Sunday, 23 November 2014

Brown Knoll & Kinder Scout via Kinder Downfall - The Western Edge

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Route: Bowden Bridge, High Heys Farm, Mount Famine, South Head, Brown Knoll, Swine's Back, Edale Rocks. Kinder Low, Kinder Downfall, Kinder Gates, Fairbrook Naze, The Edge, Ashop Head, William Clough, White Brow, Kinder Road, Bowden Bridge

Date: 23/11/2014
From: Hayfield

Parking: Roadside parking near Hayfield
Start Point: Bowden Bridge
Region: Peak District Dark Peak

Route length: 13.1 miles (21.1 km)
Time taken: 05:32
Average speed: 2.4 mph
Ascent: 849m
Descent: 858m

Mount Famine (473m), South Head (494m), Brown Knoll (569m)

Other points of interest: Edale Rocks, Kinder Low, Kinder Downfall, Fairbrook Naze, The Edge

Despite being the closest National Park to my front door, the Peak District is somewhere I visit very infrequently, which is a real shame as it has a charm and attraction all of its own. In what is fast becoming a series of walks, I was back to have another look at Kinder Scout, the famous peat-laden upland north of Edale. Previous to this walk we had wandered along the majority of the southern edge and hunted for the elusive summit, yet we did not reach the Downfall or any of the northern edge.

This time, we devised a route from Hayfield that would pick up our previous walk where we left off; at Kinder Low. From there we'd travel northwards to the Downfall and on to the north western tip before returning to our starting point. In addition to getting up onto Kinder Scout, we'd also have a look a few smaller hills that are clustered close to Hayfield; the interestingly named Mount Famine, the small hill of South Head and the parent of both of them, Brown Knoll.

Sadly for us the forecast, despite suggesting clear skies from the morning onwards, was not so correct in its timings and we spent a large part of the morning in swirling clouds. It seems that many of my Peak District trips coincide with bad weather, so much so that it's becoming synonymous with the area. I'll have to make sure I change that.
Kinder Scout lies beyond the clouds
Marker stone on Pennine Bridleway
Mount Famine in the clouds
We left the cars on Kinder Road near Bowden Bridge and joined the Pennine Bridleway as it climbs up the northern slopes of Mount Famine. I had expected a crossing of Mount Famine to be a bit of a challenge, seeing as it sits away from the paths and is surrounded by walls, but a new ladder stile and an obvious path on the ground laid those expectations to rest.
The view from the slopes of Mount Famine
An old building or sheep fold
Climbing Mount Famine
The climb up Mount Famine is not a difficult one, despite its intimidating name (which I can't actually find anything about). It's a modest hill with seemingly great views though the low cloud obscured anything other than the immediate steepness of the northern slopes. It was cold as well, the first day this winter I've really felt it and, as a result, we carried on down to the depression at the head of Dimpus Clough.
Some interesting rocks on Mount Famine

