Cock Knarr #RudePeak No 2

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Extract from National Library of Scotland

We featured Wild Bank Hill in our recent ‘Peak’s Best Small Hills‘ article, and it’s a cracking place with a lot going for it for the serious walker: Open Access moorland; views of the metropolis of Manchester to the west, the wilds of the Dark Peak to the east; a trig point for the enthusiastic bagger. Indeed, for such a small hill we suspect it will probably make it into our #EssentialPeak bagging list, such are the joys it offers the serious walker.

However, some of us aren’t (always) serious walkers, are we? So, we are pleased to report Wild Bank Hill holds further delights, namely the shapely prominence of Cock Knarr, a north-eastern spur of the hill giving great views out over the reservoirs in the valley below.

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Base of Cock Knarr Dam

Should you wish to bag Wild Bank Hill (and you should), we would therefore suggest a route taking in Cock Knarr Dam, (helping hold back the tide trying to rush forth), before strolling through Cock Wood, the thicket of foliage nestling around the foot of the Knarr, before striding up the short (but pleasing) flank of the hill to the head of Cock Knarr itself.

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View from the valley – Cock Knarr to the left, summit of Wild Bank Hill to the right.

But, having really scrapped the barrel with the coarse but rewarding similes and metaphors above, we feel a little bit of Public Service Education is probably in order, just to make ourselves feel a touch less, well, daft. So: Knarr, it appears, is a word to describe an old Viking sea-going ship, which seems to fit given these parts were well up in the Danelaw, where Viking names are prevalent. When viewed from the valley below you can certainly see how the hill resembles a ship – especially now the reservoirs have created some ‘sea’ for it to rest upon. Where the cock comes from is anyone’s guess – however, interestingly, a Cog or Cock was also a type of ship, developed after the knarr fell out of favour. So it’s possible that Cock Knarr could be a tautological name meaning Ship Ship Hill (akin to Torpenhow Hill in Cumbria, the elements of whose name translate from their various sources as  Hill-hill-hill Hill).

So there you go, after a rather silly attempt to turn local landmarks into a cheap gag about a chap’s privates we’ve all actually learned something today. Positively Reithian.

The Peak’s Best Small Hills

The Great Outdoors Magazine recently published an article looking at the UK’s best small hills. It was, of course, great to see the Peak District well represented, with Shutlinsloe and Mam Tor being two of the 12. There was also plenty of great inspiration for further afield. However… being picky about it (and someone’s got to right?!), most of the hills represented were actually pretty big hills. In the UK a mountain is seen as being over 600m in height (2000ft in old money), and many of TGO’s list were between 500m and 600m. So, we’d say, pretty big hills really.

But look, it is nit-picking, and really just a thinly veiled excuse to list what we think are some of the Peak District’s best actual small hills. We’ve chosen five – but we’d love to hear your suggestions.

Crich Stand – 286m

It’s location outside the National Park means Crich Stand is often overlooked. On days when Mam Tor or Kinder will be crowded with day trippers, and wile the nearby tram museum will be full of tourists, Crich Stand itself will still be quitely looking out over the lowlands of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. It’s a great shame, as the views are second to none. On a clear day you can see over 20 miles to Nottingham, the towers of Ratcliffe Power Station and the distant hills of Leicestershire’s county top at Beacon Hill. The stand itself is the name given to the tower topping the hill, a memorial to the Sherwood Foresters. There’s also a trig point to add to your collection!

Walk it: The best route is to head from the Cromford Canal parking at Lea Mills. Alternatively try the rolling hillside between the stand and South Wingfield with it’s romantic ruins. If you are feeling very sluggish you could drive to the top – but that would be cheating.

Hen Cloud – 410m

In a region of such geological diversity there is nothing quite so dramatic as Hen Cloud and the Roaches. The Edges of the north-eastern fringe present a relatively flat landscape behind their gritstone faces. Not at Hen Cloud. Here the rock has been folded, and prods out of the surrounding landscape at a precipitous angle. Climbing up the rear of Hen Cloud, and looking back on it from the Roaches you really get an impression of the forces at work in twisting and fracturing solid rock in a way even Stanage can’t quite muster.

