Marsden Moor Part One – Holme Moor

Yesterday I decided to go to Marsden, 3 miles west of Slaithwaite where I live, and have a wander up onto the moor with the cameras. Marsden Moor is a tract of unenclosed common land some 5685 acres, reaching the Lancashire and Derbyshire borders and adjoining Saddleworth Moor and the Peak District National Park.

The moor is a wild, bleak but beautiful landscape of valleys, gorges, crags, marshes, small waterfalls, and the man-made additions of reservoirs and catchment areas, tunnel shafts when the railway and canal came under the moor, drystone walls, and is littered with the evidence and debris of both pre and post industrialisation. It is also home to a variety of moorland species of wildlife including curlew, red grouse and golden plover.

There are different parts of the moor. For this part I am walking up through Marsden village and slightly south-east onto Holme Moor. It’s some years since I came this way, so allow me a moment of befuddlement when I forgot the actual footpath up onto the moor, and ended up on a very unused overgrown one, which, after some trudged, squodging through mud and trampling down brambles, got me to what looked familiar.

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Marsden, from the huge sandstone boulders marked on maps as Piper Stones, but what we always knew as Mighty Rock

As I crossed over one catchment path, and continued my way up, I heard the echoing reports of rifle-fire from the Deer Hill shooting range just to my left. The red flag was up, which means it’s dangerous to continue along the permissible path beyond Shooters’ Nab towards Deer Hill or West Nab across the moor.

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Part way up, my phone started ringing. Oh, I thought, should at least have decent reception. When I was getting no answer, I realised with horror I must have knocked my phone and it let rip with the tune which I use for my ringtone. Led Zeppelin burst out louder than the nearby rifle range, as Immigrant Song roared across the moor, no doubt alarming little thrushes. My face must have been as flushed as the red danger flag as I desperately tried to stop it. It wouldn’t switch off though, and the bright light meant I couldn’t see the screen. I must point out that this is a popular spot to walk, so folk were walking, it being  a decent day. In the end I put the phone on pause, which of course silenced everything else.

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Looking North towards the tops of Slaithwaite, Pole Moor radio masts and Scapegoat Hill
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The moor is littered with stones, rocky outcrops and grassed over hillocks from the tunnel diggings
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A lone hiker, like myself, heads down the catchwater path. The moor is bleak and exposed, sunlight leaches colour out of the landscape, making it appear pale and harsh

I continued along the catchwater path for a mile or two, occasionally hitting small bridges onto eastern parts of the moor, designed perhaps for vehicles to gain access for catchment maintenance or moor management, and to cross the catchwater.

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The hill ahead is Pule Hill, a local landmark and site of early settlements. Fossils can be found here, and fossilised dinosaur eggs have also been discovered
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In the distance, where I’d just walked from, is the rocky prominence of shooters’ Nab, another easily recognised local landmark. The shooting lodge can just be seen to the left.

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And that was the first bit of my little walk. In part 2 I follow the catchwater path round as it swings to the left and onto Binn Moor.

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