Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Kinder Scout Circuit

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Points of interest / RouteGrindsbrook Clough, Ringing Roger, Crookstone Knoll, Blackden Edge, Blackden Brook, Seal Edge, Fairbrook Naze, The Edge, Sandy Heys, Kinder Downfall, Kinder Low, Noe Stool, Pym Chair, The Wool Packs, Crowden Tower, Hartshorn, Upper Tor, Nether Tor, The Nab, Edale

Date: 26/04/2015
From: Edale

Parking: Edale
Start Point: Edale
Region: Peak District Dark Peak

Route length: 17.3 miles (27.8 km)
Time taken: 07:02
Average speed: 2.5 mph
Ascent: 908m
Descent: 893m

After numerous trips over the last year to the various individual edges of the Kinder Scout plateau, it was finally time to string them all together to complete one of the classic Dark Peak days out - the Kinder circuit. A circuit of the whole plateau is a long day by any standards but a very enjoyable outing. Purely by coincidence we were visiting on the 50th anniversary weekend of the opening of the Pennine Way and the 83rd anniversary of the mass trespass which seemed quite fitting in some way. The trespass has been described as "the most successful direct action in British history" and paved the way for the modern Countryside and Right of Way Act, opening up access to the countryside.

Though you can start the circuit from any location, we did as most do and planned our route from Edale, aiming to make the trip in an anticlockwise direction to reach the busy southern edge in the mid afternoon, once most of the crowds had started to dissipate. It's an easy enough route to follow, aside from the overall distance of the walk. Once we had passed through the village of Edale and crossed Grinds Brook, we entered the lower reaches of Grindsbrook Clough before promptly leaving it to climb up towards Ringing Roger. Though a steeper path than the main route up Grindsbrook, it doesn't last too long and zig zags its way up The Nab to the waiting formation.

Looking up to The Nab
Mam Tor and Lord's Seat
Grindslow Knoll and the beginnings of Grindsbrook Clough
Grindsbrook Clough
Looking back down the path towards Mam Tor
Ringing Roger looms up ahead
Grindsbrook Clough
Ringing Roger is the first of many named rock formations around Kinder, thought to be a variation on the name 'ringing roches' (roches being French for rocks) with the ringing referring to the wind whistling between the elegant sculptures. The wind, though not strong, certainly had a chilling bite to it once we'd scrambled up across Ringing Roger, though we were grateful that the day was set for clear blue skies and sunshine to dominate, something that had come as a bit of a surprise. Ahead of us lay 16 miles of glorious upland walking.
Ringing Roger
Sara atop the rocks
Ringing Roger once again
Edale from Ringing Roger
Heading East, the path heads across the top of Ollerbrook Clough and Rowland Cote Moor before crossing the very upper reaches of Jaggers Clough. A short distance later, the path reaches Crookstone Knoll, the eastern end of the upper plateau and what an end it is. It has a sweeping view that includes Alport Castles, Derwent Edge, Ladybower Reservoir and the aforementioned Lose and Win Hills. I was quite surprised at how terminal a point Crookstone Knoll is, the ground falls away swiftly on all sides which results in an excellent panorama across the Woodland Valley.
Lose Hill and Win Hill
The path heading east along the south eastern edge
The upper reaches of Ladybower
Alport Valley
Hope Valley between Win Hill and Lose Hill
Crookstone Knoll
Turning through nearly 180 degrees, we were now heading west along Kinder's wild northern edge which comprises three distinct sections which we were about to venture on to.

