The campaign for access to fells and moors has been ongoing since the 19th Century and, thanks to a combination of direct actions and more formal negotiations, we now enjoy much-improved rights than before. But it’s the Kinder Mass Trespass of 24 April 1932, when 400 ramblers gathered outside Hayfield in the Peak District and marched on the then-forbidden land of Kinder Scout, that stands out as the most symbolic event in the campaign for the right to roam. Its 90th anniversary is coming up later this month.
Today, it seems unthinkable that you couldn’t just go for a walk or run on Kinder. A magnificent sweep of upland territory, so close to major conurbations, just begging to be explored. Particularly for us fellrunners, who don’t just stick to the main paths but like to wander and stravaig off-piste at will. So I thought it would be fitting to pay a small tribute to the Trespassers’ legacy by having a run on Kinder sometime this April – yesterday, I got the chance.
I drove round to Hayfield and parked at the Bowden Bridge car park. How convenient that back in 1932 this was the quarry where the Trespassers gathered and began their walk, recognised now by a memorial plaque.
From here, I went along the road and then beside Kinder Reservoir to the bottom of William Clough, as had the Trespassers. They then headed up the clough, where they were confronted by a dozen of the landowner’s men, arrayed on the slopes of Sandy Heys above. After a brief skirmish, they continued to the top of the clough, where they met up with other groups arriving from Edale and the Snake, before returning to Hayfield.
William Clough is a decent little vale to explore, but I chose a slightly different route yesterday, more in keeping with my current tastes. Last year I spent much time in the Peaks doing some simple Grade 1 scrambling; I’m also quite partial to fast-but-not-too-technical descents, so here was a chance to do one of my favorite circuits. First though, I had time to have a short dart up the ravine towards Kinder Downfall, which I’d not visited before. As you progress upwards, you feel increasingly hemmed-in by the spectacular rocky amphitheatre – an awesome and overpowering place. Amazing to think Manchester city centre is only 20 miles away! I got to a point where three difficult Grade 3 scrambles prong out in front of you like a fork. To the left Square Chimney, straight ahead the Downfall itself, to the right Arpeggio Gully. All three looked terrifying and there was no chance I was going to progress further on my own – you need to be experienced, well-equipped and in company to give these a crack.
I was happy to head back down the ravine and instead ascend by one of my favourite Grade 1 scrambles from last year, Red Brook. In late summer it’s quite difficult to access the stream bed due to bracken; no such problems yesterday, plus from halfway up it was dry as a bone. Often I’m happy to take plenty of time over scrambles and savour them, but given good conditions I occasionally do a “speed-scramble”, mimicking a fell race. Well, 13:36 yesterday, third on the Strava segment, maybe I can improve on that later in the summer.
Once on top the wind kicked in big time. Great views on the jog around the Downfall but I made sure I didn’t get too close to the edge. Once at Sandy Heys I was literally leaning into the wind. I thought this might give me a jet-propelled advantage on the fast descent off here. In fact, I was buffeted from all directions so it turned out the slowest of my 3 efforts on the segment so far. Still, dropping almost 1000 feet in a mile is a pretty lively way of spending 6 minutes. There’s much more fun to be had on Sandy Heys than facing men with sticks. At the bottom I rejoined the outward route and retraced my steps back to the car.
Unlike the leaders of the Trespass, when I got back to Hayfield I didn’t get dibbed into the cops, locked up for months and then sentenced to prison. It’s easy to take the way things are now – like our access to fells and moors – so much for granted. But we are where we are thanks to the actions and campaigning of folk in the past, and I was glad to have made a simple acknowledgement of the Trespassers of 1932. Why not take a walk or run on Kinder sometime this April?