Deja vu today.
This was probably the worst section of the ring, it started off well in the Pennines but became a dreary trudge after Mossley.
The Standedge Tunnel has no towpath so after a good breakfast in The New Inn, Marsden, I caught the bus over to Diggle. It has only just started going into the village after all the snow and ice they’ve experienced up here. This felt like cheating and I should go back one day and work out the route over the summit moors that the canal horses took to connect either end of the tunnel, it would only be about 4 miles. I’m told that in Summer boat trips can be taken through, that would be an experience. Anyhow this morning I’m at the southern gated tunnel entrance and setting off down the Huddersfield Narrow to Ashton. The surface of the canal is lightly frozen over but it is beautiful weather and the dog-walkers are out enjoying the sunshine.
Flights of locks head downhill quickly. This flight has uniquely single paddles top and bottom and on this side side of the Pennines have the suffix W denoting west. Local mills proclaim their names proudly from their chimneys or towers reminding one of the dominance of weaving in these hills. Shout it from the rooftops. Wool, cotton, coal, limestone were transported on the canal. Before long I was down eight locks and passing through Dobcross.
Just past was the old transhipment warehouse for transferring goods to mules prior to the Standedge Tunnel opening. I believe it is now used as the headquarters of the Huddersfield Canal Society. The smaller building was thought to have been a smithy. Also on the other side were old weaving sheds which have been transformed into unique accommodations.A massive railway viaduct looked familiar and further down stepping stones across the River Tame jogged my mind even more – I had been here recently but couldn’t remember why. Uppermill was passed without realising it, a L&NW marker was a reminder of the railways takeover. A straight section had me alongside Tesco’s in Greenfield where the marina was backed by Alderman’s Hill with its obelisk. Snow patches clearly visible. I definitely had been here before but remember going off to the hills to the East. This time I kept to the towpath.
Woodend Mill and its chimney adjoining a lock at last jogged my memory – I had come out of the woods here on The Tame Valley Way just over a year ago.
At Mossley a mill building above me hissed, moaned, whistled, crunched and groaned like a Schoenberg symphony. apparently it is a timber recycling plant. Worth a listen…
Scout Tunnel could be traversed on a towpath in the dark before the countryside ran out. The enclosed valley with canal, river, electricity lines, rail and road became increasingly grim. Past industries have left waste lands, an old coal conveyor bridge hangs above the trees in ruins, electric substations all a bit too close, And then you are in or mostly under Stalybridge, a lot of work was needed to reconstruct the canal through the centre of town.Rather grubby urban walking through a corridor of industry and dereliction followed and after a narrow cut the final lock,1W, joined The Ashton Canal at a small basin. A couple were taking their barge for a spin, 10 years of restoration work on it so far – a labour of love. Disappointingly I was soon diverted away from The Ashton’s towpath as it disappeared underground somewhere. I found myself in an Asda car park with no obvious way out, not the end to the walk I’d imagined. However with a little improvisation and without getting run-over I found a way through and back down to the towpath just as it entered Portland Basin. This was a much more lively and pleasant place with a beautiful bridge over the joining Peak Forest Canal. The Ashton continues into Manchester but I’d walked that section in the past so my circuit of the South Pennine Ring was complete. I’d had 6 days exercise, varied scenery and lots of interest but I think I’ve had enough of canal walking for now.