I’ll start with a disclaimer: this Marsden Poetry Trail isn’t the poetry trail that begins at ‘Snow’ – the quarry-chiselled poem by Simon Armitage – then wends its way across to Ilkley. Although Snow does feature in this here trail.
This is a Marsden poetry trail (9.5 miles) of my own noodling. It’s ‘a’ poetry trail, I claim no definitive ‘the’ – and was devised as a bit of a hello to a murmur of poets who started following the blog after a kind reblog from poet David Coldwell. (I wasn’t sure of the collective noun for poets – take your pick from here : http://cordite.org.au/newsblog/a-collective-noun-for-poets/)
Discovering I had poets as a section of my followers (*waves* , as we say in internet world) kickstarted the idea for a themed walk. And actually meant a fair bit of enjoyable desk-research before I got my boots on. I’ve learnt a lot, sat here on my bum, over a couple of evenings and thanks again to David for catalysing that.
If you want to add any poets, poems or poetry-related waymarkers to this trail please just shout. Or you can create your own of course for elsewhere around the Marsden moors and valleys!
UPDATE: After the route and this blog post were published and thanks to David (again), Alison Lock sent me tweet. Alison is a poet from the area and her poem ‘Small Fry‘ has now been added to the ‘Poet Corner’ near Waymarker 18 on Viewranger (see the map below) – the weir at Eastergate.
2nd UPDATE: I’ve now added ‘Canal Life‘ by the very excellent Ian McMillan. Ian needs no introduction, he’s the Barnsley Bard: poet, broadcaster and comedian. If you visit the Tunnel End Visitors Centre (waymarker 20 on the viewranger map below) you can stand and gongoozle* the narrow boats waiting to go through the tunnel or the little Canal and River Trust water taxi ferrying folk about.
Ian wrote Canal Life to mark the founding of the Canal and River Trust. And as (Standedge) Tunnel End has a big CRT Visitors Centre I thought the trail should reflect that. I contacted Ian and he concurred.
(* Watch the poem on the CRT youtube channel and see what that means: http://youtu.be/rBYhYJTuVvg)
The route I took, as captured by Viewranger:
The walk itself.
The day that we (Brodie Dog and I) walked this trail started off with low cloud over the hills and it was pretty windy but we did get some glimpses of sun, filtered through a pewter-coloured sky, over the first couple of hours. That said, the final leg (from Eastergate onwards) was all about the torrential rain. Walk it in better weather and you’ll have clearer views but you may feel less ‘poetic’ (maybe that’s just my association of dramatic, ‘meaningful’ weather and poetic endeavors? hmm).
The key points along the trail.
I’ve managed to wrangle five poets (so far) into the trail, all of them interesting chaps (yes all men – I know there’s Jo Haslam but couldn’t tie Jo or any of her poems to a specific Marsden location – something I’ll remedy at a later date). Poet wrangling, a new countryside sport.
Update : Alison Lock breaks the all male ensemble. (see above)
All of the poets had (or have) a mix of careers or jobs throughout their lifetime and there’s a tendency to music-making (or a great love of music) amongst them. And a real love of the hills and moors of the area of course.
So the ‘Poet’s Corner’ type locations are detailed below but have a look at the Viewranger file (linked above) for additional info.
1. We started at Marsden park to have a look at the Laycock Stone.. the plaque provides some detail on the (predominantly) dialect poet Samuel Laycock, who was born in Marsden but actually spent most of his life over the hills in Lancashire. More on Mr Laycock later. I’ve always found the stone itself interesting in that it isn’t ‘dressed’ like a lot of big gate stones you see and it also doesn’t look quite like the millstone grit you see in the quarries in the area.
2. We then headed past the Mechanics Institute where the Write Out Loud poetry folks meet once a month. Then along the canal to Tunnel End. If you divert off where the woods start next to the towpath and look down to the millpond you might spot a Heron (that’s a link to David Coldwell’s poem of the same name).
I’ve seen it there and also sitting silently in judgement further up the river that also runs alongside the little woods here. Whether you follow the woods route or the canal towpath you end up at Tunnel End.
Enormous disclaimer : I’m taking a liberty here in tying the Heron (but not clipping its wings) to this particular area. I don’t actually know the exact location David references or had in mind for his poem.
