Earlier this year, Dave and I were going through a bit of a phase. We were looking for excuses to get out of the house and explore more of Yorkshire, so we decided to take up walking.
For most, walking is just an everyday activity done to get you from one place to the next, but here, it’s a whole other story. You see in England, walking is a serious pastime, and for a few weeks this past winter we got really into it. Like, looking up different routes and frequenting walking guide websites, into it.
Yes, it’s just as nerdy as it sounds, but before you click away, let me just say that it was also really quite enjoyable.
Every week, we’d do a little bit of research and decide on our walk for that weekend: nothing too strenuous, but enough to feel like we’d gotten a workout; this is how we ended up spending a chilly, but wonderful day in Marsden.
The skies were grey and clouded over on that early-February day, but we didn’t let it stop us. Before most of the city was awake and moving, we were bundled up and out the door, making our way to the train which would take us an hour south to Marsden, a small town located on the edge of the Peak District.
After a quick change in Huddersfield, we had arrived! We hopped off the train ready and raring to go, only to realize that we had no clue how to actually get to the start of the walk – Google had made it look like a simple crossing of the road, but as we looked at the pub standing directly across from us, we realized this couldn’t have been more wrong.
After a few minutes of standing around, looking lost and confused, a car pulled up beside us and out popped a representative from the National Trust – a literal knight in shining armour! We still don’t know how he found us, but we’re so glad he did. We started chatting and before we knew it we were on our way to the Marsden Moor Estate with maps and brochures in hand.
We made our way through the town and up to the Moors where we met up with groups of seniors who can only be described as professional walkers. These septuagenarians were dressed as though they were ready to take on Everest: hiking boots; climate controlled, sweat-wicking, aerodynamic clothes; Nordic walking sticks; and I swear I saw a camel pack or two. I looked around and immediately I felt underdressed and ill-prepared in my skinny jeans and bright, tomato red Hunters.
I was suddenly wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into, but we’d come too far, we couldn’t turn back now.
As we ambled along the dirt road, the group of seniors slowly pulled ahead, leaving us in their dust; we hadn’t planned on a group walk, so this suited us just fine. It was when we were away from the crowds that we could truly appreciate the British beauty that was surrounding us: the rolling hills, the babbling brooks, the small rock walls divvying up the land. It was like being thrown into Wuthering Heights, without all the sadness and heartache.
Although the day was grey and the week had been filled with rain, the trail was dry and the air was clear. After a week in the city, it was exactly the break from the hustle, bustle and congestion that we both needed. The route we’d chosen for that day was an eight-mile linear trek through the Wessenden Valley, a relatively flat path that followed the edges of Butterly, Blakeley and Wessenden reservoirs. The road took us along babbling brooks, past reindeer farms and orchards full of sheep, and alongside a waterfall or two. It was idyllic, calm and peaceful and before I knew it, we’d reached the half-way point.
We crunched on a snack of carrots and hummus while looking out at the dead calm water of the reservoir, soaking in the quiet of the valley. In the distance I could see a group of walkers, the professional septuagenarian walkers from earlier, making their way along the edge of a ridge. In the time that we’d walked just four miles, they’d clearly made it half-way back to Leeds, further proving that walking isn’t just a hobby in these parts.
We finished our snack and made our way back to town, taking one last look at the valley around us.
When we arrived back in Marsden, we’d only just missed the once hourly train, so we decided to do what any Brit in our position would do, and we popped over the road and took a seat in the pub. As we scarfed down our English breakfasts, we chatted about the valley, the colours of the leaves, and everything we’d seen that day, and how we couldn’t wait to get home to take a nap. Although we’d only walked eight miles, the combination of the cold weather, the fresh air and the exercise had left us both exhausted.
We came home and were barely able to peel off our layers before we were both fast asleep. Just over an hour later we were awake, feeling refreshed and already planning out our next great walking adventure.
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