This page focuses on the poets and poems that are part of a Marsden poetry trail that I devised. The poets are further down the page, thinking lyrical thoughts.
Background to the poetry trail
In 2014, I devised a poetry trail of 9.5 miles that takes the walker through Marsden and out onto the hills. I researched it at my desk, talked to a couple of the poets that I wanted to feature, then wrote up my inaugural poetry trail walk as a blog post.
I also created a map route on ‘Viewranger’. The map is ‘live’ and is occasionally updated. You can print it out or if you have the Viewranger App or another GPX compatible device, view it whilst out on the walk itself.
Since Trail #1.0, there have been additional poets and poems added. These came through my desk research or through the poets in question getting in touch with me, which is always very cool.
I (or anyone else, really) could extend the trail east, south or north to bring in new places and poets. But for now, this is it.
I’m not claiming ownership of other Marsden poetry trails that may have come before or will after. And obviously not the excellent Stanza Stones trail that starts (or ends) in Marsden.
You could riff off of this one or create your own if that takes your fancy. But if you want a ready-made themed walk in and around this lovely poetry village of Marsden – here you go.
Here are all the blog posts I have written (as follow up walks with various people) related to the poetry trail: all of the poetry trail blog posts from me.
Walking the trail
The full walk is 9.5 miles, you’ll need snacks and drink with you for sure. You walk through the village but then soon head off along the huddersfield narrow canal towpath and into the hills and then the higher moors.
Marsden weather is mercurial – so wear sturdy walking shoes or boots and pack for rain, wind and cold (even if it is sunny when you set off). Dogs are allowed on the paths that you’ll walk but keep them on a lead: sheep and ground nesting birds abound.
Feel free to devise a poem en route, under those wide open skies, with views of days gone by.
The Marsden poetry trail map
The Marsden Poetry Trail Poets and Poems
Here are the poets or poetry related waymarkers, as they appear on the trail.
Poems are reproduced here where I have had permission to do so.
Dialect Poet, 1826–1893, Marsden-born.
The trail starts in Marsden park, by the Laycock memorial stone. Samuel Laycock was (predominantly) a dialect poet. He was born at Intake Head (also on the trail) in Marsden. Mill worker, photographer, librarian – and poet, he actually spent most of his life in Lancashire.
There is a lot more detail about Samuel Laycock in an excellent piece on a website about Gerald Massey and other social reform poets
Photo courtesy of the Gerald Massey website above / Tameside Local Studies Centre
We ‘meet’ Samuel twice on the trail: at Marsden Park and at Intake Head.
Here are the final sections of a melancholic poem Samuel wrote about Marsden and his childhood home (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.
Poet, Artist, Organiser of Marsden Poetry Village, ‘Local Lad’.
The trail takes you past the Mechanics Institute where the Write Out Loud poetry group meet (David is an active member).
Write Out Loud are the people behind Marsden becoming the country’s first poetry village.
David and his poem, Heron, can be ‘found’ near the millpond on your left, as you head towards Tunnel End visitor centre.
What prehistoric beast are you pretending to be?
Sitting there in your perfect isolation amongst the bull rush
and sodden earth.
The sight of your eye – a blink – belies your cool look;
is it me you’re looking at with that slight
nod of head; side to side, or some
unsuspecting perch, roach or stickleback
taking a flight of fancy, dancing, surfacing;
a flash of silver from where I’m sitting
into a black bottomless pit where
everything, including the kitchen sink
lies motionless, extinct.
Until the dog is on you; a charge, a shout
and you’re up and running
like some Hanna-Barbera character
tripping over your self conscious style
until angel wings disclose kite, reaching out,
catching a breath that fails me, coughing,
barking, soaring. Pterodactyl!
Leaving the dog, the perch, the roach and
stickleback, alone in the sun charged sparks
that dance across the echoes of your
Writer, Radio Presenter, Poet – The Bard of Barnsley.
Tunnel End sees you on the bridge from which you can watch the narrowboats go by.
Or ‘Gongoozle them’, as Ian McMillan suggests in his Poem ‘Canal Life’. The poem was written for the Canal and River Trust who run the Visitor Centre here.
This poem – and the captivating telling of it by Ian – really resonates with me. I’m a Trustee of the brilliant (no bias) Mikron Theatre Company, who tour each year by narrowboat.
the canal tells you stories
the canal sings you songs
Watch Ian recite the poem on the CRT youtube channel: http://youtu.be/rBYhYJTuVvg
And here I am with Ian at a living room gig in 2018.
I got the chance to thank him in person for being part of the trail. A very funny, sharp chap is Ian.
Oxford University Professor of Poetry, Poet, Musician, Playwright, ‘Local Lad’.
Pule Hill is the next stop on the trail and the quarry hosts Snow: part of Simon Armitage‘s Stanza Stones project.
It has been in situ for a few years now and I like the fact that it’s looking less fresh and more weathered and rain-softened each time I visit.
The Stanza Stones Trail runs for forty-seven miles, starting (or ending) at Marsden and heads across to Ilkley.