3. We walked across the bridge at Tunnel End. A bridge from which you could watch boats go by (or Gongoozle them, as Ian McMillan suggests in his Poem ‘Canal Life’, written for the Canal and River Trust who run the Visitor Centre here). See ‘Update’ above for more info.
From the Tunnel End area we headed over to the birthplace of Samuel Laycock at Intake Head (see the Marsden Walkers Are Welcome info sheet HERE).
Laycock’s father was a hand loom weaver and they moved away from Marsden when Laycock junior was about 11 I believe. He spent the rest of his life over in Saddleworth (and Blackpool too) where he wrote a lot of poems in Lancastrian (cotton workers) dialect, he was also a lyricist and a photographer.
Like most of us, Samuel had his reflective moments as he got older – here are the final sections of a melancholic poem he wrote about Marsden (one of his non dialect poems):
Alas, alas, why should I leave
The things to which I fondly cleave,—
The heath, the mountain wild;—
Those scenes on which I loved to look,
The trees, the flowers, the babbling brook
I bathed in when a child.
Good-bye! good-bye, my native hills;
Those running brooks and murmuring rills
No longer yield me joy.
This heart is not so free from care,
As when I first breathed thy pure air,
A happy little boy.
For a lot more background and also the full version of this poem and examples of his other work, have a look here : http://gerald-massey.org.uk/laycock/index.htm
4. From Intake Head we headed up hill to the ridge of Pule Hill, past the ventilation shaft (both rail and canal run through the moors from Marsden to distant Diggle). And then up to the WW2 memorial cross that can be seen from the village. The wind had picked up but was doing little to shift the low hanging clag over distant March Hill (which we were going to boomerang our way around at a later stage on the walk).
Rather than hack straight along the north – south spine of Pule Hill, we veered off to the path on our right and dropped down to the large quarry which looks past the A62 on to Close Moss. I always think the quarry has a Marie Celeste quality about it. Large blocks of hewn stone sit in various piles away from the impressive quarry walls that jostle above them, you can imagine the quarrymen arriving back early the next misty, dreicht morning to start all over again.
5. Simon Armitage‘s Snow :
The quarry contains Snow, one of the ‘Stanza Stones’. It has been in situ for a couple of years now and I like the fact that it’s already looking weathered .. green tinged and rain-softened.
I’ve written about this particular Stanza Stone before (https://halfwayhike.com/2012/04/30/poetry-on-pule-hill-the-stanza-stones-trail/) and this year may be the one I visit them all, over a 3 day stint.
I doubt I’ll get the time to do the whole Pennine Way but The Stanza Stones trail feels like a kind of taster course, with added soul food.
6. From Snow we headed out of the front of the quarry to the new ‘poetry seat’ (not that keen on it personally) and picked up the small, steep path that flings you up left and behind the quarry and back up on to the top of the hill. It’s here you ‘meet’ another interesting character – George Marsden. George was an inventor, an amateur archeologist (finding bronze age artefacts in the form of four burial urns – close to where you are now standing) ) and also a Poet.
I haven’t sourced any of his poems as yet other than this one; which is really an advert for the ‘Hester’s Retreat’ Tea Rooms which once existed at Wessenden Lodge c.1886. He was a forerunner of the Mad Men era copywriters and really sells the experience of visiting there.
There are mountain and moorland, rivulet and lake,
Health giving breezes, Fernbank and Brake,
Bracken and heather, shrubbery and tree,
Good road to get there, these are all free
If age or youth, on wheel or foot
Their progress can but stay,
With fresh laid eggs and lemonade,
A trifling sum to pay,
Or; if by hunger being stormed,
And cash is in thy till,
A sandwich try, but pay the score
Then thou may eat thy fill
Recruit thy inward wasting frame,
From nature’s bounteous store,
But; when refreshed, trudge on again,
What mortal can ask more?
7. I couldn’t actually find the Bronze Age site / feature found by George Marsden, I think it is a circular depression and I’m going to do some (online) digging about for some more information.
So we headed off down the south flank of Pule Hill and across the shale beds that are exposed here .. packed full of tiny fossils.
