This wonderful walk seems to be one which the National Trust don’t have a leaflet for, so I set off with map and compass to create my own take on this historic trail.
- 11.5 miles, with over 2000 feet of ascent
- Duration 4hrs+ (allow 5hrs)
- Dog Friendly, but you need to use a lead in certain areas
- No facilities on route, but cafe at start and Pub at apx 1/2 way
- Stout Boots are required
- Route Crosses a Ford – in winter this can be deeper than boots
You require two OS maps to cover the whole route
Starting off at the National Trust Barn by Marsden Train station, you can park you car for free, always my preferred option, so that is where Suzi got left.
Leaving the car park and heading down the hill, you are almost immediately given a choice. The road to the Right heads towards St.Bartholemew’s, the pretty Parish church of Marsden, or head along the main road to one of the café’s.
On this occasion, I diverted from the true path, and went for a bacon butty.
If you are led by tummy, you need to back track, or head up to the A62 to get back on the Standedge Trail, not difficult as its still on tarmac.
Look for old mount road. Old Mount Road was originally an old turnpike road. Head uphill. It’s quite steep. As I was huffing up the hill, I found myself trying to imagine how this would have looked and felt when pack-horses were plodding up here, heads hung low, weary from the trek from Huddersfield, bags stuffed with wool or cotton bales from the mills. I was hot about the collar and I was only recently stuffed with breakfast. Still, as I got my old body up the hill, I was able to look down on Bank Bottom Mill, which was opened in 1824, and didn’t cease making woollen cloth until 2003. It looks such a benign building, but what horrors must have been seen inside in its lifetime?
Just over a mile into the walk, you will need to look for a footpath on the Right, The path is muddy, and as it nearly doubles back on itself after 50 yds it gets wetter, water flowing like a stream. My feet found most of the deep spots in this part stream, part footpath. It leads to a green lane, which the Standedge Trail follows until it meets another old turnpike, currently called Mount Road. When the barges sailed through the tunnel, the bargemen would push the heavy loads by laying on there backs and walking their feet along the ceiling. At the same time, the horses relieved from the job of pulling the barges, had to walk over the moor to meet the boats again at Diggle.
I diverted again from the set route, as I wanted to have a look at the old quarry workings. I believe that this was the area where a lot of the building material for the tunnels was quarried. Beneath my feet there is a tunnel for the canal, and a tunnel for the train, (completed in 1811 and 1848 respectively). The tunnels are hidden from view, but you are in no doubt as to where they are, as you can see the round air vents standing proud of the moor all along the route. There is another quarry on the other side of Pule Hill, which is bigger and has more evidence of its industrial past.
I enjoy meeting other people while I am out on these walks, and having left the beaten track and visited these old workings, I was fortunate to meet Andy, James and Mark, three intrepid travellers, who I was informed by James, had already conquered the “big hill”. It is nice to see a new walker in the making, James is 6, Andy and Mark are at my end of the spectrum, being 51 and 59 respectively.
I get back on track, but for only a few yards as the trail appears to vanish over a cliff. Actually it doesn’t vanish, but winds down a steep cut to the ford at the bottom. Look for a standing stone as your waymarker.
This steep cut in the gully side continues up the opposite bank and leads you onto an area of wet and muddy flat ground. The Standedge Trail joins the Pennine way, and can see Redbrook reservoir shining in front of the ever present Pule Hill on your right. There is a ford to cross along this stretch, is it too romantic to imagine the tired horses getting a break to drink and get there breath back?
Does anyone else picture history in monochrome?
Keep going until you get to the car park at Brun Clough Reservoir and at the exit at the other side, take a left, watch your step, its slippy. This path heads down to get close to the vents, and I very nearly ended up on the wrong track again because I started daydreaming. In my minds eye, the decay of long years fell away from the house, and I tried to imagine its former glory.
Daydreaming aside, you need to head past the house a few yards, then drop down to the right. You pass one of the spoil heaps, still no grass on the steep slope after a hundred years and more. You are almost in Diggle, and if you are lucky the Diggle Hotel will be open for foaming glasses of local cask ale. Or it may not. It wasn’t.
The route on the OS Map shows the Standedge Trail turning right just before the Hotel, I would suggest that you stay on the main road and cross the road bridge over the railway. This adds maybe a hundred yards, but avoids a very dicey looking slope. Once over the bridge, I turned right to wade through the latest flood. I say wade, I skirted the edge ankle deep. This little detour is along an older road, and avoids a section of the main road, just to give a little change, I don’t always follow an exact path. Putting on my Zen hat, you could say, “you are only lost if, you care where you are”. Still, this is supposed to be a guide to the Standedge Trail, so back to it. If you have been good, and followed the map, you will be on the Huddersfield Road. If not, find a footpath which links to it from Ridge Road, where I was.
Heading uphill, I am being careful, as there is no pathway but fast moving traffic. I try and always be on the side of the road on which the cars will be going up, as I feel that gravity can help them brake if they see me late, a split second might count. Looking out for Dean Head Lane, you head down this little road and will find yourself enchanted by the smell of fresh pine and damp moss. I was 12 again, playing in the woods in Halifax, with dirty knees and mucky hands.
As you round the corner another gentle slope takes you to the A62, which is crossed carefully, onto yet more mud, but very soon you will be turning right to follow the tarmac in the direction East North East. A marked alternative is to head 50 yards downhill and then turn uphill along the original drovers path. This is the path I took, and was smiling to myself as I decided to make some notes for my “creative writing”. What I noted was the flags of fleece on barbed wire, waving in the wind like long forgotten bunting.
Make the most of the opportunity to romance, for when you reach the next turn (a left) you are heading to the Standedge, which shows here as a long prominent scar of millstone grit. And you are going to the top of it, albeit up a pass between bluffs. The wind, which has been around, but starting to be ignored, reminds you of its power. Stay away from the edge, it wants you off its hill. Most times I would assume its not this bad, but as I arrived I rendezvoused with Storm Ewan, Storm Doris’ little brother. You are not on top of the bluff for a long way, but be aware of the different paths, there are several meeting here. You need to be East North East which will take you back to the A62, left then Right brings you to the foot of Pule Hill. If you decide you want to climb up Pule Hill, go for it, its not on the Standedge Trail, but the views from the top are tremendous. Ewan was still with me as I reached the summit, to find I was not the only one who wanted to meet him.
There is a path heading North from the stanza stone at the summit, if you take it, and you want to get back to the Trail, you will risk life and limb down a steep hillside. I found myself thigh deep in stagnant water, twisting ankles all the way down. Far better to retrace your steps South and rejoin the marked route at the bottom.
Cross the A62 again and you need to go down a narrow dark ginnel. Possibly the steepest part of the walk, its certainly the slipperiest.
but at the bottom, wow. You will need to ford the river at the bottom, but that leads to Easter Bridge, which is very pretty.
Across the bridge a gentle stroll back to the visitor centre awaits. From here, after a brief stop for refreshment ( I highly recommend the Blueberry tea) the last stretch along the Standedge Trail is the canal tow path, 10 minutes walk on the flat and you will see the first (last?) lock on the Huddersfield side of the Pennines. You are back where you started from, 4 or 5 hours ago, a bit tired, but I hope very satisfied.