~Slaithwaite to Uppermill ~
4th March 2017
Pule Hill & Redbrook Reservoir
Scroll down for photos and a description of the walk....
For today's Pennine wander, I chose to take the train from Stalybridge to Slaithwaite and walk back as far as suited me, knowing that the rail line would never be too far away. Stalybridge is eight miles east of Manchester and is within Tameside, but historically it is part of Cheshire.
Stalybridge Railway Station
I arrived with plenty of time to spare and parked for £1 on some rough ground five minutes from the station. The plan was to try out the station buffet bar, with its renowned historical interest and original features. Unfortunately, the buffet does not open until 11am and my train was due at 10:12hrs. Still, I know there is a cafe on the canalside at Slaithwaite - all is not lost.
Slaithwaite Railway Station
The train departs en route to Huddersfield. Not without incident..a late arrival of two kids and dad with pushchair. The two under-10's dodged the closing doors and got on and dad was left on the platform. Luckily the guard (not happy) realised that the family was separated and reopened the doors. Bonkers!
Huddersfield Narrow Canal at Lock 22
The cafe is on the right and so this hungry walker marched confidently to the premises. Almost full with a large walking party!! A quick scan suggested most guests had yet to be served, so off I went to a butty bar and grabbed a take-away sandwich and brew, not ideal.
Another eating facility on the left here (Ashby's Deli Cafe) , is serving a couple with a dog in the patio area and further on, in the mill, there is a bakery (The Handmade Bakery) with its own cafe area and seating outside for dog walkers. Note how I generously and even-handedly give these places a mention. One cafe has offered me a free breakfast if I should pop by again (not in Slaithwaite), but how can I remain impartial if I accept such gifts? Hmmm, maybe I should give it a go and find out...
The three mile stretch from Slaithwaite to Marsden was very enjoyable. The frequency of locks removes any risk that this canal walk could become a monotonous ramble, like some towpath walks.
The little hamlet of Booth lies in a wonderful setting where the canal widens and the railway hugs a contour on the north-west side of the valley. So many times I come across places where I'd like to live; this walking lark is good for the body and the soul, but can leave you puzzled by the accidents of history that have put you where you are and so often they root you to one location.
Just above the outflow is Sparth Reservoir - a popular location for anglers and outdoor swimmers (in warmer weather).
Maybe somewhere for barges to turnaround or maybe a waiting area in busy times?
Approaching Marsden and just next to canal is The Railway pub. Post walk, I read some reviews of the pub and it would seem that it has much to commend it and dogs are (or at least were in 2015) welcome. However, pubs close to this railway are subject to the impact of the Real Ale Trail - a railway company initiative to get people to use the line and enjoy a drink as they hop from one train to another. Guess what? Weekend trains and these pubs get beset by rowdy drinkers, so beware! Guards reluctant to check tickets on some trains suggests some travellers maybe getting a free ride.
St.Bartholomew's Church, Marsden
The chosen route took a footpath to the west of the church and headed up Old Mount Road.
Old Mount Road
Looking back to the town of Marsden from Old Mount Road. I preferred this certain and clear tarmac route up the hillside to the potentially boggy alternatives, it's not a busy traffic route.
Bank Bottom Mill
Use the internet as a resource for further information about Bank Bottom Mill and its history etc. (Thus saving me the bother of doing so)
Old Mount Road
At the top of Old Mount Road, we joined Mount Road and the Standedge Trail. Keeping to the Standedge Trail, we left the tarmac for a walk over Warcock Hill. Pronoune Standedge as "Stannidge" - pretend the middle "d" isn't there.
Redbrook Reservoir and Pule Hill
Air shafts relating to the Standedge Tunnels are seen on Pule Hill. An abandoned dwelling is seen below Brun Clough Reservoir.
The Standedge Trail takes walkers down the hill to Diggle; here I am looking back from where we came.
Standedge Railway Tunnel
Now, I need to learn more about the tunnels here and there is a visitor centre on the Marsden side. The canal tunnel was bored first. The railway company bought the canal and bored a single track tunnel close to the canal tunnel so that spoil could be brought out by barge. Insufficient for the growing demands of rail traffic, they bored another single track tunnel. Later they bored a double track tunnel (above). So there are four Standedge Tunnels - this one and the canal one are in use for their intended purposes. That's the short version of a long and interesting tale of Victorian Engineering.
I could, and maybe should, have called here for refreshments. Bang on the route and dog friendly, but I had planned to try somewhere else with a many fine reviews, so on we go.
The Church Inn, Uppermill
30 minutes of uphill walking later and we arrive at The Church Inn. There were so many cars around that I thought it must be hosting an event of some kind. But no, it is simply a very popular venue for drinks and food. Dogs welcome and we sat close to a roaring fire. Refreshed and fuelled by a hearty meal, I was reluctant to leave the comfort of the pub, but one way or another we have to get back to Stalybridge.
There is the church from which the pub takes its rather prosaic name and soon enough we join the Tame Valley Way, which for much of this part of the route uses the old railway trackbed from the "Micklehurst Loop".
I fear that the soporific effect of a warm pub and good food quashed my appetite for further research on the way through Uppermill and eventually to Greenfield Station. That and the loss of sunshine as the clouds rolled in - also the canal towpath is closed in Uppermill due to storm damage - Angus - if you can remeber when that one was.
Walkers: Molly The Dog and Me.
Route: Slaithwaite Railway Station, Huddersfield Narrow Canal to Marsden, up the other side of the valley via Old Mount Road. Over the hill using The Standedge Trail, Diggle, country roads to The Church Inn above Uppermill. Squelchy footpaths down to The Tame Valley Way and hence Uppermill for Greenfield Railway Station - hourly service to Manchester, stopping at Stalybridge.
Weather: Unexpectedly sunny and bright for most of the walk and then dull towards the end. Dry!
Time Taken: 6 hours over a distance of about 10 miles with about one hour in the pub.
Refreshment Review: The Church Inn - warm, welcomming, great food, loads of beers on draught, dog friendly.
The Micklehurst Loop from the Disused Stations Website. If any website can be thought-provoking, deep, interesting, well written and easy to read, then this is the one. Ask for your local station to be closed and these guys will move in to do their business.
Stalybridge Buffet - it's a must visit for rail enthusiasts or maybe, just drinkers. Check the opening times.
I live in Lancashire, Stalybridge was in Cheshire, now Tameside; Slaithwaite is in West Yorkshire. A little bit of this walk was in The Peak District National Park.
All photos copyright Richard Ratcliffe 2017 ©