Marsden to Slaithwaite (pron slawit)
Generally OK, but difficult in a couple of places.
The obvious way to walk from Marsden to Slaithwaite is along the canal towpath.
The level, direct nature of the route is a siren song, luring the unwary traveller onto the rocks!
I would describe it as impassable by normal wheelchair, unless you have help and can walk a bit. It is not impossible by scooter, but it takes determination, good brakes, and legs that can act as stabilisers and do a bit of assisted walking.
It can be done more easily, but all routes involve heavily-eroded ground at lock 27. This bit is dangerous, and you will really need help here. Wait for a friendly stranger before tackling it. Most people on the canal will help if you ask.
Tourist leaflets call this path accessible, but it isn’t. It’s dangerous. And the annoying thing about it, is that it would cost very little to improve it. At least there should be a warning sign before you get to it.
To avoid the difficulties at the Marsden end (steep inclines and cobbles under bridges, narrow paths, and low, anti-erosion steps) it is best to head along Marsden Lane as far as the hamlet of Booth. From the centre of Marsden, turn right at the United Reformed Church, up Warehouse Hill and straight on till it changes its name to Marsden Lane.
If you arrive by train, you will be arriving from Huddersfield, as this is the only accessible platform. Cross the road bridge, turn right, and then right again at the bus terminus. This will bring you to Marsden Lane, where you will turn left.
Marsden Lane here is quiet and pretty. It passes the Sparth reservoirs on the right. This can be walked to, but not wheeled to, as, for some obscure reason, there are big concrete steps on the path.
The lane comes to a T-junction at the settlement of Booth. Turn right here, down the rough road, and, when you get to the end, go straight down the footpath, and within yards you are at the canal, on a part of the towpath that is OK. Turn left here to Slaithwaite, or, if you fancy making it a round trip, turn right to Sparth and Marsden. The path is good till you get to Sparth, then you will have fun and games Be warned!
If you turn left at the Booth T-junction, you will go under the railway, then turn right to take a higher route to join the canal at Lock 28. When I say “high route”, it isn’t high at all, and is perfectly accessible, just a bit more open and breezy, with a bit of a view.
Whichever way you go, you still have to deal with the horror of Lock 27, so you can easily turn back here and turn the walk into a circle.
As we have seen, Lock 27 is a nightmare, but once past it you have cracked the walk.
The path is relatively straightforward here, and becomes increasingly wooded as you approach Slaithwaite. When the path becomes a road, look out on the right for the Handmade Bakery, where there is a café that makes all the effort worthwhile.
Marsden: At the time of the Domesday Book there was nothing much here. Like most of Yorkshire after William the Conqueror had destroyed it with his scorched earth policy of terror, euphemistically known as The Harrowing of the North, it could only be described as Waste. The name comes from Old English, and means Boundary Valley. The valley would have been thickly wooded and liable to flooding. It was essentially a hunting lodge. Centuries later, it became a centre for the weaving of wollen cloth on handlooms in the farms and hamlets. It is described as a dual economy – people scraped a living through raising sheep and weaving cloth. In the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, the work was brought into Mills in the valley, which was a threat to the way of life of the farmer/weavers, who became involved in the Luddite movement.
Huddersfield Narrow Canal: The canal runs 20 miles from Huddersfield to Ashton-under-Lyne, across the Pennines. It was constructed in the last decade of the 18th Century, and cost a ferocious amount of money. The Pennines were a massive natural barrier, and had to be crossed between Marsden and Diggle by a tunnel 5 kilometres long, known as the Standedge Tunnel. The canal had a very short life, before the railway came and supplanted it.
For more details, see the Marsden History Group website, at http://www.marsdenhistory.co.uk/