Walk it: Park along the road below the Roaches for a simple walk up to Hen Cloud – though it gets steep towards the top. For a longer walk park at Tittesworth Reservoir and head up from there – you can’t miss Hen Cloud.

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The dramatic Hen Cloud

Grin Low – 434m

A short walk up through the woods of Buxton Country Park brings you out onto what is essentially a post industrial landscape – but one softened by nature and time. The area of the summit of Grin Low is covered in old limestone quarries, waste heaps and the remains of lime kilns. The woodland below was originally planted to hide what was then an eyesore from the Duke of Devonshire’s home in Buxton! Now its a great natural playground for kids (and grown ups) to clamber on the rocks and admire the views across to the Dark Peak moors and into Buxton. The small tower crowning the very top of the hill is Soloman’s Temple, built as a folly upon the remains of ancient burial mounds.

Walk it: Park at the country park and walk up through the wood – Poole Cavern is also onsite and worth a visit.

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View from Solomon’s Temple

Thorpe Cloud – 287m

What to say about Thorpe Cloud? If there’s a more dramatic, imposing peak standing at under 300m we’d like to know about it! Standing guard over Dovedale and it’s famous stepping stones Thorpe Cloud is another hill ideally suited to family adventures. There are little crags low down the hill to scramble up, then a steep climb up to the summit, where you are rewarded with fine views over Dovedale and across to the rolling countryside of lowland Derbyshire.

Walk it: The western face of the hill has some fun scrambling low down, but is too steep to climb right to the top. Well defined paths head up the edges of this flank, starting from either the bridge by the gauging weir or from the stepping stones (see our route here). For a slightly gentler climb walk from the stepping stones up Lin Dale, and the path doubles back upon itself up the northern flank of the hill.

Wild Bank Hill – 399m

Of all the hills in this short list Wild Bank Hill is the one that’s probably least well known. But it makes for a great short walk, with some amazing and varied views. From the summit each point of the compass holds a different and contrasting views. To the south the view is of the Kinder and Bleaklow range, with Snake Pass visible, along with the towns of Glossop and Hadfield. West is an incredible view over Manchester. North lie the little reservoirs of the Swineshaw Moor. Lastly, looking east is the imposing Woodhead Pass, which looks particularly dramatic and wild from here.

Walk it: Park on Hobson Moor Road for a short walk up to the summit, or for a longer (and much steeper!) walk start in Stalybridge or from the country park by the Swineshaw Reservoirs.

Two walks in Dovedale

Over the years I’ve walked in Dovedale several times, but usually in the particularly busy bits. My daughter’s first hill bagging experience was up on Thorpe Cloud last summer, and I’d seen the stepping stones, Lover’s Leap and Dove Holes caves a few times on shorter strolls. Anywhere in Dovedale is special – and I really don’t mind crowds, it’s great to see people out in the countryside. However, I wanted to see some of the other areas around the dale I’d missed before. So, over the past couple of months I’ve had a couple of trips back to try and see some more of the place – and what a contrast they were!

My first trip was in pretty grim weather, with wind and rain for much of the day. Down in the dale itself the views were still pretty impressive. However, while bagging the summits of Bunster Hill and Baley Hill I could barely see my hand in front of my face at times! However, a couple of weeks ago the first real sunshine of Spring came out, so I headed back to prove what amazing views there are from those tops – with Bunster Hill giving particularly amazing views out over Dovedale and the surrounding countryside.

Walk 1 – Dovedale, Baley Hill and Bunster Hill – 7.5 miles

Get the Dovedale, Baley Hill and Bunster Hill  route card here

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A great view even on a dull day.

After parking in the pay and display at the entry to Dovedale (sadly the car park at the entrance to the dale was missing it’s usual grumpy attendant – never make the mistake of asking him about the National Trust!) I was quick out and into the dale, crossing the river at the bridge by the gauging station before marching over Lover’s Leap. There are some amazing limestone rock formations all along Dovedale – and if anyone in your party likes a bit of a scramble the steep slopes are perfect, with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore.

