Okay, so first things first, it’s probably not really a mountain, but it is certainly a significant piece of British upland and it’s not just one of our favourite mountains but one of our favourite places in the whole world! A bold statement to be sure, but it’s not only a magnificently wild landscape in the heartland of the industrial North but it has significant cultural, political and personal history that elevate it into the pantheon of Come walk with me favourites.
Kinder Scout rises high above the Dark Peak in the heart of the UK’s first national park founded in 1951. It’s an impressive plateau of rough Heather and Peat moorland, criss crossed by groughs, great gouges in the land, and, pathless and forbidding across it’s interior. It’s the home of Grouse, Mountain Hare, Hen Harrier and Kestrel and there is plenty of significant plant life hidden away in the bogs and marshes of the top. It is perhaps best known for the Kinder Trespass, an act of civil disobedience undertaken on April 24th 1932 by a group of walkers headed by Benny Rothman, a Communist activist and member of the British Workers Sports Federation. The bulk of the protestors set off from Bowden Bridge quarry near Hayfield and there was a confrontation with gamekeepers which resulted in five of the group (including Rothwell) being imprisoned. Many have argued that the trespass, an action designed to protest about the private ownership of land, was one of the first actions that helped to gradually shape the extensive right to roam legislation that we now have in the UK and which gives us access to such large swathes of the upland environment.
As with Snowdon, one of the great glories of Kinder is the diversity of routes you can take up on to it, and the different experiences you can have whilst exploring the area. The most popular routes probably start from Edale, a beautiful village nestled at the head of the valley and consisting of a series of linked hamlets. If you walk from Edale, you will rarely be on your own. It’s the start (or finish) of The Pennine Way and the route up Grindsbrook Clough is probably the most popular of all, and justifiably so. It’s a beautiful valley that narrows to an easy scramble at it’s head and which is flanked by impressive scenery as you wend your way alongside the eponymous brook. In Summer the slopes above it are rich with Heather and Bilberry and the views from the head of the Clough back down to the village and across to the Great Ridge are some of the finest the region has to offer. If you are feeling up for a challenge, the route straight up the side of the beautifully named Ringing Roger is a steep one but gets you on to the edges in quick time and is usually a little quieter, from there you can follow the line of the clough and look down at the throngs below as the pathway hugs the precipitous edge. A third way up from Edale involves following the early section of The Pennine Way before ascending Jacob’s Ladder, another thigh burning, lung busting ascent which brings you out between Brown Knoll and Kinder Low below the distinctive rock formations of Noe Stool and Pym Chair, if anything his Western side of Kinder has an even wilder feel and heading North from here towards Kinder Downfall the crowds start to thin out and the plateau opens up before you.
Hayfield is where he trespassers set off from and offers yet more enticing routes up onto the tops. One of my favourites starts at Bowden Bridge and follows the route of the trespassers up William Clough, along the line of the pretty stream that runs down to the reservoir at it’s foot. It meets The Pennine Way on the tops and is a beautiful, if at times, steep walk up onto Kinder. Another route from Bowden Bridge runs up Coldwell and Oaken Clough to the Edale Cross and the rocky promontory known as the Swine’S Back after it’s perceived similarity to the bristly back of a boar. The Cross is an interesting feature, it’s believed to be Medieval and may have been erected by Cistercian monks as a boundary marker. It was lost for many years before being found by local farmers in 1810, their initials and the date are clearly visible carved on the stone. I once took this route during a fierce blizzard where the only other walkers I saw on the whole day were the Kinder Mountain Rescue team out on a practice day, they are seriously dedicated individuals!
By the time you get to the Northern side of Kinder, edged by the infamous Snake Pass road, it’s not uncommon to have the paths to yourself. The edge is riven with numerous cloughs and brooks that can provide some enjoyable and manageable scrambles but, take note, the ground around Featherbed Moss and Black Ashop Moor can be even heavier and soggier underfoot than the rest of the plateau. It feels wilder here on the Northern edges, there are less people and the views can be expansive. If you continue East from these edges towards the evocatively named Madwoman’s Stones you will find a path leading from Crookstone Hill which comes up from the village of Hope along the route of the ancient Roman road that links Win Hill with Kinder via another impressive boundary marker, the Hope Cross. It’s hard to choose a favourite route on Kinder but this may very well be mine if I were put under pressure 🙂
Kinder will always have a particular place in my heart as it is the area I did much of my navigation training when I was working towards my Mountain Leader award. Before I had a car I would take the train out along the Peak District line before jumping off at Edale station and heading straight off into the bleak, moorland scenery. It is a hill that deserves much exploration and if you decide you want to stay in the area there are numerous options available including the fine Youth Hostel in Castleton (I am biased as I used to work there) and the YHA in Edale from which you can walk straight out onto the lower slopes. Ye Olde Nag’s Head is famous as the start of The Pennine Way but I have found the welcome and food better at The Rambler Inn just next to the station. The Penny Pot café also does an impressive fry up and excellent cakes. I have probably spent more time on Kinder than any other peak in Britain but as we sit here in lockdown dreaming of the hills I can’t wait to get back up there again!
Come walk with me UK offers numerous Kinder experiences including all the routes mentioned in this article, plus group challenges and wild camping experiences. Please contact us for further details.