Best Foot Forward: A winter walk to the Snow Stone

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There’s no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. Thus, donned with full waterproofs, I set off on this 6.5 mile walk with eight other keen walkers,

Fortunately the rain eased as we made our way from the starting point of Marsden railway station [GR SE 047 118, HD7 6AX]. Marsden, at the head of the Colne Valley, is a great spot to start a walk exploring the expanses of Meltham, Marsden and Saddleworth Moors.

Perhaps better known or recognised as a film spot for several TV programmes including the League of Gentlemen, Marsden is now quite a cultural hub, with its annual Jazz Festival, but also historically a passing place of a Roman Road, later a Turnpike Road [a toll road for wheeled vehicles built in 1759 by John Metcalfe, known as Blind John of Knaresborough due to his blindness from smallpox at the age of 6]. Marsden offers a myriad of eateries to reward you on return from this delightful walk.

Leaving the station, follow the canal towpath towards the Standedge tunnel; diverting slightly to climb into the woodland pathway on the right-hand side. Returning to the towpath at Tunnel End, the entrance to the longest canal tunnel, built in 1811, you cross the canal where there is a café to you left and the visitor centre to your right.

Take the clear pathway across the green to meet the road, turn right and follow the road until reaching a way-marker indicating a path to Green Owlers. Following this path you’ll reach another way-marker to Piper Holes among a collection of rural houses. It’s a beautiful path, meandering above the more frequented Standedge Trail below; very muddy and very slippery in parts. My walk notes instruct taking a left at Hey Farm along a tarmac track and then

right onto a waymarked tarmac road as you begin a descent. There is a slippery stone path descending to curve around and cross a small stream, climbing up the other side towards Lower Green Owlers and then you turn left at a way-marker. Consulting the map; it’s a distinct path; just be wary in the winter months. Waterproof shoes are an absolute must!

Descending towards Hey Green, there are interesting stone sturctures alongside the clough to your left. We speculated whether they were relics of the woollen cloth trade which brought wealth to the area, perhaps tenters, on which cloth was suspended for drying. That said; the same structures continued along the driveway further beneath; thus they remain a mystery!

Reaching the tarmac road; continue ahead. A sign says ‘no right of way’ but it is apparently a permissible path; climbing up the driveway to meet the A62 at the top. Passing a stile opposite, turn right to take the path which mirrors the road; this is the Standedge Trail. Just beyond a derelict building, close to the air shafts from the tunnel beneath; there is a distinct [when not snowy] path that turns left to sharply climb up to a quarry [GR SE 030 107]. Up

here you will find the Snow Stone, one of the Stanza Stones of Simon Armitage. We diverted to see the stone and paused for lunch; but the cold encouraged us forward, so we returned to the path beneath and headed towards the pub up ahead. Reaching the road, you turn left and follow it for a while. You will pass a notice board giving details of the Turnpike Road and detailing several heritage trails in the area.

Take the road turning off to the left, taking the track that leaves it; still following the Standedge Trail. You’ll see a turn off to the right, go beyond that and take the second right hand pathway which curves to descend towards Netherley. Walk towards Butterley Reservoir but take the stone step descent beneath the dam. Crossing a weir, from here there are a number of routes back to the start. We followed the Cone Valley Circular trail [a wonderful 13-mile

route which I have completed and will likely write about in due course] between the old mill buildings and you will find yourself back in civilisation. If you divert via the park; there is the drinking fountain restored in 2008 that was originally established by the British Women’s Temperence Association in 1929.

Finally, with advice on winter walking; wearing multiple layers is the best way to keep yourself warm. I wore very light, summer walking trousers underneath my waterproof over-trousers – with thick trousers you will sweat. Gloves and a woolly hat are essential and always take a spare of everything – socks, hat, gloves – if it rains, you will get cold very quickly. Bad weather can be endured by the right clothing after all!