Hayfield 8 mile walk
...starting and finishing in Hayfield
Kinder Downfall from Hayfield is one of the classic Dark Peak outings, and the early part of the walk follows the route of the famous Mass Trespass of April, 1932, which gained an importance place in the history of the access movement...
The Trespass Trail & Kinder Downfall
Kinder Downfall from Hayfield is one of the classic Dark Peak outings, and the early part of the walk follows the route of the famous Mass Trespass of April, 1932, which gained an importance place in the history of the access movement. The western side of Kinder Scout is in many respects the most spectacular, and the Downfall is one of most impressive landforms in the entire district.
Hayfield is a perfect little Pennine town, founded on the industries of wool, cotton, paper and calico printing industry, and now popular with commutors to Manchester and Stockport. It also stood at the hub of various packhorse trails setting out to cross the wilds of Kinder Scout, from where the River Kinder joins the Sett, sometimes in tumultuous fashion. In 1818, the church was swept away by a flood and it was rebuilt in its present classical Georgian style.
Take the Kinder Road which climbs up out of Hayfield to the east past the Packhorse public house – last watering place for the packhorse “jaggers” crossing Kinder – with the River Kinder down to the right. After half a mile on this lane you pass the Bowden Bridge Quarry car park on your left.
Bowden Bridge Quarry
A brass plaque set into the wall of this small gritstone quarry states that the Mass Trespass onto Kinder Scout started here on April 24, 1932. About 400 ramblers gathered here after the “mass trespass” had been advertised in Manchester newspapers. They were incensed that they were still not allowed to ramble freely on the highest ground in the Peak District, which was strictly preserved by the grouse-shooting landowners, and were determined to force the issue. An unemployed mechanic called Benny Rothman was pressed into addressing the crowd from a ledge in the quarry, and then they set off, singing cheerfully, for Kinder. At a pre-arranged signal as they ascended William Clough, they broke ranks and ascended the open moor below Sandy Heys, where they were met by a small force of gamekeepers. In the ensuing melee, one gamekeeper was slightly injured, and several ramblers were arrested when they returned to Hayfield. Five of them later received prison sentences for riotous assembly, but the point had been made. The rambling establishment was united for the first time, and when the National Park was formed in 1951, access agreements were negotiated with the landowners. Today, of course, the whole of Kinder is open access land.
Our route follows that taken by the trespassers, turning off the Kinder Road to the right to drop down on the riverside path which leads below the dam wall of the Kinder Reservoir and then steeply up on a paved track to the symbolic “Access to Open Country” gate on White Brow.
This is a glorious promenade along the lower slopes of Leygatehead Moor, with lovely views across the sparkling water of the Kinder Reservoir towards our objective, the deep defile of Kinder Downfall, ahead and to the left on the skyline.
Rounding Nab Brow, the path contours around the entrance to William Clough. You now ascend the clough, crossing and re-crossing the stream as the path demands eventually coming to a tricky, badly-eroded, shaley section near the top which leads to the crossroads of paths beneath Ashop Head, which towers to your right.
Ashop Head and the Pennine Way
The beautifully-restored natural stone-set staircase which leads up to the westernmost buttress of Kinder Scout is an award-winning example of unobtrusive footpath restoration. The work was carried out by the National Trust, working with the National Park Authority and the then Countryside Commission (now Natural England), which is responsible for the Pennine Way National Trail.
The Pennine Way, which runs 270 miles/435km from Edale to Kirk Yetholm, opened in 1965 and was the brainchild of access campaigner Tom Stephenson. His “hidden agenda” behind the idea of a “long green trail” up the Pennines was to open up the then forbidden moorlands, particularly in the Peak District and South Pennines. Today it is still Britain’s most popular long-distance footpath, attempted by over 2,000 people a year. But with its popularity have come severe problems of erosion, especially in soft peat country like Kinder, Bleaklow and Black Hill. Hence the need for the kind of remedial work seen at Ashop Head.
Turn right across a slabbed section to climb the “staircase” at Ashop Head, and now follow the line of the Pennine Way southwards, as it keeps to the edge of the plateau, passing Sandy Heys, and swinging left through the peat between rocky outcrops with the glinting eye of the Mermaid’s Pool on the boulder-strewn moor beneath.
This dark, reedy little mountain tarn has, as its name and isolated situation might suggest, many legends attached to it. Local people used to believe that if you went to the pool on Easter Eve, you would see a beautiful mermaid and thus be granted the gift of eternal life. But before you scoff at the idea, one 19th century Hayfield resident, Aaron Ashton, was a frequent visitor to the pool and he lived to the ripe old age of 104!
Continue on the clear path towards the increasingly-impressive rocky amphitheatre of Kinder Downfall, which is reached through more wind-eroded tors.
This 30m/100ft high waterfall is the biggest in the Peak District, and a landmark on the Pennine Way. The Kinder River drops off the plateau here, but in summer, is never more than a disappointing trickle. In wet weather, however, the Downfall is impressive, especially when a westerly wind funnels up the valley and blows the water back as a shifting, hanging curtain in the air. This is one of the best-known spectacles of the Peak, and in the right conditions can be seen as far away as Stockport.
The Downfall is probably the feature which gave the entire mountain its name. On old maps, it is the area around the Downfall which is known as Kinder Scout, and the name, which may be Norse, has been translated to “water falling over a projecting cliff,” which is a pretty accurate description. It is also a popular lunchspot for all Kinder walkers which attract a band of voracious sheep who are not above pinching your sandwiches when you are not looking!
Turn south from the Downfall following the well-trodden line of the Pennine Way which swings around the chasm of Red Brook, which neatly frames the Mermaid’s Pool, and then across much drier and firmer ground towards white trig point of Kinder Low.
Kinder Low at 633m/2,077ft is only three metres or 11ft lower – and a lot easier to find – than the actual summit of Kinder Scout. It sits in a desert-like expanse of wind-blown peat and sand, the result of years of over-grazing, moorland fires and wind and acid-rain erosion. John Hillaby must have been thinking of Kinder Low when he described Kinder as a land in botanical terms “at the end of its tether.”
As you are on access land you can cut down across the open moor from Kinder Low to the prominent rocks of the Three Knolls due west to join the path which leads up from Tunstead Clough Farm. This leads down beneath Kinderlow End to the intake wall and access point.
Passing through a series of kissing gates, you go around Tunstead Clough Farm and easily down by its access road to Bowden Bridge. You then turn left to descend down the Kinder Road back into Hayfield.
Start/finish: Hayfield, served by buses from Glossop and Stockport
Distance: About 13km/8 miles
Approximate time: Allow 5-6 hours
Highest point: Kinder Low, 633m/2,077ft
Maps: OS Explorer Sheet 1, The Dark Peak
Refreshments: Pubs and cafes in Hayfield
Terrain: A strenuous moorland ramble for which waterproofs and compass are essential
These walks have been adapted from Roly Smith’s Rambler’s Guide to the Peak District, published by HarperCollins in 2000.
Copyright Let's Stay Peak District 2010
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015