8 November 2013

Wild

"Oh baby, baby it's a wild world..." Well  I tell you up at Marsden on the northern tip of the Peak District it really is - wild I mean. It's an area I have never explored or walked in before but I felt like getting well out of my normal walking comfort zones to seek unfamiliar territory.

On Thursday morning, I set off just after nine o'clock and one hour later I reached my far distant Pennine destination - parking close to Marsden's little public park and its proud war memorial. Spawned by the woollen industry, this overgrown village sits deep in the Colne Valley, overlooked by lofty farms and treeless moors. The main road through it leads over northern England's rugged spine to Oldham and thence to Manchester. There be dragons!

A huge nineteenth century woollen mill still sits in the valley bottom surrounded by humble wool workers' cottages even though its machines ceased for the last time in 2003. In its heyday, it must have provided hundreds of jobs, bringing people and prosperity to this wild forgotten corner of Yorkshire.. 

For a number of years, I have been aware that one of England's best living poets was born and raised in Marsden. His name is Simon Armitage and on the walking route I planned, I especially wanted to take in the little reservoir at Black Moss. Armitage referred to it in this poem:-

It ain't what you do, it's what it does to you.
I have not bummed across America
with only a dollar to spare, one pair
of busted Levi’s and a bowie knife.
I have lived with thieves in Manchester.

I have not padded through the Taj Mahal,
barefoot, listening to the space between
each footfall, picking up and putting down
its print against the marble floor. But I

skimmed flat stones across Black Moss on a day
so still I could hear each set of ripples
as they crossed. I felt each stone’s inertia
spend itself against the water; then sink.

I have not toyed with a parachute cord
while perched on the lip of a light aircraft;
but I held the wobbly head of a boy
at the day centre, and stroked his fat hands.

And I guess that the lightness in the throat
and the tiny cascading sensation
somewhere inside us are both part of that
sense of something else. That feeling, I mean.

Before setting off I needed a lavatory and located one in the little town's library. Don't worry - I shall not elaborate at this juncture but the visit was most satisfying! Then I set off - passing two reservoirs that sit in the Wessenden Valley. Soon I joined the Pennine Way, climbing up to the saturated, spongy and windswept moors known as Black Moss. The reservoir itself is very bleak - with a sister reservoir called Swellands nearby. Thank heavens the National Trust or the Peak District Authority have paved most of the path with great blocks of gritstone. Without them walkers would often be up to their knees in peaty gunge.

I have often skimmed stones across water and know the kind of flat stones to look out for but disappointingly I couldn't see any such stones around the reservoir - besides the geology wouldn't be right for them. So I wondered where Simon Armitage had found his skimming stones. Perhaps he brought some up there with him.

Afterwards, I descended to Redbrook Reservoir and then along the Stanedge Trail back to Marsden where I enjoyed a bowl of delicious homemade tomato and pesto soup in a cafe called "Crumbles on the Corner". There was a charity shop in the village called "The Cuckoo's Nest" where I happily deposited a bundle of back copies of "Gardeners' World" - they had been sitting in my car's boot (US - trunk) for several days. Then it was back to Sheffield feeling re-energised and delighted to have yet more proof that Yorkshire really is God's own county.

Some pictures:-
Blakeley and Butterley Reservoirs
Old barn above Netherley
At Black Moss Reservoir - no "flat stones" to skim...
The beach at Black Moss Reservoir - still no "flat stones".
"The Great Western Inn" by Redbrook Reservoir
Rainbow over Marsden - see the now disused woollen mill in the valley.
Sheep posing above Marsden - she said her name was Katherine.

36 comments:

  1. Interesting countryside YP!

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    1. But no palm trees, tropical beaches or billabongs I'm afraid...

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    2. Snap ~ I was going to write that but thought it was too cheeky :)

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    3. It's never stopped you before Carol!

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  2. The spaciousness that is Yorkshire's big sky country never ceases to amaze me. It's just not what I thought England would be like, it is such a small country after all !

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    1. Like they say Helen - all the best things come in small packages. There is so much variety here as I hope my many photos have shown visitors to this humble blog.

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  3. They sell skimming stones in the local post office - 20 pence a bag. I suppose Simon always buys his before he sets out on the walk ...

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    1. ...Or was he using poetic licence?

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    2. You can get those at the post office too ...

