Kinder Scout - a unique and special place
Kinder Scout, which, at 636 metres (2,087 feet), is the highest point in the Peak District and therefore, the highest on the Peak Way Walk. And it’s not just its height that is significant; a circumnavigation of its plateau involves some 17 miles or so of hiking. On a clear day, views from the plateau extend as far as Snowdon.
My special place
It’s a place I’ve walked many times before with my walking partner Ian, my wife Marilyn, my five children, our dog and sometimes, alone. For me it’s a special place because I’ve done much of my ‘hiking training’ there in preparation for the long-distance walks that I’ve done over the years. It’s also a fascinating place and there are many stories to tell about this remarkable place.
A wild landscape
Described “as a moorland plateau and national nature reserve in the Dark Peak of the Peak District”, its landscape is wild and varied. There are places where it resembles a lunar landscape with unique and strange shapes carved into the dark gritstone rocks (many of which are named on OS maps such as Noe Stool, Pym Chair, Wool Packs, Crowden Tower, Seal Stones). And the curiously named ‘Madwoman’s Stones’ for which there is no explanation of the name. There’s the deep-sided peat groughs and gentle streams, the heather, and the environmentally valuable sphagnum – bog moss that inhabit this amazing place.
The River Kinder, just 3 miles or so long, starts its journey on the peat plateau, flowing over the Kinder Downfall waterfall and down into Kinder Reservoir. The Reservoir took nine years to build and was completed in 1911 to supply water to the Stockport area. It has a capacity of over 510 million gallons and covers 44 acres. At the time of its construction, it was claimed to have the largest earth dam in the world.
Kinder Downfall, the tallest waterfall in the Peak District, with a 30-metre fall is an impressive sight comprised of enormous boulders. Sometimes the river is just a trickle in summer, whilst following heavy rainfall it is very different, often blowing back on itself in windy conditions, which results in a vertical spray that can be seen from miles away. In winter, when the waterfall is frozen, you can watch climbers practicing their skills on the enormous ice formation.
Most hikers don’t reach the summit!
It's often assumed that the trig point on Kinder Low is the summit, but the highest point is actually 3 metres higher at an unmarked location on the plateau.
If you walk South East along the perimeter path you’ll eventually arrive at Sandy Heys where you will enjoy fine views over Kinder Reservoir before arriving at Kinder Downfall. On the rocks at Sandy Heys, you might notice the initials “GK” which are the initials of George King who founded the Aetherius Society in 1955. Dr. King visited this location which he considered to be a holy mountain charged with spiritual energies.
Below Sandy Heys, is the Mermaid’s Pool which, according to legend, is inhabited by a beautiful mermaid who can be seen if you look into the water at sunrise on Easter Sunday.
70 years ago in 1932, the Kinder Trespass, an organised protest, was led by Benny Rothman. It involved groups of several hundred walkers who approached Kinder Scout from different directions at the same time. The trespassers who began at Bowden Bridge quarry walked up William Clough to the plateau of Kinder Scout, where there were violent scuffles with gamekeepers. Six ramblers were arrested and detained before being tried by Derby Assizes. Trespass was not a criminal offence at the time, but jail sentences of two to six months were handed out for offences relating to violence against the gamekeepers. Arguably, it’s due to these historic campaigners, that we can walk on Kinder Scout, and indeed much of the rest of the countryside, today. The Mass Trespass was a key event in the campaign for open access to moorland in Britain which eventually led to the formation of Britain's National Parks. The Peak District was the first National Park, dating back to 1951.
Kinder has claimed the lives of servicemen and civilians. More than 150 aircraft have crashed in the Peak District, mostly on the bleak moorland for which the area is renowned, and 11 of these were on Kinder Scout. Wreckage from one of these crashes lies near to the Peak Way, although most of the wreckage lies some distance from the path on Ashop Moor.
