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Wessenden, Black Hill & Chew 2 days / 16 miles (25km)

OS Route Map → Map GPX Route file →

Date: 12 Jan 2022
Start: Marsden station / Finish: Mossley station.
Maps: Explorer 001 - Dark Peak + a tiny part of 021 - South Pennines.

Day 1Wessenden reservoirs & Black Hill7.4miles / 1737 feet (11.9km / 529m)
Day 2Black Chew Head & Chew reservoir8.0miles / 787 feet (12.9km / 239m)
Approaching Black Chew Head

A 2-day linear trek in the north-western corner of the Dark Peak.

The route from Marsden passes the Butterley and Wessenden group of reservoirs, joining the Pennine Way (PW) to ascend to Black Hill, one of our old haunts going back to the days when it maintained its reputation as a peat megabog resembling the aftermath of trench warfare, but is now tamed and sanitized by paving across much of its traverse, but not all - the very wet January conditions made progress slow on the boggy bits.

Near Laddow Rocks our line departs the PW to ascend to Black Chew Head, then follows the path across Laddow Moss to Chew reservoir.

This time our faith in the various weather forecasts for clear tops and some sunshine was misplaced: the thick windblown mist persisted on the high ground for the entire two days, a dank and dismal trek leaving only the wild atmosphere of the bleak moorland to savour. At Chew reservoir we improvised a lower level route than planned to reach Mossley using the Oldham Way and Tame Valley Way.

Day 1 - Wessenden reservoirs & Black Hill

From the southern end of Marsden our route joins the Kirklees Way that, according to our mapping, passes through the mill complex at SE 04842 11212. However there is a "No unauthorized persons…" notice on the entrance gates, so we ascended via the adjacent Binn Road, becoming Wessenden Road, to reach the track alongside Butterley reservoir.

The high ground ahead was well misted out and the local views were rather gloomy, but there were hints of increasing brightness as the PW joined the line from the west and we followed the easy track past the Wessenden reservoirs.

Butterley reservoir
Butterley reservoir (12 Jan 2022__09:13:37)
Wessenden reservoir
Wessenden reservoir (12 Jan 2022__09:18:34)
Wessenden reservoir
Wessenden reservoir (12 Jan 2022__09:45:27)

Approaching the desolate crossing of the A635, our hopes were dashed as the sky darkened and the mist reasserted itself, now being blown by a stiff wind. The wet paving slabs called for caution as we crossed Reap Hill Clough and Dean Clough, the latter posing no difficulty even today, though there is a marker notice higher up indicating an alternative path for extremely wet times when it might be hard to cross.

The vocal grouse encouraged us on the main ascent to Black Hill in the strengthening wind, passing some tiny snow patches, and we arrived at the forlorn spectacle of the misty trig point. The views from this broad, flat summit are nothing to shout about even on a clear day, but at least there are some!.

We proceeded swiftly on to the long and deserted descent to Red Ratcher at the head of Crowden Great Brook, arriving in the lower reaches at a relatively lengthy section of the PW with no prepared path and some glutinous bog dodging and fording to negotiate in these wet conditions. This kind of moorland is not generally conducive to tent pitching, but we searched a while and found a pretty good patch of ground.

Reap Hill Clough
Reap Hill Clough (12 Jan 2022__11:33:38)
Black Hill
Black Hill (12 Jan 2022__12:59:21)
Pitch at Red Ratcher
Pitch at Red Ratcher (12 Jan 2022__15:29:12)

Day 2 - Black Chew Head & Chew reservoir

Despite briefly seeing a few stars directly overhead in the night, conditions the next morning were the same as yesterday. We set off picking our way gloomily along the muddy path and started the slanting ascent towards Laddow Rocks. Nearing the high point, we set off right up the final contours of the moor to the summit of Black Chew Head marked by a small cairn beyond a fence and a small pool nearby, not a distinguished top it must be said even in good conditions, but today we suddenly became exposed to the westerly wind blowing the clag.

There is a wet trodden line south-westwards alongside the fence that reaches Laddow Moss and joins the more pronounced path westwards to Chew reservoir. The choppy water could just be seen as we walked the intermittent old track to the dam with the thick mist blasting in our faces.

Approaching Black Chew Head
Approaching Black Chew Head (13 Jan 2022__09:15:21)
Crowden Great Brook
Crowden Great Brook (13 Jan 2022__09:31:39)
Black Chew Head
Black Chew Head (13 Jan 2022__10:14:39)
A choppy Chew reservoir
A choppy Chew reservoir (13 Jan 2022__11:28:54)

Here we decided we'd had enough and improvised a lower route: we descended the reservoir access road and crossed a footbridge to join the Oldham Way that takes a pleasant contouring line well below the edge path that still had clinging mist. Reaching Noonsun Hill, we dropped down to join the Tame Valley Way, an easy track through woodland, and later crossed to the Huddersfield Canal towpath for the final stretch to Mossley.

Joining the Oldham Way
Joining the Oldham Way (13 Jan 2022__12:19:06)
Dove Stone reservoir
Dove Stone reservoir (13 Jan 2022__12:46:06)