West Yorkshire: Marsden to Tunnel End

This is a fairly short and accessible canal-side walk, that is level and easy to find and follow. It’s a little muddy after heavy or prolonged rain.

It starts from Marsden railway station, on the Manchester-bound side, which is accessible.l Getting back again is a different kettle of fish, however, so demand, in advance of your walk, assistance from Network Rail. Then complain, but not to the person who gets you on to the platform.

Huddersfield Narrow Canal to Tunnel End

Huddersfield Narrow Canal to Tunnel End

The path sets off alongside the canal, which here is right next to the platform. Set off with the canal on your right, otherwise you will embark on a hard journey to Slaithwaite.

The towpath goes under the road, then goes through trees to the red railway bridge. The wood to your left can be accessed through a five-bar gate that you will see on your left. If you have a RADAR key you’ll be able to get in, but the path is ALWAYS muddy, and often impassable. You will have to come out the same way you went in, because all the other paths from the wood to the canal invove steep steps.

We are not to blame if they re-paint it another colour!

We are not to blame if they re-paint it another colour!

Back to the red railway bridge, then. This is OK to go through, but it is dark, wet, bumpy and very near the water, so go as slowly and carefully as you can. It’s a double bridge, and when you come out of it you have reached the canal basin of Tunnel End.

Here is lots of industrial history, a picnic area, a cafe, a museum, and hourly boat trips into the tunnel. Read the boards – it’s interesting. Often there is a canal volunteer selling membership of the Canal and River Trust. Use this opportunity to complain – politely, for it is not the volunteer’s fault – about the dangerous condition of the path at Lock 27 (see Marsden to Slaithwaite walk)!

There is disabled parking here, so if you’re worried about getting the train, you can start and finish here.

The old Tunnel End pub. Turn right at the ex-pub

The old Tunnel End pub. Turn right at the ex-pub

When you’ve had enough coffee and cake, return to Marsden the same way, or go up to the road, turn right at the house that used to be the pub (The Junction, or The Tunnel End, depending how old you are).

This road leads uphill to New House and Reddisher Farm on the left, with open views across the valley to Pule Hill behind you and Deer Hill in front. There is a bench at the top here, with open views, which will be welcomed by your pusher.

The road now goes hently downhill to the station, with Deer Hill in front, and banks of honeysuckle on your left.

This road can be used as a wet weather alternative to the canal. I like coming back on it because it is less claustrophobic than the canal, and it satisfies me on asthetic grounds by making the walk circular.

Round distance about 1 mile.

 

Historical notes:

Originally, in the 18th Century, the Huddersfield Narrow Canal ended at what we now call Tunnel End. Goods were unloaded here and taken by pack horse over Standedge to Uppermill. The engineer, James Outram, built the tunnel in the 1790’s, though the 5 kilometres were too narrow for a towpath. As a result, the horses were led over Standedge to Diggle, while teams of men lay on the barges and walked the boat through the tunnel, a procedure known as legging.

In 1846, in an early example of modern predatory capitalism, the Huddersfield and Manchester Railway Company bought the canal, and, surprise, surprise, the railway was built and opeed 3 years later. Canal traffic declined, and the canal wase ventually abandoned in 1914.

There are now 3 tunnels through Standedge, all interlinked: the canal tunnel, now restored, the original single track railway, and the double track tunnel, which is the one that is used by trains today.

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West Yorkshire: Marsden to Slaithwaite

Marsden to Slaithwaite (pron slawit)

2.5 miles

Generally OK, but difficult in a couple of places.

Me and Ruby, Marsden Lane

Me and Ruby, Marsden Lane

 

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.

Erosion at Lock 27

Erosion at Lock 27

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.

Looking down the Colne valley from Marsden Lane

Looking down the Colne valley from 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.

Booth T-junction

Booth T-junction

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!

The higher route arrives at Lock 28

The higher route arrives at Lock 28

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.

Arrival at Slaithwaite

Arrival at Slaithwaite

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.

Historical otes:

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/

 

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