. Although this section crosses largely featureless moorland, the path is generally fairly clear, marked by sporadic stone flagging across boggy sections and the occasional gritstone marker post bearing the legend ‘P H Road.’
Carry on almost to the road but just a few yards shy of the tarmac turn sharply back left across a footbridge to follow signs for the Pennine Way. After three quarters of a mile the track emerges on a rocky edge overlooking twin reservoirs. Continue leftwards along the moorland edge. The path eventually reaches a trig point on Standedge before dropping down through enclosed fields and tumbledown walls, passing through a series of gates and stiles to reach a broad cross track. Turn leftwards along this still following Pennine Way and Pennine Bridleway signs. After a couple of hundred yards take the second of two tracks downhill to the car park by Brun Clough Reservoir.
Take the Pennine Way up a flight of steps at the left hand end of the car park. A good track climbs the hill at the top of which views open up of Redbrook Reservoir with the shapely slanting ridge of Pule Hill beyond. Continue through a gate and carry on down into a dip where a footpath sign shows the Pennine Way turning off rightwards while the track to Marsden drops down leftwards for a few feet to cross a footbridge before continuing on the broad track to a road.
Cross straight over the road and begin to climb Old Mount Road for a few yards and then bear left up a stony track towards Hades Farm. After about half a mile keep an eye out for a path heading down rightwards, following the wall down to a gate and then down the hill to rejoin Old Mount Road, which is followed back to the centre of Marsden.
Start/Finish: Marsden Railway Station
Distance: 8 miles/13km
Time: 3-4 hours
Terrain: Moorland tracks
Parking: On and off-street parking in village centre or an ideal walk to reach by train on the Huddersfield to Manchester line
Refreshments: Pubs and cafés in Marsden and at Tunnel End
Maps: Requires OS South Pennines and Dark Peak maps but the local Information Centre sells a special mini OS 1:25,000 (two and half inches to the mile) with Marsden at its centre for £3.50