At Dove Holes there was a team of climbers tackling the inside of the cave, then abseiling down from the roofs. They made it look easy work, but I’m not that nimble! Past the caves I was into new territory. As with the busier stretch before the dale is still easy walking with a solid path, but it widens out a touch, with Raven’s Tor looming in the murk to the left, and my target of Baley Hill out of sight up to the right. Viator’s Bridge at Mill Dale made a perfect lunch stop – the village really is as chocolate-box pretty as guidebooks make it sound, even on a gloomy day.

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Mill Dale

After lunch I took the route up the hill towards Baley Hill. All the way to the top it was pretty easy walking on clear paths, with a concessionary route connecting to the access land occupied by the summit. The ridge of Baley Hill forms a series of raised humps of limestone, which are fun to explore – which is just as well as the views were almost none existent! Working south from the summit is The Nabs, where the little humps of limestone expand and form small crags, which descend steeply down towards a side-dale. I followed the ridges straight down hill. For the most part this was fine but steep – however the last section before joining the path back to Dovedale itself was really a bit too steep, requiring me to hang onto the rock and trees to avoid slipping. It’s probably best to skirt along the top of The Nabs until reaching the top of the path near Hanson Grange. The path back down the side-dale is steep, and was very muddy – but being forested it provided something different to the more exposed nature of the rest of Dovedale.

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The limestone outcrops on Baley Hill approaching The Nabs.

Once back at the dale I turned left and headed for Ilam Bridge. My aim was to climb up out of the dale to towards Ilam Tops. The OS maps show a footpath apparently heading from besides Ilam Rock, so I tried to find this. A scramble up past the rock and I found what appeared to be a rough path, so followed it up the hill. It was very steep and direct, but always fairly obvious. At the top the path joins to a more well-worn and clearly planned path. I later found that this path (a newer path added as the old one was so steep?) actually appears in the dale slightly north of Ilam Rock, just before Hall Dale. Even this path is sign-posted as being very steep – but it’s probably the safest bet, especially as this initial part of the route I took required a small amount of very basic scrambling past Ilam Rock.

The path along from the Ilam Tops area towards Bunster is pretty clear, along with some ‘welcoming’ signs making it clear you mustn’t step foot off the approved line – which i’m not entirely sure is the ‘definitive’ line, but there you go. Bunster Hill itself is really just the southern end of Ilam Tops – it doesn’t even merit an addition on hill bagging sites as it’s prominence is so small. However, as with so much of the Peak District, the highest ground isn’t always where the walker wants to be aiming for (not least as Ilam Tops itself doesn’t have any ‘official’ public access – probably a problem considering the signage in the area!).

Like Baley Hill, Bunster is topped with small crests of limestone, which are great for exploring and give it a ‘dragon’s back’ appearance from Ilam (on a clearer day!). The actual summit is within a small copse of trees, but it’s barely any higher than any of the other bumps along the ridge. With no views on show today, I quickly took a fairly direct route down the steep flank of the hill, which is all Access Land. From there it was a short, but very muddy, walk past the Issac Walton Hotel and back to the car park.

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The ‘view’ from the top of Bunster’s south ridge.

 

Walk 2 – Ilam and Dovedale – 7 miles 

Get the Ilam and Dovedale route card here

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View to Dovedale from Ilam Hall – Bunster Hill’s two ridges to the centre, Thorpe Cloud to the right 
And, then, with the sun shining! This walk really highlighted just how amazing the views from the hills surrounding Dovedale are – if you get the weather right! This time round I started from the National Trust car park at Ilam Hall, and once on the Access Land at the foot of Bunster Hill I left the footpaths and headed straight upwards. Bunster Hill has two ridges leading away from it’s summit. One heads south-west to Ilam, while one heads east. If the River Dove hadn’t ripped it’s way through the hill the dramatic peak of Thorpe Cloud would be no more than the end of the eastern spur.

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This is almost the same photo from Bunster as above – but with slightly more of a view!
After taking in the views across to Thorpe Cloud and across the lower Manifold Valley I descended down towards Dovedale itself. It’s steep, but never too steep, and a rough path helps guide the way down.

