A hike from Marsden to Stoodley Pike – three Men, one Dog, some art and history

This is the second time I’ve walked to my dad’s house, about 13.5 miles over the moors. This time Brodie Dog and I were joined by my sons Joe and Ronan. They’re the other two men in the post blog title. Actual men, both being over 18. Which is alarming as I can remember carrying them both in backpacks and it really (really) doesn’t seem that long ago.
So, 3 men rather than the usual one Man And His Dog. Which made for a more conversational hike (The Dog is pretty monosyllabic unless there’s food on offer). And it was great making the journey to my Dad’s with my two sons.

The original trip (the solo version) blog post can be found here .. just to give you some additional perspective on the walk. As with that walk, the return leg was to be by car, with my dad kindly ferrying us home afterwards from his house. I think in the post about the first Stoodley Pike hike, I was musing about the Roman road I (nearly) intersected at one stage. I’m glad to say that this time we actually ‘found’ it and a short section of the walk included walking downhill on its surprisingly intact cobbles. More of that later.

Here’s a map of the route – zoomed out to fit it all in and what you don’t get so much from this is that it’s pretty much moors the whole way. Although the light brown shading does hint at it of course. Maps are good like that. So, lots of moorland but you’re not in the wilderness as such – this walk traverses lots of the built environment.  From roads (and motorways) to reservoirs and pylons. Which means that it isn’t the prettiest of walks in places but it is an interesting one, reminding you just how industrious a species we are.

map of Marsden to Stoodley Pike walk

The hike started at around 8.20 on Easter Saturday, under fairly leaden skies but the forecast promised nothing more than a light shower, so we were hoping for just that.
We walked through Marsden up to the old Pack Horse bridge (Eastergate) so we could track across the bridleway to intersect with the Pennine way as it meets the A640.
Those folk who walk the long distance trail of the Pennine Way would have probably walked across from Standedge (west of where we started) to get to this junction but that would have added a bit more time onto our hike.
And the section across the moors from Eastergate (starting near the Hey Green hotel), to the Pennine Way at the A640, is a nice expanse of moorland.
It got a bit difficult in a couple of places actually, as the 12 hours of winter we had a week or so ago had dumped a lot of snow and had obscured the track, such that we waded through a foot or so of snow on some of the path’s  gullies.

Hike route Towards March Haigh Hill in near Marsden
Joe (ahead) and Ronan on the path, some deeper snow than this scattered the route across the moors near March Haigh

I’ll describe the rest of the hike with photos, all taken on my camera-phone so not the best quality –  but hopefully you get a sense of the areas we went through.

The first stretch was (as above) a mix of saturated path and the remnants of snow drifts up past the March Haigh area of Marsden Moor. From here we crossed the A640 and joined the Pennine Way and we were lost in conversation and banter, so we were soon at the trig point up at White Hill. There were lots of ground nesting (it looked like) birds taking flight and getting quite shouty as we walked past, I’m guessing that was to distract us from where their nests were?
Something we discussed was that our collective knowledge (and mine should be the better, as the Good Parent) of the fauna and flora on the moors is pretty sketchy. Something I need to rectify I think.

photo of White Hill trig point West Yorkshire
Joe and Ronan moving on after a quick lesson in Trig Point usage from Joe (the Geologist in the group)

After White Hill comes the huge satellite pylons above the M62 before you cross the high footbridge that spans the M62 – heading for Blackstone Edge.

Before we crossed the bridge we stopped to watch a helicopter sweep over (what you don’t see in this video is the M62 hidden in the steep valley below):


This bridge isn’t really one for those with a bit of vertigo. I did feel a bit weird halfway across.. probably because of the drone / constant white noise of the (always) heavy traffic below and the fact you are so high up.

The M62 Bridge on the Pennine Way

After the motorway crossing you’re back into moors territory and after a short climb, amongst the rocky outcrops of Blackstone Edge. It was noticeably colder and windier at this stage, so we went down into the Blackstone ‘cliffs’ to take shelter for lunch. The cliff formation is pretty impressive., even more so with some minor  snowdrifts picking out the rocks.

After refuelling, I had the urge to make a little arty (as in, a homage to Anthony Goldsworthy) ‘intervention’ .. which is a grand way of saying a quick nature doodle. And nothing like his work really. But I’ve always made little sculptures or doodles on trips out. I’ll sometimes make rock balances or circular formations based on any natural materials to hand. Don’t know why, just something I like to do for any one coming upon it later on.

This was a simple circle that had some of the peat and fresh snow sat in a natural circular depression in one of the huge rock boulders.

Blackstone Edge Doodle Art
my quick art doodle on Blackstone Edge

We then picked our way across Blackstone Edge and down to the Aiggin Stone .. a medieval way-marker. And right next to what is reputedly a Roman road. I say reputedly, as various websites dispute this (and a couple of people I know). The cobbles and central channel are (I think) classic Roman road design but there is a school of thought that says this is also a medieval construction. I’m going with Roman.. I was enjoying the ‘in their footsteps ‘ vibe as we walked down hill on the short section that takes you onto the Pennine Way again.

Walking on the Roman Road at Blackstone Edge
Joe and Ronan (and Brodie) walking on the Roman Road near Blackstone Edge

From here it was downhill to join the A58 and the White House Inn, which you skirt around the front of, to get to Blackstone Edge reservoir. This Res is then the first of a series of waters you walk alongside (still on the Pennine Way), the last being Warland reservoir. It was just before there (if I remember the location correctly) that we came across a more permanent artwork on the rocks: Simon Armitage has created a series of poem carvings (carved by someone else) between Marsden and (I think) Ilkley, themed around Water and its role on the moors.
I keep meaning to walk up Pule Hill (which is local to me) to see the poem carved there. Now I’ve seen the Warland’s ‘rain’ poem in situ, I’ll have to plan a walk (or series of walks) to see the full set. Ever the collector.
Some more information about it is here. I’ve read some feedback that claims this project actually spoils the natural landscape. My view is that there’s nothing ‘natural’ about reservoirs or quarries, interesting ‘naturalised ‘ features though they are. And I like much of his work that I’ve read over the years, so its okay by me.  But it does raise questions about who decides what art is public and to a degree enforced and who has the right to alter features without a general public vote or consensus.

Simon Armitage rain Poem
The Simon Armitage 'Rain' Poem carved in the rocks next to the Pennine Way (Warlands Area).

Warlands reservoir has some other carved stone work at one end , but this is from the 1920’s and I think was to proclaim that this was built for Rochdale Council Water Works.

Stonework at Warland reservoir
RCWW - 1925 - Stonework at Warland reservoir. Laid out horizontally now, not sure what the plan is for all that lovely workmanship.

From the northern end of Warlands Res you then head north-east and follow what is now a really well flagged part of the Pennine Way. I remember parts of this section being quite boggy before so some of the stones must have been laid fairly recently. We could see the Pike from here and we were all pretty tired at that stage. In fact we had a final snack break (Jelly Babies and a slug of water for me!) before the final push.
Brodie had slowed down a bit by now – I’ve noticed she’s getting a bit slower on these longer walks.. still giddy when we start out but definitely slowing down he longer we go on. She’s about 10 now so hitting late middle age maybe, shame to see it but who am I to talk, I had aches and twinges most of the way 🙂

Mark and Brodie near Coldwell Hill
Me with Brodie near the Coldwell Hill section. There's a couple of those standing stones dotted about up there.

There isn’t much in the way of climbs involved on the route but it is a bit of a slog between the Blackstone Edge and the Coldwell Hill section. The Pike is just above my dad’s house and we were all thinking of a drink and sit down at the end.

The views just before the Pike (near East Scout) are great (the Pike is over to the right):

Panograph of views near East Scout at Stoodley Pike
Joe and a panorama of views near / above East Scout at Stoodley Pike

Anyway (nearly there!), we got to the Pike and could see my Dad’s house – part of an old isolation hospital complex, now converted to houses.

Downhill path from Stoodley Pike
The path downhill from Stoodley Pike

So down we went, for (as it turned out) a really welcome bowl of beef stew and beers (for those ‘boy’s of mine) and a coffee for their old man who wanted to stay awake enough to keep his old man company on the drive back to our house. So, not the most picturesque trail in parts but the industrial heritage thing makes it an interesting one. And the moors sections are great.

  • Three men and a dog in a North Pennine bothy (backpackingbongos.wordpress.com)
    Suggested by the Zemanta plug-in but I had just read this post (And didn’t steal the title, I’d already written mine). It’s a great post and the photos are excellent.
    I need to get out and do an overnight with Brodie.. just to get her doggie pyjamas if for no other reason 🙂
  • The 50 Best walking holidays (independent.co.uk)

9 thoughts on “A hike from Marsden to Stoodley Pike – three Men, one Dog, some art and history”

  1. Enjoyed reading that. The M62 motorway bridge is the one bit of the Pennine Way that I didn’t take Dixie on, as I knew she would be absolutely terrified by the noise of the traffic below. She can hardly cope on an ordinary road when something noisy goes by, so it didn’t seem fair to subject her to that!
    Dixie says she fancies some fleecey pjs like Reuben’s, so I bet Brodie would. I think they come in red, too, which is more Dixie’s colour.
    And I love the way ‘kids’ can walk in shorts (even long ones) even when there’s snow on the ground…

    • Yep that part of the route isn’t for everyone / everydog.
      The shorts were a good look. Ronan doesn’t do outdoors as much as his brother so didn’t have a proper coat.. he was wearing a heavyish youth thing so all credit to him for carrying the extra weight. Although I had the rucksack come to think of it. hmm.


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