Two Sabre aircraft of No. 66 Squadron crashed in1954. It seems that the aircraft may have collided in cloud or that they flew into the side of Kinder Scout. The wreckage was scattered over a wide area. Apparently, due to poor weather, the aircraft were not found for three days.
Earlier this year, I went with my son, Danny, to see the site where this tragedy occurred.
In 1964, there was another tragedy when 3 scouts died after they became lost in bad weather, and suffered hypothermia during the Four Inns Walk event, a tough challenge walk/run over a distance of 40 miles.
In 2019 a 29-year-old woman plunged 50 feet to her death when she fell off Kinder Downfall whilst she was out walking on Kinder Scout.
The 50 volunteers of the Kinder Mountain Rescue Team are available to help hikers who are injured or get into trouble and they operate 24 hours throughout the year using specialist equipment and resources. But in 2016, they had their own tragedy when the Chairman of the Peak District Mountain Rescue and Kinder team member for over 40 years, Ken Blakeman, collapsed and died when he went on a callout to assist a young Duke of Edinburgh walker who was in distress.
Kinder Scout is known for its challenging terrain and the Kinder Plateau can be a difficult place to navigate in poor weather conditions (and even in good weather if you’re walking across the plateau). I’ve experienced extreme weather up there over the years and have been temporarily lost in mist and a whiteout during the winter. I’ve been battered by hailstones in strong winds and temporarily lost whilst hiking in the summer months too; there are very few places to shelter from the elements on Kinder, and it’s easy to become disorientated when mist or low cloud descends. For this reason, when I created the Peak Way long-distance walk, I included an alternative route from Hayfield to Edale in the Guide Book which avoids Kinder Scout in the event that the weather is extremely bad on the day that hikers plan to walk over Kinder. Although it still reaches a height of over 1,600 feet, the alternative route is easy to follow.
So, what about walking on Kinder Scout? There are various routes to ascend and the most popular start points are from Hayfield and Edale (where the Pennine Way national trail starts).
In the 1990, I took my daughter Gail, her elder brother Paul and two younger brothers, Ian and Danny, (the youngest being aged four at the time) to the top of William Clough on Kinder Scout and back down to Hayfield. In retrospect this was probably not the wisest decision I made, but we did all return safely.
Fast forward to a few years ago when my daughter, Gail, and I walked anti-clockwise around the perimeter of the plateau, starting at Edale and ascending via Ringing Roger – a challenging hike of more than 17 miles. It was a glorious sunny day with a blue sky, and a really enjoyable but tiring walk. The walk emphasized just how colossal Kinder Scout is. We also discovered how much more popular with hikers the southern edge is - we walked for miles along the northern edge and didn’t meet anyone.
And a couple years ago, Danny (who first ascended William Clough when he was just 4 years old) took his own son, Archie, for a hike up and down Kinder.
And the dogs came too
Our last dog Rocky, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, walked on Kinder Scout many times and he loved every minute of it. When my daughter, Gail, and I prepared for a hike on Kinder, she would make Rocky four rounds of cheese sandwiches. We often called at a pub at the end of the walk for a pint or two of local ale, and other customers were always amused when Gail brought out the cheese sandwiches for Rocky. This photograph of him on Kinder plateau featured in a national walking magazine. And then there was my son’s beagle pup who went missing at Sandy Heys and it took us three days, after enormous effort (and much help from members of the public), to get him back safely.
Inspiration for the Peak Way Walk
So why is Kinder so special to me? Well, as I mentioned it is where much of my ‘hiking training’ took place. Because of its height and challenging terrain, it was ideal for that. And, in good weather, the views from the plateau are amazing. It’s a place where I’ve enjoyed walks with all of my family many times. I feel lucky to have a view of its southern edge from our bedroom window. And it was this view, on a cold winter’s day during the Pandemic lockdown, that inspired me to create the Peak Way Walk long distance route, and subsequently publish the guide book and create the website (www.peakwaywalk.com).
So, if you take up the challenge of this superb long-distance walk, you’ll visit this special place too.