Blackden Edge is the first of the three named edges along the north side of Kinder Scout; the other two being Seal Edge and, simply, The Edge. Blackden Edge marks the beginning of more precipitous surroundings, culminating in The Edge which we will come to later on. For now, an easy path hugs the edge of the plateau, passing the Madwoman's Stones and guiding you towards the impressive incision of Blackden Brook. The stream carves a deep valley into the northern flanks of Kinder and presents an exciting route on or off the plateau.
Joining Blackden Edge
The view across Ashop Moor to Blackden Moor
Crossing Blackden Edge
Blackden Brook
Approaching Blackden Brook
Blackden Brook
The view down Blackden Brook with Blackden Edge in the background
Blackden Edge panorama
After crossing the top of Blackden Brook, the path swings across the head of Blackden Moor and heads out onto Seal Edge, the second of the three named edges. All the while the steep drop into the Woodlands Valley provides an inspiring view across the valley and the moorland to the north. Ahead is Fairbrook Naze where the plateau swings at an abrupt right angle around the valley of Fair Brook. The point of Fairbrook Naze provides a magnificent view back along Seal Edge as well as an interestingly shaped rock that resembles a pedestal or a goblet, a popular location for amateur landscape photographers. Despite its appeal, a climb up onto it is trickier than it first appears.
Some of the Seal Stones
Seal Flats and the Woodlands Valley
Fairbrook Naze
The path remains easy to follow
Rock formations enroute
Some more wonderful shapes
The Chinese Wall
The Chinese Wall with Bleaklow in the distance
Looking back along Seal Edge from the Chinese Wall
The head of Fair Brook
Heading north east to Fairbrook Naze
Looking east along Seal Edge and Blackden Edge
Fairbrook Naze
We stopped for lunch to ready ourselves for the final leg of the northern edge before it joins the Pennine Way and the masses that can be found around Kinder Downfall and Kinder Low. The Edge (of Black Ashop Edge) is, in my opinion, the best section of Kinder's northern side with towering rock formations lining the route and an intimidating drop down into the valley keeping you on your toes. All this cannot last however as The Edge begins to peter out towards its western end, returning to a sweeping moor once again.
Joining The Edge
The dramatic Edge looking west
One of the precariously balanced rocks
The Edge looking east
Formations along The Edge
The Edge and the Woodlands Valley
The Edge begins to become a bit more tame
At Kinder's north western corner
Reaching the north western tip of Kinder marks another sharp turn, this time to face south east along to join the Pennine Way. After a morning and early afternoon seeing no one, suddenly we were confronted with hordes of people which doesn't come as a great surprise. the south and west of Kinder are unquestionably the more popular thanks to a combination of accessibility and variety of scenery.

The Pennine Way forms the path along Kinder's western edge, crossing Sandy Heys as it goes. Here is a fine vantage point to inspect the view to the west now, across the Kinder Reservoir towards the village of Hayfield, the starting point for one group of the 1932 trespassers.

