Being Outdoors and Mental Health

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week this week. And along with the plethora of hastags, you’ll also see a plethora of outdoor organisations bestowing the virtues of getting outdoors for your mental health.

They are right to (scroll down for the but…). There’s a tonne of stats and figures out there proving it. But why bore ourselves with those?

Here’s a great video from British Canoeing showing how just this one sport has a massive range of potential for providing an outlet for people struggling with their mental health issues.

I’ve found being outdoors a massive help to me at times where my delicate brain is struggling. From times of heightened day-to-day stress, to more temporary challenges like dealing with grief, to the full blown assault of a serious bout of OCD. Whether its pulling on my boots and going for a quiet wander, getting on the bike and really getting out of puff (not hard for me on a bike!), or just sitting on Ullswater in my kayak, bobbing along and watching the mountains. Just being outside has helped distract my mind, put things in perspective, and sending me home feeling just that bit better than when I left.

The biggest challenge is sometimes getting out. But do. The days when I’ve struggled most to find the will to get outside, even if for a short walk from home round the park, are the days when I really got the most benefit from it.

But, this isn’t intended to be a ‘mental health and me’ post. So, here’s the but… I mentioned earlier! And for once I really don’t mean this to be cynical!

Sometimes the plug for the Great Outdoors (TM) as an answer to mental heath issues can come across, unintentionally, as though it’s THE answer. Maybe it will be for some. But for many of us, for most of us, it won’t be. It can’t be.

As much as it helps (and I truly believe it does) it doesn’t make the challenges we face with our mental health just go away. As much as being in the fresh air is great medicine (even being in the driving rain perks my soul up), it’s not a cure.

Why raise this? Because I think sometimes we forget how much people who are struggling feel pressure to ‘get better’. Most of us, idiots aside, now recognise that ‘just pull your socks up’ is a counter-productive, and wrong, message for people with mental health issues. But sometimes, even if it isn’t the intention, a focus on ‘just getting out there’ can come across in a very similar fashion.

So the point of this post is just a plea to anyone who is struggling to always remember. You are not a failure if being outdoors doesn’t help. You haven’t let yourself down if you couldn’t get out of the house. No-one expects you to recover after a spin round the block on your bike. We all do need help and support from other sources too.

I hope the tweets, Facebook posts and more from outdoor organisations do help get more people outside and finding the powerful benefits of both physical activity and the natural environment. But I hope even more that you can get all the help and support and help you need from the system and from those around it. My twitter, and I’m sure that of a great many other people in the outdoor community, will always have an open door to you, should you ever need any extra ears (or extra boots).


A Sense of (My) Place

Before moving to Harrogate (or Killinghall, just outside the town), last year I lived in a small town I knew like the back of my hand. Eastwood is a typical urban-fringe type of place, any any-town from, but my-town. Thought the edge of Nottingham’s sprawl it’s (mostly) surrounded by countryside. DH Lawrence knew it well – the countryside around Eastwood, broadly still in tact, was one of the few things about his home town he truly loved.

Though it’s in no way spectacular, that countryside was ‘mine’ and it holds many memories. It’s the canal I used to walk and fish with friends as a teenager, the woods we used to escape to. It’s where I did my first long distance hike (which I wrote up on this blog). It’s the little country park with the little pond where my wife and I sat and held each other in grief after our first child was stillborn. It’s the same park where just a few short – but oh-so long – years later we took our babies on their first trips out in their buggies and where they took their first steps.

Despite the memories, it was only after moving that I really appreciated the sense of my place in my space they’d given me.

But do I actually miss Eastwood? No, not really. While I’m nostalgic for my old, warm blanket of a place, I’m even more keen to start exploring my new one. I’m loving settling into a new home, excited about a new town, and thrilled at having Nidderdale and the Yorkshire Dales literally on my doorstep.

But my mental map around home has gone from being full of memories to one which is, well, a bit of a blank.


I’ve only had chance for the briefest excursions so far. But even those are enough to begin padding out the map, and starting to turn white space into a new understanding and appreciation of my new place.

And now spring is in the air and with a determination to get the boots, bike and paddles out more and keep adding to the map. Every time I walk, run, cycle or paddle anywhere around home it will become territory I know – my new familiar and so onto the map. Hopefully at the point of being in the house for a year there’ll be a lot less white space!