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Thorpe Cloud – is there a more magnificent small hill?
Heading over Lover’s Leap I started looking out for the path up to the natural arch and Reynard’s Cave. I’d always missed it, concentrating too hard on marching along the valley, so I wasn’t sure if I’d find it difficult to locate. But, just meters into a pretty distinct path (about halfway between Tissington Spires and Pickering Tor), the arch opens out in front of you, like a trick of the eye (think the invisible bridge in Raiders of the Lost Ark!).

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How did I ever miss that?!
To get back out of Dovedale I crossed Ilam Bridge – and passed the start of the ‘easier’ path up towards Ilam Tops (see above). Hall Dale looks to be a dry valley, and slopes fairly gently (by Dovedale standards) up towards Stanshope. There’s evidence of working of the limestone, which is confirmed by the remains of an old limekiln at the top of a concessionary footpath leading from the dale to Damgate.

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Hall Dale
From here it was a simple stroll through the rolling countryside of the lower reaches of the River Manifold’s valley. The views across to wooded hills are a contrast to those in Dovedale, with gentler slopes, more green (especially at this time of year) and more cows! As the Manifold falls into the Dove the walk ended back at Ilam Hall. And I can honestly say there’s no better place to have been walking on a fresh, sunny Spring day.

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Manifold Valley

Dick Hill #RudePeak

It’s not big, and it’s not clever. There’s no hiding from it, this blog is puerile and probably shouldn’t be encouraged. Basically, we’ve been scanning our Ordnance Survey maps for the rudest-sounding places in the Peak District we can find. Like a child searching the dictionary for rude words – but with added walking routes…

The first one’s a cracker we think…

Dick Hill (SE 01509 05272) – 453m summit

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From OS Leisure 1 – Dark Peak – or access via OS Online
Saddleworth War Memorial
Pots n Pans Memorial

Happily for the purposes of our filthy theme for this post, Dick Hill is not only of fair girth at 453m, but it also sports a fine erection, just below it’s summit. The obelisk (at SE 01019 05122) is actually a war memorial, remembering the fallen from Uppermill and other surrounding towns in the two world wars. The monument is commonly known as the Pots n Pans memorial, named after a nearby rock feature said to resemble stacked crockery!

Although it initially looks very impressive, especially when viewed from the right angle at the base, Dick Hill isn’t really a true summit. The hill is a  spur from the higher ground of Saddleworth Moor and Black Hill to the east, nestled between the outskirts of Oldham and the Greenfield valley, which cuts into Saddleworth itself. Still, size isn’t everything, and what it lacks in height it more than makes up for in spectacle, with steep flanks and amazing views over the valleys either side and across to Oldham and beyond.

 

Links to walks, photos and information about Dick Hill:

Dick Hill on Geograph

View from Shaw Rocks
View west from Dick Hill

Dick Hill and Saddleworth Moor walk

Dovestone Rocks (taking in Dick Hill) – 12.5m walk

Pots ‘n’ Pans walk – 5m walk

Dovestones High Level Circuit – 12m walk

UK Trigpointing Entry for the monument

 

 

Re-resolving

First off, before we start, we all have to agree to not notice it’s already nearly March. OK? OK…

In 2016 I set myself a New Year’s Resolution – to do 1000 active miles throughout the year (but, cheating a touch, I included indoor miles in the gym…). I managed to keep up the activity all the way through the year and met my goal, to my own surprise, let alone other people’s (my wife was fairly suspicious I’d been replaced with some kind of replicant – a suspicion only given up when she realised I was still serving no purpose, useful or malign).

I lost some weight. I definitely got much fitter (which had been the goal). But the real bonus was the experiences I had in the great outdoors while clocking up some extra miles. There are are some photos below of some of the sights I would have completely missed out on if I hadn’t shaken myself into the habit of finding extra opportunities to get out and about for a walk, kayak, cycle ride or (and this was the shock) a run.

So, cut to the chase, I’ve set myself the same target for 2017 – but now all the miles have to be outdoors! So, 1000 miles, in any activity, all outdoors. To help me along, I’ve set up 12 challenges to clock up some of these miles – roughly one per month (we’re still all ignoring it’s nearly March right?). If anyone would like to join me on any of these please let me know – though beware, I am a slow coach, especially on a bike!

