Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo

Marsden Walkers Are Welcome challenge hike

I took part in a 25 mile challenge hike to raise money for our local Walkers Are Welcome group. And it reminded me what an interesting and varied part of the world I live in. Varied, as in: not just drizzle, which it can sometimes feel like 😉

At the back end of last year I got involved in my local iteration of the national ‘Walkers Are Welcome’ initiative. The original committee had done sterling work in getting our small town / big village accredited as a WAW town but were all, for various reasons, stepping down.

They had spent 5 years or so having a range of public rights of way paths ‘themed’ into walks of various lengths, showcasing them on a website and producing leaflets with maps and accompanying historical facts and local info.

They also worked with Kirklees council to run an annual volunteer-led paths survey: ensuring some 54 miles or so of local and historical Public Rights Of Way paths remain accessible to as many people as possible.

But those founders were moving on, en masse. So a handful of outdoorsy folk (out of a much bigger pool of outdoorsy folk in the area) stepped in to keep it going. Me included.

The new committee now have lots of plans for new way-marked walks which will also have an accompanying printed leaflet, plans for a new website, plans for some events etc.. but little to no funds.

So we were thinking about how we could generate some funds and I had the bright idea that we could string together the 5 way-marked trails and the shorter (but excellent), mill pond nature trail to create a 25 mile ‘challenge walk’.

As a quick sense of the area we walked, below are two of the routes: Swellands and Deerhill, stretching out from Marsden. See map leaflet links below for more detail on those and the other walks.

Marsden Walkers Are welcome Deerhill walk map

Marsden Walkers Are Welcome map detail

I confess that when I suggested it, I had a mental comparison of the 25 miles of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks in my head. Which I have completed a few times now. Alongside some other challenge walks I’ve taken part in.

My thinking went something like : “this’ll be easier than those challenges. It’s on my local, mostly flat, turf.”

Well, dear reader, I’m here to tell you – it was a toughie.

The core team comprised of David and myself. We met at Marsden station at 7.00 a.m. And spent the next 12 hours going away from, then back to, the station to ‘check-in’ at the end of each walk.

One of the guiding principles for Walkers Are Welcome is that you should be able to get the start of one of the walks (or at least to the WAW town itself) by public transport and so negate use of a car.

Which is a great idea and we’re lucky to have both regular buses to the village but also a train station. (Actually, that train line is a mixed blessing at weekends, as we’re on the infamous ‘Ale Trail’. A story in itself but that will only feature briefly in this post).

Rather than detail all 5 walks which would make for a long post, I’ll feature each with a brief summary, a link to the walk info page on the original Marsden WAW website and some photos I took on the day.

Some of the photos feature Jo, also a committee member, who joined David and I after the first walk, walking with us for ‘just’ the next 18 miles or so 😉

And Gary, a keen walker and WAW supporter who met David and I at 7.00 a.m for the first walk. He would have stayed on but had family visiting later. All credit to him (and Bailey Dog) for doing the early shift with us. And for having the sound judgement to join us in the pub later on 😉

It was great to spend some time with all of them.

David and Jo have a knowledge of the area that even after 29 years in the village, I don’t have. They’re also great company and put up with my old man ouching as my achilles heel got progressively sorer through the day.

The thing that struck all of us and we all remarked on at different stages, was how varied the walks were. Even the shorter ones offer differening views and track types.

We traversed open moorland, woodland, towpath and farmland at different stages. The farmland on a coupe of the walks meant dodging several curious cows and a thankfully chilled-out Bull.

And we had some urban thrills, navigating the ‘Ale Trailers’ who descend on the village most Saturday afternoons and evenings. Actually, they weren’t too bad on the day we were out and about. And I don’t want to labour the point about them – they don’t stray further than the walk down from the station to a couple of the pubs, you’ll never meet any on the waymarked paths around the village.

It reminded me that midges and mizzle aside (!) I live in brilliant part of the world.

I recorded the walks on the day via my viewranger account. But these gpx files don’t as yet have the waymarker descriptions on them. So if you are paying a visit to Marsden and want to follow the walks then look at the individual links below for each map pdf to download. Here is the viewranger one I created for the Deerhill walk in any case.

The Marsden Walkers Are Welcome walks, in order of tackling:

Deerhill (6.5 miles)

Deerhill walk leaflet with map and historical notes to download

Mrasden Walkers Are Welcome part of Deerhill walk
The ancient waymarker post (well, back to 2010). David setting up his strava app and me holding the map leaflet of the first walk – Deerhill.
Mrasden Walkers Are Welcome part of Deerhill walk
Looking down to Marsden as the Deerhill waymarked path climbs to Blackmoorfoot conduit. Here come the late summer heather 🙂
Mrasden Walkers Are Welcome part of Deerhill walk
Looking behind us towards Shooters Nab, Pule Hill off in the distance on the right. This walk gives you some great views.
Walkers Are Welcome Marsden challenge walk Deer Hill route
The alpacas at Holt Head farm, they can often be seen a bit nearer the road and the footpath but were happy to keep some distance away in the morning sunshine when we passed.
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike Public footpath sign
Spotted on a couple of occasions during the day – Public footpath signs that have ‘fallen’ behind a wall. You could be cynical and think that landowners are happy to make a path less obvious. Or be glass-half-full and think that the pole collar had disintegrated but the sign had been placed carefully nearby..
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike
Probably the most inaccessible path we encountered was on the Deerhill walk. Machetes would have helped on this uphill path that saw us soaked through by high, dense vegetation after about a 5 minute walk through it all. Himalayan balsam gets everywhere!
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome part of Deerhill walk
The sun was getting warmer on the home straight down along Huddersfield narrow canal. So Bailey had a swim, without much encouragement from Gary.