A few (bad – my phone sucks!) pictures from my initial explorations:

Knaresborough – a short bike ride away
The Nidd Viaduct, right in Robert Cowen’s Common Ground!
The fields behind my house, Nidderdale stretching out beyond
The Stray in Harrogate
A mile down the road
The monkey puzzle tree, not glamorous, but the kids shout every time they see it. One of those little things that make a place ‘yours’!

#EssentialPeak – A Bagging list for the Peak

What would your ideal Peak District tick list look like? Anything like this?

Everybody loves a good bagging list right? Even if you have no intention of completing them all, they give you a chance to pour over the lists, making plans for future trips. The range of lists is huge – from those based on set, immovable physical criteria, such as the County Tops, listing highest points in our counties to the Munros, detailing the Scottish hills with peaks over 3000ft in height. Then there are the more subjective lists, most famously Wainwright’s ‘love letter to the fells’ covered by the 217 fells in his pictorial guides. The Trail 100 is another example – being Trail Magazine’s list of the ‘top 100’ mountains for walkers in the UK.

I’ve always loved the idea of developing a bagging list for the Peak District. But the problem is the reliance most bagging lists have on ‘hills’. Although the Peak is blessed with many fantastic hills, it’s not an easy area to translate into a bagging list consisting of high points only. For a start, some of it’s highlights don’t involve you going up hill, but down dale – what self-respecting list could miss off Dove Dale or Lathkill Dale? Even up on the hills, the summits often aren’t the greatest attraction in the Peak District. Kinder must surely have the lowest proportion of walkers reaching it’s ‘true’ summit than any other popular mountain. It’s a special sort that braves the bogs to test their skills at ascertaining which of a multitude of rough peat mounds is 10cm higher than the rest. While they do, most sensible folk are at the trig, or the waterfall, or scrambling any of the fantastic rock formations instead. Then there are the edges – a defining feature of the Peak District landscape that set it apart from other upland areas across the country. Again many would be missed by a traditional hill list.

We like to think of bagging lists as an exact science – the heighest of hills, the most prominent peaks. But very often personal opinion and preferences sneak in. No more so than on Wainwright’s epic list (if there is a better hill bagging list I’d love to see it). As two examples how did Walla Crag (sublime) and Mungrisdale Common end up on the list? Walla Crag is just a stumpy ridge/cliff (OK, so an amazing stumpy ridge/cliff!) on the route up to Bleaberry Fell. It’s long been suspected AW included Mungrisdale Common simply to use up space – it’s barely even raised ground, with a prominence of just 1 meter, and barely a redeeming feature about it! And quite right too. Walking is about more than writing off a hill because it’s prominence from the next is too small – it’s about the journey, and the view when you get there!

Even those lists that are based on a set formula don’t necessarily give the best walking experiences. Take the county tops – the highest point in Nottinghamshire is, technically, a trig point, lost behind fencing in a fard yard, with no public acces, right by the M1 motorway. There are plenty of other hills in the county which make for a much more enjoyable walk, and are within a few meters of the actual county top – but rules is rules. Any bagger just sticking to the county tops must visit Nottinghamshire and make a mental note never to darken the county’s footpaths again!

All of the above is essentially me stating my case for casting aside any pretense at making a bagging list for the Peak based on any scientific formula. There are just three rules for each entry on the list:

  1. It must be at it’s best on foot. Or, ideally, at it’s best if you arrive there by foot too. So Crich Stand is in despite it having a car park right by it – because it’s far more special to walk up to it from the canal below.
  2. It must add to the story of what makes the Peak District such a special place. Be that human history, geology, or nature. So Bugsworth Basin, Magpie Mine and High Peak Junction are all in – they tell the human story of the Peak, and they certainly fit Rule 1.
  3. It must be a defined point. The essential part of that location, rather than a line or area to dip in and out of. I’ve tried to include the famous trails in the Peak – the Pennine Way, our first National Trail, and the Monsal Trail. But I’ve chosen key points, rather than including the whole trail. That way anarchy lies!