The mass trespass was an act of wilful trespass by two groups of ramblers to highlight the fact that walkers in England and Wales were denied access to areas of open country. Though controversial when it occurred, it has been interpreted as the embodiment of "working class struggle for the right to roam versus the rights of the wealthy to have exclusive use of moorlands" to shoot grouse. The mass trespass marked the beginning of a media campaign by The Ramblers' Association, culminating in the passing of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which legislates rights to walk on mapped access land. As I mentioned earlier, this weekend marked the trespass' 83rd anniversary.
The Kinder Reservoir
The view south west from Sandy Heys
From Sandy Heys the path, now much broader by virtue of being more popular, took us to the Kinder Downfall, arguably one of Kinder Scouts most impressive and visited features. For those of you not aware Kinder Downfall (or simply 'the Downfall') is the Peak District's tallest waterfall, taking the Kinder River on a turbulent 30m cascade to the waiting valley below. It is surrounded on both sides by near vertical rocks, a phenomenal sight. Once called Kinder Scut, the Kinder River lends its name to the entire plateau we now refer to as Kinder Scout.
Kinder Downfall
Approaching Kinder Downfall
Kinder Downfall
A very dry Kinder River
Looking across the Downfall to Sandy Heys
Kinder Downfall
From Kinder Downfall, the path heads South for a couple of miles on the Pennine Way, crossing Red Brook on its way. It leads to Kinder Low, an interesting area of Kinder Scout where the majority of the peat that is common across the moor has been eroded away, leaving a dusty and dry landscape behind. There is a trig pillar perched upon a rock at Kinder Low which many wrongly believe to the highest point of the moor, though there is little difference between this location and the high point a short distance north east, which can take a bit of finding. Kinder Low also marks the south western corner of the moor as we were now heading east back towards Edale.
A final glimpse of Kinder Downfall
Kinder Low
The trig pillar at Kinder Low
Edale from Kinder Low
After we passed Edale Rocks, we encountered a huge, slow moving group of people on the path between Noe Stool and the Wool Packs, large enough for us to decide to disappear into the towering rocks at Edale Head in a bid to get around them. This actually worked, thanks partly to some sprightly scrambling but largely due to the fact that the group stopped. This allowed us to build a bit of distance between us and them just in time to enter my favourite part of Kinder - the Wool Packs.
Pym Chair from Kinder Low
Noe Stool
Pym Chair
The Wool Packs
The Wool Packs
So named because they resemble discarded bales of wool, the Wool Packs are a natural marvel, hundreds of large gritstone boulders with all manner of shapes and sizes scattered across the landscape. With the sheer number of formations you can let your imagination run wild - is that a face? or a fist? or a car? a whales tail perhaps? or whatever. It's great. Every walk through is different as changing light highlights different features. I'm told that sunset is the best time to amongst them. The Wool Packs also marks the point where Kinder Scout is at its widest (north to south) with some 3km of lonely moor separating them from Black Ashop Edge to the north.
The Wool Packs

A face in the rocks?
The Wool Packs
Some fantastic formations
Crowden Tower bounds the Wool Packs to the east, a towering fortress of gritstone that guards the head of Crowden Clough, one of the many valleys that drain the huge expanse of moorland above. The path, wide and easy to follow, rounds the top of Crowden Clough and crosses a short, open section of moor to Grindsbrook Clough, the and largest and most popular of all the valleys radiating from the plateau. Though Grindsbrook Clough is a hugely popular route up to Kinder, it is one that I have yet to do though it is probably next on the list.
Looking down Crowden Clough
Crowden Tower
The ground falls away sharply on the north side of Grindsbrook Clough and provides ample opportunity to peer down into the stream below. This leg of the walk marked the home straight walking in an easterly direction above the outcrops of Upper Tor and Nether Tor. Thanks to a previous guided trip I was able to identify the lonely remains of a Wellington Bomber that crashed into Grindsbrook Clough in 1941. Remarkably, the force of the impact threw the tail section clear, sparing the life of tail gunner Sergeant Earl Tilley. The sun was casting a warming afternoon glow across the landscape, highlighting the intricate details on the hills and crags that surround Edale. I'm sure I've mentioned many times before, this is my favourite time of day to be out.
More weird and wonderful rocks
The expansive Grindsbrook Clough
The head of Grindsbrook Clough
Grinds Brook
Grinds Brook
Grinds Brook
Grinds Brook and Grindslow Knoll
Upper Tor and Grindsbrook Clough
The modest memorial to the crashed bomber
Grindsbrook Clough panorama
After a stunning day out around Kinder it was finally time to head back down to Edale, using the same path we had used to climb up. A prominent point on The Nab provides a fine spot to photograph the Edale valley which was looking especially appealing in the afternoon light. We retraced our steps back into the village in time for a well-earned drink at the local pub. It had been a superb day out.
The rocks of Nether Tor
Heading back from Ringing Roger
Ringing Roger
Edale panorama
I think the word 'classic' gets thrown about a bit too much but I firmly believe that this walk really is one of the classics of the Peak District and I would urge you to do it either in parts (as we started out a year or so ago) or as a full day circuit. To repeat what I said at the start, a circuit of the whole plateau is a long day but a very enjoyable one.