The Protesting child on Kinder Scout – The Forbidden Mountain
About 20 years ago, a good friend and I had just walked the horseshoe footpath to Simon’s Seat from Bolton Abbey, in Wharfedale, West Riding of Yorkshire, we were descending from the summit towards the River Wharfe, we were somewhere between the Lower Fell Plantation and the Park Plantation, it was a dry stone walled footpath with woodland to our left and fields to our right, adjacent to the River Wharfe. There was a grouse shoot occurring with beaters working hard and the shooters shooting hard, shot was falling all around us. Seconds later, we approached two members of the shoot’s support party, (well, that’s who we presumed them to be). they requested us to walk no further until the shoot was over, bearing in mind we were on a public footpath, but, we didn’t object and waited. Apparently, the footpath ran through the field where the shooters were active. It was quite interesting watching the event, a grouse flew above us only to meet a direct hit and it instantly dropped into the woodland behind us, moments later, one of the dogs cleared both of the high walls, vanished into the woodland, only to reappear a minute later, grouse in mouth, to once again leap over the walls as though they weren’t there, for two city boys, completely new to such a sight, it was impressive, the entire set up, the power of the shotguns, the well trained dogs, the beater, the cost of it all, whoever was participating in the shoot, well, they certainly had some high ranking influence.
Before long, the grouse shoot concluded and we continued on our way, onto the field and towards the wax jacketed, green wellied, tweed trousered, Range Rover fleet owning group. They were chatting amongst themselves as we approached, an elderly man, still clutching his expensive and powerful shotgun looked at me, said “Hello” in a very none dialect, aristocratic accent, we bumped eyes and I smiled and without a moments hesitation asked him if he was “alright”. I was more interested in the huge pile of dead grouse on the trailer which was in the middle of the field. I enquired to the man who seemed to be in charge of the trailer and it’s contents to the price of the grouse, “£3.50 a brace” he replied (it was at least 20 years ago), not that I knew what a brace was. Anyway, interest in their activities complete, the two of us made our departure, we were young and relatively fit, Steve’s still fit, I’m not, so, in a slow run, we departed, when I saw a route through some woodland we’d never tried, I called to my friend who hadn’t seen the direction I thought we could try, to follow me, when, various voices from the shooting group called over to me, “You can’t go that way, it’s trespassing and private land”, who was I to argue with them, so, follow the established paths we did. Later, we learned that the group on the shoot were members of the Duke of Devonshire’s family, the well spoken man who greeted me was, the Duke of Devonshire himself. The same Duke of Devonshire who publically apologised for his grandfather’s reaction to the 1932 Kinder Scout protest which resulted in the imprisonment of five of the 400 participants of the ‘Great Trespass’.
THE GREAT TRESSPASS – The Story
On the 24th April 1932, a mass trespass in opposition to denied countryside access on open land made it’s mark on British history. One of the main organisers was the Mancunian, Benny Rothman, a member of the young Communist League of Manchester and another participant was the unemployed Jimmy Miller, the poet and folk singer, later to change his name to Ewan MacColl, writer of the famous songs, ‘The Manchester Rambler’ and ‘Dirty Old Town’, amongst others, also, the father of the late Kirsty MacColl. The song ‘The Manchester Rambler’, influenced the Leeds based band ‘Chumbawumba‘ in their song, ‘You Can (Mass Tresspass 1932’).
The remarkable trespass, with over 400 participants, was the beginning of a media campaign by the Ramblers Association was successful and resulted in the ‘Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000’ which legislates the right to walk across mapped open access land.
The defiant act is claimed by the Kinder Tresspass website to be a wonderful act of disobedience and one of the most successful in British history. Controversial as it may have being at the time, it has been seen as a successful working class struggle for the right to roam against the aristocracy and their exclusive use of the moorlands to shoot grouse.
BBC World New, Saturday, 27 April, 2002, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
DUKE APOLOGISES TO RAMBLERS
One of the country’s biggest landowners has apologised to ramblers for his grandfather’s role in the jailing of five countryside campaigners.
The Duke of Devonshire said a mass trespass on grouse moors at Kinder Scout, Derbyshire, during which gamekeepers clashed with ramblers demanding the right to walk on the estate, was “shaming” for his family.
