Poetry Trail Marsden Millstone Edge Dinner Stone

A Marsden Poetry Trail

UPDATE: since writing the blog post below, I have created a specific page on this site for the poetry trail. See this link to the Marsden Poetry Trail for map info and excerpts from the poems and poets featured.

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 and then wends its way across to Ilkley. Although ‘ The Snow Stone’ does feature in this here trail.

This is ‘a’ Marsden poetry trail (9.5 miles) of my own noodling. It 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 kickstarted the idea for a themed walk.

And it 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!

1st UPDATE: After the route and this blog post were published and thanks to David (again), Alison Lock sent me a tweet. Alison is a wonderful 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 gongoozle means: http://youtu.be/rBYhYJTuVvg)

3rd UPDATE: (in 2017, 3 years after the original blog post)

Jo Haslam got in touch with me and having studied the route that the trail takes, offered two of her poems for inclusion. One poem mentions Laminot (or: ‘Lominot’ – the name varies depending on map or author citing it) which is below March Hill.

And the other of Jo’s poems can be placed at Tunnel End, being, as it is, about narrowboat leggers.

I read Jo’s collection ‘The Sign for Water’ many years ago (and heard her read from it at Huddersfield Library) and it had an affect on me, as great writing is wont to do. So it was a cool moment when I heard from Jo.

More on both poems later.

The waymarkers and poems of this Marsden Poetry Trail

The route, as seen on Outdoor Active (who bought out Viewranger, where my original map was hosted):

Route of a Marsden Poetry Trail Hike

Use this Marsden Poetry Trail link to access the live / GPX map with some waymarker descriptions included.

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).

Poets or Poems along the trail.

I’ve managed to wrangle seven poets (so far) into the trail, all of them really interesting, talented people. Poet wrangling, a new countryside sport.

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. Two are / have been fine artists to boot. And I would say all have a love of the hills and moors in the area of course.

The ‘Poet’s Corner’ locations along the trail (starting at Marsden park) are detailed below but have a look at the Viewranger file (linked above) for specific information the waymarkers shown on the map graphic above.

Samuel Laycock

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.

Samuel Laycock memorial stone Marsden park as part of a Poetry Trail Marsden

David Coldwell

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.

Railway Bridge near Tunnel End Poetry Trail Marsden
Brodie at the steps down to the canal and newly refurbished (matching) railway bridge near Tunnel End
Canal at Tunnel End Poetry Trail Marsden
Tunnel End .. we were heading for the house up the hill..

Ian McMillan

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).

Watch the poem on the CRT youtube channel and see what that means: http://youtu.be/rBYhYJTuVvg

From Tunnel End we headed over to the birthplace of Samuel Laycock at Intake Head (see the Marsden Walkers Are Welcome  info sheet HERE).

Samuel Laycock

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.


Intake Head Marsden - Samuel Laycock Poetry Trail Marsden
Intake Head Marsden – looks like it wouldn’t have changed all that much since Laycock’s childhood?

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).

Hike path Pule Hill from Intake Head Poetry Trail Marsden
Heading to Pule Hill
Beast Gate post Poetry Trail Marsden
A post from (I believe) one of the ‘Beast Gates’ on Pule Hull.. depending on conditions farmers were allowed a certain number of cattle (and sheep?) through the gate onto Pule Hills to graze there.
Pule Hill WW2 Memorial Cross - looking back down to Marsden on the Poetry Trail Marsden
Pule Hill WW2 Memorial Cross – looking back down to Marsden
Pule Hill ventilation shaft on Poetry Trail Marsden
Pule Hill – a ventilation shaft for the Railway lines that run down below (the transpennine trains go through here).

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, dreich morning to start all over again.

Simon Armitage

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.

Pule Hill Quarry on Poetry Trail Marsden
Pule Hill Quarry, with stones left from more active times.
Snow by Simon Armitage on Poetry Trail Marsden
A section of Snow by Simon Armitage .. showing signs of settling and weathering into the quarry
A section of Snow Simon Armitage on Poetry Trail Marsden
A larger section of Snow by Simon Armitage ..

George Marsden

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.

Brodie Dog on Pule Hill on Poetry Trail Marsden
Top of Pule Hill Marsden – with Black Moss and Swellands reservoirs below (this spot is close to where George Marsden found Bronze Age urns) ..it was very windy at that point!

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.

Goniatites Marsden Pule Hill on Poetry Trail Marsden
Tiny fossils – Goniatites – in the shale beds at the bottom of Pule Hill

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.

Ammon Wrigley

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.

Millstone Edge Dinner Stone on Poetry Trail Marsden
Millstone Edge and the Dinner Stone.. I think I have the right stone.. having checked online the name seems to be attributed to this stone and another with a flatter elevation nearby? Castleshaw reservoirs in the distance..
Ammon Wrigley plaque saddleworth on Poetry Trail Marsden
The Ammon Wrigley memorial plaque (centre) 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.

Millstone Edge with Castleshaw reservoirs hike saddleworth on Poetry Trail Marsden
Millstone Edge with Castleshaw reservoirs below.. standing up to take the photo meant a blast of gale force wind in my face..
Patient Dog hike Moors on Poetry Trail Marsden
The patient hound gets the sandwich .. old saying (of mine)

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.

Oldham Way Pennine Way cairn castleshaw Poetry Trail Marsden
Near the Oldham Way / Pennine Way cairn .. with Castleshaw reservoirs in the distance

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.

Jo Haslam

It’s at this point, just below March Hill that the trail is joined (figuratively) by Jo Haslam. Jo got in touch after I originally published this post, to share one of her poems that references Laminot.

It is a hill and moss bed that lies south east or so from March Hill. A site of mesolithic flint knapping, with fire hearths of the same period found on March Hill. The area is called Laminot on the OS map and Lominot as written about by Ammon Wrigley back in 1911.


March Haigh Reservoir on Poetry Trail Marsden
Brodie on March Hill – March Haigh Reservoir below
Overflow for March Haigh Res - March Hill in background Hike Marsden Moors Poetry Trail Marsden
Overflow for March Haigh Res – March Hill in background

The weather closed in (those ‘dogs’ were now fully baying) as we sploshed and trudged back down to Eastergate along Willykay Clough.

Alison Lock

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 Poetry Trail page in this site (thanks Alison) and in the collection within 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.

Jo Haslam

We meet Jo again (as it were) at Tunnel End. If you look to the tunnel itself, think about the men who (from 1811 onwards) had to ‘leg’ their narrowboats through from Marsden to Diggle: 3 miles in dark distance, which took around 4 hours each time.

Here is Jo’s evocative poem, Leggers, reproduced with her permission:


All the while tuned to the rasp of a nail;
scrape of a boot; spurt of a match,
bump of a boat as it nudges the wall,
trickle and slip of damp from the roof.
Tensed muscle and sweat
then push like a mole through the tunnel.
For three miles accustomed to what seems
like night. Except they’re not blind.
More like dumb to say how they’re dazzled
each time by what grows from a pinhole of light.


That’s the poets on the trail, so far.

I couldn’t as yet find a ‘home’ 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.

15 thoughts on “A Marsden Poetry Trail”

    • Thanks David. And thanks for the impetus! It could be constructed in lots of different ways and with different ‘features’, I’ll keep an eye out for any other versions.


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