Sunday, 27 April 2014

Kinder Scout - The Southern Edge

GPS Track
Date: 27/04/2014
From: Edale

Parking: Car park in Edale
Start Point: Edale train station
Region: Peak District Dark Peak

Route length: 11.9 miles (19.1 km)
Time taken: 05:11
Average speed: 2.3 mph
Ascent: 762m
Descent: 741m

Summits on this walk: Kinder Scout (636m)

Other points of interest: Ringing Roger, Druid's Stone, Madwoman's Stones, Nether Tor, Upper Tor, Grindsbrook Clough, Crowden Tower, The Wool Packs, Pym Chair, Kinder Low, Edale Cross, Jacob's Ladder

Route: Edale Station, Heardman's Plantation, The Nab, Ringing Roger, Druid's Stone, Madwoman's Stones, Edale Moor Trig, Nether Tor, Upper Tor, Grindsbrook Clough, Crowden Tower, Wool Packs, Pym Chair, Kinder Scout, Kinder Low, Edale Rocks, Swine's Back, Edale Cross, Jacob's Ladder, Lee House, Upper Booth, Pennine Way, Edale

Kinder Scout is the Peak District's highest peak, but that word 'peak' is a bit misleading for Kinder Scout has no distinct pointed top that can be easily identified. Kinder Scout is however, an immense area of high moorland stood between the cities of Sheffield and Manchester and, despite no peak, contains the Peak District National Park's highest elevation, hidden away in the peaty no-mans land in the centre. For those that know Kinder, straying off path can, and inevitable will, become a whole adventure in its own right, such is the challenge presented by the notorious peat bogs at cover the plateau.

Kinder Scout is also arguably the spiritual home of Open Access, the law that allows us to explore vast areas of open countryside at our leisure. This is thanks to the actions of the famous 'mass trespass' in the 1930s, more of which I'll mention later. For now, a bit of background to the hill/mountain/bog itself.

As mentioned, Kinder Scout is a vast moorland plateau, stretching some 8km east to west and 3km north to south (at the widest point). There are three OS pillar on Kinder, located in the south west, the north west and the far east of the plateau though none actually mark the highest point. This is reserved for an unmarked area (other than a spot height on the OS map) that lies a height of 636m close to Kinder Low (the southwestern trig pillar). There are several notable features on Kinder, many of which we'll see later, but the most important is perhaps Kinder Downfall. The Downfall is actually a ramshackle waterfall, the highest in the National Park at 30m. Originally called Kinder Scut, it is the source of the plateau's modern name, translated to mean 'Water over the edge'. Famously, in certain wind conditions, the water is blown back on itself, and the resulting cloud of spray can be seen from several miles away.

