Every hillwalker has heard of Kinder Scout in the Peak District. The site of the Mass Trespass in 1932 when Benny Rothman inspired hundreds to walk up onto Kinder and face down the Landowners, Police and Game Keepers trying to stop ordinary folk hill walking. Benny did 4 months in clink for his trouble and we got the Countryside Act and the Right to Roam.
It is sort of spiritual holy ground for hillwalkers. The Kinder Downfall is listed as one of the most beautiful places on earth, as the winter freeze of its icy waterfall pouring over the edge, is a spectacular ice climb. And it’s a photographer’s dream of the elusive but fantastic mountain ‘money shot’.
Nestled between Manchester and Sheffield in the Dark Peak part of the Peak District National Park, this 2087 feet high plateau is easily accessible for walkers. The start of the Pennine Way is from Edale to the south edge of Kinder travelling to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland. So it gets a lot of traffic and fresh faced ‘Pennine Wayers’ on their first day of their 268 mile trek.
It is hard to think of a hill with more history, or a long distance path across it that is walked more. But be wary and treat it with respect, as Kinder Scout has a sting in its tail.
Why is Kinder Scout so challenging –
- The central plateau is largely peat bogs and groughs (deep ditches of soft peat). Crossing groughs is energy draining, sinking in soft peat mud and then climbing the endless sides like a hamster in a wheel, saps energy and can sink both your feet & morale. Hence the reason so many unprepared walkers run into trouble on Kinder Scout’s plateau.
- Usually the weather comes in from the west across the flat Cheshire plains, then hits the western slopes of Kinder and rises, meaning the weather on top at 2000+ feet across the flat plateau tends to be wet and windy. In winter you can have a clear blue morning and by lunchtime be in a sleet or snow storm. The first day of the usual Pennine-Way long distance route crosses the western edges of Kinder, and the westerly wind can blow tired walkers who are not so good at navigation off track and eastwards, right into the middle of the plateau, and into even more featureless terrain.
- While there are trig points and clear edge paths, in the middle of the plateau there is nothing but countless peat groughs in all directions that all look similar. People can find it hard to maintain a direction and estimate distances clearly, with some ending up walking aimlessly around in circles until they run out of energy.
What is the key to safe micro nav on Kinder? –
- Your micro navigation techniques and relocation procedures work on Kinder like anywhere else so use them; don’t just plough on up and down groughs in the hope you will hit easier ground. Your timing and pacing will be affected if you are crossing groughs (deep ditches) so adjust for the terrain. Bearings are harder to maintain too as you trudge down, up, down, so use members of the group for leapfrogging. Or if you are on your own, pick a clear spot on the other side of the grough as you go down, and when you come up stand on that spot to get back on your original bearing line.
- Edges of the plateau on Kinder are clear and have well marked paths around it, and there are lots of safe routes down. If you find yourself scrambling down rocks needing to use your hands, reassess, as you may not be where you thought you were.
- Heading South will find the edge path and easy paths down, some following streams into lower, easier ground and the various ‘Booth’ hamlets or Edale village.
- Heading East will find the edge path and then footpaths into lower woodland, and to Derwent Reservoir not far from the Snake Pass Road.
- Heading West again will hit the edge path but also the Pennine way. You can then find your way West to lower ground, via William Clough (route of the Mass Trespass), or Kinder Low to farmland and Kinder Road.
Heading North and again you will find the edge path and some safe routes off, but you may come into lower ground via some long steep cloughs (valleys) or have to cross the river Ashop to find the path the Snake Pass road.
- Taking the edge path may be a longer route but is an easier option to walk and navigate. If you get lost on the plateau and head for the edge path and find it, you can then look at features around you and use the bearing of the section of the path you are on, to narrow down your area of probability and get a fix of your location.
You can then work out which direction to follow the edge path to confirm your fix and to find one of the safe, easier ways off the edge to lower ground.
The weather is usually a lot calmer off the top plateau so once there, you can then regroup. It is always advisable on Kinder to keep an eye on the weather direction and mentally tick off escape paths along the top as you progress, so should you need to, you know where you can head to next to get off the top safely.
Want to learn how to navigate on difficult terrain like Kinder Scout?
For help with taking bearings from maps and ground features, refer to our previous articles here https://ultimatenavigationschool.co.uk/how-to-use-a-compass/
Why not book a navigation course ON KINDER SCOUT now?
The Ultimate Navigation School is a charity providing navigation training to hill walkers, with all our net profits supporting the following charities –
Mend Our Mountains, Fix the Fells, John Muir Trust and Mountain Bothy Assoc.
The name Kinder Scout is suspected to have originated in Norse. Kindaw’r scut or Water over the Edge may have been the name used for the 30 m waterfall of Kinder downfall on the Western edge of Kinder. Hence giving the plateau the name Kinder Scout (Kindaw’r Scut).
Tribute to Benny Rothman.
As Manchester lad, Benny discovered the beauty of the great outdoors as an escape from a hard life in 1920’s Manchester as a working man. In his early years, a confrontation with gamekeepers on YellowSlacks Brook just outside of Glossop where Benny’s dad had a market stall, cemented Benny’s resolve that everyone should have access to this beautiful landscape. His mind was set.
24th April 1932 came and the Ramblers had organised a protest march onto Kinder Scout not far from Glossop. As the crowd gathered, the organisers and main speakers were rattled by the large presence of Police, GameKeepers and Landowners and the organisers of the protest hurried away, abandoning the crowd and the idea of a trespass. Not Benny. He stood his ground and gave a rousing speech perched on the rocks at Bowden Bridge car park in Hayfield, to the circa 400 walkers assembled. They were now fired up to protest.
Off they set down the road past Kinder Reservoir and up William Clough heading to meet with other Ramblers coming from different sides of Kinder Scout to RV at Ashop Head.
Scuffles broke out and some say the Gamekeepers started the trouble, others say it was the Ramblers at fault. The parties and tension mixed between Kinder Corner and Sandy Heys. One side’s version of events around how hostilities started, is that a drunken GameKeeper twisted his ankle and blamed it on a Rambler, a row and then fisticuffs developed.
The Mass Trespass was successful, the Ramblers were too many across Kinder to stop.
But later the Police were quick to arrest the organisers as they stood at the various local Railway Stations waiting for their trains home. Benny was taken to the small holding cell at Hayfield Police Station, then moved to New Mills Police Station, before heading for court.
At Benny’s trial the Water company staff (The Water companies owned some of the land), the GameKeepers and Landowners put their side of the story. Some say they perjured themselves in court. Benny’s jail sentence was harsh by today’s standards as he was sent down for 4 months, but he was even more determined to campaign and fight for access. Another trespass was organised up Winnats Pass and the tide of change had begun.
The National Parks Act, The Countryside Act, Right to Roam all followed in the wake.
Benny, a Manchester working man, was the spark that ignited the Right to Roam, and Kinder Scout was its birthplace.
Benny died on 23rd January 2002 but his legacy remains for every Rambler, Walker, Mountaineer, Mountain Biker and Outdoor enthusiast. Everyone in the UK has a right to enjoy our beautiful National Parks.
Thanks Benny. We owe you.
MAPS courtesy of Ordnance Survey!