When planning my trip to the Peak District in north-central England a vision of the Pennine Way loomed large in my imagination. From what I knew from other people and research, I imagined it to be a long-distance trail in the highlands of north-central England on a high spine –kind of like a mini-continental divide. (An island divide? ) When you look at a map of England a great deal of it is covered by a dense web of towns and roads. The Pennine Way passes through large blank areas so I imagined it to be in remote and somewhat desolate moor country. I also convinced myself that there must be some interesting beers along the way even if I wasn’t sure where they might be found.
Overlaying a map of breweries onto a map of the Peak District led me to choose the city of Huddersfield as a base for exploring in the north of the District. There were several breweries, promising transportation and lodging options, and a big blank spot on the map with a segment of the Pennine Way passing through.
The outlying town of Holmfirth became my refuge for several days. Holmfirth has good bus connections to Huddersfield and I lucked into an excellent Air B’nB room in the home of Andy and Sally. It turned out that Andy was retired from a career as warden of the public footpaths in the area and he and Sally enjoy an occasional beer so it gave us plenty to talk about.
The hike I had decided on started near a remote place called Wessenden Head which is along the road from Holmfirth going over the moor to the west to Greenfield (the A635). It is possible to ride a scheduled bus that travels that road and be dropped off there, but thankfully Andy offered me a lift and he brought his dogs along to exercise them while joining me for a bit of the hike.
After a hearty breakfast, we set off and eventually pulled into an empty dirt parking area in the moorland just off the highway and started down a broad, glacial valley. This was the Wessenden Valley formed by Wessenden Brook. The hike passes several large reservoirs that I assume are a big part of the water supply for the area. I read somewhere that the name Wessenden means the “valley with rock suitable for whetstones” — there is definitely plenty of rock.
This large area is known as the Marsden Moor Estate and since the 1950’s has been managed by the National Trust. It was formerly the estate of the local baron. Marsden Moor was also the locale of a famous battle in the English Civil War of 1644. Reading about the battle is Braveheart-sounding kind of stuff, although I think that William Wallace was much earlier in history.
The hike was a pleasant four-and-a-half-mile jaunt, mostly down-grade through scenic, wide-open landscape. There are occasional trees along the brook, but if there was ever a forest here it is long gone. As the hike nears the town of Marsden, the route passes through a massive, empty textile mill. Called the Bank Bottom Mill, it produced woolen cloth and at its peak employed 1900 workers. It has been closed since 2003.
Marsden is a pleasant small town on the River Colne and is on the route between Huddersfield and Manchester. It is also the place where the Huddersfield Narrow Canal disappears into a miles-long tunnel under the moor on its way toward Manchester. You can read about another of my hikes in the area on the canal towpath here.
Enlarge images and open a scrollable slide show by clicking on any image in the following gallery.
At the end of the hike a found a cold, tasty ale at Riverhead Brewery in Marsden, a small brewery located in the basement of a comfortable pub along the river. I stopped there for an ale before setting out on the route. I particularly enjoyed their March Haigh, a nice, malty cask ale. I learned that Riverhead is one of a group of four breweries operated by Ossett Brewery (Ossett is just East of Huddersfield).
After the refreshment, I caught one of the frequent buses back to Huddlesfield and Holmfirth.
This is one of a series of stories about hikes and beers in Great Britain. See all of the stories by CLICKING THIS LINK.