My list therefore places each point into at least one (often more) of eight themes: Water, Hills, Edges, Dales, Human History, Natural History, Resources (quarrying, mining etc) and Trails. My aim is that anyone who has ticked off each entry on the list will have experienced something from all the stories the Peak has to tell. It’s a grand aim maybe, but one I’m having fun honing down!

The next key decision to make was on the geographical extent of ‘the Peak District’. Often publications stick fairly slavishly to the boundaries of the National Park. I didn’t want to take that approach. It’s boundary is set not by any natural limits, but by political, social and economic considerations. I know from living outside Nottingham that there are many places outside the park boundary to the South-East that are quintessentially Peak in character, and key to the story of the region. Leaving them out wasn’t an option.

Instead I decided to focus on the two key geological characteristics of the Peak – the limestone bedrock of the White Peak, and the darker, more brooding aspects of the sandstone Dark Peak. But even here drawing a line wan’t easy. I used the fantastic mapping resource from the British Geological Survey to try to draw a line around my ‘Great Peak District’ The areas I knew in the South-East, around Matlock especially, had a fairly clear boundary around them. But to the north the Dark Peak simply carries on as the Pennies stretch North through Yorkshire and Lancashire. In the South and West it was hard to decide upon a cut off too. Eventually I decided upon six core sections to base the list, which you can see in the map below. After setting upon these sections I remembered about Natural England’s National Character Areas. These break England down into distinct areas based not on political or cultural boundaries, but by factors dictated by the geography and character of the environment. I was pretty pleased to see my area match up pretty well with the various character areas on Natural England’s list relating to the Peak District!

And now, we really get right down to the nitty-gritty – what are the locations that should be included in the Essential Peak Bagging List? As you can see on the map below (and the spreadsheet below the map), I’ve tried to identify the places I think no list of Peak walking spots should be without. But I need some help! I’d love to hear views from anyone about the list – especially on places I’ve missed, or points that aren’t quite as essential as I thought! I don’t want a list ‘designed by committee’ – but I would like to know what people think!

Some particular issues – partly caused by rejecting the need to go simply for peaks or high points – were:

    • At some locations, what should be the absolute key spot to include – for example at Long Dale.
    • On some hills, Kinder especially, I’ve included more than one point where I think places are too important to miss, for example Kinder Downfall. Are there others that merit being a star in themselves, rather than being a sub-feature

So please – let me know what you think to the map above and list below, either by commenting, tweeting me @Peakrills or by email via

