Kinder Scout looms large on the horizon as you drive over the moors towards the Derwent Valley. Almost mesa like, it broods darkly over the lesser heights, blocking off sight of all points north.
I was here to walk in memory of my Dad who introduced me to the hills, and though I first climbed Kinder Scout when walking the Pennine Way, this was our family hill of choice when we both lived within striking distance. Today I climbed up onto Kinder Scout’s high plateau by the cleft of Crowden Brook, one of our favourite and lesser used ways onto this unique hill. In the September heat there was little sound in the valley except that of the brook tumbling over small falls and the loud bleating of a lost sheep.
The top of Kinder Scout is a gently inclined flatness of moor grass and heather covered peat, drained by myriad small streams and brooks which, at this time of year, offer easy passage over slabs of gritstone into the heart of the hill. I followed Crowden Brook to its source – and, with the magic of my new Ordnance Survey App, found my way with far more accuracy than ever before to the headwaters of the Kinder River and a squidgy splash along its bed to The Downfall. Here the stream, hardly a river, flows amongst fallen grit blocks before tumbling over a cliff into the wide valley below. On windy wet days a plume of spray blows back over the edge to soak unwary walkers. Even on this sunny day the breeze was enough to send cooling droplets over those who sat on the grit blocks and contemplated the hazy view west to North Wales and the Mersey estuary. Closer, the glint of Manchester’s new towers looked like a magical fantasy city set on a plain amongst the darker rolling hills.
The top of Kinder Scout used to be all black peat channels, slowly being eroded by acid water. Tackling them felt like the ultimate in bog trotting, boots full of brown water and wet oozy peat, but on this end-of-summer day all was green. To put that down to only the weather, however, would be a mistake, for conservation work has been taking place in earnest with small dams built across erosion channels and native species reappearing to bind the peat together. A view this winter may be different but Kinder Scout feels a softer and kinder place than it did before.
I walked back along the sun burnished edges, eroded paths still in evidence though in places old gritstone flags from defunct mills are laid down to mitigate the worst effects. I passed the strange shapes of the Woolpack Stones before dropping gratefully down for cold beer at Grindsbrook Booth. The evening light filled Edale, campers happily sitting outside their tents, warm breeze-blown field paths linking the hamlets of this remote valley head. And later in the dark cocoon of my car I watched the pale light fade from the western sky and hoped summer would linger for a while longer.