A snowy slog on Swellands – Marsden Moor

I’ve had a few shortish walks on the hills and moors over the past few weeks but nothing that could really be called a ‘proper’ walk / hike. And the annual ‘Snowdon in the Snow‘ date looms so I wanted to get some leg-stretching in. The recent snowy conditions were perfect timing for myself and son Joe to hit the hills 🙂

We basically took the same route as my last post – up the Wessenden Valley in Marsden and onto the Swellands area (home of two adjoining reservoirs) and describing a big loop back down in to Marsden. But what a difference the snow made.. it took us an hour or two longer than last time and was pretty tough going in parts. Both of us had ice spikes on which made a big difference in places!

Quick ‘Ad break’ (not sponsored, I’m just being nice) : I had a pair of ice spikes already but I got Joe some recently at Mountain Feet (the physical shop is in Marsden but they’re online – see the link), I hadn’t been in before but Si the owner (and Gyp the lovely dog) are really friendly. They stock a range of gear but specialise in footwear and have a measure / fit service. Well worth the trip wherever you’re based to get Boots / shoes you’re really happy with.

We didn’t need the spikes initially as we were on  the Wessenden valley track .. icey in some parts, very slushy (strangely) in others but walkable.

Sheep - wessenden valley
Sheep feeding on the main Wessenden track.. more accessible in the snow and I think the farmers leave the salt-lick tubs here for that reason. Wary of the dog of course..

We then headed off the Wessenden track and onto the Pennine Way – which is where the ice spikes were required.

Not full crampons but with enough of a spike to stop me (particularly) being pulled down hill by the ever eager Brodie 🙂

Brodie Dog on Pennine Way

Joe getting a quick pic of the Wessenden Brook waterfall (Rhododendron shrubs courtesy of Victorian sensibilities I believe) before we got the spikes on..

Wessenden brook Waterfall

Joe fitting his ice spikes on before we set off down the only steep part of the walk.. (and a steepish ascent on the other side of Wessenden Brook.)

Putting on Ice Spikes

Descending the pennine Way at Wessenden

The views from the top of the Pennine Way (and ‘Heritage Stone #11’) back to Butterley reservoir were fantastic.. not quite done justice with on the phone camera.

Lookig down to Butterley Reservoir in the Snow

Brodie Dog forging through the snow
Brodie Dog forging through the snow – having to leap into boot tracks on occasion. But still pulling ahead (I’ve seen a Hare up here and that seemed to be something she could smell.. lots of snout digging from her!)

Then it was the slow trudge / stumble (in places) across the Pennine Way . Normally clearly marked by the old flagstones but in places a good foot or so under fresh snow.

If we weren’t following 2 other parties (one that I could see early on and the other we caught up with after an hour) I maybe wouldn’t have attempted the hike across Swellands. I know the area pretty well and where the landmarks are but you only needed to step a few inches off where you thought the stones were and you could easily be a foot or two down into a gully. No precipitous tumbles but still enough to get a sodden boot and leg (as I found out). And / or a twisted ankle / knee (as Joe did actually).

I shot a quick video right on the tops – quite a bit of wind but you get a sense of how lovely / remote it was ..


Then it was onto Black Moss and Swellands reservoirs.. Black Moss in particular looked Siberian with ice / snow coating it.. seen on the right in the photo below (with Joe).

Frozen Black Moss res

Three Walkers Pennine Way marsden

We met 3  friendly blokes (above) who had been ahead of us (and whose footprints we had walked in) but had stopped for a break after the reservoirs. They were then heading off to The Diggle Hotel for a well-earned pint in the valley ahead (via a bit more of the Pennine Way that turned right) .. whilst we headed part of the way with them to then head off back downhill to Marsden. As we were by then walking alongside them I took the lead (the pulling dog in action) so no footprints to follow .. and promptly went left leg down into some brackish water and sludge.. up to my thigh. Very cold. Very smelly. No harm done and part of the adventure. And of course (in a Dad fashion) having told Joe to mind where the path was. Doh 🙂

Something he can tsk tsk at for years to come 🙂

7 thoughts on “A snowy slog on Swellands – Marsden Moor”

  1. Gone that route in decent weather ,can’t really see further than the next tuft of grass even then was pleased to finally see the top of Pule can’t imagine what it would be like in snow


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