Swellands (6.5 miles)

Swellands walk leaflet with map and historical notes to download 

Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
Back at the train station WAW post (where all the waymarked trails start from).
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
The walk along the Wessenden valley is always a great one, you know you are heading out into some wide open moors.
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
Not sure what I’m doing on the bridge over Wessenden brook. Maybe stalling a bit before we climb up the short but sharp path up on the Pennine Way.
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
David looking back towards Marsden along Blakeley reservoir.
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
Not exactly in high spate but some care need here as the rocks across Blake Clough can be slippy (I’ve found from experience ..).
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
Swellands reservoir with Pule Hill in the distance. I love this area in the snow or on a still, blue sky summer day.
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
A newly (ish) flagged part of the Pennine Way near Black Moss Res. You occasionally see old mill floor inscriptions like this in various parts of the National Trust Estate. 61 or 19?

A quick break back at the train station and we then headed off to the wooded areas of Cat Holes / Netherwood.

Cat Holes (2.5 miles)

Cat Holes walk leaflet with map and historical notes to download 

Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
We headed down the towpath from the station to Sparth Reservoir before heading off the wooded Cat Holes / Netherwood area. Great to see a narrowboat from my childhood town of Aylesbury.
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
The Cat Holes walk – like the Deerhill route – takes you through some farmland, nice variety away from the moors.
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
A shot of me heading into the woods about a third of the way along the walk. I spend so much time on the open moors that I forget we do have a fair bit of woodland around the valley.
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
Jo pointing out where she lives, across Drop Clough
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
Like all the other Walkers Are Welcome walks, we ended by headed back down into the village and on to the train station. Jo and David ahead of me, as I stopped to capture imposing Bank Bottom Mills, St Bartholomew’s and the open moors beyond.

Intake Head (3 miles)

Intake Head leaflet with map and historical notes to download

As we set off from the station on the Intake Head walk I was feeling pretty weary. Cat Holes had only been 2.5 miles but the cumulative effect of starting at 7 a.m and having walked 15.5 miles at this stage was adding up.

And I realised I hadn’t eaten properly – just an apple and a snack bar. Because we were ‘staying local’ I’d thought I’d be passing the coop to get some food but none of the walks had actually taken us there. So a quick diversion to the nearby (aptly named) The Railway saw me with crisps and nuts and a can of coke to keep me going – quality food for a quality athlete.

Part of the Intake Walk trail features on my Marsden poetry trail – passing as it does the childhood home of dialect poet Samuel Laycock.

Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
David gets some reference shots of Intake Head – talented artist that he is he may be using those for a future painting.
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
Around a third of the way around the Intake head walk we passed a house on Old Mount Road that often sells jams by way of an honest box. We were in luck – and Jo and I added to the weight of our rucksacks 🙂  Bank Bottom Mill last seen on the Cat Holes walk can be seen here from another angle.
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
More of Bank Bottom Mill – before we headed across to the other side of the valley (to the right of the photo) and across to the Butterley Spillway.
Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
Some herdwicks (I think) at the farm we walked past via the the nettle-infested path between Binn Lane and Binn Road

Piper Holes (3 Miles)

This final walk incorporated the Nature Trail which is strictly speaking a distinct walk / leaflet but we combined the two, as much of the routes overlaps in parts.

Piper Holes leaflet with map and historical notes to download

Piper Holes is a great wall as it takes you out to the north west of the village through a hamlet of sorts and on to a great vantage point, from which to look across the Standedge Cutting and Close Moss. I’m not sure of the origin of the name for the area / farmstead. Nor that of surrounding Green Owlers or Rotcher Wood: great names, all.

Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo
Looking across to Bank Top Farm ( a collection of houses now) from the site of the abandoned farmhouse at Piper Holes.

We eventually walked past the houses, as the return leg of the walk takes you there. Then back down past Hey Green before walking along the riverside Nature Trail back to the village along the Huddersfield narrow canal towpath.

I found the day a toughie in places – I’m not getting the longer walks that I used to now that the hound is a confirmed senior citizen. The extra weight I’m carrying is testament to that. But I enjoyed the day: the varying views and aspects of the village as well as the camaraderie you find on challenge walks.

And the pint/s at the end at The New Inn cemented that sense of achieving something in a sociable, shared venture.

To all those that kindly supported us via JustGiving – cheers! 🙂

Marsden Walkers Are Welcome hike report photo


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