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The Longdendale Trail

The Longdendale Trail is a popular walking and cycling route on the footprint of the old, disused Woodhead railway track. The track once connected Manchester and Sheffield by rail, but was abandoned as a service in 1981. It is situated in the Upper Longdendale Valley, within the Peak District National Park - south of the A628 and north of Glossop, beginning in neighbouring Hadfield. The valley, with its five historically important reservoirs, is flanked by high moorland. The reservoirs were completed in 1877 and at that time, were the largest artificial expanses of water in the world.

There are numerous opportunities for recreation activities in the Longdendale Valley. These include a sailing club on Torside reservoir, water skiing and fishing on Bottoms reservoir; horse riding and cycling and walking on the Longdendale Trail. The trail is accessible compared to many others in the Peaks, with most parts of the route being firm under foot and relatively flat, making it suitable for people in wheelchairs and those with other mobility issues, as well as families with small children and pushchairs. There are camping facilities at Crowden and climbing options at three different sites nearby. The trail has two official car parks - Crowden and Torside with the latter boasting a picnic area and information point.

The River Etherow leaves the River Mersey, rises south of Holmfirth and then flows through a chain of six reservoirs known as the Longdendale Chain, which includes: Arnside Reservoir, Bottoms Reservoir, Valehouse Reservoir, Rhodeswood Reservoir, Torside Reservoir and Woodhead Reservoir. There was once a seventh reservoir at Hollingworth, but it was abandoned some time ago.

The Longdendale Trail itself is a long-distance trail that runs a distance of approximately 6.5 miles (10.4km) from Hadfield to Woodhead Tunnel before crossing the A628 and climbing a steep moorland track towards the Yorkshire border at Salter's Brook. You can walk a short section of the Trail and return along one of the paths around the 5 reservoirs or cycle the whole 6 mile route from Hadfield Station to the Woodhead Tunnels. ​​This constitutes a section of the National Cycle Route 62 which runs for 208 miles from the Lancashire coast at Fleetwood to Selby in North Yorkshire. The Longdendale Trail actually forms part of the longer Trans Pennine Trail that runs from coast to coast across the UK (Liverpool to Hull). Furthermore, this is also part of the E8 European long distance path, a 4,700 kilometres (2,900 mi) trail from Cork in Ireland to Istanbul in Turkey! 

The route is owned and managed by United Utilities. They own the Longdendale Environmental Centre, an indoor classroom facility on the edge of Tintwistle Village. It is fully accessible, with wheelchair access and toilet facilities. The classroom is set on a United Utilities site. There is a wildlife area 2-3 minutes walk away from the centre, across a reservoir outlet. It is an area of mixed woodland, fenced off and not accessible to the general public, although access to the entrance is by a popular Right of Way. If you are travelling to the Longdendale Trail, you can access it at Platt Street, Hadfield, Torside Car Park and Woodhead Station. You can find routes directions and information at these websites:

Longdendale's water used to power cotton and paper mills during the industrial revolution that built the surrounding towns as we know them today. Now, nearly a quarter of Greater Manchester's water comes from this source. And if you develop a thirst en route, pubs like The Dog and Partridge and The Bull’s Head are conveniently located for you. Their proximity might explain why the phenomena of the Longdendale Lights has attracted a number of sightings and theories in what has become known as the Haunted Valley. But don’t let that put you off, the Longdendale trail is a picturesque, family friendly day out (perfect for dogs too) and well worth a visit.

Glossop Creates has commissioned sound artist and Producer Clare Savory to study the Longdendale Trail and Peak District National Park as part of our ‘Pairings’ artist residency programme. Clare will develop some creative outcomes from her research into the area, which has uncovered amazing facts, surprising stories and inspired Clare’s practice. Sign up to our mailing list and check our website to follow Claire’s progress.

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