I couldn’t get an advance fare to Carlisle and back today, so thought I would set out on one of my planned walks across the country. It’s not Wainwrights Coast To Coast, but hey there’s a few places I want to see on the route, it will give me training for walking Hadrians Wall, and I can do a long trek in a day.
So I am walking from Liverpool to Hull or Grimsby, not decided which one yet, but the great cheat is I have already done the Liverpool Greenfield section at least once, so I can start in Greenfield.
I lived for a quarter of a century here and I love the walk into Uppermill from the station, I passed it so many times, the sight of the Catholic and Methodist churches along the road is iconic for me.
As is the Turog house.
Though it’s not entirely an exercise in nostalgia, the plan is to walk along the canal to Standedge tunnel, then take the Boat Lane to Marsden before continuing along the towpath to Huddersfield. I haven’t walked that route before so that’s going to be new.
It’s a lovely sunny day, mid September, and the good summer is managing to last until autumn begins at least.
I join the towpath at the top end of Uppermill. When I first came to live here on my first evening I walked along this path to Diggle. The Canal was not navigable in 1988, and was filled in in many places with concrete blocks. A short 12 years later it was fully opened. The Huddersfield Canal Society have really done an excellent job and it is a pleasant walk to Standedge Tunnel
Standedge Tunnel itself is the highest, longest and deepest canal tunnel in the UK. It travels through the pennines. In my memory it was John Noakes that footed a canal boat through this tunnel, though on reflection it probably was not this particular stretch of canal as it was first closed in 1941 before being reopened in 2001. Thomas Telford designed it, and it is three miles long. Originally horses had to go over the top of Standedge and that’s the route I am going to follow – Boat Lane
It’s not long before I get to the tunnel
and a little further on at the Diggle Hotel (a mighty fine pub if you are ever in the area) Boat Lane starts. I had imagined heavy going through the moors, but Boat Lane is a wide, well laid out rutted track, which has obviously seen a lot of traffic over the centuries, and I am fitter than I thought, the training of walking up and down cliffs has paid off, and it is an easy pleasant walk up the track.
All summer I have been walking through Cumbria, which was infact once the County Palatine of Lancashire, now I am walking through what was once the West Riding but is now part of Greater Manchester. When Lancashire lost the lakes we lost a great part of our scenery, but the countryside here can make up for it. Our gain is Yorkshire’s loss.
Quite quickly I reach the summit and am still fresh. The day is good, I feel that I can do the whole distance today.
Even this high and remote, there are houses to pass, though they must be a nightmare in the snow and ice of winter, and it even appears that one right at the top is in some stage of refurbishment for future habitation, though it does look gloomy against the clouds which have descended.
I’s pretty busy up here and I pass a few people including a cyclist, and a woman with a pack of barking hounds (I steer a wide berth of her as she says to the dogs “No its not him, but it does look like him….)
The reservoirs at the top are full, so it has rained up here at least.
I also pass a fell runner. Fell running is something along with golf that I do not understand. Infact I understand it less than golf as it just seems to be a way to inflict pain and misery on yourself whilst freezing to death and getting covered in mud. Still De Gustibus and all that.
At the top, the path crosses and follows for a short distance the Pennine Way. I make a mental note to attempt that some time. Perhaps in short bursts. The weather stayed good over the top, even though it was notably cooler than in the valley. In the distance I can see Marsden.
My plan is to walk to Tunnel end on the other side, but that is scuppered by the fact that there are works on the aqueduct of the river Colne over the railway bridge which blocks my path. This is the first of two diversions today.
So I walk down into Marsden and make my way along the canal path. Now canal paths are very easy to walk, but very very boring as all they consist of are locks, bridges and water. There aren’t even many boats on this stretch of canal, which is explained by a drained part of the canal just before Slaithwaite
There is a friendly heron on the water, who poses for me before flying off.
Although he does subsequently try and invade the territory of his mate downstream, and is soon put right in a brief skirmish.
Some parts of the canal can be quite picturesque
The canal , river and railway follow each other tightly down the valley. You may be confused as to why the River Colne is nowhere near Colne valley. There are 3 rivers Colne in England, and Colne valley houses Colne water. This particular river Colne joins the river Calder and eventually the Aire then the Ouse and Trent before reaching the sea in the Humber at Hull.
There are some fine houses along the canal, with lawns sweeping down to the canal banks. I arrive in Slaithwaithe (pronounced Sla’wit or Sl’at depending how deep Yorkshire you are) I have only ever passed Slaithwaite on the A61, which is a rat run of a road, and only it seems skirts the town as the centre is old (buildings dating back to the 1790s) and well to do. The canal is a feature of the town centre
At this point I am running out of fuel and stop at a canalside cafe for a burger and pot of tea. This reinvigorates me for the final push to Huddersfield. The next 3 miles are canal path, but at Milnbridge they are repairing the towpath, so I am diverted onto the busy A61, which I dont mind as it provides a relief from endless canal, even though it passes through the rundown parts of Huddersfield the scenery does at least vary (sometimes theres a bus, sometimes a lorry, often a car)
Eventually I get to the centre of town, that is a nightmare to navigate, as the main shopping area is on an island surrounded by the busy ring road. The centre is not much to write home about, until you reach the Georgian area around the station. The station itself looks like a stately home transported into the middle of a town
And of course, its attraction is a statue of Harold Wilson
Next time, I hope to pass a statue of another famous Yorkshireman. The train journey back is a dream, the connection in Manchester is two minutes, just giving me time to hop off the TPE and jump onto the Buxton train. I have covered 16.5 miles and feel great.
Copyright 2018 Allan Russell