A less than perfect Pennine day6th April 2007
I was out and about yesterday completing the section of the Pennine Way between Marsden and Littleborough. However, as if to scold me for leaving it for later, the hills shrouded themselves in clag that wasn’t to budge until I had reached the crossing over the M62. It’s an eerie experience following a path while only having visibility for several metres around you: thoughts of the results of a misnavigation were hardly enjoyable. Thankfully, the Pennine Way offers a good clear track to follow, and any navigational questions were quickly resolved with inspection of a map; if it hadn’t been like that, turning back would have been the best option. Needless to say, views of the surrounding countryside weren’t on offer, so another day in the area is a must if I want to savour what I missed. Yesterday also brought firmly home to me how tricky road crossings become in heavy fog; I rated every safe road crossing as an achievement until the air cleared: the crossing of the A62 at Standedge required particular care due to the lack of visibility and a foggy A672 more so.
Things actually started out looking well. Marsden was enjoying bright sunshine, so there was some hope that the clag lying on the hills might go away. The sun stayed out as I picked up the Kirklees Way that was to take me on to the Pennine Way. The latter has been rerouted so you no longer cross the dam of the Wessenden reservoir; having gone and had a look at why, it seems that the risk of land slippage is at the heart of this change and it does add a descent/ascent that would otherwise have been avoided. Nevertheless, the diversion does seem to an overly cautious move; crossing the slopes of the Craigmichen Scar on the Southern Upland looks much more hazardous in comparison. Another observation is that the route change has yet to make it into the Trailblazer and Cicerone guides to the Pennine Way.
It was after this point that the clag was encountered and it remained like so until I crossed the M62. However, it also seems that the veil of fog was plaguing other places as well; Cheshire was also blighted by it until after lunchtime as Alan Sloman’s Big Walk blog records. As it happened, it was about this time that I reached the M62 crossing, and things then started to cheer up considerably and there was a wonderful end to the day. Views of Rishworth Moor and Blackstone Edge were in ample supply. After crossing the latter, the gritstone boulder fields caused a mad navigational moment that I would not relish happening in heavy clag. The result was a pleasant diversion round by Blackstone Edge Reservoir that would have been even better if pylons weren’t stalking their way across the countryside. Nevertheless, I quickly knew where I was and took a pleasant path down to Littleborough from the White House pub (I’m keeping that landmark in mind for telling the driver of the Halifax bus where to stop on any future visit).
From Littleborough, the journey home was straightforward: train to Manchester Victoria, crossing to Manchester Piccadilly by Metrolink tram and on foot (the Bury-Altrincham one that I caught didn’t call at Piccadilly; something to bear in mind for the future…), train to Macclesfield. The outbound journey was similarly uneventful, the main difference from the return journey being the train from Manchester Victoria to Marsden (it had a non-functioning toilet but we won’t dwell on that…).
After my day out, I now have some ideas for future visits. One of these is a circular walk taking in Blackstone Edge and Green Withens Reservoir; it looks a good one for a sunny day. Then there’s the matter of savouring the countryside swallowed up in all that clag. One option is a point-to-point walk from Littleborough to Marsden on a route labelled the Station to Station Walk, perhaps taking a diversion along the Pennine Way and the Kirklees Way for the final approach to Marsden. Both are appealing options and could turn what was at times a frustrating day, before its blossoming into a superb evening, into further good ones.
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