Due to a busy work schedule and my son's swimming commitments it's been awhile now since I've managed to get out for a Sunday morning run. With a free morning slot in my diary I was determined to get out on the hill today. I decided a walk, instead of a run, would give me a chance to assess how my injured knee was recovering.
Setting out from Standedge Cutting, which is a century's old trade route crossing, I headed along the old Turnpike Road to Pule Hill. The climb up the southern face of Pule Hill is steep and a great test of leg strength. The views from the summit are wonderful and reach far across the windswept moors. The route to the Memorial Cross, which over-looks Marsden, was a delight on such a lovely spring morning. Passing several groups of walkers I could here the clanging of metal, drifting by on the wind, from the rattling racks of ironmongery clipped to the harnesses of climbers on the crags below.
Descending to Intake Head Farm I crossed the busy A62 and made my way to the Tunnel End Visitor Centre where I enjoyed a fresh cup of Yorkshire tea and a cream bun. The visitor centre is well worth a visit and if you're lucky you may see canal boats emerging from the dark tunnel after their deep passage from Diggle on the opposite side of the Pennines.
Heading along Waters Road I made my way to Close Gate Bridge which spans Haigh Clough. This narrow packhorse bridge stands at the start of an ancient trail that once crossed the moors to Rochdale. The course of the trail is now a designated Bridleway which I followed up the flanks of Willykay Clough. The moorland grasses appeared to flow in the wind like waves in the ocean and on the leeward slopes, new-born lambs were nestled amongst the grassy tussocks, sheltering from the wind, as their mothers stood close-by grazing.
At the top of the climb, on Little Moss, I turned south and followed the course of the Pennine Way along Millstone Edge to return to Standedge cutting. The morning had been lovely and whilst a strong wind had blown throughout, the weather had been mild and dry. However, I had timed my return perfectly for dark menacing clouds had now blown in and were beginning to unleash their sodden contents upon the parched moors.