Cuckoo Festival of Marsden, West Yorkshire
The cuckoo is a herald of spring and is celebrated in an ancient festival at this Colne Valley village.
According to tradition, the people of Marsden noticed that the arrival of the cuckoo always brought good weather. They didn’t want the spring sunshine to end, so they built a wall around the cuckoo’s nesting place, reasoning that if they kept the cuckoo, they’d keep the weather, too. But just as they thought the wall was high enough, the bird flew away.
“Oh!” they said. “It were nobbut one course too low.”
Marsden is a village in a steep-sided Pennine valley southwest of Huddersfield, and in these more sophisticated days, the villagers celebrate the legend with a weekend of festivities in the Marsden Cuckoo Festival. There’s a colourful procession through the village, a craft fair, a maypole and Morris dancing, street entertainment, duck races, storytelling, and lots more free events. There are also guided walks that relate the legend of the cuckoo and take you up on to the surrounding hills and moorland.
Walk on the wild side
If you’ve had your fill of the happy bustle in the village, take a walk on the wildside at the National Trust’s 5,500 acre Marsden Moor estate. In this unspoilt Pennine moorland history is all around, with the remains of a Roman road and packhorse trails plus reminders of the area’s industrial past. Pick up a leaflet from the Marsden Moor Exhibition Centre at The Old Goods Yard near the railway station for a choice of Heritage Trail routes.
Cuckoos are not Marsden’s only claim to fame – its Standedge Canal Tunnel has a place in the record books and attracts canal enthusiasts from far and wide. The Huddersfield Narrow Canal linking Yorkshire with Lancashire was started in 1795 but not completed until 1811 – because it took 17 years to bore the tunnel through the hills. It is the deepest, longest and at the highest altitude of Britain’s canal tunnels. It winds for three and a quarter miles, and bargees had to lie on their backs and ‘leg it’ through the tunnel.
It’s a pleasant 15-minute canalside walk from the railway station car park to the tunnel. In summer Standedge Visitor Centre is open to tell the story of the canal, with the chance to take a 30-minute boat trip. The more adventurous can take a three-hour trip all the way through, but need to walk back ‘over the top’ to get home.
HOW TO GET THERE
Mardsen is on the A62 between Huddersfield and Oldham. There is a railway station and a bus from Huddersfield to Oldham.
FIND OUT MORE
Standedge Tunnel Visitor Centre & Café Waters Road
Marsden HD7 6NQ
Exhibition, playground and café, at the tunnel entrance.
Colne Valley Museum
Cliffe Ash, Golcar
Huddersfield HD7 4PY
Museum of textile history, in traditional weavers’ cottages.