“Let’s go off road today” .. silent stare … Yep I talk to my dog but sometimes forget she isn’t Scooby Doo. Though she can sound like Chewbacca when she is begging for food.
Much of my walking is done in my own back yard, the moors and hills that form a horseshoe around my home town of Marsden. And pretty much all of that is done following well-trodden paths.
Some of them are paved (which can actually be.a.bad.thing as attested by my mate Steve http://steventuck.wordpress.com/2012/02/18/ouch/), some gravel and some occasionally water-logged and river-like. But all are well trodden and published. One or two stretches go way back past clog wearing times to Roman days. Fact.
But it’s good ring the changes sometimes and go off path, which is what I felt like doing last Sunday.
So Chewy and I headed up (on pretty much a road) to the quarries above Marsden near Dear Hill Moss. But rather than wind my way around one of the hills up high, I walked straight up it.. just to see what was there. I was corralled to some extent by the fence that marks out where the local shooting range is. I’ve seen people on the wrong side of the fence in the past, climbing some of the impressive quarry rocks. But you’ve got to be mad to (a) climb (imho) and (b) do that inside a designated rifle range space. Double adrenaline rush.
Anyway, keeping to the right side of the range fence, I made my own way up high. What was up there on the tops, above some of the published paths (like the Colne Valley circular, the Wessenden path and the Pennine Way) was another path, of sorts, in places.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. These moors have been worked and walked for a really long time. Lots of people before me had obviously fancied a mooch around on high, away from where the (sometimes pretty busy with mountain bikers and hikers) ‘proper paths’ are.
I’m assuming that a lack of paths up high would probably have been for historical reasons – other than sheep there would have been no reason for people to wander about on the remoter moors stretches. The quarries all have paths leading to and fro but obviously they point downhill.
But lack of paths means a relatively undisturbed environment for the fauna and flora .. and I was conscious that I shouldn’t disturb that. So seeing the outline of a couple of paths was probably a good thing .. I stayed within the constraints of their grass flattened routes whist still feeling I was in a wilder space. I didn’t tramp across spaces where birds may well have been nesting in preparation for all that spring brings.
All I could hear was the sound of wind in some of the winter-dried grasses. Actually – I did stray at one point when even the faint path I’d picked up disappeared.. and stepped into a boggy area , one leg went knee-deep in to brackish / peaty water. A reminder that things can get tricky up on high.
Finally, a couple of curiosities I noticed on the walk :
There was a stone marker (see photo) pointing back across the moors .. I’m not sure what it denotes though. “CA”? Catchment Area (for water)? “Curious Aliens” (another Yorkshire moors hot spot maybe?)
Also .. I noticed someone had neatly cut through the rifle range fencing .. a clean-cut, with the fence rolled backwards. Strange. Stranger still in that the fence itself actually stopped about 200 yards further along the moors! A short-sighted naturalist protester?
So, I didn’t truly walk wild – but it was a path less trodden. I navigated my way eventually back down to the ‘heritage trail’ path that shadows the lower Wessenden valley path.
- The Pennine Way: Edale to Marsden (jonmaiden.wordpress.com)
I knew it was going to be a bright, frosty morning so despite having over-Guinnessed (oh dear) from the night before, I headed off up onto the moors with the dog.
I’m joining some others in february to walk up Snowdon – so any and all exercise at this stage has got to be good
I had a vague plan to head to Black Hill, the apex of a big (well, 12 mile) circular I’ve planned out that, for various reasons, I haven’t done in its entirety yet.
So I headed up along the Wessenden reservoirs with the end target being Black Hill. That’s pretty much up hill and due south from me. But, doh – school boy error, I hadn’t brought my shades and after half an hour of squinting into the low hanging winter sun, I changed my mind.
A really low, really bright directly-in-front-of-me sun was a bit too much for this over-Guinnessed man and it would have been the same for another couple of hours.
So I joined the Pennine Way path that turns west just before the deer farm and walked over to and around Black Moss and Swellands reservoirs. Both constructed back in the late 1700′s I think, to feed the canal that runs through the Colne valley below.
I had to watch my step .. there was black ice on some of the paving stones that are used to keep the path above the boggiest parts up there. Apart from focussing on the dog not pulling me onto black ice, I was pretty lost in thought for quite a bit of the hike. My lovely father in law, Ian, died last Sunday and that and thoughts going back to when my mum died a few years back, made for a reflective kind of a morning. But I wasn’t feeling totally glum, the sun and the glinting frost on the coppers, taupe and rusts of the moorland grasses was lovely. And I passed a few others out on hikes. No long conversations but you could tell everyone was glad to be up high under wide blue skies on such a beautiful day.
At one point I could hear some geese flying over, before spotting 2 wide Vs really high up in the blue. I think I’m right in saying that Canada Geese over winter down in the valley (I see a lot in fields alongside the canal most years) but they visit the high reservoirs also.. you have to watch where you tread sometimes .. geese crap everywhere.
I shot a quick bit of phone-camera video but looking at it now you can’t see them at all well and the blustery wind makes it hard to hear them. But if you don’t know the area you’ll get a feel for the moors at this time of year.
Guest appearance from non-plussed, always-wanting-to-move-on dog, Brodie:
The Snowdon trip will be a couple of weeks after Ian’s funeral and although it was organised a while back and by others , I’m going to make my part of it a sponsored thing and raise some money for the British Heart Foundation. I’ll post about that soon I think.
Thanks for reading and I hope all is good with you wherever and whenever you read this.
- Mist, fog and mucky dogs across Cut Gate (backpackingbongos.wordpress.com)