Abandoning our cars in an anonymous waste ground adjacent to the station in Edale, our first port of call was for a cup of tea at the National Trust owned and run Penny Pot cafe, allowing us to plan our angle of attack. It's fair to say our plans remained fairly pliant for the most of the day. What we did know was our climb up onto the plateau would be via the gritstone outcrop of Ringing Roger. A zigzag path leaves the crowded route up Grindsbrook Clough at the base of The Nab, a spur of land that reaches up to (or down from) Ringing Roger. It's a short, energetic climb that gains the required elevation quickly but without too much over exertion. Before long we were gazing down on large groups of people tramping up the main Grindsbrook path, glad that we'd made the effort not only to make the steeper climb but also take the quieter route.
The mornings work; Ringing Roger pokes out on the horizon
The valley of Edale
The impressive Grindsbrook Clough
Approaching the foot of Ringing Roger
Edale valley, shortly before climbing Ringing Roger
A short scramble climbs up onto Ringing Roger, an outcrop consisting of a number of wonderfully shaped rocks providing a never ending supply of things to climb up, over, onto or through in addition to the splendid views of the Edale valley. It's seems likely that the Roger element of the name is a corruption of the French word for rock; “Rocher”. The ringing part, who knows. Once we'd dug out the map, we decided to head east, further still from the popular walking area between Nether Tor and Upper Tor, the plan being to find the Druid's Stone before crossing the empty moorland to the Madwoman's Stone, both notable features on an OS 25k map. After a moment of hesitation at a gate leading towards no-mans land, we located the path that branches off the main path along the edge and towards the Druid's Stone.
Climbing Ringing Roger
The impressive erosion on the rocks
A view down the spur towards Grindsbrook Clough
Lose Hill across the valley
The desolate moor on Kinder's eastern side
The Druid's Stone is an isolated gritstone block, separated from any other areas of geological significance by the expanse of peat moorland surrounding it. Being isolated as it is, it makes a great navigational tool, probably the reason it gains such prominence on the maps. As for its name; the rock has gained the folklore of being the site of Druid sacrifices with the indentations on top of the stone (which should be pointed out are due to natural erosion) are believed to be the receptacles for offerings. From our vantage point (stood atop the Druid's Stone) the next feature across the moor is the Madwoman's Stones, which has a rather suggestive name. There is no path linking the two so it was time for our first foray into the wilderness. We followed a compass bearing almost exactly north though the destination was visible most of the time, allowing us to pick our way around the deeper and more foreboding looking hags without getting too 'off track'.
Druid's Stone
More expanses of moorland
Madwoman's Stones
We reached Madwoman's Stones without too much hassle and two pairs of dry feet. The location is another isolated gritstone outcrop, larger than the Druid's Stone. It would appear that it is unknown why the rocks are called what they are, it's open to suggestion. From here, rather than aim for the northern ridges as we'd loosely planned to back at the cafe, we aimed for the trig pillar that can be seen on the horizon, another venture across the notorious bogs. The pillar doesn't mark a significant height, it's some 40 lower than the highest elevation and when we arrived we found someone had decided to try their hand at a spot of gardening......
Madwoman's Stones
The pillar is surrounded, overly so, by a large paved surface, designed to reduce the rampant erosion that Kinder is suffering from. This is too much though, nothing like the sympathetic attempts of the National Trust to re-wild the moorland by blocking the small, erosive river channels and re-seeding the badly affected areas. We'd bear witness to the fruits of their labour later on and its a noble, if not exceptionally time consuming task. For now, another bog-hopping trip back to Nether Tor and the beginning on one of the most popular ridge walks in the country.
Management of the erosion on Kinder
The well paved trig pillar at the heart of Kinder
A view across the moor to Grindslow Knoll
A path runs the entire length of the perimeter of Kinder Scout, no doubt a relic of ancient travellers combined with the modern tourist. The most popular part runs between Nether Tor and Kinder Low and passes many of the interesting sights that Kinder has to offer. It's both easy to follow and (once you've made the climb to reach it) relatively flat. Strolling along there's some wonderful changes in scenery, from the craggy tors to the precipitous valley of Grindsbrook Clough and all that's in between. The sun was out and we were making good progress when we stopped for lunch at Crowden Tower.
The valley of Golden Clough looking towards Edale
The rocks of Nether Tor
Nether Tor

