Introduction to Wheelchair Access in the Colne Valley
The Colne valley was the cradle of the industrial weaving of wool in the nineteenth century. Readers who are interested in this might go to the website of the Marsden Local History Group.
The simplest way to explore the valley, for those who have mobility problems, is by public transport from Huddersfield – either by bus from the bus station, or by train from the railway station. Both Marsden and Slaithwaite have railway stations, but here is my first warning: Marsden station is perfectly accessible if you’re approaching from Huddersfield, but totally impossible going to Huddersfield; at Slaithwaite, owing to the camber of the track, getting on and off the train is difficult, and you will need assistance.
Your walks will mostly be confined to the railway-canal-river corridor. To get up on to the high moors is not impossible, but you will need a team of very fit pushers, or at least one spare battery.
However, wherever you go, beware the Main Road, the A62, which is busy and fast. It’s OK if there’s a pavement, though it’s noisy and a vexation to the spirit. We who walk with wheels are an altogether softer and slower breed of human, and we are drawn to the canal and the moorland path.
If you want to trundle along beside heavy traffic, stay in town. Even there, there is still plenty of fun to be had locating dropped kerbs that have not been blocked by parked cars!
I guess I need some kind of legal-style bumf here, before you try to sue the pants off me.
If you follow my walks, I can’t guarantee that nobody has come along since I walked it and has dug a hole, or built a wall, or closed a gate., or, indeed, built a new shopping mall. Train and bus services can be cut, and the weather can change in an hour.
I’m sorry – of course I am – if one of these events ruins your day out, but I can’t be sued for it.
If anything like this does happen (except the weather thing, of course), send a comment in to this site, and COMPLAIN, COMPLAIN, COMPLAIN. We can organise campaigns to get things done.
So, I am not responsible for you falling in the canal, or for your scooter breaking down on the moors. Be sensible, drive slowly, use your legs as stabilisers if you can, and take the right clothing. It gets very cold on a scooter, and the weather is something else! Don’t be afraid to take a tame walking person with you. It is not a failure to ask for help – you are walking to enjoy the world, not to win a Paralympic medal.
Be sensible and crazy. Have fun. Don’t get angry with people’s thoughtlessness – they have more to think about than you. Treat it all as an Adveture. And take a phone!
Marsden to Tunnel End
Distance: about 1 mile
This is a fairly short and accessible canal-side walk, that is level and easy to find and follow. It’s a little muddy after heavy or prolonged rain.
It starts from Marsden railway station, on the Manchester-bound side, which is accessible. Getting back again is a different kettle of fish, however, so demand, in advance of your walk, assistance from Network Rail. Then complain, but not to the person who gets you on to the platform.
The path sets off alongside the canal, which here is right next to the platform. Set off with the canal on your right, otherwise you will embark on a hard journey to Slaithwaite.
The towpath goes under the road, then goes through trees to the red railway bridge. The wood to your left can be accessed through a five-bar gate that you will see on your left. If you have a RADAR key you’ll be able to get in, but the path is ALWAYS muddy, and often impassable. You will have to come out the same way you went in, because all the other paths from the wood to the canal invove steep steps.
Back to the red railway bridge, then. This is OK to go through, but it is dark, wet, bumpy and very near the water, so go as slowly and carefully as you can. It’s a double bridge, and when you come out of it you have reached the canal basin of Tunnel End.
Here is lots of industrial history, a picnic area, a cafe, a museum, and hourly boat trips into the tunnel. Read the boards – it’s interesting. Often there is a canal volunteer selling membership of the Canal and River Trust. Use this opportunity to complain – politely, for it is not the volunteer’s fault – about the dangerous condition of the path at Lock 27 (see Marsden to Slaithwaite walk)!
There is disabled parking here, so if you’re worried about getting the train, you can start and finish here.
When you’ve had enough coffee and cake, return to Marsden the same way, or go up to the road, turn right at the house that used to be the pub (The Junction, or The Tunnel End, depending how old you are).
This road leads uphill to New House and Reddisher Farm on the left, with open views across the valley to Pule Hill behind you and Deer Hill in front. There is a bench at the top here, with open views, which will be welcomed by your pusher.
The road now goes gently downhill to the station, with Deer Hill in front, and banks of honeysuckle on your left.
This road can be used as a wet weather alternative to the canal. I like coming back on it because it is less claustrophobic than the canal, and it satisfies me on asthetic grounds by making the walk circular.
Round distance about 1 mile.
Originally, in the 18th Century, the Huddersfield Narrow Canal ended at what we now call Tunnel End. Goods were unloaded here and taken by pack horse over Standedge to Uppermill. The engineer, James Outram, built the tunnel in the 1790’s, though the 5 kilometres were too narrow for a towpath. As a result, the horses were led over Standedge to Diggle, while teams of men lay on the barges and walked the boat through the tunnel, a procedure known as legging.
In 1846, in an early example of modern predatory capitalism, the Huddersfield and Manchester Railway Company bought the canal, and, surprise, surprise, the railway was built and opened 3 years later. Canal traffic declined, and the canal was eventually abandoned in 1914.
