A strenuous walk around Kinder Scout in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District, taking in 6 different ascent routes including the four brooks of Blackden Brook, Grindsbrook Clough, Crowden Clough, and Fair Brook. This walk doesn’t include the actual summit of Kinder Scout although it can easily be included with a small diversion.
Length: 17 miles
Start: A57: Blackden Brook lay-by
Area: Peak District – Dark Peak
GPX File: Download
Kinder Scout – (Height: 636m, Drop: 496m)
Other POI: Blackden Brook, Edale Moor, Nether Tor, Ringing Roger, The Nab, Grindsbrook Clough, Grindslow Knoll, Crowden Clough, Wool Packs, Noe Stool, Edale Rocks, Kinder Low, Red Brook, Kinder Downfall, River Kinder, Sandy Heys, Upper Red Brook, Nether Red Brook, The Edge, Fairbrook Naze, Fair Brook, River Ashop
As I have a few challenge walks coming up this year, I felt that it was time to start increasing the mileage and the intensity of my walks again after a relatively easy going winter (excluding the Yorkshire 3 Peaks at night walk I did in January). I had given some thought in previous months to doing a few walks this year on Kinder Scout, using some of the ascent routes that I hadn’t done before. I decided to make it a real challenge by devising a route that included as many of these routes as possible in a single walk. The plan was to ascend Blackden Brook, cross the plateau, descend the Path at Ringing Roger, head straight back up via Grindsbrook Clough, descend again at Grindslow Knoll, up Crowden Clough, and finally a last descent via Fair Brook after making my way clockwise around the edges. The previous night brought down a lot of rainfall on Kinder and so I was expecting plenty of water on the brooks.
Blackden Brook and Edale Moor
I parked in the lay-by near the bottom of Blackden Brook on the A57 at around 7am. Due to it having been so wet recently, I fully expected to get caked in mud at some point during the walk, but I did not expect it to happen so quickly. Within a minute of leaving the car, whilst making my way down the wet grassy slope from the A57 to the River Ashop, I lost my footing and slid a metre down the slope on my side. The whole side of me from shoulder to foot was caked in mud already! Cursing, I got up and told myself that things can only get better from this point onwards.
I crossed the footbridge over the river and continued up the obvious path that follows Blackden Brook. The rivers were in full flow and it wasn’t long before that started to cause me problems as the route required a number of stream crossings. Stepping stones were hard to trust covered in green slime, and others were completely submerged. With a few daring leaps, I managed to continue up the brook. A mist was visible higher up towards the Kinder Plateau, and the air felt very still. The lovely Winter mixture of brown and green colours were still on show, with not too much evidence of Spring yet. As I continued higher up the brook, more and more gushing waterfalls started to appear that were spectacular to see. What wasn’t spectacular to see was the dog poop left on the path in multiple places.
Eventually I arrived on Kinder Scouts north edge, in the mist, and loved the eerie atmosphere. As yet, I hadn’t seen another soul and felt like I had the whole of Kinder to myself. I love that feeling. I started to make my way across the plateau towards the south edge, following a track of sorts over a barren landscape of peat groughs. If it felt eerie back on the edge, the feeling was even more intense here on Edale Moor. The exposed peat, for the most part, seemed reasonably firm to walk on despite looking anything but. I say ‘for the most part, because there was one moment where my leg suddenly disappeared in the peat up to the knee! It took me by surprise a little bit as I’d started to take it for granted that the ground was ok. It didn’t take long at all before I’d crossed the plateau and arrived at the south edge, near Nether Tor.
Ringing Roger and Grindsbrook Clough
Not long after reaching the south edge, the mist suddenly cleared and the wonderful view over Edale to the Great Ridge opened up. Conveniently, the view also opened up to Ringing Roger, and I could clearly see the path running along the hillside from the head of Golden Clough. For the descent, there are two options. Option One: head straight down the path from the head of Golden Clough. This is the one I chose. Option Two: continue around the edge to the outcrop known as Ringing Roger, then scramble down the rocks, eventually meeting the same path. The path down is straight forward enough, and it’s where I encountered the first person I’d seen since leaving the car. It’s not long before you’ve zig-zagged your way to the bottom, where it meets the path to Grinds Brook.
The Grindsbrook Clough trail heads over a quaint wooden bridge before following the brook back up to Kinder Scout. Despite the amount of times I’d been walking in this area before, I’d always somehow managed to avoid missing this popular route. There’s a simple path for most of the way, with some extremely minor scrambling over boulders near the top. In terms of scenery, up at the top of the right hand slopes of Grindsbrook Clough is Kinders south edge and Upper Tor. Up the left hand slope is Grindslow Knoll. Near the top, I found that the brook forked and I wasn’t sure which was the best route to take. The right fork is apparently a more interesting scramble. I wish I’d have known that at the time, as I decided on the left fork which wasn’t quite as interesting a route as I hoped for. I should probably add that there was a lot of water. On dry summer days, it’s probably possible to actually walk along the brook itself in many places. On this particular day however, I’d have needed waders if I wanted to keep dry feet. Dryish anyway as I’d noticed around this point that water was getting into my boots. Not much, but enough to feel it.
Grindslow Knoll and Crowden Clough
Once at the top of Grindsbrook Clough, I circled around onto Grindslow Knoll. There are 2 paths here. One of them follows the edge of Grindsbrook Clough and around the left hand side of the knoll. The other starts a little bit further on and heads to the right of the knoll. It’s this second path that I took. I was tempted to climb to the top of Grindslow Knoll for the view, however I was also aware of time ticking away and so ultimately decided to miss it and stick to the designed route. The path veered slightly to the right, skirting around the knoll, and slowly descended grassy moorland that was in much better condition to walk upon than Kinders peaty plateau. The path eventually veers to the right again and heads down the steep hillside. I say path but it’s more like a grassy drainage ditch that zig-zags down to the bottom. I’m not sure if the path is supposed to follow this along it’s edge, but it wasn’t really visible on the day. I put my faith in my Ordnance Survey map though and followed it to its end. At the bottom is a walled off wooded area. The choice of paths is either left or right, following the wall. Left will take you back towards Edale, and meets up with the Pennine Way route. Right takes you to Crowden Clough, and that’s the option I took.
Crowden Clough was simple to begin with, the same as Grinds Brook. Things, however, started to get interesting in the top section where the paths gave way and the brook was the only option to go forward. The climbing here is a bit more adventurous than what I encountered on Grinds Brook, however there was a path on the left that gradually rose up the side of the clough for those who wished to give the climbing a miss. Interestingly, this path wasn’t visible on the OS maps despite it being very well defined. Once in the brook, it required a couple of careful crossings in order to keep progressing until the waterfalls were reached. These appeared to be in full flow and made a great sight. I took the interesting way up the first small waterfall – actually up the fall itself, and had to stick my knee in a pool to get me up. I was feeling invincible in my waterproof trousers, being worn for the first time since the Welsh 3000s challenge a couple of years back. The second waterfall was bigger, and an obvious climbing route ascended on it’s left. It looks daunting at first but the handholds are large and so conveniently placed, it leaves you wondering if they were put there by design. This was definitely my favourite little part of the walk so far. The brook went on for a little bit further but didn’t look interesting enough to tempt me on so I escaped up the left hand slope and continued on my journey. There was quite a way to go yet.
Kinder Low, Kinder Downfall, and Fair Brook
Onwards I went, following Kinder Scouts edge clockwise. I walked, or rather, squelched past the Wool Packs (a collection of weather worn gritstone formations) where the ground was in traditional boggy condition. Eventually, Edale Rocks were visible up on the right, and this is where I headed. From a distance, the rocks reminded me a little of Windgather Rocks in the South West Peak – a place that I visited fairly recently. I went around the rocks on the right, using every bit of willpower I had not to get tempted into climbing them, and continued to the Kinder Low trig point. Two things had changed by this point. There were more people walking around on the plateau – not many, but enough to let me know that the hill was no longer mine. And secondly, the sun had come out, the sky was blue, and all of a sudden it felt like a completely different day. The wind was still pretty harsh though, and was playing havoc with my attempts at keeping the camera still whilst taking photos.
I continued following the edge and was now on the west side. Lovely views down to Kinder reservoir were on my left, which could only mean one thing. Kinder Downfall was coming up soon! I was looking forward to seeing it in full flow as it had virtually dried up the last time I came. It didn’t disappoint, and I could hear the roar of the water crashing down from quite a way off. As the wind was up too, it was creating a blow-back that, combined with the sun, created a rainbow effect. Stunning. I crossed the River Kinder and continued around the edge. The blow-back effect looked even more spectacular from this angle but my camera unfortunately didn’t pick this up as well. It came out slighty blurred due to the wind making it impossible to keep still. It was around here that I had my second fall of the day and went sprawling onto the ground. Luckily I only ended up with a muddied hand this time, but embarrassingly it happened in front of somebody. Oh well.
I continued following the edge until I reached the north-west corner of the plateau. This is where the Pennine Way descends again, should you happen to be following it. Mill Hill and the Snake Path are visible below. I continued eastwards, along a section of the edge named simply as ‘The Edge’ on the Ordnance Survey map, but I’ve heard some people refer to it as ‘Black Ashop Edge’. I had a little look at Nether Red Brook as it’s a scramble I’d like to do when I return next time, and then continued around Fairbrook Naze (a fantastic viewpoint) and to the head of Fair Brook. This was probably the least exciting of the four brooks I’d done so far, but it’s simplicity was very much appreciated as my legs felt like jelly. My traditional plan of hiking all day on 2 bottles of water and 500 calories of food was backfiring once again. The scenery looked fantastic as the sun lowered, but was proving difficult for my camera to capture due to the high contrast between sun and shadow. The path lead all the way to the bottom without drama, where I continued through a wooded area to the A57. From here, I had quite a long walk back to the car along the busy road, which felt more dangerous than anything I had encountered during the walk. I’ve since found out that this was the wrong option! Apparently there’s a way back to the bottom of Blackden Brook without going onto the road, but the path is not marked on the OS maps. It means crossing the bottom of Fair Brook just before it hits the River Ashop. Start on the path at the other side which ascends Gate Side Clough, and just where it starts to steepen, veer off to the left and follow a sheep track along the side of a wall which will take you all the way back to Blackden Barn. The path should run more or less parallel to the River Ashop.
A fantastic days walking and worth all the effort. Look out for the sequel later this year: Four Brooks to Bleaklow!
Tip of the day: I received this afterwards from somebody on the Dark Peak Facebook group. Carry a couple of folded up builders rubble sacks in your bag. They’re lightweight and don’t take up much space. If you need to cross a river, stick one leg in each bag and wade across. Simple and effective, not to mention cheap!
Walk completed on 8th March, 2017
Map and Elevation Data:
GPX file for the walk
Photo album on Flickr
Kinder Scout – Wikipedia page
All about the Kinder mass trespass
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