The 82-year-old was addressing a rally of about 1,000 people from across the country in Hayfield, Derbyshire, marking the anniversary of the 1932 trespass, which began at the town’s Bowden Bridge Quarry.
The incident and subsequent prison sentences of between two and six months for riotous assembly for the five men is widely seen as the catalyst for what became a long struggle to secure public rights of access to the countryside.
It is also credited by many as leading to the creation of Britain’s national parks.
Until 1932 the land around Kinder Scout, at the start of the Pennine Way, was controlled by its wealthy landowners.
A group of 400 walkers – growing increasingly angry at the class divide which effectively meant large parts of England’s most beautiful countryside were out of bounds – decided to defy them.
They confronted 30 gamekeepers on the 2,000 fett (600 metres) hill.
The duke, who owns Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, said he was ‘only too happy’ to apologise as the ramblers ‘were entirely in the right’.
He was met with great applause as he expressed hope that his support for the Country and Rights of Way Act, passed in December 2000, had done something to ‘redeem that evil’.
The act gives right of access to mountains, moorland, heathland and common land.
And environment minister Michael Meacher, who steered it through Parliament, told the rally it had opened up four million acres of ‘the poignant solitude of our most beautiful countryside’ after a century of bitter conflict and restored the birthright of all walkers and ramblers across the country.
‘Fight Goes On’
But one of the rally organisers, Roly Smith, said more needed to be done. Mr Smith, president of the North East Derbyshire and South Yorkshire Ramblers Association said, ‘There is still a long way to go, the battle is not over yet’, ‘Even when the act goes through it will only encompass about 12% of the total land area of England and Wales’. ‘Since the outbreak of foot-and-mouth, the whole country realised how important walking and tourism was to the rural economy – probably it is equally as important as farming’. – ‘The fight goes on’.
KINDER SCOUT – 1st attempt
There aren’t too many people who can claim to have taken two attempts to walk Kinder Scout, but, I can assure you, I can. It wasn’t down to my fitness or lack of it, it wasn’t down to bad navigation or becoming lost, I didn’t, nor was it down to the equipment I carried, it was basically down to the extreme weather I’d decided to ignore and totally disrespect. Manchester is famous for it’s rainy weather, you can actually see it’s airport from the Kinder summit, and, the Kinder summit weather is mutually as infamous for it’s climatic challenge. An issue I chose to disrespect or even take into consideration, I’d decided it would be a fine night and I’d have scenic dawn views to photograph and proudly display. No tent would withstand the storm that hit me that night, although I’d sheltered on the summit, slightly below it, with a peat wall to one side and an outcrop of rock to the other, they offered no protection from the downpour. The ground beneath me, it’s peat offered no drainage, it had already absorbed all the water it could, and, as the water poured down, I ended up surrounded by it, and, the tent didn’t stand a chance, in it came soaking everything inside, including myself, an experience in itself, so, in desperation, in the pouring rain, I packed up everything as fast as I could and retraced my steps back down the stream filled Jacobs ladder and down the mountain, only stopping once at the stone shelter en-route, where, I took the time to empty my rucksack and allow some of the water to drain away. It was then I remembered the wine bottle and the golden rule of wild camping, ‘Leave No Trace’.
It may have being the original sin, it did prick my conscience, I did feel guilty but, as myself and everything I was carrying, (far too much unnecessary equipment), was saturated, ensuring my aching body and shoulders were carrying even more weight than I’d started out with, sadly, at least for the time being, the wine bottle would have to remain where it had being abandoned. With a sadness of feeling defeated by the weather, I followed my outward route in reverse, back to the car, and, feeling disgruntled, drove back home, disappointment was an understatement, I had being beaten by Kinder Scout, I vowed revenge, ‘I’ll be back’.
KINDER SCOUT – 2nd attempt
The route I’d decided to follow was the same as my previous attempt, departing from the Pennine Way’s starting point at Edale, following the PW footpath to Upper Booth Farm, crossing the old stone bridge over the River Noe, ascending Jacob’s Ladder onto the Kinder Plateau, crossing the plateau as far as the Grindsbrook footpath and back down into the village of Edale. A total distance of 7.5 miles with an overnight wild camping in between, sounded good to me.
