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  • Writer's pictureJames

Marsden Moor Wild Camp

September 2020

Heptonstall to Marsden Moor. 13 Miles

In the end, and in no small part to the miserable conditions outside, I largely spent a total of eighteen hours in my tent. Sleep was gained when no rain fell. When it did, from the early hours and beyond the dawn, I lay staring at the ceiling. Warm, cosy - but immobile. I eventually emerged into daylight at 9:00, the air was damp and misty. Strong winds had replaced the heavy rain. More pastries for breakfast, and parkin, and then down to collect my clothes. The previous evening during a lull in the weather and making the most of an opportunity to purchase a cup of tea from the shop, I’d bumped into May. Ever accommodating, caring and helpful, she had offered to dry my soaking wet shorts, socks and boots. A boost to morale for my weary body to now find them all clean and toasty warm.

And then off into the day, and down through the fields of Calderdale. Stoodley Pike, a fraction in the far distance of its imposing self, the target. Once through the wet fields, refreshments on the steep descent down the cobbled and narrow lanes, in the shape of blackberries and raspberries. Crossing the River Calder and adjacent Rochdale Canal, all uphill through Callis Wood and up to Stoodley. The winds increased and were gale force once I’d arrived at the exposed topping. I noted where I’d sunbathed on last year on a hot summer day. No hanging around now, under moody, grey skies that appeared to be pondering whether to empty their loads. Please, don’t. The rocky outcrop beyond was distinctly chilly and the buffering wind then blew me along the winding flagstoned path to the first of the three reservoirs along Cows Head Drain.

A disappointing arrival at Littleborough. My timings wrong, and the White House pub had finished its lunchtime service. Without significantly diverting from the path, the last chance gone of a pub meal before Edale. The wind unrelenting, and a stoppage at Broad Head for a cold lunch with views beyond of Greater Manchester. The grey clouds that had been threatening ever since Stoodley Pike decided to join the party. Wind and rain now. The climb to another favourite, that of Blackstone Edge. No real distinct path, simply head around and over the copious rocks with one eye on the trig point. The windy theme continued, and only abated once on the way down to the M62. Another northbound Pennine Wayer, a recently retired firefighter fulfilling a long-time ambition. Another pang of envy from within.

The best part of the M62 crossing is leaving it behind. I knew the food van on the slip road beyond wouldn’t be there, but still a disappointment to find only in its wake the usual rubbish strewn around this bit of wasteland, the only notable landmark, the Windy Hill transmitter. Today, the name couldn’t have been more apt. Onto Marsden Moor, and for the first time today, sunshine. Perfectly timed, the calmness of a quiet moor lit up as the din from the motorway evaporated, I walked slowly, absorbing the late afternoon warm sun on to my face. Beyond White Hill, the thoughts for the first time of a camp.

With thoughts of heading beyond Standedge, suddenly and spontaneously the sound of water stopped me in my tracks, and a pitch perfect spot a couple of hundred yards directly east of Readycon Dean Reservoir. Flat, sheltered among long grass, my own water source. Perfect. Weary from a day of being battered by wind, I removed my pack and lay on the grass. The sun above, the sound of water, a gentle breeze. Complete solitude on another vast moor. A treat to pitch a tent not in the driving rain. A cup of tea, and a hot meal. A view of a reservoir. An atmospheric sky at sunset.


James' Walks & Wild Camps

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