South Head appears from the clouds
Ahead stands South Head, again pathless on the map but obviously climbable from the bridleway so we made our way up. Unlike Mount Famine, a cairn sits atop South Head, this one decorated with a number of red roses. A memorial plaque sits nearby, a dedication to ........
Dedication to Frank Head
A rose-tinted cairn on the summit
Mount Famine
We returned to the Pennine Bridleway, prepared for a long, very steady climb up Brown Knoll. The path follows a robust drystone wall and is easy to follow, despite having to cross a few boggy sections. The cloud, still fairly low, was threatening to finally break up as we reached the top of the path and the long southern edge of Kinder Scout was revealed for the first time. It's a view enough to make anyone want to climb up and have an explore, even more so for a walker like myself. First things first, however, the top of Brown Knoll.
Some of the boggy ground we encountered on our way up Brown Knoll
Stone flags appear nearer to the summit
Kinder Scout comes into view as the clouds slowly lift
The flagged footpath that appears halfway up the hillside is an ominous sign of things ahead. To reach the summit you have to leave the safety of the stone flags, out onto open moor. It's boggy. Perhaps more so than Kinder, which really is saying something. The trig, it seems, could be the best defended in the country as it has its own moat, intimidating enough to repel even the most determined walker. Still, we'd be damned if we didn't give the pillar a pat on the top and, using luck rather than judgment, we waded across the mire.
Heading off the path across Brown Knoll
A trig pillar marks the summit
Proof I made it!
Brown Knoll, along with Kinder Scout, forms part of the head of Edale with several feeder streams flowing down into the valley from the hillside. All that water we found on the summit has to end up somewhere other than inside walking boots and soaking up trouser legs. Other than the sad remains of a crashed aircraft, there is little else to hold your interest so we wallowed back to the path.
More bog on the way off Brown Knoll
A glimpse into Edale
A small col separates Brown Knoll from the slopes of Kinder Scout and marks the top of 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 pack horsemen a respite while their horses took the longer zigzag route – hence Jacob's Ladder name.
Heading across towards Edale Rocks
A look back to Brown Knoll
The head of the Vale of Edale
The view down Jacob's Ladder into Edale
Crowden Tower
We wouldn't be descending the path this time, instead, we crossed the head of it and began a short climb up to Edale Rocks, one of Kinder's many named gritstone formations. A short distance further north is Kinder Low, a high point marked by a trig pillar perched on top of a rock. We grabbed the opportunity for a quick break in the shelter of the rocks before making the short trek to the Downfall. The clouds had finally lifted by now, revealing the slopes of Kinder and the village of Hayfield nestled in the valley below. Next stop would be the Downfall.
Edale Rocks
Edale Rocks from the top this time
The view along the slopes of Kinder Scout
Kinder Low
Pym Chair and The Woolpacks
The bare surface at Kinder Low
The main route heads north along the Pennine Way, crossing Red Brook and bringing Kinder Downfall into sight. Down below snakes the River Kinder into the reservoir that shares its name and provides drinking water for Stockport. Also plainly in view is Mermaid's Pool, is a small pool which, according to legend, is inhabited by a beautiful mermaid who can be seen if you look into the water at midnight on Easter Eve.
Kinder Reservoir
The view north along Kinder's western edge
Kinder Downfall comes into sight
Red Brook
Mermaid's Pool
The expansive view to the west
The path picks its way through the gritstone obstacles
We moved closer to Kinder Downfall, picking a route down the rocks to get a clear view of the fall. It is the tallest waterfall in the Peak District, with a 30-metre drop. It was formerly known as Kinder Scut, and it is from this that Kinder Scout derives its name. We found a spot overlooking the falls and the valley below, hoping to see the wind catching the water as it falls, a famous feature of the Downfall.
A slightly subdued Kinder Downfall
The River Kinder
The falls of the downfall
The upper pools
Some slow-shutter action
We'd made good time reaching Kinder Downfall, so much so that we altered our route. Instead of continuing along the edge to Sandy Heys and ultimately Ashop Head (the north western point), we decided to follow the River Kinder to Kinder Gates and cut across the open moorland to Fair Brook on the northern side.
The River Kinder
The skies had totally cleared by the mid afternoon
Classic off-path Kinder Scout
Fair Brook on the northern side
The view along Seal Edge
We had finally shaken loose the crowds that are inevitable on Kinder Scout, the northern edges receive much less in the way of foot traffic but still has all the charms you come to expect of Kinder. In fact, we were taken aback by the immense view from Fairbrook Naze, a great panorama of the River Ashop, Coldharbour Moor and Kinder Scout disappearing into the distance. The interesting rock formations only enhance the scene.
Rocks basking in the afternoon light
The northern edge of Kinder Scout and the valley of the River Ashop
At Fairbrook Naze
The iconic rock at Fairbrook Naze
Featherbed Top and Bleaklow
The sun was out in force by now, casting a warm glow across the valley below as we crept into the mid-afternoon. Ahead of us lay The Edge, one of three named areas on the northern border of Kinder, the others being Blackenden Edge and Seal Edge. It runs directly east-west and would take us to the Pennine Way below Mill Hill.

While The Edge probably lacks the overall wow factor of features such as Upper and Nether Tor or Crowden Tower in the south, it still has a plethora of rock scenery to explore and has the added bonus of a distinct lack of crowds. It offers a much wilder and remote view as well, despite looking towards the summit of the Snake Road, as it takes in the vast moorland of Featherbed Moss and Bleaklow.
The view west across Nether Red Brook
Nether Red Brook
Gritstone outcrops
Some interesting formations
It's actually a fair distance along The Edge to Mill Hill, so much so that the sun had started to sink down by the time we reached the head of William Clough, just in time for me to capture a fairly impressive sunset over Hayfield and the countryside beyond.
Some more rock architecture
A stunning sunset over Hayfield
We delved into William Clough, never quite sure which side of the stream was the more efficient route down with the path continually crossing or changing direction. Which ever route we chose seemed to be the more eroded, slippier or muddier than the effort on the opposite side. Still, we made it down to the reservoir and followed a path that climbs back up the hillside to pass above the waters.
The western end of Kinder Scout
Into William Clough
William Clough
Kinder Reservoir

Mount Famine and South Head
A few dark lanes led back to the cars, still where we left them at the roadside. We were off to Hayfield for a cafe stop, always a highlight of a walk. And thus concluded our tour of the western edge of Kinder Scout (and the beginnings of the northern bit), as you can probably guess, that will be our next port of call. It's a fascinating and rewarding place to explore, worthy of spending a few days doing so, just as we are now.