Unlike my previous solo attempt a few weeks earlier, this time I was far better prepared, and, I had company, my somewhat reluctant 9 year old son, Christian. So long as the wild camp was only for one night, he’d agreed to join me, could be interesting!
I was more determined regarding his future mountaineering than he was, even with his newly acquired Royal Marine Commando black rucksack, (given to him by an ex marine neighbour of mine as a present), loaded with his sleeping bag, lightweight one man tent, a soft teddy bear and monkey, and, his Gore Tex jacket, his determination to ascend
anything remained far from over enthusiastic. (The less I told him about the route the better). What could possibly go wrong? I was buzzing about this one, this time I’d checked the weather, tried to minimalize the weight of my pack, and, was very proud of my young apprentice.
We must have being walking for a full five minutes before I heard that tearful first cry, that slow, pitiful long and drawn out parental call, “Daaaaaaaaaad!, my backpacks too heavy!” It looked full and it was full, of a solitary sleeping bag, and, one of those Aldi one man tents, his tent, had the weather turned against us, (I’d checked it out this time), it would have become my tent and he’d have used my goretex bivi, so, I proceeded to do the fatherly thing, and attached his tent to my backpack, and, we continued along the rolling but quite gentle Pennine Way footpath to Upper Booth.
His mood improved, he was clearly enjoying himself and bouncing around like one of the lambs we could see in the adjoining fields. That was the case until we arrived at the bridge at Upper Booth, then, I heard that dreaded question, “Is that it Dad, can we go back to the car now?” This could become quite awkward. There’s no easy way to scale the flanks of this brooding hump, it’s a tough ascent, and basically, at it’s very base, I had a grumbling son who knew nothing whatsoever about what lay ahead, it’s a good job we weren’t ascending Kinder via the original Pennine Way route, up Grindsbrook Clough, our eventual descent back into Edale, that’s as severe as any I know.
I may have forgotten to mention the difficulty of the forthcoming ascent, maybe it was a better decision on my behalf, maybe it wasn’t, we hadn’t gained too much ground before the mood changed. I suppose expecting a 9 year old to appreciate the natural beauty and scenery may be asking too much, but, I simply encouraged, praised and made comparisons to the scenery of some of his Xbox games and this being Bear Ghrylls country, anything to divert his attention from the difficulty of the tough ascent he was finding punishing.
Eventually after a couple of tantrums, a lot of justified complaining and some choice 9 year old cursing, we reached our destination. The same spot I’d camped a couple of weeks previously, the poor kid was exhausted, I felt quite guilty about what I’d put him through, he became my instant priority, especially as the weather was quickly deteriorating. I sat him down on a ground sheet as I threw his tent up as fast as I could, he took the sleep mat from my pack and I laid it in his tent, laid out his sleeping bag, unfastened his boots and tucked him inside, at last he could rest and, considering the conditions, he was cosy and warm, with the added comfort of his Teddy and Monkey, he tucked into some biscuits and crisps as I zipped him inside and started to prepare his hot pasta and tuna. The Trangia was slow to boil the water and cook the pasta, it used the last of my water, and, even though I’d sheltered it from the mist and wind, it took far too long. Eventually it was prepared, the weather misty and damp but at least the rain held off. I unzipped his tent, was just about to open his fly sheet when I looked again, he was fast asleep, well, I certainly wasn’t going to wake him, I pulled his sleeping bag over him, wrapped him up and shut the tent, he was safe, comfortable and warm, and, if he’d ever earned a good nights sleep, I can’t think of a more worthy one.
My little mountain man (although he wasn’t too convinced of it), had achieved so much, he made his old Dad so proud of him. The following morning, he was treated to breakfast in bed, as soon as I awoke I clambered out into the morning mist and dew and switched on the Trangia again, unpacked his favourite sausages and prepared his breakfast, again, it took forever (a Jet Boil has since being invested in, like much of my old kit, basic pieces needed updating, overall equipment has improved so vastly in recent years), and he awoke to a good hot meal.