Area Name
Dark Peak Alport Castles
Dark Peak Back Tor
Dark Peak Bleaklow
Dark Peak Brown Knoll
Dark Peak Coombs Rock
Dark Peak Crook Hill
Dark Peak Crowden Tower
Dark Peak Crowstones Edge
Dark Peak Derwent Edge
Dark Peak Featherbed Top
Dark Peak Grindslow Knoll
Dark Peak Higher Shelf Stones
Dark Peak Howden Edge
Dark Peak Kinder Downfall
Dark Peak Kinder Low
Dark Peak Kinder Trespass – William Clough
Dark Peak Ladybower
Dark Peak Langsett
Dark Peak Lantern Pike
Dark Peak Lord’s Seat
Dark Peak Margery Hill
Dark Peak Mount Famine
Dark Peak Outer Edge
Dark Peak Ox Stones (Burbage Moor)
Dark Peak Pike Lowe
Dark Peak Stanedge Pole
Eastern Moors Baslow Edge
Eastern Moors Beeley Moor
Eastern Moors Big Moor – White Edge
Eastern Moors Birchen Edge
Eastern Moors Chatsworth Park
Eastern Moors Curbar Edge
Eastern Moors Eyam Moor
Eastern Moors Froggatt Edge
Eastern Moors Gardom’s Edge
Eastern Moors Matlock Moor Trig
Eastern Moors Padley Gorge
Eastern Moors Sir William Hill
Eastern Moors Totley Moor
Eastern Peak Fringe Alport Heights
Eastern Peak Fringe Black Rocks
Eastern Peak Fringe Carsington Water
Eastern Peak Fringe Crich Stand
Eastern Peak Fringe Harboro Rocks
Eastern Peak Fringe Heights of Abraham
Eastern Peak Fringe High Tor
Eastern Peak Fringe Lovers Walk
Eastern Peak Fringe Lumsdale Falls
Eastern Peak Fringe Middleton Top
Eastern Peak Fringe National Stone Centre
Eastern Peak Fringe Robin Hoods Stride
Eastern Peak Fringe Stanton Moor
Hope Valley Abney Moor/Shatton Edge
Hope Valley Bamford Edge
Hope Valley Burbage Rocks
Hope Valley Carl Wark
Hope Valley Cave Dale
Hope Valley Higger Tor
Hope Valley High Neb
Hope Valley Lose Hill
Hope Valley Mam Tor
Hope Valley Millstone Edge
Hope Valley Navio Fort
Hope Valley Stanage Edge
Hope Valley The Ridge
Hope Valley Win Hill
Hope Valley Winnats Pass
Northern Moors Alderman’s Hill
Northern Moors Black Hill
Northern Moors Dead Edge End
Northern Moors Dove Stones
Northern Moors Featherbed Moss
Northern Moors Hoarstone Edge
Northern Moors Rollick Stones
Northern Moors West Nab
Northern Moors Wild Bank Hill
Western Moors Axe Edge Moor
Western Moors Black Edge
Western Moors High Peak Canal
Western Moors Burbage Edge
Western Moors Cats Tor
Western Moors Chinley Churn
Western Moors Combs Moss
Western Moors Eccles Pike
Western Moors Castle Naze
Western Moors Goyt Valley Reservoirs
Western Moors Gun
Western Moors Hen Cloud
Western Moors Kerridge Hill / White Nancy
Western Moors Lud’s Church
Western Moors Ramshaw Rocks
Western Moors Shining Tor
Western Moors Shutlingslow
Western Moors Sponds Hill
Western Moors Tegg’s Nose
Western Moors The Cloud
Western Moors The Roaches
Western Moors Whalley Moor
Western Moors Windgather Rocks
Western Moors Cheeks Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Biggin Dale
Western White Peak Fringe Bunster Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Carder Low
Western White Peak Fringe Cauldon Lowe
Western White Peak Fringe Chrome Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Dove Dale
Western White Peak Fringe Ecton Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Gratton Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Grindon Moor
Western White Peak Fringe High Wheeldon
Western White Peak Fringe Hitter Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Hollins Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Milldale Bridge
Western White Peak Fringe Narrowdale Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Ossoms Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Parkhouse Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Pilsbury Castle Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Sheen Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Solomon’s Temple
Western White Peak Fringe Thirklow Rocks
Western White Peak Fringe Thor’s Cave
Western White Peak Fringe Thorpe Cloud
Western White Peak Fringe Weaver Hills
Western White Peak Fringe Wetton Hill
Western White Peak Fringe Wolfscote Dale
Western White Peak Fringe Wolfscote Hill
White Peak Plateau Arbor Low
White Peak Plateau Bradford Dale
White Peak Plateau Chee Dale
White Peak Plateau Chelmorton Low
White Peak Plateau Coombs Dale
White Peak Plateau Deep Dale
White Peak Plateau Deep Dale (Topley)
White Peak Plateau Eldon Hill
White Peak Plateau Fin Cop
White Peak Plateau Lathkill Dale
White Peak Plateau Long Dale
White Peak Plateau Magpie Mine
White Peak Plateau Miller’s Dale Viaducts
White Peak Plateau Minninglow Hill
White Peak Plateau Monks Dale
White Peak Plateau Monsal Dale
White Peak Plateau Monsal Head
White Peak Plateau Peters Stone – Cressbrook Dale
White Peak Plateau Slitherstone Hill
White Peak Plateau Sough Top
White Peak Plateau Wardlow Hay Cop
White Peak Plateau Longstone Edge

Kinder 1932 – Separating the Myth

The Kinder Mass Trespass. It’s the most well known of all the protests in the rambling/outdoor movement – it’s possibly the ONLY well known aspect of the movement full stop. And therein lies the rub. As its centenary begins to approach (the event was 84 years ago now, in 1932), it’s status becomes ever more legendary. But are we celebrating the reality of the event, or a myth? The tweet quoted above, from the Peak District’s Chief Executive (who has been doing a great job in representing and promoting the Peak District), got me thinking about the debates about the event’s place in rambling history.