  1. A competitive canoe/kayak event
  2. Dawn to Dusk walk (December, on the equinox?)
  3. 10km run – anywhere, anyhow!
  4. An overnight canoe/camping trip
  5. Coast to Coast cycle route (in 2-3days)
  6. Do basic climbing course
  7. 100m bike ride (in one day)
  8. Three Lakes Challenge (not in 24 hours mind!)
  9. Striding Edge & Swirrel Edge – something to challenge my fear of heights!
  10. Moorgreen Duathlon – it’s less than a mile away, seems rude not to?
  11. Get onto moving water in a kayak – another challenging the fear one!
  12. 50 hills in a year (based on the UK Hill Bagging site)

Yorkshire 3 Peaks

 

Reaching the summit of Ingleborough, we stumbled around, not knowing where to aim for the final trig point on the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. The bodies appearing out of the mist provided little in the way of help. The scene resembled an apocalyptic zombie film, with saturated, bedraggled and utterly exhausted bodies appearing out of the gloom from seemingly random directions. It was hard to tell if they were also searching out the elusive trig point or on their way back down. It seemed everyone’s internal compass was on the blink, from a combination of low batteries or water damage! Eventually the shelter appeared from the fog and, just beyond it, the trig. The last summit was done – it was all downhill from here. The hard work was over. Little did I know the remaining five miles would be some of the hardest on the route for me…

If Eskimos have 100 words for snow, on the walk that day we needed nearly as many to describe the murk we had to plod through. Fog, mist, cloud, gloo

Pen-Y-Ghent, really trying its best

m – none of them particularly enticing terms for a walk in the country. Especially a 24 mile one. The nearest we got to dramatic views was at the start on the climb up Pen-Y-Ghent. The summit did its level best to fight through the wall of grey, managing for a few brief minutes to provide a dramatic target for that first steep climb. It lost the battle fairly quickly however, and we were in the pea-soup for several hours before we dropped out of the bottom of it near Ribblehead.

Once the rain set in at the 10 mile mark it never really let up. It simply cycled between nasty drizzle and horrendous downpour for the rest of the afternoon. It put in a rousing crescendo on the last drag up Ingleborough, with hail and strong winds doing their level best to sap any remaining reserves of energy.

The last section of the route back to Horton goes through what I’m sure are, on any other day, stunning sections of limestone pavement. Today, the rain had conspired to combine wet slippery rock with even wetter, more slippery mud, to make it a real test – especially for my knees. My right knee (not the one I usually struggle with) took a beating, and was in considerable pain by now. However I was far too tired, wet and close to finishing to put on the knee support which had sat in my bag all day. So I just stomped onwards. If the zombie apocalypse really had occurred on Ingleborough, I’m pretty sure the good townsfolk of Horton would have gone for removing my head believing there was a better-than-average chance I was the infected rather than the heroic survivor I thought I was.

In the end we got round in 10 hours 15 minutes. Which I was pretty pleased with. If the knee hadn’t been playing up I may have ducked under 10 hours. Maybe if the really steep sections of ascent/descent were a touch less under water I’d have skipped over them a bit quicker too. But then, maybe if they were I’d also have taken more time to enjoy the views and had less resolve to get back as fast as was humanly (or zombily) possible. Who knows. I do know that despite the challenges I really enjoyed the walk. It’s a great blend of testing climbs and long sections where you can really get a head of steam up. I’d love to come back again – not with any aim of beating my time. In fact, quite the opposite. I’d much prefer to come back on a dryer, clearer day and take longer so I could really enjoy it.

Walk this route:

routemapThe route for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks is pretty self explanatory – there is now really good waymarking and finger posts on the route itself. There’s also a pretty constant stream of fellow hikers to follow if all else fails. Don’t be put of by that though – I thought it was good to be sharing a trail with so many others, especially one where you are all challenging yourselves – we spoke to a fair few others on the route, sharing experiences of this and other walks.

I’ve converted my Yorkshire 3 Peaks track on Viewranger so it can be downloaded as a route – I got wet, very wet, but we never diverted from ‘the’ route (mostly to avoid any extra time getting wet!), so it does follow the correct path. There are a few other links here too, all with descriptions and maps of the route:

The Yorkshire Dales website also has details of an app for the trail, an online store for souvenirs (the medals being recommended by me – they are copies of the waymarkers seen on posts around the route) and details of how you can contribute to keeping the route in good nick for future walkers too.

