First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
On a lovely crisp morning we went up the narrow road from Bowden Bridge with Kinder Edge in our sights and old heroes on our minds. It was up this road that the Mass Trespassers came on an April morning in 1932, a righteous crowd of left-wing youngsters from Manchester and places around. Kinder was their aiming point, too, the great moorland plateau and its gritstone crags that had become symbols of exclusive privilege and the closing of upland country to ordinary folk.
The long path up to the moor led us above Kinder Reservoir through the heather and bilberries of White Brow, then steeply up the rocky cleft of William Clough where a beck came sluicing down over its boulders. The full sweep of Kinder Edge stood out to the east, a sharply cut skyline of dark rock outcrops traversed by diminutive figures of walkers. The flanks of William Clough opened out to shoulders of hillside, where in 1932 a line of keepers had waited with sticks to beat the trespassers back where they belonged.
These young men and women, many of them Communists, had had enough of staring up from the depression-hit, dirty and poverty-ridden cities of Manchester and Sheffield to the high open moors where grouse-shooting and water board interests forbade them to ramble. When they reached the higher slopes of William Clough the singing and chattering turned to angry shouting as they closed with the keepers. No heads were broken: some bumps and bruises were exchanged, and the trespassers broke through to rejoice as they reached the top at Ashop Head.
We pictured that excited, flush-faced crowd as we turned across the peat bog of Ashop Head and climbed to the start of the long escarpment of Kinder Edge. From here it was a question of following the edge for mile after mile, the wind nudging us, the gritstone crunching under our boots, looking out over a magnificent view to Manchester and the far hills of Wales. The rock outcrops had been cut and smoothed by wind and weather into multiple grotesques: chef hats, shark fins, dog heads, ogre noses.
We picnicked on a rock beside the trickling river at the head of the cleft of Kinder Downfall, and went on to where the Pennine Way fell away east towards its starting point at Edale. A good long stare down the delectable green Vale of Edale, and we were trudging westward down an endless lane home, thankful to those hearty lads and lasses from long ago whose bold law-breaking laid the foundations for today’s Right to Roam over all these high moorlands and mountains.
Start: Bowden Bridge car park, Hayfield, Derbyshire, SK22 2LH approx (OS ref SK 049870)
Getting there: Hayfield is at junction of A6015 from New Mills and A624 (Chapel-en-le-Frith to Glossop). Beside Packhorse PH, take Kinder Road; car park is 1 mile on left (£4.50 all day).
Walk: (9 miles, strenuous, OS Explorer OL1): Continue up road. At Booth Sheepwash cross river (051876); in 100m, ahead up path (yellow arrow, YA). In 250m, left across river; at reservoir gate, take cobbled bridleway on left (‘White Brow’). In 300m, by stone gateway, hairpin left (054882, metal ‘bridleway’ sign). Climb to gate; right (‘Snake Inn’, YA). Follow path for 1½ miles via White Brow and William Clough (steep near top) to meet Pennine Way/PW at Ashop Head (065900). Right along PW, following Kinder Edge, for 3½ miles. Beyond large outcrop of Edale Rocks (079867), descend to cairn at junction. Right on flagstone path; 150m short of junction on wide saddle, fork right off PW onto dirt track to junction (081861). Right through gate; follow lane for 2¾ miles down to Kinder Road and car park.
Conditions: Rugged hill walk, tricky underfoot – wear good boots!
Lunch/Accommodation: Sportsman Inn, Kinder Road SK22 2LE (01663-741565)
Kinder Scout mass trespass walk: nationaltrust.org.uk