In the Footsteps of the Manchester Rambler
Having parked near the visitor centre and crossed the by-pass into Hayfield village proper, we go down the side of the parish church and turn right onto Highgate Road following the signs to the Pennine Bridleway. Keeping the river to our left we follow the bridleway for a mile or so before taking a left fork to leave and join the footpath to Coldwell Clough towards the high ground. We spend a bit of time catching up with each other's news, enquiring about the health of other family members and reminiscing about January's trip to Prague, Dresden and Berlin. As the footpath begins to rise the views are awesome, I can't help thinking we are walking on hallowed ground and call to mind the folk song about the mass trespass on Kinder Scout on 24th April 1932 to secure the right to roam these fantastic hills. We start to speculate about the prospect of seeing the "white hare in the heather" or the "curlew flying high overhead", or of meeting the gamekeeper looking after the grouse on the moor. There are some large birds over to our right surfing the gale force winds but we decide these are Lapwings, it's probably the wrong time of the year for Curlews. Folk music is an entertaining way of learning about historical events without reading dry books, it can be fun but it does have hidden dangers. Like train-spotting it can turn a perfectly normal person into an anorak overnight, seek help immediately if you grow a pony tail and start to wear sandals. Not a very old song “The Manchester Rambler” was made popular in the sixties and seventies by the Spinners, Mike Harding and others. The story made a big impression on me and still brings back pleasant memories of the folk nights at Aspull Rugby Club where, fuelled up on Chester's mild we would join in the chorus, not always tunefully. Because it contained only two chords I found it rather easy to play on the guitar and I would sit for hours on the edge of the bath singing about “the maid, a spot welder by trade, who was fair as the Rowan in bloom”, naively thinking the Downfall was the incessant rain often found in the Pennines. Of course my lack of musical talent, rather limited and morbid repertoire, raucous bellowing delivery and the enthusiastic but monotonous mechanical scratchings masquerading as guitar accompaniment never got me invited to parties. Quite the reverse actually, I was sometimes quite alarmed at the effect my singing could have on people and to preserve relationships with family and friends I realised it would be wise to restricted my singing to the bathroom, taking advantage where I could of periods when Ann was out shopping, the children were elsewhere and the neighbours away at the caravan.
Naturally enough I have always wanted to follow in the footsteps of those early pioneers and climb Kinder. Were they justified in their efforts to secure access, would the scenery live up to how I have imagined it over the years? I've waited a long time for this, put off mainly by miserly tendencies (Ordnance Survey maps cost pounds!) and the difficulties in getting to Derbyshire from Wigan, it's easier to get to London than to cross the A6 near Stockport. However today is the day and the dream is about to become reality. As the footpath rises to Oaken Clough and Edale Cross, the sky over head looks threatening and a gale force wind is blowing in from the west, the cloud is high though and we are hopeful of at least keeping dry. At the signpost we ignore the sign to Jacob's Ladder and Edale and turn left to follow the Pennine way ascending to Kinder Low. No sandwiches in my rucksack just water, Ann's let us down this time, the fridge was empty and I drove past the shops where we might have bought food, we're beginning to feel a little peckish now. Catherine has half a Twix, a bag of cheese and onion crisps and an apple which she bought for a snack at the motorway services on the way up from London yesterday. She offers to share them with me, I take one crisp and say I'm not all that hungry, knowing she can become a little tetchy when she's not properly fed. After following the path across the large peaty plateau with Kinder Scout over to the right we arrive at Kinder Downfall, it's just a trickle today though and the strong wind is blowing it up as a spray into our faces. The view over Kinder reservoir and beyond is tremendous we are not disappointed, we'd like to linger a little longer but the wind is rather chilly and by now the old legs are slightly weary - its not easy this walk. We follow the path round to the left finally descending to the head of William Clough which will be our route back into the valley.
Beyond Kinder Reservoir the path rises again to take us over Middle Moor, in doing so it saps the very last ounces of energy from the body. It's here we see strategically placed white shooting huts and wonder what precautions are in place to prevent ramblers like ourselves being caught in the cross fire during the shooting season. We spot some Grouse on the moor which have obviously survived last season's shooting fixtures and are enjoying a short spell of freedom before the artillery starts up again later in the year. Dark birds with a red crest and a fan tail I assume they are black grouse which, we are told somewhat ironically thrive on a diet of insects, shoots, buds, catkins and berries. They are however disturbing the peace and tranquility of the moor with the most dismal cacophony of sound imaginable, as if we have stumbled into a family dispute between the older generation and a nest of stroppy teenagers. As we make the final descent to the village across the grassy meadows we still haven't seen "the white hare in the heather" or "the Curlew flying high overhead" but at least we've “stood on the edge of the Downfall (not too near mind you, it was windy!) and seen all the valley outspread”. What a grand day, tired and hungry we stop off at the shop for a Mars bar and limp the last few feet to the car. As we take our boots off Catherine wonders where Crowdon is, I refuse to think about anything else until we've had some food.
Palfreyman September 2016.
Farthingale Publications:... Is a hobby web site containing articles of local interest to Lancastrians, some favourite walking and cycling routes, selected words and poetry, and some writings of more general nature as well as the authors own picture gallery. Access is available via the homepage and menu at the head of the page.