Eastwood Round

eastwoodroundcoverWhile looking through some ideas for routes to add to this site I found the draft for a route I’ve walked many times. I first wrote this up nearly 3 years ago, but I last walked it in May. The only bit of the route I had to change was were a ‘ramshackle old barn’ on the hill between Awsworth and Kimberley is now completely gone!

Eastwood is one of those towns on the edge – too rural to be seen as part of any city, but far too urban to be seen as rural. The second of these two is the most unfair. Despite growing hugely in the last 100 years, the town is still surrounded by some gorgeous countryside. 2009 Erewash Valley 008.JPGIt’s great walking territory . But I would say that, as it’s my home town? Well, this 16.5 mile route takes in a pretty wide variety of landcspaes to say you are never more than a mile from a decent sized town. There are green fields aplenty, with paths crossing lovely low hillsides with great views. There’s parkland to start and finish. There’ no shortage of waterside walking, with nature reserves following the ‘flashes’ (large ponds created by open cast working) at Brinsley (great for wildife); three rural canals (in various states of being!) and two rivers/streams. There’s also woodland at various points along the route. Despite it’s length it’s an easy walk too – with much of it along the canals being flat, and low gradients to the hills.

This area of the world isn’t lacking in heritage interest either. The town of Eastwood is very closely associated with DH Lawrence. The writer hated the town, but loved the countryside around it, with many of the locations around the walk being very recognisable in Lawrence’s books. The route also passes the sites of at least eight old collieries too – but you would never guess it now. All that remains are either deliberate reminders, like coal-trucks at Collier’s Wood or the the headstocks at Brinsley, or hints in the landscape which has almost completly returned to green countryside.

The one part I was never quite happy with was the small urban section through Langley Mill. Nothing against Langley Mill, but a busy road isn’t Giltbrook-Greasley 4.11 006.JPGwhat I wanted in the walk. But using the Cromford Canal would still have left road walking and cut out the lovely countryside around Brinsley, while taking the route out past Heanor would have made it a touch too long, and detracted from it being a circular around Eastwood. So, for that mile you’ll have to bear with it – but I promise the rest of it is gold. And you can at least use it to stock up on food and drink in the shops along the high street. Or have a MaccyDs. No-ones judging here.

There’s a map of the route below. But you can also:

  • Access an interactive, zoomable version of the Eastwood Round through Viewranger.
  • Download the PDF version, with full route instructions and information about the points of interest on the route via this Eastwood Round PDF link – or click the cover image above!
  • Download a GPX file – click the Viewranger link above, and download it from the sharing options on there (in the ‘menu’ section – you may need to sign up with Viewranger to access the GPX).

National Trust – Don’t Forget About Access!

They say a week is a long time in politics. And though the recent upheaval the pre-June 23rd UK seems almost a forgotten and distant era though only a month ago. As Brexit becomes ever more the political reality, more and more organisations, like the National Trust, who spoke out in favour of a Remain vote begin to switch focus to attempts to steer Brexit in a positive direction. This is the thinking behind National Trust’s new push to radically renew the system of farming subsidies in the UK.

The trust have released a six point plan for subsidies, shifting away away from production and acreage-based grants to refocus on protecting, restoring and enhancing the natural environment.

The six points are summarised here, but are given in more detail on the National Trust’s Future of Our Farming news article:

  1. Public money must only pay for public goods.
  2. It should be unacceptable to harm nature but easy to help it.
  3. Nature should be abundant everywhere.
  4. We need to drive better outcomes for nature, thinking long-term and on a large scale.
  5. Farmers that deliver the most public benefit, should get the most.
  6. We must invest in science, new technology and new markets that help nature.

I fully agree with each of these points. It’s great to see one of our biggest national conservation charities (and also one of our biggest farmers) making such a bold intervention in this debate.

However…!

I do feel National Trust have missed a very important Point Seven from their list of six:

Facilitating improved access to the countryside for the British public.