Extract from Snow (you need to be in the quarry to absorb the words fully I think):
The sky has delivered its blank missive. The moor in coma. Snow, like water asleep, a coded muteness to baffle all noise, to stall movement, still time.
©Simon Armitage 2010
Postman, Yeast Merchant, Local Archaeologist, Inventor, Marsden-born Poet.
(1848 – 1915)
Also on Pule Hill is George Marsden. Or rather, the bronze age artefacts in the form of four burial urns that he found in 1896.
George is a really interesting character. He knew Samuel Laycock, sharing an interest in both local prehistory and poetry.
I haven’t sourced any of his poems as yet other than one about the Marsden ‘Wakes’ dispute of 1903 (a rallying cry, really) and one which was essentially an advert for the ‘Hester’s Retreat’ Tea Rooms (based at Wessenden Lodge c.1886):
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?
Local Historian, Amateur Archaeologist, Artist, dialect and plain English Poet.
(1861 – 1946)
Along the Pennine Way, on Millstone Edge, you reach the Dinner Stone. Just after that and near the trig point you can drop down towards Castleshaw Roman Fort and see a plaque for Ammon Wrigley.
Ammon was a Saddleworth poet, born in ‘Old Yorkshire’ at Denshaw. He was instrumental in the exploration of the Roman fort: he leased the field containing the fort and dug a number of trenches in 1898.
He writes about the
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.
Poet, Bibliotherapist, ‘Local Lass’.
Jo has two poems featured on the trail (see the trail map and Viewranger waypoints for more information).
The trail takes in March Hill and it’s here that you are joined (figuratively) by widely published, award winning Jo Haslam.
Her poem linked on the trail to March Hill references Laminot – an elevated moss bed that lies just southeast of the hill. It’s a site of mesolithic flint knapping. The area is called Laminot on the OS map and ‘Lominot’ as written about by Ammon Wrigley back in 1911. The poem can be found in full on the Viewranger file referenced earlier.
Jo’s second poem on the trail – like Ian McMillan – is anchored to Tunnel End visitor centre. Her description of the leggers that moved the narrow boats through the tunnel is shown here in full:
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.
Poet, short story author, creative writing tutor.
Alison‘s poem ‘Small Fry‘ (A Slither of Air, Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2011) has now been added to the ‘Poet Corner’ near Waymarker 18 on Viewranger – the poem can be read beside the weir at Eastergate.
Bubbles rap the rhythmic river, rocks syncopate
with friction-less liquidity.
Water, stone, scissors, cut free,
slip-glisten fluidity through dash-head torrents,
landscapers greet with hollow pats, wet rock
on wet rock, backs thud, guarding the borders,
sentinels to a passing force. Finned, gilled, boned,
fleshly creatures in part crepuscular, seek the soup light.
Wing, scale, invertebrate, slip-minnows stickle
in the pooling shadows, as boatmen brake,
skaters dance the skin-thin surface with fine-hair legs,
water-fleas beetle in their name-sake element.
White water, rapid light, a branch lips a bend
lifts a crescent of spume, froth, lathers loose bark,
twigs criss-cross a weir made by wetland architects.
Here the water is acid brown. Peat deep.
A hint of a trap where the whirlygigs circle
and circle and mesmerise. On a mild day, like today,
it is a spawning pool, a safe nursery for the small fry.
Teacher of English and Drama, lecturer in Theatre Arts, theatre director, counsellor, radio presenter, a videographer, writer and poet.
Steve’s poem “Pennine Valley” is from his collection “How Wide the Moorland Sky” and is one of a handful in the collection focused on Marsden and the surrounding hills and moors. Other poems deal with Steve’s MS and blindness.
The poem featured on the trail includes this evocative section that jumped out at me. Aside from resonating it with me for historic and wildlife reasons it also mentions Clough Lea; which I often walk past.
I remember the derelict old mill before the newer housing complex was built beside the mill pond.
Extract from Pennine Valley
The fulling mills at Clough Lea vomited
their foul waste into the peat-heavy water
of the River Colne. The weaving hamlet curled like
a rabbit snare on flat ground beside the mill.
Cotton grass and curlews tumbled from the moor.
Sarah L Dixon
Sarah L Dixon is a poet and also ‘The Quiet Compere‘.
Quiet Compere events enlist great, established poets and emerging voices. Sarah’s first poetry pamphlet, The Sky is Cracked was published October 2017.
For this poem (featuring The Railway pub), Sarah was challenged to write a poem by The Thieving Magpies at The Railway, as part of the after party for the Marsden Christmas lights switch on night.
The Thieving Magpies are “a mixed border morris side who like dancing, waving big sticks about and yelling”.
They gave Sarah six words to put in to a poem. Here is the result:
Peel Street is draped
with festive magic.
The Colne flows
with candlelight tonight.
Hellfire is juggled
as Marsden residents twinkle,
steeped in ale.
Thieving Magpies inhabit
a corner of The Railway
double drum and accordion
draw the ale trailers.
Tables are beaten
with a drumstick rhythm.
Those are the excellent poets and poems so far associated with the poetry trail.
Here is the waymarked, downloadable poetry trail map.