Grindsbrook Clough through the rocks
Grindsbrook Clough from Upper Tor
The head of Grindsbrook Clough
Enjoying our time as part of the scenery
One of the feeder stream of Grinds Brook
A view down the valley
Grindsbrook Clough
The impressive Crowden Tower
The jumble of rocks at Crowden Tower
Some more interesting shapes
The landscape here changes significantly, becoming much barer as the path winds its way through the Wool Packs, a series of enormous gritstone blocks, tossed about the landscape like discarded children's toys. This really is an amazing place. Some very boggy bits litter the main walking path making the going slightly more treacherous and, as it was bound to happen on Kinder, one of the bogs eventually got me, swallowing my boot right up to the cuff. Fortunately none managed to sneak in but my boots were no longer the lovely shade of green they should have been. Still, we'd made it through the Wool Packs to Pym Chair and were ready to try and find the elusive summit. It is said that Pym Chair was the chosen location for a local preacher to deliver sermons though I prefer the tale that it was the location of a highway man who preyed on unwitting travellers on the lonely moor.
The bogs at the Wool Packs
The Wool Packs
The change in landscape is noticeable
The Wool Packs
A view back to the distant Wool Packs
Pym Chair
Pym Chair - looking suitably chair-ish
The actual summit of Kinder Scout is debatable. According to the map it lies due north west of Pym Chair, the direction that we headed in order to find it. As we observed previously, much of Kinder is being managed to reduce the erosion and the hard work appears to be paying dividends, especially in the area surrounding the highest point. The artificial dams designed to hold back water and re-silt the channels are working well alongside the seeded areas of bare peat that are starting to grown and really take hold. I can't wait to see what the result will be in the future but it will definitely be worth the effort. Following the compass and GPS we found our way to the spot height marked, it is marked by a very small cairn. Despite this, a number of surrounding humps appear higher, one in particular seeming to stand above the cairn. However, upon reaching it the roles were reversed with the cairn now appearing higher. Such is the nature of Kinder's 'summit'.
The re-grassed areas in the high moorland
The cairn marking the top. Maybe
Perhaps this is the summit?
After satisfying ourselves that we'd probably reached the highest point, we set our sights on the trig pillar at Kinder Low, standing proud on the skyline. Another bog crossing session ensured that boots would remain filthy for now until we reached the bare, dusty, almost moon-like landscape at the Low. The trig pillar gazes down towards Hayfield, the site of the start of the infamous Kinder mass trespass. I'd almost forgotten to mention it, such was my excitement of getting previous photos sorted.
Kinder Low
The trig pillar at Kinder Low
A distant Pym Chair beyond Kinder Low
The mass trespass of Kinder Scout was a notable act of wilful trespass by ramblers, undertake on 24th April 1932. Its aim was to highlight that walkers in England and Wales were denied access to areas of open country. The 1932 trespass began at Bowden Bridge quarry near Hayfield and proceeded via William Clough to the plateau of Kinder Scout, where there were violent scuffles with gamekeepers. The ramblers were able to reach their destination and meet with another group approaching from Edale. Though trespassing was not, and still is not, a criminal offence in any part of Britain, some of the trespassers received jail sentences of two to six months for offences relating to violence against the keepers. The mass trespass marked the beginning of a media campaign by The Ramblers Association, culminating in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which legislates rights to walk on mapped access land.
A view down Kinderlow End
Despite having already witnessed some fascinating sights, there was still more to come as we plotted our route off the plateau via the Edale Cross and Jacob's Ladder. The Pennine Way would be our guide back to Edale, the famous route finishing (or starting) at the Rambler Inn in the village. As the path delves beneath Edale Rocks (another impressive rock tor), it meets the ancient packhorse route between Manchester and Sheffield where you can find the Edale cross hidden away, protected in an alcove of drystone walls. The cross, made from local gritstone and quite coarsely carved, is believed to be medieval in date and was probably erected by the Cistercian monks of Basingwerk Abbey, marking the former junction of the three wards of the Forest of Peak: Glossop and Longdendale, Hopedale and Campagna. At some point in it's history, the cross was removed from its original position and its base and part of the shaft are missing. It was found buried in peat by local farmers who re-erected it and carved their initials onto the front with the date 1810. The cross is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Edale Rocks
The Edale Cross
Detail of the carving
The flanks of Kinder Scout
Beyond the cross, the path continues along the packhorse route towards Edale, slowly descending into the valley below some further impressive tors, including the delightful Pagoda Rock. Edale was a convenient stopping point on two significant packhorse routes and would have provided an overnight break for packhorsemen and their horses. To descend the steep valley, the route heads down Jacob's Ladder.
Crowden Tower
The packhorse route prior to Jacob's Ladder
In the late 18th century a man called Jacob Marshall occupied Edale Head Farm, the ruins of which are close to the packhorse bridge along a track heading west. He kept a small enclosure for packhorses to graze in and is credited with constructing the steep direct path up the hillside to give the packhorsemen a respite while their horses took the longer zigzag route – hence the Jacob's Ladder name. We chose the shorter, steeper route down the slope, reaching the pleasant packhorse bridge at the bottom that provided us with a hint of summer in the sheltered valley.
A large cairn marks the top of Jacob's Ladder
Jacob's Ladder as it snakes down the valley
The packhorse bridge
And so it was, on towards Edale by way of a stop at a farm-cum-cafe for a well earned brew. It had been a contrasting day weather wise, very warm sunny spells interspersed with cooler, less clement weather. Luckily the rain held off for the most part, the Kinder bogs are difficult at the best of times, even without being dampened by the weather. It remained nice as we strolled along the Pennine Way back to Edale, casting a warm glow over Ringing Roger and the Great Ridge.
The Great Ridge
Ringing Roger
Edale valley
Kinder Scout is both an historic and fascinating place. As we found out it's a stiff challenge to see all the best parts in one day, a full circuit is definitely possible for the quicker among us. We only managed to see half of what was on offer, thoroughly covering the southern and eastern sides. This leaves the northern edges and the famous Downfall for another time. Despite this, we managed to squeeze in a plethora of interest, including the elusive summit/high point (whatever you want to call it) and the obvious marked features on the map. It really was a fantastic day in a fascinating part of the world.