As I packed away all the kit, it was pleasant to see a couple of early bird fellow hikers pass by, even more pleasant was to see Christian stood alongside the footpath, close to the cairn below Kinder Low, looking out through the sunny morning over the valley below. He was completely refreshed, the long sleep had re-energised him and he was enjoying the early morning. He was in awe of his achievement, I walked over to join him, I pointed out the ground and route we’d covered, he didn’t say anything but I could tell he was both surprised and impressed at his own achievement, and so he should have being. He was also pleased to know that the hardest of work had being done, and from now on, it was reasonably flat going with a decent to Edale and the car at the end of it.
Having cleared my conscience by retrieving the previously abandoned wine bottle and adding it to my pack, we commenced the homeward journey of our trip and the crossing of the Kinder Plateau. The plateau, is far from featureless, but bleak and unrelenting, it’s a moonscape of isolated, freakishly weathered curved stones, huge and polished by the weather, it’s as though they have fallen from the sky and deposited themselves there. They’re like abandoned props from Doctor Who, fossilised dinosaur teeth, unexploded asteroids, Easter Island carvings awaiting tooling.
It was as we crossed this newly discovered planet that a couple of problems arose, the salty sausages we’d eaten for breakfast and the warm day, plus the exercise, made us both thirsty, I’d chosen to ignore it due to not wanting to drink Christians water, but, when he asked me if I had any, as his had gone, I hadn’t, neither of us had a drink, really, not a major problem, I knew there were streams approaching, but, under different circumstances, it could have being a severe issue, a little lesson for both of us for the future, it’s vital to ensure you always have water. Secondly, another issue, as he bound and leapt over the terrain and rocks, I noticed there was something missing from his backpack, his beloved Monkey, and, more to my annoyance, his green Gore-Tex jacket. The latter being a more important issue, had the weather deteriorated and we’d have succumb to a downpour,
I’d have being in trouble, albeit a short lived trouble being located where we were, but, I’d have had to drown him in my jacket and taken a drenching, not a good situation, but, definitely a short term issue. On hearing about Monkey, the panic struck in, it was his security blanket from birth, and he’d gone, we’d covered too much ground since the camp to back-track, it wasn’t the distance, but the terrain, we’d not followed any pathway, there aren’t too many on the summit, that’s why so many people become disorientated up there, my pack was too heavy for me to retrace our steps, so, after a little searching, sadly, we abandoned it and continued. (The tears would follow that night at bedtime).
Whilst taking (another) break and a little fresh running water from the stream with the addition of some chocolate, a young girl walker approached me, she had a wonderful accent, Spanish or Scandinavian, I couldn’t tell which, she held a photocopy of the route she was following, but, like many others, in this bleak area, she too had become a little disorientated, she asked me if I knew where she was on her map, I plucked out my old Garmin GPS, something I’ve little faith in for route following, it’s not the easiest contraption to understand, but, it’s redeeming feature is it’s capacity to give your exact OS location, that alone, makes it worth it’s weight in gold. The girl clearly understood the readings, located her position on the map, thanked me and made her way, Christian, who had being bouncing one his toy trucks down the rocks, also agreed it was time to go, so, via Grindsbrook Clough we made our descent and route to the village.
The descent was so steep it was untrue, ascending it (this being the original route of the start of the Pennine Way), would have being a scramble, many KS walkers choose this as the start of the walk, I’m glad we hadn’t. Ascending it, on this sunny Sunday afternoon were, what I call, ‘wine bar walkers’, couples who, generally never attempt anything further than the long distance routes between bars, restaurants and nightclubs, dressed in all the inappropriate clothing, jewellery, handbags, make-up etc, and, this part of the journey didn’t let me down, there were a few of them attempting the ascent, it made interesting viewing.
Back at the car, as we plucked off our boots in exchange for our own alternative footwear, I asked Christian if he’d enjoyed his lumpy night on the summit and the overall mini expedition, he told me he had, not something he’d later tell his mother. None the less, my little reluctant intrepid explorer had now conquered, Kinder Scout, Pen-Y-Ghent, Almscliffe Grag, Troller’s Ghyll and Blakey Topping – Chris Bonnington eat your heart out.