Reporter David Himelfield joined hundreds of revellers on the Ale Trail, which has come in for fierce criticism
I’M standing at Marsden Railway Station at 3.45pm on a summer Saturday, as a train from Huddersfield rolls in.
A year ago, only a handful of villagers would have filed off the train.
Today about 100 people, mostly men, spill out of the train and march up the steps towards one of Marsden’s few pubs.
They’re on the Ale Trail, a rail tour of trackside pubs from Stalybridge to Batley.
It was originally designed so real ale drinkers could sample some of the area’s best brews without having to drive.
But thanks to the popular BBC show Oz and James Drink to Britain, in which Oz Clarke and James May followed the Ale Trail, the route has exploded in popularity.
One brewer, who runs a pub on the trail, says the trail has been ‘hijacked’.
Today I can see stag and hen parties, as well as groups just out for a good time, alighting on the platform.
The mood as revellers swarm onto the platform at Marsden is a little boisterous, but is essentially jovial.
One Marsden villager who is above the platform, anxiously waiting for his grandchildren, sighs: “It’s no good, this.”
The trail has brought huge amounts of business to what were primarily local pubs in Marsden and Slaithwaite.
But the extra trade, which comes from all around the North, has come at a price. Residents regularly complain about the noise, litter and drinkers urinating in public.
A summit meeting between agencies, including police, rail operators and Kirklees Council, was called last week to tackle the problem.
Today two officers from British Transport Police (BTP) have been tasked with riding the Ale Trail.
One BTP officer tells me that it’s been rowdy but there hasn’t been any trouble ... yet.
A rough-looking crowd mounts the steps leading out of Marsden Station and the three of us hope it’ll remain trouble free.
Meanwhile, a Neighbourhood Policing Team car drives from Marsden village to the station and back, on the look-out for nuisance drinkers.
An hour earlier, I was on the platform at Slaithwaite Station. The pouring rain had diminished the number of revellers but many remained undeterred.
As I walk downhill from the station I spot a young man urinating against a wall. There are a pair of little girls just down the street from where the man has been peeing. Two older villagers tut and sniff as the young man jogs off to join his pals.