mass trespass - libraryemsSo first, some of the contentions any rambler will hear…

  • The Kinder Mass Trespass was the first major protest in the rambling movement – MYTH! Many protests and trespasses had taken place in the 50 years before Kinder (1).
  • The Kinder Mass Trespass was the largest major protest in the rambling movement – MYTH! Some protests, especially those in the North-West, attracted tens-of-thousands of protesters – and got quicker results too (2).
  • The protest helped create or protect Public footpaths for us all to enjoy – MYTH! Public footpaths were already well-protected in law – the Kinder Mass Trespass was concerned with the Right to Roam over open countryside away from the footpaths.
  • The protest helped create our National ParksMYTH!
  • The protest was a major step on the journey towards securing the Right to Roam? MTYH? Ah, well, here’s where it gets interesting!

The Kinder Mass Trespass is now well established in the public’s eye as THE major event in the rambling movement’s long fight to secure a Right to Roam (a fight that still isn’t fully won). Evidence of this can be seen even in information available on the Ramblers website repeating many of the myths above (read on to see why this is especially ironic!). However, once you dig deeper there is a lot more controversy surrounding the protest’s actual role in helping secure greater access.

The Case For

While the Kinder Mass Trespass was a long way from being the first or biggest such event, it probably can be credited with being the first to bring the issue of countryside access to a wider audience. Previous events had either been galvanising to local communities or to those campaigning for increased countryside access. Kinder changed that. This was arguably not through the effects of the trespass itself but through the official reaction to it, especially the harsh jail sentences handed out to the people involved.

kinder trespass - matt bowdenThe draconian punishments given to the ring leaders pushed countryside access into the national eye, far beyond its usual reach, helping creating a surge in interest. Although protests rallies had already been held at Winnat’s Pass (close to Kinder) for many years, the interest generated by the court cases saw crowds surge to over 10,000 in 1932. Many of the new attendees were reacting to what was seen as an example of a ruling class determined to stamp out any claim to the countryside by those in the industrial towns and cities.

Over the years the legend of the Kinder Mass Trespass grew, becoming the poster child for new generations of ramblers, angry with a lack of progress in achieving the aim of a Right to Roam. This is arguably the protest’s lasting legacy, providing a ‘foundation myth’ to spur on new protest movements throughout the 1900s. Although many of these movements never forgot the role of other protests, or the role of other organisations, in the access movement, the Kinder Mass Trespass was always the go-to event to help the public understand the context of their actions, especially in press reports.

The Case Against

tomstephensonAt the time of the protest almost all the leading access campaigners of the day were against it. The Rambers Association, the Open Spaces Society, and leading campaigners such as Tom Stephenson all opposed the protest. Many other stalwarts of the rambling establishment were also critical, claiming the after-effects the protest would set the movement back by decades. Many people involved in the access movement had been attempting to engage with government and landowners to change the laws regarding access to open countryside, and were fearful that the protest would set this back. Some of the criticisms bordered on sour grapes, criticising the protest for not reaching the actual summit of Kinder for example. The leaders of the trespass were also criticised for being agitators, rather than ‘true believers’ in the countryside access cause, seeing it a convenient excuse to engage in a bit of a ruckus with those in authority.

These arguments against have created a powerful counter-argument to the more commonly understood narrative of the primacy of the Kinder trespass’ role in opening up the countryside.

Protest vs Dialogue

The disagreements over the impact and legacy of the Kinder Mass Trespass point to a wider debate regarding the best method of achieving change: a process of dialogue and engagement with authority, or one of actively rebelling against that authority. Tom Stephenson is the epitome of the dialogue approach. Over decades he worked tirelessly to campaign for the political change needed to open up the countryside. He led organisations like the Ramblers Association, and worked as a civil servant, drawing up plans for the Acts pennine way sign - Andrew bowdenof Parliament needed to turn the outdoor access movement’s aims into reality. Many of the things we take for granted in our countryside now come as a direct result of Tom Stephenson’s (and many other’s) work – in particular National Trails and our National Parks (3), but he was also a key player in the groundwork for defining the Access Land that was finally approved through Parliament in the Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000, years after his passing. All involved in outdoor recreation owe Tom Stephenson a debt.

