Marden Packhorse Trail

Crossing The Pennines – a new Heritage Trail

I’ve been talking recently with the folks behind a great new Pennines heritage trail that’s been devised in my area (the Colne Valley in West Yorkshire). They had incorporated a couple of my photos in their social media updates (very flattering) and I got in touch to find out a bit more about what they are doing.

The Yorkshire Group of the Milestone Society have been leading a group of local community organisations and volunteers in establishing a new trail in the area – the  “Crossing the Pennines” Heritage Trail. The trail showcases the travel and transport history that has shaped the West Riding of Yorkshire.

At between 5 and 8 miles in length (depending on the detours you take to see some of the things they suggest), the Crossing The Pennines trail you get a great themed loop of a walk around Slaithwaite and Marsden.

The map of trail is here:

One specific part of the trail has the chance to receive funding so it can be restored for everyone’s enjoyment. And importantly, it would lead to job creation and subsequent increased revenue from tourism / walker numbers attracted into the area.

And you can help make it happen.

The part of the trail I’m referring to is a now-dilapidated section of the old (medieval) Packhorse Track, that ran from Halifax to Oldham. The track was a motorway of its day I guess, back before the iron and water tracks of rail and canal subsequently shaped the industrial life of Saddleworth and the Colne Valley.

The packhorse track restoration project has been shortlisted for the ‘PEOPLE’S MILLIONS‘ vote on Wednesday 26th November. If you love the idea of the track being renovated and the whole heritage trail really getting the support it deserves, then please vote via the link above.

I’ve actually walked down that section of packhorse track a few times during my wanderings and never realised what it was. I know the tracks that divide in Marsden (either heading around Pule Hill towards Castleshaw and Oldham or heading to Eastergate and on to Rochdale) were packhorse tacks. I just hadn’t thought about where the main track in Marsden had originated from. Or just how old it was.

Yesterday I had a walk and looked at the track with fresh eyes. Not the full trail of 8 miles, as time was sadly tight, just the northern section that contains the section of the packhorse track mentioned above.  It was misty enough for me to not be distracted by distant vistas, so I ruminated on those traders (Jaggers, as they were called) heading back and forth across the Pennines.

Marsden Lane Packhorse Track
Marsden Lane, now tarmac-d but the route of the packhorse track that headed over from Halifax. Still used by horses on this section.
Marsden Lane Packhorse Track Crossing the Pennines Heritage Trail
Some cobbles further along Marsden lane hint at the packhorse track as it would have been
Marsden Lane Packhorse Track Hike Bull Crossing the Pennines Heritage Trail
The junction of Marsden Lane and Crow Trees Road.. the original but very dilapidated packhorse track can now be seen (never tarmac-d) to the right, heading down towards Marsden. The bull ensured that we headed that way, even if the signpost hadn’t been obvious..
Marsden Lane Packhorse Track Crossing the Pennines Heritage Trail
The track is narrower than it would have originally been as some of the wall / banks and field boundaries to the right of this holly bush have slumped over the decades.
Marsden Lane Packhorse Track Crossing the Pennines Heritage Trail
The narrow path in the middle has been made by parishioners, mill workers, traders, villagers in days gone by. And in the last century by hikers and their dogs. But the extent of the original packhorse track is much wider and stretches from one side of the photo to the other. You can still see cobbles / track stones in places, as you move down the track towards Marsden.

Talking of ruminating, we were watched a couple of times by ruminating cows and sheep, looming out of the mist.

Marsden Lane Packhorse Track Cow field
Some wary watchers. They started to bellow just as I walked past with Brodie. A bit spooky in the mist.
Marsden Lane Packhorse Track Sheep field
Some more wary watchers.


The whole trail has been well thought out, with lots of historical research put into it. And packhorse track restoration is a great initiative, vote on the day if you can.

6 thoughts on “Crossing The Pennines – a new Heritage Trail”

  1. Great blog as usual Mark ,I have actually ridden the packhorse trail and
    was trying to imagine the riders who had been on it before me,it was very boggy in places so it is good people are taking care of it now

    • Cheers Teresa,
      it’s interesting to imagine the people who rode / walked the same paths that we do (from the hunter gatherers, to romans and onwards).
      A lot of the path across Close Moss was boggy before the old mill flagstones were laid.. I think they can get a bit slippy themselves though.

  2. Really enjoyed this blog entry Mark. Great photos too (liked the faithful hound sneaking his head into shot). When we first walked the PH Way over from Eastergate to Saddleworth I assumed PH on the signposts stood for Public House Way and we had a pint at the Diggle Hotel. It’s good to be educated…
    Hope they win the funding for the restoration; lovely walks around Marsden.


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