 Public funds should be used to facilitate public access

While great strides have been made in opening access to our uplands, moorlands and other ‘open countryside’ to outdoor recreation in recent decades, people are still broadly excluded from a great deal of our lowlands and other areas subject to farming. These area, and the farmers and landowners who manage them, receive a huge amount in subsidies – around £2.5-3 billion in Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments alone. This money comes from the public in the form of taxation – yet the public is excluded from the vast majority of farmland. Attempts to increase public access are heavily resisted by farmers and their representatives. This can be witnessed in the negative response from NFU Cymru to the Welsh Assembly Government’s Green Paper on countryside access.

Of course, a great many farmers and landowners do an awful lot to help walkers and others in the countryside. And many involved in outdoor recreation need to change their attitudes, especially with keeping dogs on leads and respecting property by doing no damage. But all in all farm land presents a potentially incredibly valuable, but under-utilised recreational resource. And one we are all paying to keep going.

DSCF4427.jpgEven the Public Footpaths that do exist in farm land are often treated with contempt by farmers. On a recent walk near Wirksworth, on the edge of the Peak District, a Public Footpath through a farmyard had been completely blocked with taped fencing and locked gates across the legal Right of Way. Being so far from an alternative route I had no choice but to find a way of scrambling over the barriers, and hoping not to meet what was likely to be a hostile farmer. At another point (within a few miles) I came across the pictured sign on a gate – no problem I thought, I have no intention of leaving the path. The only marvernsfarm.jpgtrouble was the path went straight across the middle of the field and hadn’t been maintained. Crops were growing on it, so that the path was invisible. So I had the landowner was making it very clear to me I must stay on the path, while giving me no option but to guess where it was and walk straight through their crop!

The fields in the second picture are by the Malverns, leading up to one of the railway stations walkers can use to access this great range of hills. But the Rights of Way crossing it have been ploughed up, leaving it unclear where a walker should go to either stay on the correct path or even use a route which the farmer might prefer. So the walker is left in the uncomfortable position of just having to strike out across a field and hoping for the best.

Positive Benefits

Although the benefits to outdoor recreation are clear (and all that entails for both physical and mental wellbeing), there are other benefits to increased access to our countryside, and ones that should benefit farmers too.

“No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.” Sir David Attenborough

I love this quote. It sums up so much about what I believe is great about getting people into the countryside. The charge is often made that people from outside the farming/conservation/upland/rural (delete as applicable) communities don’t understand them, leading to conflict, misunderstand and failed policies. Well, how can people be expected to understand something they are actively excluded from? Unless we stand helping people enjoy, responsibly, their countryside, to see it as theirs to protect, how are we to spread the vital messages we to about the issues such areas face?

With such an adversarial situation between outdoor advocates and the farming sector both sides can come across as intransigent. Organisations like Ramblers and Open Spaces Society get criticised for a ‘militant’ approach to the policing of Public Footpaths, especially in opposing changes to the direction of paths. Again – when such paths present one of the few legal ways to access much of our countryside, when our rights to use these was so hard fought for, and when (as described above) they are still so often abused by some (but nowhere near all) landowners, how can we expect otherwise. By having a more liberal approach to  accessing the countryside (see my ideas below), maybe all can work more positively together in the future, with changes being made through cooperative partnerships, rather than through often hostile relationships.

What Access?

These are just my initial thoughts on the ways in which our countryside could be opened up more effectively to outdoor recreation through conditionality in subsidies (or even, blue sky thinking alert, because it’s just a good idea!). Importantly, I don’t believe any of these ideas need have any detrimental effect on farmers. They should, at worst be neutral in impact, and at best create additional opportunities for landowners (e.g. chargeable facilities, cafes etc) should they wish to take advantage.

If anyone has any ideas to contribute to this, please let me know – it would be great to collate them!

Maintenance of footpaths – ensuring and Rights of Way running through land are maintained, open, and welcoming should be a clear minimum condition. This is already a legal responsibility landowners have – so it should be happening anyway. There should be a zero tolerance approach to handing over public funds to any landowner not fulfilling such responsibilities.