However, it’s also true to say that protest also plays an active role in delivering change, one that is often under-recognised. For a start, as with the Kinder protest, it brings issues to a much wider audience than they might otherwise achieve. A mass trespass event will always be a greater hook for the press to turn into column inches than the efforts of a civil servant sitting in Westminster defining terms like ‘open countryside’, however vital their work was (and is). Protest can have a galvanising effect, making clear the injustice, and helping promote the cause outside of the narrow interest-groups who initially raise any specific issue. Between the two approaches there needs to be better recognition of the ways each has helped push forwards countryside access, and fewer attempts to play down the achievements of others.

It’s a touch ironic that many of the official organisations that decried the Kinder Mass Trespass originally are now some of the biggest cheerleaders for its recognition – as witnessed by the tweet quoted at the start of this blog. Many in the Open Spaces Society now admit they were ‘on the wrong side’ in relation to the event, National Trust have a ‘Trespass Trail’ available for download. The Ramblers, led by Tom Stephenson for many years, promotes the efforts to preserve the story of the trespass, crediting its role in creating the right to roam. Even the current Duke of Devonshire, whose moorlands the Kinder protestors were fighting to open, admitted at the 2002 anniversary rally to remember the Kinder trespass that his family were on the wrong side of history! A cynic might suggest this is, at least partly, a symptom of the commoditisation of history – the Kinder Mass Trespass sells! But it’s also a reflect that, after time passes it’s easier to see that the efforts of both protestor and peace-maker were both instrumental in the long battle for access to our countryside – a battle not yet fully won!

For my part, as much as I thank those in the trespass for the role they played in securing greater access, I hope people like Tom Stephenson aren’t forgotten.

Don’t forget about the birds?

hen harrier - rob zweersAlmost as a post-script to this blog, there is a current issue that shows the ‘protest vs dialogue’ debate is not only still live – but also still relevant to many of the concerns of the Kinder trespass: protecting/accessing our countryside, the actions of landowners and the Peak District landscape. A recent blog post from the ex-Peak District Chief Executive Jim Dixon picks up on the issues surrounding the campaign for greater protection for the Hen Harrier. The article hands out a severe admonishing to the wildlife campaigner Chris Packham for committing the crime of becoming too passionate about the plight of the Hen Harrier. Chris apparently allowed his passion to spill over into counter-productive anger. Instead of Chris attending events to raise awareness of the issue, it is proposed he simply needs to get out onto the moors and start talk to game keepers – that’s the way progress lies. Through cooperation, communication.

Except, in many instances such an approach doesn’t work. Especially when it comes to Hen Harriers. For a few years campaigners have bemoaned the RSPB for precisely the opposite – for relying too much on cooperation and dialogue by taking part in the Government’s Hen Harrier Action Plan (the Hawk and Owl Trust have also been similarly criticised). However, after a sincere and committed attempt to work with this strategy, RSPB were left with no choice to pull out. You read more about why on Martin Harper’s blog post.

When the sheer determination of some stakeholders to resist change leads to organisations like as RSPB finding themselves unable to continue a dialogue the debate must be seen to be in a bad place. Such situations only serve to push ever larger groups to a more extreme, protest-based angle, as they see no other routes for meaning full progress. I hope, for the Hen Harrier’s benefit, some of the other key players, like the National Parks, DEFRA and others can see this and work positively. Rather than resorting to again distorting the debate by criticising campaigners who are starting to feel like all hope for a positive, consensus-based solution can work. With the Hen Harrier facing such a bleak future this is certainly this is an issue for anyone with a passion for our natural heritage to get involved in – regardless of whether your method of choice is protest or dialogue!

Footnotes / References

 (1) & (2) As an example the Winter Hill Mass Trespass was earlier (1896), bigger (well over 10,000 people) and more successful than the Kinder trespass (at least in the short term)

(3) This is why my own hackles are raised by some of the mythology surrounding the Kinder Mass Trespass – not because I don’t recognise its role, but because I want to see the role of people like Tom Stephenson given more credit!