This was also the place where we picked up the roman road that strides across the lower flank of the hill and cuts across the A62 towards Castleshaw (note: the roman road lives in your imagination for the few seconds you cross the A62.. you don’t have invading army right of way and cars not chariots abound.. take care).
We headed along the edge of Close Moss on a flagged track that I think is pretty much where the roman road was (or is, under a few inches or feet of slow creeping peat?) After about twenty minutes we picked up the Pennine Way and turned right to start the Millstone Edge section.
After a few minutes walking along the Pennine Way on Millstone Edge we got to the Dinner Stone and shortly after (on dropping off the path to walk down amongst the rocks) I spotted the copper green memorial plaques that memorialize Ammon Wrigley (and two daughters). The central plaque is for Ammon Wrigley, Saddleworth poet ( 1861–1946). He was also both a dialect and plain english poet. His plaque is touchingly flanked by those for his daughters.
A lot of information about Ammon (along with superb photos, as always) can be found on Andy Hemmingway’s site. Andy’s love of Wrigley’s work and their shared appreciation of Saddleworth’s wild spaces, separated by years but not depth, is clear.
And Ammon made his love of the area clear himself actually (a living will, as it were):
The Dinner Stone
Where the old rock stands weathered and lone
And black as night, turned into stone,
There’s a green church I call my own,
Take my ashes and scatter them there,
Roughly or kindly, just as you care.
He was also connected to the exploration of the roman fort down the hill near the Castleshaw reservoir and he leased the field containing the fort and dug a number of trenches in 1898. More information on his role in rediscovering and enriching information on the fort is here: http://ancientworldsmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/castleshaw-roman-forts-again/. He also had an interest (from what I’ve read so far) in the investigation of Mesolithic flint deposits (from Hunter Gatherers) on March Hill.
The wind was really up by now and rain was threatening, so we took shelter behind some of the rocks on Millstone Edge to share a sandwich (cheese, Brodie’s favourite). We had to face away from the wind which was blasting up from Castleshaw reservoirs, so I did more munching than musing about the roman fort below.
I came across a reference to a short poem Wrigley had written called “Th’heaunds ur eaut agen” which really captures the unleashing of wild weather up on the moors (“the dogs are out again”).
They weren’t out yet but were definitely straining at the lead as we carried on along Millstone Edge.
We continued along the Pennine Way, actually in the opposite direction along which Simon Armitage headed (he went, unusually, North to South) on a return trip to his home town of Marsden.
Read his book Coming Home if you get chance, I really enjoyed the descriptions of the landscape (inner and outer) that he traversed and the frankness and humour in his recounted experiences .
At the intersection of the Oldham Way and Pennine way we turned right on the latter and headed towards March Hill.
8. From March Hill to Marsden.
By now I had met some interesting fellows and brought them with me along Millstone Edge and up to the top of March Hill. I was ready for a rest and sat looking over the reservoir, finishing off the flask of coffee whilst Messrs Laycock and Wrigley stood a distance away discussing nuances of dialect and generally ‘laikin’ abaht’. George was kicking his toe into the flint deposits below the hill, in a somewhat noncommittal way but I could tell he was less about new verses and more fixed on finding some artefacts. And David and Simon discussed obscure bands from the 1980s. Brodie watched for sheep.
I was half composing a poem in my head at this point, sat I was, essentially, on a mat of ancient trees which were themselves distributed like a giant pontoon over the deposits of an ancient river delta. But that’s as far as I got; another day maybe.
The weather closed in (those ‘dogs’ were now fully baying) as we sploshed and trudged back down to Eastergate along Willykay Clough.
At Eastergate you’ll find a weir – which turns out (after I originally published this post) to have been the catalyst for a poem (Small Fry) by Alison Lock. ‘Here the water is acid brown. Peat deep.’ The poem in full (which I loved reading) can be read on the link above and is part of collection: A Slither of Air, Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2011.
We then walked back to Tunnel End along the renovated river / old tunnel end reservoir area, hoping to catch a sight of that Heron again..
That’s my poetry trail.
As well as Jo Haslam, I’m conscious I couldn’t find a ‘home’ (so far) for another poetry link to Marden : some poems shared on the Marsden History Group site which are within a batch of fascinating (and touching) letters to and from a Fred Firth during WW1.