Regular readers of this blog will know that every January I disappear for a week to work with my old mate John Bamber on one of the Safety Teams on the Spine Race (click here for the back-story of ‘The Most Brutal Race in Britain’).
Despite the race passing through one of the most remote wilderness areas in England on Cross Fell, we don’t get much chance to go swanning around on the hills, and even less chance to take a bit of R&R on other sections of the route, so a couple of weeks before the 2017 race I decided on an outing over Kinder in the Peak District, just round the corner from the race start-point at Edale.
I don’t get to the Peak District all that often, but one of my favourite rounds in this part of the world is the Kinder Plateau starting from Hayfield and going via Kinder Downfall (waterfall). On the first Spine Race in 2012, John Bamber and I had walked out to the Downfall in freezing conditions to photograph the 15 racers as they passed – since then the Race has grown massively with around 250 athletes from all over the world taking part in three different events.
As well as being the start point for my walk, Hayfield was also the start point of the ‘Mass Trespass’ in April 1932, where over 400 walkers walked over closed moors that were ‘off-limits’ to the public. The immediate aftermath was the jailing of five of the protesters, but it was the start of a movement that could not be halted and which finally led to the establishment of National Parks 1n 1949 and general ‘open-access’ to all upland areas in 2000.
I had ideal weather conditions for the day; the temperature was just below zero and the air was as clear as a bell – two weeks later on the first day of the Spine Challenger event (108 miles instead of the full 268 miles of the Spine Race) the hills above here were enveloped in a snow storm that made things ‘interesting’ for the racers to say the least!
My route passed above Kinder Reservoir before heading upwards to the Plateau – for a change I didn’t follow the small valley of William Clough, and instead went via the ascending brow up to Sandy Heys, giving me great views in all directions. Before long I was on the Pennine Way National Trail, which is also the route for the Spine Race.
The highlight of this part of the Pennine Way is Kinder Downfall. Sometimes the wind blows so strongly here that the water is blown back up the cliff and in severe winters the waterfall freezes making a steep but interesting ice-wall for local climbers and mountaineers. Today the water level was very low, and most of what there was had frozen, reducing the stream to a trickle.
The frozen stream became a barrier to progress, and I slithered about 100 metres upstream rather than go skidding off a frozen rock. The view back to the Downfall was an anti-climax, with just a trickle of water going over the edge, but there were compensations in the great view to the west, looking down to the ‘Mermaid’s Pool’ and Kinder Reservoir.
The dog and I carried on south along the Pennine Way, visiting the trig point at Kinder Scout on the way. Near Edale Cross it was time to leave the Pennine Way and to head back to Hayfield. All the paths I had followed had been well frozen, making a great change from the mud that is usually found along the route, but blue skies and sunshine on top of that had been an unexpected bonus.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock