The Wild North is a bit tongue in cheek .. head south from Marsden, up Wessenden and over to Black Hill on a winter’s day and that’ll give any kind of wild a run for its money. But the moors area north of Marsden, to my mind, feels a bit wilder than the areas I normally walk across, to the south and west. I fancied a bit of a change and wanted to have a mooch around March Hill and also to check out Cupwith a bit as it’s the planned home for a couple of wind turbines at some stage.. so I combined the two with a circular walk last Sunday.
8.3 miles over 5 hours or so, according to viewranger. At that pace you can see that some of the going was a bit slow, as Brodie and I picked our way across large grassy knolls and semi- bog in the area south of Cupwith Hill. But other than that it was a good day for a walk, with some excellent views across the upper valley and the sun finally came out in the last two hours.
We started by heading up to The Hey Green area , past Tunnel End Reservoir and the new paths and benches as part of the Marsden Walkers are Welcome initiative, great to see access for all in the countryside.
It was still pretty murky up at Easter Gate, the trees showing the first signs of Autumn.
The trudge across the moors along the pack horse trail is easier now the stone flags have been laid in places. I’ve got mixed feeling about them as I’ve mentioned before I think – they can get a bit slippy in wet conditions but they do help when the going gets boggy, which is does in the area before you turn right towards March Hill or left to intersect with the Pennine Way. We were heading right and as we climbed up to the crest of the ridge that heads for March Hill, I realised that we’d been sheltered a fair bit by the wind earlier on. It was jacket on for me and head down for Brodie.
There isn’t an official path that I can see on the map for this section but one has been created over the years by people wanting to get on to March Hill and take in the views back down the Colne Valley (looking over March Haigh reservoir). It gets pretty boggy in winter but is easily navigated if it hasn’t been raining for a while. March Hill has some flint workings around the base from when this was a wooded area some 9000-5000 years ago and the locals hunted wild boar. We stopped for a snack and some water and took in the views.. including the blue sky that was starting to appear above Shooters Nab, which describes part of the horseshoe around Marsden in the distance.
After dropping off March Hill I decided to head up to Buckstones House which sits on the A640, intersecting this section of the moors. The National Trust Marsden team (I guess?) have put in a boardwalk across the boggy ground in this area , which (even in the relatively dry weather we’ve had) is already doing its job! The area around the base of March Hill is called March Hill Holes .. I’m not sure why but I’m guessing these are where the neolithic earthworks and flint digs happened although the series of mounds look like landslip.
* Research stop press *
I just checked online and found a great publication from 1930 ” The Geology of the Country around Huddersfield and Halifax” which mentions : “Among the more extensive landslips may be noted the northeastern slopes of Rishworth Moors at Blackwood and Pike End, the upper parts of the Deanhead valley around Scammonden, the southern slopes of Buckstones Moss” < Where we were > “, notably at the foot of March Hill, where this type of topography is remarkably well developed”
Actually – the same publication mentions the flints found at March Hill (and also at Cupwith Hill which we walked to later on):
“ANCIENT .FLINT WORKINGS
One of the more interesting features observed within recent years is the occurrence of numerous sites on the high moorlands where worked flints have been found in considerable numbers.
One of the most prolific collecting grounds is that of March Hill on Buckstones Moor. From this locality alone over six thousand flint chips have been obtained within recent years, of which nearly five hundred appear to show clear evidences of human workmanship.
Four distinct workshop sites have been located. Another prolific area is that of Cupwith Hill on Slaithwaite Moors, where several – thousand flint chips have been recovered since 1920″
We navigated uphill along the heavily fern-ed path up to the A640 and came out opposite Buckstones Lodge (which was a pub once but is now a private house – looks like an ongoing renovation project).
The Buckstones area is remote and one of my friends (seeing one of these photos on Facebook) remarked it looked like The Slaughtered Lamb territory. Well, the Lodge (or area close to it) has seen the murder of gamekeepers and also ghostly riders .. thankfully the sun was starting to shine when we passed it 😉
If we could, I’d have rather walked on the moor itself along to Cupwith, parallel to the A640 but the ground looked heavy going so I reluctantly used the road. The upside is that there are two or three laybys / car parks along the road and you stop to get fantastic views of the valley below and across to Pule Hill and other landmarks in the upper Colne Valley. The photo above is a panorama from the roadside, looking down to March Haigh Reservoir, the sun breaking through the clouds over Pule Hill in the distance on left hand side of the photo.
We walked along the A640 for about 25 minutes or so, heading east towards the Cupwith area and keeping in close to the verge as the road is a thoroughfare for motorbikes on sunday jaunts, also for groups of cyclists (not sure of the collective noun – a kaleidoscope of (lyrca-d) cyclists?). Most of the motorbikes slowed down when they saw the dog but some of them were at full throttle and the dog isn’t so keen on the kamikaze sounds from some of the engines so I kept her on a close lead.
When we got adjacent to Cupwith Hill we headed on to the crown of it via a fairly distinct track that isn’t on the map but is obviously used by a lot of people. Cupwith Hill (despite the neolithic history) is pretty non-descript. That said , I managed to miss the Trig Point (!) so obviously wasn’t truly on the peak as it were (and also day dreaming). But it’s more a mound than anything and we didn’t stay on the top for long but headed down to a derelict gamekeeper’s (?) building to have another water / snack stop.
From here the going was really slow. Two foot high mounds of grass that you have make sure you get a steady foot between so you don’t twist an ankle, lots of boggy parts to avoid and I didn’t wanted to trample across Heather too much so was zig zagging about more than I wanted, or Brodie wanted. We alarmed a couple of grouse along the way too. I tacked across towards the southern end of Cupwith reservoir and eventually joined the Kirklees Way.. where more sensible people were going back and forth.
From the Kirklees Way / Huck Hill Lane it was an easy trundle back south to the crest of the hills above Marsden. We used to live on that side of the valley years ago but it isn’t a view I normally get, so it was good to get a refreshed point of view. My shorter outings with Brodie tend to be to the quarries and ‘heritage trail’ that you can see beyond the dry stone wall in the photo below (that’s the side of the valley I live on).
If I could fathom out a moors track parallel to the A640 section of this walk it’d be a good one to do again. I’ve been thinking of a Marsden 3 Peaks route (or maybe 5 Peaks to take in the southern area / West Nab and also including Pule Hill in the ‘middle’) and March Hill and Cupwith Hill count as a couple of the highest ‘peaks’ (we’re not talking mountains here but a peak is a peak) surrounding Marsden, so a nicer route than the A640 connecting the two would be good!