Increasing opportunities for access on foot – where possible audits of the local area should be conducted to identify gaps in local provision. For example local beauty spots which are difficult to access; under-resourced activities (e.g. a lack of Bridleways for horse riders or cyclists); or areas with a low density of either Rights of Way or Access Land. Where gaps are identifies landowners should be encouraged to work with other stakeholders to set up new routes, ideally as Rights of Way, but potentially as Permissive routes.

Access on/along rivers / lakes – only 4% of rivers in England and Wales hold a IMG_20160508_152818551b.jpgRight of Navigation which is recognised (or unopposed) by all parties. This has a severe impact on water sports, especially canoeing. In return for public fund
to maintain land, landowners should be obliged to allow canoes to pass along their waterways. Although this doesn’t answer the deeply entrenched issue of whether permission is needed or whether a legal right already exists (see, for example, River Access For All) it would at least allow paddlers to canoe along a huge amount of water with reduced conflict with other groups.

Support access to specific environments for outdoor recreation – these could range from rocks and crags for climbing, or the chance for newer sports like paragliding, abseiling etc to be able to use land for their recreational use.

Thorpe Cloud – Family Mountaineering!

In a couple of weeks I’m off to the Lakes with my family, including a 4 and 2 year old. I’ve been a couple of times the last year or so, but with my canoe club, getting some good long paddles and walks in. But this time I’m particularly excited about theIMG_20160730_135421061.jpg chance to see my kids tick off their first Wainwright with me – a steamer trip to Hallin Fell awaits!

Being so preoccupied with planning a trip to the lakes, I forgot about some of the great family adventure walks in the Peak District. However, last weekend found us in Dove Dale (along with half of Derbyshire – but I love seeing people out!). My four year old was having great fun scrambling on the rocks around the stepping stones, and pointed up at the rocky staircase leading up the flank of Thorpe Cloud – “can we go up there Daddy?” she asked. So we left the rest of the family and our friends to set up a picnic on the meadow, while we headed up the hill.

For a four year old it was perfect – just the right blend of excitement, gradient and achievability. Being a self-declared girly-girl (at four!) it didn’t hurt that the Cloud bares a passing resemblence to ‘the Elsa Mountain’ too! So here’s a map and directions for the walk.

Thorpe Cloud – Route and Directions

ThorpeCloudWalk

Distance – just under 2 miles

Terrain – The way up is steep, some of it on grass, some a bit rocky, but there is hardly any exposure – don’t let kids wander off too far though.

1 – From the car park take the tarmaced path along the river to the stepping stones.

IMG_20160730_140808979.jpg2 – Cross the stepping stones – small children will need a little assistance. Most of the stepping stones are full of fossils, mostly crinoids. Many of the rocks heading up the hill also have fossils in them – and the loose stone too. We found crinoids and various shells just on this small walk.

3 – There is a small rocky staircase leading up the flank of the hill, head up this, allowing younger kids to choose a route up through the limestone. This is the hardest bit of the climb!

4 – Once past the short rocky staircase the route becomes a steep path alternating between grassy and rocky. The path is fairly distinct and winds its way up to a small summit with views across the stepping stones and along Dove Dale.

5 – Follow the path as it leads fairly steeply up the hill to the summit. Thorpe Cloud looks every bit the mini-mountain from here, and is a great challenge for kids – there is no exposure, but don’t let them roam too far from the path!

6 – Explore the summit. The north-west side is just a little craggy, where it feels as though the hill just falls away, which can be a touch scary for younger kids. But there’s plenty to explore and views to see.

7 – If little legs are up to it you can go back down the steep section – but there is a path that leads off to the right down the northern flank of the hill. This is less steep, and possibly quicker as less time will be spent carefully placing each step!

8 – As you come to a dry stone wall the path turns back on itself to the left, heading back to the stepping stones. Don’t cross the walls. There are a couple of sections needing a little care back over the rocks, but these are fun for kids to scramble over.

9 – Back at the stepping stones you can either head off up the dale, if everyone’s legs are still keen, stop for a picnic by the river, or, if heading back stay this side of the river and head along the bottom of Thorpe Cloud.

10 – When you reach a stone bridge over the river cross it and head back to the car park.

(Mapping comes from OpenStreetMap)

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!