Walk: Pule Hill, West Yorkshire

Discover the poetry of Simon Armitage embedded deep in the rock of the Pennine hills on this seven-mile walk 

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Simon Armitage has long been inspired by  West Yorkshire. The Pennine Way was the subject of his travelogue Walking Home, while between Marsden and Ilkley, the Stanza Stones – a series of seven poems carved into local rock – explore the relationship between language and land.

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This seven-mile walk seeks out the Stanza Stone closest to the poet’s home town, Marsden.

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Standedge Tunnel is the longest tunnel in Britain, running 5,000m into the Pennine hills.
Toes on Tow

From Marsden railway station or the Canal & River Trust car park, follow the towpath of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to Tunnel End.

Above the tunnels

The canal burrows into Standedge Tunnel – the longest and deepest of its kind in Britain. Turn right by the visitor centre to follow the track out to Reddisher Road, and then veer left on to Ainsley Lane, following it up to the Manchester Road (A62). Cross over and turn right, and then soon after left, taking a footpath up to Intake Head Farm. From 1824 to 1835, this was the home of Samuel Laycock, a famous dialect poet. A gate just before the farm gives access to open fell where a path leads directly up the hill along a line of tunnels buried deep below. Use the ventilation shafts that line the hill to help with your navigation.

Snow on stone

Upon reaching the top of Pule Hill, take a moment to absorb the distinct Pennine landscape that so inspires Armitage.This great watershed marks the border country between Lancashire and Yorkshire. Pule Hill was a historic Trans-Pennine crossing. Pack horse trails, turnpikes, canals and railways have all taken a route around or through the hill. Cotton grass bobs gently in the summer breeze, while the haunting call of the curlew and the uplifting song of the skylark can often be heard on the air.

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Cotton grass bobs in the summer breeze

Water has shaped this landscape, and the chances are you will get wet, either from above or below, or sometimes both. Indeed, it is these various forms of water that Armitage explores in his seven poems: Snow, Rain, Mist, Dew, Puddle, Beck and a mystery theme. 

Descend towards the A62 but, before crossing, take a brief diversion north along the Standedge Trail and up the disused incline to an abandoned quarry. Here you will find Snow, one of seven Stanza Stones carved with a Simon Armitage poem. For thousands of years, man has climbed to high moorland edges to cut words into the gritstone, a tradition maintained by Armitage.

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“Snow, like water asleep” reads Armitage’s Snow Stone on Pule Hill 
A breath of air 

Return to the A62 and the Carriage House Inn, crossing to a track that leads to the ruins of Redbrook engine house. Built in the early 1800s, it was used to ventilate the shafts and tunnels during the canal’s construction. From the engine house, follow the Standedge Trail to the east.

Between waters

At Thieves Clough Bridge, head west to join the Pennine Way near Standedge. Stay with the trail over Brun Moor to cross the A62 near Brun Clough Reservoir, and then continue with the Pennine Way, skirting the southern edge  of Redbrook Reservoir.

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Completed in 2012, the 47-mile Stanza Stones Trail – a collaborative project between Simon Armitage and the Ilkley Literature Festival – begins with the Poetry Seat on the slopes of Pule Hill in West Yorkshire
A way for a trail

You part company with the Pennine Way here to follow the Standedge Trail in a north-easterly direction across the lower flanks of Warcock Hill to Mount Road. Turn right and then left on to Old Mount Road, before leaving immediately on the Standedge Trail. The path runs beneath Pule Hill, heading north-east towards Clark Hill Farm.

A river return

A succession of field paths leads down to the A62 once more. Turn right and then left on to Town Gate road, and then turn left into Church Lane. You will soon reach the placid waters of the River Colne – here, turn left again on to Station Road and return to the start.

Find out more about the Stanza Stones.

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Image Credits: Alamy, Getty, Geograph/ Brian Frost