Picture references: Kinder Trespass plaque via libraryems on Flickr; Kinder Waymarker via Andrew Bowden on Flickr; Tom Stehenson via Tricouni Club; Pennine Way fingerbord via Andrew Bowden on Flickr; Hen Harrier via Rob Zweers on Flickr.

 Some more reading on the Kinder Mass Trespass

Make up your own mind on the 1932 Kinder Mass Trespass with some of these sources!

Mind the Gap?

It’s been a couple of weeks now since the EU referendum. It still hasn’t really sunk in. But I’m still surprised everyday by some of the comments people make about the EU, highlighting just how deep the gap between perception and reality is. People rejoice at the end of Barmy Brussels Bureaucrat’s Bendy Banana Bans (that never existed). Two people I know have suggested we can finally go back to the halcyon days of pre-decimal money and Imperial weights and measures, as the EU took these away (decimalisation happened before we even joined the EEC – and the EU specifically protects many Imperial measures – pints as an example). One comment on a heritage thread on Facebook looking at the potential impacts read: ‘since when did the EU care about our heritage’. The sheer ignorance of this statement left me (and, by the other replies, many others too) a bit lost for words.

IMG_20160625_133917861_HDRThe weekend after the referendum, and my wife and I were in glorious Edale, Camping at Coopers Campsite, our first night under canvas together since our first child came along, almost five years ago exactly (and at the same site too!)  After a good old moan in the car we promised to not let the referendum darken our weekend. And this it didn’t, with a great walk up Grindsbrook, and a hunt for the true summit in the mist, working our way round the pools in the peat created through the fantastic restoration efforts of the Moors For The Future project. We found it, after two trick cairns distracted us, but if that’s the true summit these days I’ll eat my hat!

On Sunday we went to Bugsworth Basin, on the the way out the peak towards the conurbation of Greater Manchester to test-paddle our new inflatable canoe before we stick the kids in it! If you don’t know it, pay it a visit, it’s a lovely place. Built to connect the Peak’s limestone quarries to markets in Northern England, the basin was a thriving inland port, providing an interchange between the tramways running up into the hills and the canal network to Manchester and beyond.

bgsworthbasinIt is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, but was for many years derelict, taking a huge restoration effort, especially from a group that has now become the Bugsworth Basin Heritage Trust and the Waterways Protection Group. As with so many sites on our canal system, it was saved and reopened to boats by the (ongoing) hard work and dedication of volunteers. It’s now a great place to canoe from – not least as it’s about the only place you can easily get to anywhere near the Peak District without someone telling you you are trespassing by daring to paddle (more on this in future posts!). Bare in mind a Canal & Rivers Trust licence or British Canoeing membership is needed!

When we parked up I got out the car and the first thing I saw wIMG_20160626_122534706as a sign stating the project had been supported with funds from the European Union. The referendum debate, and the comments on heritage protection were staring back at me. Along with the additional irony that someone has tried to cross out the EU logo – matching experiences in many areas of the country benefiting from the EU voting to leave (see Cornwall and Wales). Of course, it is true to say the UK government can continue to fun projects like these directly. If the economy doesn’t take a hit (such a massive if right now…) it may even have more money it could allocate. I also don’t know how much the EU put in – or how it compares to funds from other sources. But this does show that it is entirely fair – and necessary – to ensure that we put pressure on the government to ensure the UK’s exit from the EU does not result in a reduction of funds for such projects. For those of us who love the great outdoors this covers a huge range of issues – from heritage, rural development and conservation funding through to legal protections for our natural environment.

There have already been great posts on the potential impacts, along with suggestions for ways forward, from the BMC (see the BMC’s article) and the Wildlife Trusts (with a great infographic). It’s vital we support these organisations in representing outdoor recreation and environmental protection.

You can also, to help Bugsworth Basin, join the charity which currently runs and enhances the site, or even volunteer to support them. You’ll find more details on the Bugsworth Basin Heritage Trust website.



A Snowy Burbage Loop

We made the most of the first real snowfall of the winter to get out into the Burbage Valley, taking in the edge, Higger Tor and Carl Wark. It’s our first original route for the site, and it’s a cracker (if we say so ourselves) – fairly easy on the legs, but with some fantastic views. It’s great for families, with lots of places for kids to explore.

route map - burbage loop
Route Map, Burbage Loop

Distance – 5 miles

OS Map – OL1 Dark Peak and OL24 White Peak

Online Map – You can see a zoomable version of the route map at this link.

