Marsden to Edale - 40th anniversary walk (22/09/2012)
2012 marked the 40th anniversary of the Long Distance Walkers Association. The National Committee asked each Local Group to help celebrate by putting on a special walk in September.
In response, South Manchester group decided to do the Marsden to Edale walk. Although our group is relatively recent, long-distance walking has a long history in the area. This was the classic Manchester workers’ day-walk; in the days before mass car-ownership, people would catch the early-morning train to Marsden, spend the day happily dodging gamekeepers on the way over Black Hill, Bleaklow & Kinder Scout, to arrive at Edale in good time to catch the train back to Manchester.
The Marsden-Edale goes back to the early years of the 20th century. It was first attributed to Ross Evans and Cecil Dawson; Dawson came to inspire a generation with his long-distance exploits. His large walking group, “Dawson’s Crowd” became known as the “94th”, with Dawson as Colonel. They pioneered the use of gymshoes for greater speed over the moors.
So it was that on a September Saturday morning, 17 members, a prospective member & one dog set off from Marsden station at about 9.10. Heading south, we soon found ourselves climbing up Binn Road, leaving the village behind as we took to the lane leading up the Wessenden Valley. Passing Butterley & Blakeley Reservoirs we were joined by that upstart parvenu the Pennine Way, which follows the Marsden-Edale as far as Black Hill. We continued, steadily climbing past Wessenden & Wessenden Head Reservoirs to reach the A635 at the site of the former Isle of Skye Inn, now occupied by a butty van. Here we were joined by Rob, another prospective member, who despite having missed his train, was determined to join the walk, trusting his car to the moorland elements overnight.
A short distance along the road, and off along the flagged way across Dean Clough & up the slopes of Black Hill. There was a welcome surprise at the summit; an intensive programme of reseeding has turned what was once a barren, fire-blackened morass into a verdant moorland. Whatever else people may think of the Pennine Way being paved, by encouraging walkers to keep to the line of the path, it has also helped the vegetation to grow undisturbed.
However, we now left the flags behind; a short bog-hop led to the summit cairn of Tooleyshaw Moss, from where a more-or-less clear path led down across Tooleyshaw Moor to White Low & Westend Moss. From there it was a steady descent along the valley-side of Crowden Little Brook to reach Longdendale at the hamlet of Crowden, with its Youth Hostel, caravan park & toilets. On this occasion, there was also our support crew; Avril & Jean with water & squash to replenish bottles. This being close to the halfway point, we stopped here for our sandwiches.
Pressing on, we took the concession path around the head of Torside Reservoir, crossing the River Etherow, and climbing to reach the B6105. Early Marsden-Edale walkers might here have continued straight on up Fair Vage Clough; the clay pigeon shooting club now makes that problematical, so heading west for 1km along the Longdendale Trail, we then took the path climbing up through woods to Wildboar Clough. Eschewing the streambed scramble, we headed up the steep hillside beside the clough, eventually reassembling on the edge of the Bleaklow plateau. Continuing alongside the upper clough, we crossed the stream at a path junction, gradually climbing. After a sharp left turn, with leader John having neglected to position himself at the head of the group, we went for an unscheduled wander around the groughs, rather than the carefully recce'd route. Eventually returning to the fence, we crossed over to rejoing the Pennine Way again for the last few hundred yards to Bleaklow Head.
A tea-break here was cut short as we were mobbed by insects; we continued along the Pennine Way as far as Alport Low, where, saying a final goodbye to the PW, we struck out south east along a faint moorland trod down to Upper North Grain; Bess was having such fun chasing hares(oh,dear!), she had to be persuaded to come off the moor. From here, a clearer path led to the Snake Road, where our support team were in attendance again, having waited over an hour (the leader having underestimated the time taken to cross Bleaklow). Jill had to take her leave of us here, as she had an evening appointment, and was duly ferried to Edale station.
Crossing the road, we dropped down to Lady Clough, soon entering the Forestry Commission woods (saved from the government's privatisation plans - for now). The path weaves up & down along the valley, past Birchen Clough, till after meeting Ashop Clough, it emerges back onto the Snake Road. Passing the Snake Inn with eyes averted lest temptation prove too much, we then took the concession path through more woods down to cross the River Ashop by a very substantial footbridge - a complete contrast to the crossing of Fair Brook shortly after, by a most entertaining ford! There then followed a steadily-rising traverse of the hillside across to the next valley, Gate Side Clough, where the path again became remarkably vertical, eventually reaching the northern Kinder Edge path below the Seal Stones.
Taking this path east, then south, soon brought us to the ford of Blackden Brook. Continuing south, we made the "seven-minute crossing" of Kinder, emerging onto the southern edge above Grindsbrook Clough, with the lights of Edale visible in the Noe Valley below.. Heading east again, we reached the top of Golden Clough; with the sun starting to set behind the main bulk of Kinder, we made our way down the relatively gentle path beside Ringing Roger, to arrive at Edale & the Old Nag's Head as night fell. Here, we were met by Avril, Jean & Dave's wife Sue, and we were treated to soup & sandwiches out of group funds.
A final stroll down the lane to the station, to wait for the train back to Manchester. Once on board, everyone was presented with a specially-produced commemorative certificate & an LDWA "celebrating 40 years" cloth badge.
Thanks to everyone who sent in photos:
Nick Ham took 70 photos on the day! Here is his Flickr gallery.
Special thanks to Avril & Jean, who provided logistical support on the day, Sue who designed the certificates and Carl who printed them; Quentin arranged the catering.