Stanza Stones - Stage 1. Thurs. 26 March 15

Stanza Stones - Stage 1. Thursday 26th. March 2015.

Fifteen walkers were lulled into a false sense of security by drizzly but calm weather as we left the bus and set off along the towpath of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. When we reached the start of the 3 mile long Standedge Tunnel, between Marsden and Diggle, our way then took us up a lane to cross the A62, then up a farm track  to Intake Head Farm and up hill to a memorial cross on Pule Hill. Approaching this, the wind strengthened and the rain came on harder and soon we were all wearing full waterproofs. We passed a ventilation shaft for the tunnel, then continued over the shoulder of Pule Hill and down into Pule Quarry, where the first Stanza Stone had been carved. All the stones are engraved with poems by Marsden poet Simon Armitage, and all have a theme of "Water" (the route between them following the watershed). Our first poem was called "Snow" and its quarry location was ideal, as there were several patches of snow there.

"Snow. The sky has delivered its blank missive. The moor in coma. Snow, like water asleep, a coded muteness to baffle all noise, to stall movement, still time.
What can it mean that colourless water can dream such depth of white? We should make the most of the light. Stars snag on its crystal points. The odd, unnatural pheasant struts and slides. Snow, snow, snow is how the snow speaks, is how its clean page reads.
Then it wakes, and thaws, and weeps."
©Simon Armitage 2010

The quarry also provided welcome respite from the weather!  Next it was an easy walk down the tramway incline and  derelict engine house to recross the A62 and pick up a bridleway passing Redbrook engine house and some spoil heaps (all these being associated with the excavation of the tunnels). A flagged path led us to the junction with the Pennine Way and then it was up to Millstone Edge, past the Ammon Wrigley Memorial and the Dinner stone (where it was too windy to stop for dinner). The rain had now gone, and the sun appeared, but the NW wind got stronger, which meant that no one felt inclined to remove their waterproofs. Relative shelter was found in the valley of Haigh Gutter for a lunch stop, before climbing back into the wind on White Hill and continuing to cross the A672 and then the excellent footbridge over the ever-busy M62. The normally easy climb onto Blackstone Edge was made more difficult by the wind, and although the visibility was good and the views wonderful, Stan had trouble staying still for long enough in the wind to take his photos (although he he did a great job as usual). Arthur regaled us with a gory tale of a couple struck by lightning on Blackstone Edge who he'd had to help carry off. Interestingly, this was close to "Robin Hood's Bed", a site associated with many magical and strange stories. My favourite story about Blackstone Edge, though, is of the meeting of over 30,000 Chartists there in 1846! Our way led on the the 15th century Aiggin Stone, a waymarker marked with a cross and initials (possibly named after "aiguille", the French for needle), then down a short section of the old Roman Manchester to Ilkley road and on to the White House pub where we crossed the A58. The final sections of the walk, from the A58 to Hebden Bridge via Stoodley Pike should have been a doddle, with relatively little ascent and good tracks for most of the way, but they were made hard work by (you guessed it!) the NW wind. The fact that we were walking into the wind all day made it quite energy-sapping. Communication became difficult at times as the wind and hood-flapping was loud and on several occasions our group became spread-out. The miles past Blackstone Edge and Warland reservoirs seemed long, but were broken by our second Stanza Stone, "Rain", carved at the entrance to a little sheltered quarry on Light Hazzles edge, where we enjoyed a second buttie stop.

"Rain. Be glad of these freshwater tears,
Each pearled droplet some salty old sea-bullet
Air-lifted out of the waves, then laundered and sieved, recast as a soft bead and returned.
And no matter how much it strafes or sheets, it is no mean feat to catch one raindrop clean in the mouth,
To take one drop on the tongue, tasting cloud pollen, grain of the heavens, raw sky.
Let it teem, up here where the front of the mind distils the brunt of the world."

©Simon Armitage 2010

It's a lovely poem, but I think he should write another one called "Wind"!!!

More battling aginst the wind led us eventually to Stoodley Pike, where a short rest was enjoyed before turning our backs to the wind (hurrah!!!) and heading downhill along the Pennine Way as far as Collis Wood but then taking the Hebden Bridge Link Path through woods to Horsehold, then down the steep tarmac lane to Hebden Bridge, and along the canal to the station, near which we had left our cars, what seemed like an age before! Thanks to all for a good if windy day.