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.
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
Swellands (6.5 miles)
Swellands walk leaflet with map and historical notes to download
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
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.
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.
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! 🙂