I finally realised someone was having a laugh at my expense when I heard a brass band playing ‘Summertime’ as I stepped off my fourth train of the morning, at Marsden station, in the pouring rain, with a ferocious wind whipping the leaves from the trees and causing me to shiver in my waterproofs.
The morning had started about 5 hours earlier as I left the house, heading for Hebden Bridge station, with a view to completing the final section of the southern section of the Pennine Way. The weather on the journey up looked pretty much like Friday’s prediction – low cloud, windy, with light rain. I was pleased to see it wasn’t anything like as bad as this at Hebden Bridge as I booted up in the station car park.
As I bought my ticket, the guy behind the counter said the train was running a few minutes late, but I figured that would just reduce the time I waited at the next stop for my connection. Oh, how wrong was I?
To get from Hebden Bridge to Marsden I needed to change twice – the first change in Brighouse with a 20 minute wait and the second change in Huddersfield with a whole hour! Actual travel time was about 40 minutes with waiting time of double that, so I wasn’t overly concerned. Not until the train was delayed by 16 minutes then I was worried I would miss my first connection. Due to the delay, a different train pulled into the station before mine, so I ignored it and got on the next one that came through – 18 minutes late – would I make it?
After 20 minutes of travelling I realised I’d got on the wrong train! Not quite sure how I’d done this, but I guessed it was down to the train shuffle at Hebden Bridge. I alighted at Bradford and reviewed my options on TheTrainLine.com on my phone. I had a 20 minute wait to the next train to Huddersfield – fine, that would get me back in the game with no lost time as I’d had a buffer of 60 mins in that station anyway. 30 minutes later we were told that train had been cancelled. The next was an hour later. Out came my phone and I reviewed my options again. I could go to Leeds and catch a train to Huddersfield there, but that would mean I’d be at least an hour behind and possibly two. I jumped on the Leeds train just before it left and sod the consequences.
I didn’t expect my ticket to be valid, but the conductor seemed to accept it without any problems, so at least I was getting full value of the £6.10 ticket. Spend £6.10 and see the train stations of Greater Manchester and Yorkshire.
I had a 40 minute wait in Leeds for the next Huddersfield train, which was due to arrive 3 minutes before the connection to Marsden. “Good luck on that then” I thought. I had a second breakfast in Leeds for the second time in as many weeks and was the first off the train in Huddersfield, belted along the platform to the stairs, under the underground crossing up onto the opposite platform just in time to jump onto the Marsden train. I was knackered!
So that’s how I ended up at Marsden, listening to a brass band in full flow, playing ‘Summertime’ to the crowds at the Marsden Beer Festival – ironically no doubt.
Matthew (@hillplodder) and I had walked down the road from the Pennine Way into Marsden a few weeks earlier, so I knew I was in for a bit of a grind back up the hill to rejoin the path and as I climbed higher the wind got worse and the rain seemed to intensify. It wasn’t particularly cold once I got walking and I kept having to vent my Paramo to keep my temperature regulated, but that let the rain in so I had to keep zipping up again. The reservoirs are filling up again, days like today are great for the water supply and if you’re a duck, but not for Pennine Way walkers.
I dropped down to the little bridge that crosses the stream connecting Wessenden Reservoir with Blakeley Reservoir and battled my way up the ridiculously steep and slippery slope on the other side. I climbed into the mist and the wind and all of a sudden the wind must have changed or something, because I actually felt the temperature drop by several degrees.
The path beside Blakely Clough is a little cracker under normal circumstances and I remember it fondly from my Pennine Way in 2010, but today I couldn’t see a thing beyond the end of my nose and the two or three flag stones in front of me. I slipped over on one and managed to land in the grass beside the path rather than on the stone itself. Falling with a full backpacking pack on is no fun and I was glad I didn’t do myself any harm, but I slowed my pace from my already steady plod to try and avoid another spill.
Beyond Black Moss Reservoir the path heads north and the wind increased again – I was now really quite cold, so I stopped and added a layer beneath my coat, my woolly hat and my gloves. My feet were already wet – despite my Gore Text lined boots and my Gore Tex Sealskinz socks – my Paramo Velez was also struggling to keep me dry – but that could be due to the venting issue earlier – the coat has been re-proofed recently and it was beading nicely and hadn’t wetted through, but I was still cold and wet.
I slipped again, just before joining the Standedge Trail at Redbrook Reservoir and I fell harder this time, but still managed to hit the grass beside the path and not on the flags. This was pretty much the breaking point for me. I was fed up, I’d had enough and I knew the Standedge trail would take me back into Marsden and a train home.
I really didn’t fancy spending all day in the rain, getting increasingly wet and cold and then spend the night in a tent being battered by the wind and then spend another day in probably similar weather. I took the easy option and baled. As I walked down the Standedge Trail towards Marsden I checked the train timetables on my phone. I was lucky to get a signal I think. It was 12:30 and I seemed to think the train was 12:50 from Marsden, in which case I’d never cover the 2 miles and would need to wait another hour for the next one. I was pleased to see the train was actually 12:59 and I was only 1.8 miles from the station – I got a wriggle on – I reckoned I might just make that one.
I fairly yomped the distance and arrived at the station with 2 minutes to spare – only to find I was on the wrong platform and by some horrible twist of fate, the other platform was 200 yards away (at least), back out onto the road, up and over a road bridge and down some ridiculously narrow and rickety steps – I ran! I never run, but I couldn’t face the idea of sitting on this miserable platform for an hour waiting for the next one, so I ran!
I just caught it and 15 minutes later I was in Huddersfield, with a 10 minute lay-over and then another 20 minutes on the train to Brighouse with another 20 minute wait and 10 minutes more into Hebden Bridge – a peach of a journey!
All in all I sat on 7 trains, visited 6 different stations, 9 stations in all, walked 6.5 miles in 2 hours 15 minutes and spent 9 hours travelling in either trains or car. A day wasted in my view, as well as 140 miles of fuel and two train tickets. But it was at least an adventure of sorts. Twitter kept my spirits up all the way home, with lots of new folk getting in on the conversation about my shit day – thanks to you all if you’re reading this.
The section still needs completing, so I’ll be back!