Parking – Longshaw Estate (£ – recommended), roadside parking by the Fox House Inn or a Peak District National Park car park at Upper Burbage Bridge. Parking at the Fox House Inn for customers only.

Route Guide:

Head to the Northern edge of the National Trust car park, where you’ll find a footpath heading through the trees. This leads shortly to a gate out onto the A6187 at the Fox House Inn. Cross here, passing by the pub, keeping to the left-hand verge. Take the stile in the wall to your left, just after the pub, taking in the views over the moor to the plateau of Higger Tor in the distance.

View to Higger Tor from the A6187, by the Fox House Inn.

Follow the wall to your left, and keep heading straight towards Higger Tor after the wall ends – there is a fairly distinct path that

Crucifix carved into a boulder on Burbage Rocks

leads all the way to the beginning of the path along the top Burbage Rocks. When you reach this, turn right to head along the top of the edge. Burbage Rocks (or Burbage Edge) is popular with climbers, and offers great views down the valley towards Longshaw. The valley is currently the subject of a landscape restoration project, removing a non-native conifer plantation to bring back native moorland and woodlands to the area. There are several small abandoned quarries cut into the rockface. Keep an eye out too for carvings in the rock, like the one picture here

There are opportunities along the edge to drop to the lower path running along the foot of the cliffs, where you can see the climbers tackling the gritstone. Neither route is very strenuous, so we’ve kept this route to the top, to make the most of the great views. Whichever path you take you will come to Burbage Bridge at the top of the valley. Cross the stream here, before heading back through any of the gates/stiles onto the other side of the valley. Again, you can take any of the routes leading to the left, as all will lead you eventually up to Higger Tor – our route map takes the upper footpath, from the top of the car park, labelled Fiddler’s Elbow on OS maps.

The route climbs gently to the top of Higger Tor. At 434m in height, the tor gives a commanding view of both the Burbage Valley and across the hills to Hathersage and, in the distance, Mam Tor, the Great Ridge and away to Kinder. To the South-East of the tor the ancient hill fort of Carl Wark sits proud in the landscape, the ancient defensive wall clearly visible. Explore the views from Higger Tor before finding a route down to the footpath leading over to Carl Wark – these routes range from fairly gentle to full on scrambles, so take care!

View across to Mam Tor from Higger Tor

Arriving at Carl Wark the defenses look even more impressive, constructed from large boulders on this Western side, the only point without the natural defenses of the cliff edges. The builders of the hillfort, its age and purpose all still remain a mystery to be unraveled. However, the two acre site enclosed by the defenses show no evidence found of permanent habitation, so it is suspected it was used as either an emergency refuge, a ceremonial location, or potentially even a market place (similar theories have been proposed for the nearby late Iron age / Bronze age enclosure at Gardom’s Edge). The cliff edges capped with defensive walls give a glimpse into the effort it would have taken to construct the site.

After exploring the top of Carl Wark, head back out of one of the ancient exits to the hillfort, and follow the distinct path as it heads gently down the valley towards the Toad’s Mouth – the rock itself sits a touch down the (very busy!) road, but it’s not hard to see how it got it’s name! It is possible to find yourself breaking away from the main path, heading down towards the brook. In dry weather the brook is easily crossed, but after rain, and especially with smaller children, we’d recommend keeping to the Toad’s Mouth side, rather than a risk failed hop across the stream!

DSCF4123After reaching Hathersage Road, turn left and walk round the bend, crossing with care to take the public footpath on the right-hand side. This will soon come to a fork – take the left-hand path, and follow this through the woods. This section has great views through the trees of the Longshaw Estate. When reaching the road, cross over, past the gate house and down the drive towards the Longshaw Lodge, once a grand shooting lodge for the Duke of Rutland’s hunts, the estate was take over by the National Trust in the 1930s. It was used as a hospital during the Second World War, before being converted into what is now a hugely popular visitor destination. The lodge has a cafe, shop, and toilet facilities. The route back up to the car park is signposted from the lodge.

Map Credit – Base map for the route above is from Open Street Map.