A Marsden circuit to Black Hill

Distance: 13.7miles. Total Ascent: 2,703ft. Time: 4 1/2-6 hours (or much more if very wet!).

Trotting across the bog can be hazardous, particularly after heavy rainfall. It’s been relatively dry for the south Pennines, so I was a little alarmed to be on the deck, chin and chest on the floor, my right leg having vanished pretty much to the hip in the peat.

This bizarre sinkhole had caught me completely unawares and it took me a good minute or two to extricate my now sodden limb. I almost lost my trail shoe, but with one last squelching heave, my right leg left this boggy socket and I lay on my back, thankful to have avoided injury.

The Moor aboce Marsden to the north east of BobusUp to this point, my walk out of Marsden had been without event and very pleasant. Leaving the station in heavy rain, I walked along a quiet lane to Netherley and the southern edges of Pule Hill in sunshine. Leaving the tarmac, I struck out across a grassy hillside and then passed Redbrook Reservoir to my right. Hail started to fall and drummed the hood of my jacket.

Turing left at the fork in the trail, I headed to Swelland and Black Moss reservoirs where skirted the right wall of the latter and headed southwest across White Moss.

Here, the terrain became peat bog proper and I scrabbled across the hags and picked a route across lush, soggy hollows. I found a constructed path which gave one moss-carpeted grough the appearance of a manicured back garden with water feature.

Incongruous they may be, the slabs continued to where the path met the busy A635. I ride up this road fairly regularly but the speed of the traffic made me wince.

I followed the road east for a short distance and then picked out another path to Black Hill which loomed, framed by clouds full of rain, to the south east.

Black Moss Reservoir
I grabbed my Satmap in an effort to follow the path. I use the term loosely as the ill-defined route picked its way across challenging, ankle threatening terrain. I was bang on course according to the GPS although progress was slow. I spotted a couple descending from Black Hill and their line across the moor gradually aligned with mine. One asked me if he was on the right route and I confirmed the position on his map, cross referencing with the GPS.

I bade them farewell and minutes later performed the leg disappearing trick.

By this point, I was looking forward to making Black Hill and picking up the Pennine Way north. Finally scampering to the top of the plateau, my labours were rewarded by another sighting of a pair of mountain hares. Rather than turning heel, they both sat high, ears on radar, watching me struggle to the summit cairn.

The way was full of walkers, as always. Glad to be out of the mire, I upped the pace and jogged off the top of the hill making the road again at Wessenden Head  in good time.

I followed the Way along a charming valley in the sunshine. Walkers and mountain bikers enjoyed the now-settled weather and my thoughts turned toward another advantage of a route out of Marsden: the opportunity for a couple of beers at Riverhead Brewery Tap.

That in mind – well, I was starting to feel a little parched – I followed the Kirklees Way along the valley and back to the village. In the pub, I was spoilt for choice: should I try a Riverhead ale brewed on site, or one of the excellent Osset beers?

I lingered and sampled a few.

Route Map


10 thoughts on “A Marsden circuit to Black Hill

  1. Hi Matt
    This brings back memories from years gone by. I went to Manchester University in the 80’s and Black Hill was notorious as the worst of the Pennine moors for bog. I spent a couple of happy days trying to swim to the trig pillar on the summit and getting a boot-full for my trouble. Happy days!

  2. Hi Andy, thanks for dropping by.
    It was pretty dry on this trip, to be honest, hence my surprise when my leg disappeared. I find it’s all-too-easy to overestimate pace on this terrain. I got it completely wrong on Kinder once and came down in the dark after battling across the plateau and going in above my knees. Rather interesting getting myself out of that fix!

  3. A very well written blogpost. really enjoyed that. And I like that pick of the reservoir. Very striking. At least you got better weather this time. Which reminds me – I’ll be bivvying this week in the Chilterns 😉 Just reminded me thats all….

  4. Thanks for the comment, Terry. It wasn’t the best day for pics as the weather was so changeable. When I got to Black Moss, I just had enough time to think a bit about the pic before the rain hammered down again. Have a great time in the Chilterns… will be interested to know how you get on.

  5. The boggy area of the moors catch a few people out. One area I used to walk north of Bolton had quite a difficult stretch and it was a few brown legs and wet feet before we found the best route through. We termed it “clod hopping”!
    Glad you avoided injury and the rest of the day went well, as always thanks for sharing the experience.

  6. Thanks for the comment, Owl… I do like the moors (honest!) but prefer them in the winter after a protracted period of cold weather. They’re great when frozen, even better with a covering of snow.

  7. The first photo made me smile because i always take ones like those. When you are there in the moment the landscape always looks so amazing but when you look at it on the computer at home it rarely translates as well.
    That photo of the clouds over the mirror lake is stunning though. Do you use Flickr or any other image sharing sites as I’m always keen to see more walking photos?! Cheers, David.

    1. I guess that shot should have been about the weather really… Not really that effective I’ll admit. I have got a flickr account but it needs some work. I need to go through the back catalogue and pull out the worthy candidates.

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