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    3. Oh, I didn't know! I shall have to wander lonely as a cloud down to our local post office to buy one. Do you pay in blood?

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  4. Ace comments Brian! I was going to say that perhaps there were no flat stones anymore because they are all already at the bottom of the reservoir having been skimmed there by Armitage groupies.

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    1. That had also occurred to me Hippo but as I say the geology isn't right. Once I heard a schoolboy ask Armitage about another of his poems where a kid gets "branded" for life in a school science lab. Armitage said it hadn't really happened but that that sort of thing does happen in schools. It was disappointing. Like the schoolboy, I often want poetry to emanate from actual experience - not pretence.

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    2. One of the reasons I like Wilfred Owen and Kipling.

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    3. Btw, the perspective of the picture of Katherine is vertigo inducing!

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    4. Katherine always has that effect on men. I think it's the horns that do it.

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    5. (thanks! I'd like to see a photo of the Armitage groupies though!)

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  5. to a manchester boy<<<>all my paternal anchestors came from rural salford, and i have been back once to see my 89 year old grandpa bounce up and down in jumping jacks with his 87 year old brother who i called uncle joe<><>james barlow was a cabby in 1881

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    1. Thanks for calling by Putz. I sensed there was something Lancastrian about you sir. Perhaps it was your unusual writing style. I am pleased to learn that you came back to find some of your roots.

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  6. Your wanderings always make me curious, Mr. Pudding. This wild walk you took was no exception. I went to Google Maps and checked out the places you mentioned. (WhatEVER did we do without the computer?) I saw a special notation for the Standedge Tunnel and so did some searching about that. Old, old tunnel and the longest one on any English canal. It says "Before diesel power, boats were legged through the tunnel". What does that mean, pray tell? Lovely pictures and a lovely town.

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    1. "Legged" through the tunnel? Men would lie on the deck of the canal boat with their feet on the tunnel wall and would literally walk the boat through. It must have been very strenuous work. And you are right ma'am, it is hard to remember life without the internet and such wonderful access to a universe of knowledge.

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    2. Amazingly I saw the chap from "Escape to the Country" demonstrate "legging" only last week on telly.

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  7. It's a wonder you managed to find a loo - the public ones round here are all closed - I used to love skimming stones but certainly wouldn't pay 20p a bag for them.

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    1. So - if you don't mind me asking Gerald - what do you do when you cannot find a loo? You see, I need a few tips because when you gotta go you gotta go!

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    2. I find supermarkets are good places to head to Asda, Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsburys - but not Aldi - main line stations, bus stations - I always carry a RADAR key with me so I can use the disabled loos

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    3. Very sorry to hear you are disabled Gerald. Was it a parachute jump that went wrong?

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    4. The key is my wife's really - she uses a wheelchair - I've got arthrirtis which means I can't walk TOO far at a stretch but I get around quite nicely - had prostate problems a year or so ago which means I always had to have an idea where the nearest loos were.

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    5. So sorry my last comment was flippant Gerald. Access to lavatories should be a human right - not just for people with physical issues or disabilities. And yet our towns and cities are becoming bereft of public conveniences. The Victorians were better in this area even though there was no financial profit there.

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  8. Most of the ones in Stockport have "For Lease" signs on them!

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  9. (*hat in hand, bowing obsequiously while backing away from your exalted presence) Mr. Pudding, sir, if it wouldn't be asking too much, could you find out from Mr. Gerald why not Aldi? Thank you, guv'nor, it's bean a pleasure talking to Your Excellency. (*leaves)

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    1. because Aldi unlike the others do not provide "customer toilets" - of course there might be some that do but I've never come across any

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    2. Sorry Serf Plague - not enough respect shown! Please return to your polishing duties in the castle dungeons!

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  10. YP, let's see if you really are a northerner ....try the north-o-meter! http://toys.usvsth3m.com/north-o-meter/
    I'm rated as 85% northerner ;)

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    1. I just did the test and I am 100% northern. Jealous Brian?

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    2. Yep! However, my Catalan wife managed to get around 80% too so it shows the yorkshire pudding diet is paying off.
      Well done sir!

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  11. It's lovely up there. We visited the Standedge tunnel for the first time this year,after living not too far away for 8 years.
    Twiggy

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    1. Hello Twiggy...Did you actually get to travel through the tunnel on a canal boat? I'd love to do that.

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