Marsden Moor part 4 – Moorland reservoirs

About three weeks ago, I posted the first three parts of my little walk on Marsden Moor, the large tract of unenclosed National Trust land high up in Pennine Yorkshire, on the borders of both Lancashire and Derbyshire.

After a ramble around the moor side, I descended into Wessenden Valley, home to four reservoirs, before heading back to the village of Marsden to catch my train the three miles back home to Slaithwaite.

A few days ago I returned to the moor, this time with friends, and we hiked over on a totally different route, starting at the bottom of the Wessenden Valley and walking up to the third reservoir before heading across the other side of the valley.


Blakeley Reservoir, the second in the Wessenden Valley

The valley is rather wild and marshy, and full of ravines and little waterfalls.


Eventually we picked up a path which is part of the Pennine Way. The Pennine Way is a long distance footpath which starts at Edale in the Derbyshire Peaks and heads north through Marsden Moor, the Yorkshire Dales, the Northumberland National Park and all the way up to just over the Scottish border, 267 miles (429km) from its starting point.


Above you can see the footpath through bleak peat moorland. The bow-shaped rise in the background is Shooters Nab and Deer Hill to the left, and West Nab towards the Meltham road to the right.

Shooters’ Nab from Swellands

Continuing over the moor, we reached Swellands Reservoir. Although not overly large, it was the cause of a disaster when the dam burst, during its construction for the Huddersfield Canal Company in 1810. During the night of 29 November, the water rushed with such a force down into Marsden that it killed at least 6 people, one of whom was swept from their bed and discovered 6 miles down the River Colne!

This was not the biggest local res dam burst disaster, however. In 1852, Bilberry Reservoir in nearby Holmfirth was responsible for widespread damage, and the deaths of 81 people.


Just next to Swellands is Black Moss Reservoir, a slightly more accessible stretch of water to get to the shore of, due to its easy access from the nearby roads. Families come picnicking up here in summer. There was only us on this day, and a pair of elusive Canada geese who didn’t want their pictures taking. In the background is the mast at Holme Moss.

Holme Moss from Black Moss

The path leads to what is probably the remnants of a Roman Road which runs behind Marsden, maybe linking the various Roman settlements including Castleshaw in Saddleworth, just across the border. Pule Hill, Marsden’s famous landmark, is the site of quarries, caches of fossils and dinosaur eggs, and iron and bronze-age civilisations.


Redbrook Reservoir is pictured above, with Pule Hill behind. The Standedge tunnel (canal and railway) run underneath some of this from Marsden to Diggle in Saddleworth. There are tunnel shafts along the ridge. When my dad, my auntie and uncle were children, they lived in the shadow of Pule Hill, and played here all the time.

We turned left here and headed further along the Roman Road to the A62, the main thoroughfare from Manchester and Oldham over into Huddersfield. At the main road, we passed Brunclough reservoir.


Above is Brunclough Reservoir with Saddleworth Moor behind it. Beyond and to the right are the Lancashire mill towns of Oldham, Stalybridge, and the great Northern city of Manchester.

In part 5, we cross the A62 and head towards Close Moss and back into Marsden.


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