There are now 3 tunnels through Standedge, all interlinked: the canal tunnel, now restored, the original single track railway, and the double track tunnel, which is the one that is used by trains today.
Mount Road Circuit, Marsden
Distance: about 2 miles
Links with: Marsden to Binn Edge
An easy walk, on road and pavement surfaces all the way. It is more urban at the beginning, but soon gets to open views. It is interesting historically, and has the aesthetic satisfaction of being a circular route.
This walk begins at the Fall Lane roundabout in Marsden. This area of Marsden was once busy, with three woollen mills, a carbonising mill and an iron foundry. This was the centre of the Luddite riots, and you can check all this out at the website of the Marsden History Group at http://www.marsdenhistory.co.uk/
Set off up Mount Road, leaving Bank Bottom Mill on your left. This road was the coach road to Manchester, built by Blind Jack of Knaresborough in 1791. You can stay on the pavement as the road rises up the south-eastern slopes of Pule Hill. As the houses peter out, the view to the left over Butterley Reservoir to Binn and Deer Hill opens up
You will pass the cricket ground and golf club on your left, and will arrive at the cattle grid. Pass through the gate, and carro till you come to Old Mount Road on the right. Head up this final slope to another cattle grid, then carry on down the road. Old Mount Road was the original route over the Pennines, before the coach road. It is steep, which is why it is best to do this route this way round.
You will leave the high moors of Standedge behind you, Pule Hill is now to your left, and to the right you can see the way you have come.
The road is a long downhill, with good views of Bank Bottom Mill to your right. Eventually you come to the settlement of Throstle Nest (throstle = thrush) and here is the modern main road, that began life as a Turnpike from Huddersfield to Oldham.
Turn right here, stay on the pavement, and turn first right. In a hundred yards you will be back at your starting point.
Marsden Lane to Cop Hill
Distance: about: just under 2 miles, but distance is irrelevant
Grade: Difficult, but easy surface
Links with: Marsden to Slaithwaite
This “short” walk almost didn’t make it into this Guide. It is on a quiet lane all the way, but the gradient is very steep. You will not get up in a manual wheelchair, unless you have a team of strong helpers. My Class 2 Scooter made it, but I had to walk with it twice. If you can’t walk at all, I think this will need something like a Land Rover!
We start from the settlement of Booth, on Marsden Lane, near the canal. Arriving from Marsden, you will need to turn left at the T-junction to go under the railway.
If you come via the canal towpath, you will arrive along a good path and a rough road and you just need to go straight on under the bridge.
After going through the bridge, immediately turn left up a little lane, which turns right at the house. The road now starts to climb steeply to a hairpin bend to the right. Keep going.
Look back, and the valley is opening out behind you, the hill to your right is Booth Naze (275 metres). The road climbs on past the lane to Slaithwaite Hall, and now has become part-cobbled. The cobbles are no problem, because there is always enough tarmac. This lane used to be one of the roads into Marsden from Huddersfield, in the days when roads kept to the drier moorland hill tops and avoided the woods and flooding river in the valley bottom.
Keep following the road, through the trees at the head of the clough, and when you emerge from the trees, the summit of Cop Hill is on your right, at 320 metres. You have reached the Rose and Crown at the top.
Return the way you came. A circular route around Cop Hill will appear when I’ve done it. Till then, the Rose and Crown, with its stores of food and drink,will have to serve as Camp 1.
Marsden to Binn Moor
Distance: about 2 miles
This walk, just to the south of Marsden, will take you up the western slopes of Deer Hill to the boundary of the Peak District National Park, along a quiet road, to a viewpoint overlooking the Wessenden valley and its reservoirs.
This description starts at the Fall Lane roundabout, just south of the A62, at the entrance of the now deserted Bank Bottom Mill, once internationally famous for its woollen cloth. With the mill on your right, go straight up the lane, past terraces of weavers’ houses. The road goes round a little wood on the left, and there are routes to the right to the reservoirs, and, for serious walkers, up to the Pennine Way.
Keep on the lane, however, and it soon kinks left and starts to climb. The climb is quite steep, but I found my Class 2 scooter handled it with no problem.
At the house, the road climbs again to the right. There is a left turn here, too,to Binn House and Upper Acre, which is a dead end for wheelchairs after about 200 yards. Soon after you turn right there ius a steep lane up to the left, which is known locally as Rose Hill. This gets rougher and steeper till you reach a house on the left, a bit of a parking paced, and a gate to Binn Moor.
The lane is now a bit rougher, and climbs along the foot of Binn Edge, past a few old farmhouses on the right, that make up the settlement of Binn.
Go past these houses, and the views suddenly open up to the right, across the valley to Pule Hill. At the head of the valley is the infamous Saddleworth Moor. Stop at the turning circle and enjoy the long views and the food and drink you may have brought up with you.
Return the same way, unless you have the battery power to explore the other walks on Deer Hill.