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The history of Kinder, Edale and the High Peak

View from the top of Kinder Downfall in the Peak District, Derbyshire
View from the top of Kinder Downfall in the Peak District, Derbyshire | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The gorges, valleys, caves and gritstone edges that you see today in the Peak District took millions of years to form – but this vast and peaceful landscape also has a more recent turbulent history. Read about the Kinder Scout protests that led to the creation of the UK’s first National Park and discover snippets of history from Mam Tor and the Upper Derwent Valley.

Kinder Mass Trespass

From the 1800s, workers from industrial areas of North England came to the Peak District by the trainload to enjoy the fresh air and escape the pressures of life in the factories and mills. However, much of the land in the Peak District was privately owned, and landowners had strict rules in place which meant that walkers could only access a limited amount of open countryside.

In 1932, a group of around 400 people from Greater Manchester met in Hayfield and attended a rally at Bowden Bridge Quarry, where Benny Rothman addressed the crowd about the injustice of not being able to access the open moor of Kinder Scout. About 200 people made their way up William Clough, where they were confronted by local bailiffs and gamekeepers.

Following this confrontation, a number of the protesters were arrested and sent to prison on the charge of ‘riotous assembly’. This event become known as the Kinder Mass Trespass.

The UK's first National Park

The Kinder Mass Trespass, along with the other trespass protests in the area, led to a political will to allow access onto the open moor and ultimately the creation of the UK’s first National Park, the Peak District, in 1951. The National Park then negotiated agreements with private local landowners for the creation of ‘open country’ which gave people far more freedom to enjoy the countryside; something that thankfully lives on today.

View from William Clough, on the flanks of Kinder Scout, Derbyshire
View from William Clough, on the flanks of Kinder Scout | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The People’s Landscape Project

With the fight for access deeply embedded in the landscape’s history, the Peak District was one of five National Trust places to take part in the People’s Landscape Project in 2019. The project marked 200 years since the massacre of peaceful protesters at Peterloo in Manchester, and aimed to uncover stories of passion and protest beneath the surface of National Trust places.

The People’s Landscape Project brought people and artists together in the countryside for a national series of creative events and exhibitions, exploring the history of these landscapes. Working with renowned artist Jeremy Deller and musician Jarvis Cocker, the High Peak team developed a creative programme inspired by the 1932 Kinder Mass Trespass.

Be kinder to Kinder

The BE KINDER walking trail was created to encourage people to think about the importance of being kind to this incredible natural habitat, as well as honouring the individuals who fought for our rights of way; allowing future generations to enjoy and protect this spectacular landscape for years to come.

Walkers started their journey with a burst of music on Ruth Ewan’s jukebox which played songs inspired by passion and protest, including ‘The Manchester Rambler’ by singer-songwriter Ewan McColl, which he wrote following his participation in the trespass. Other surprises on the trail included a ‘Cinebarn’ with a tiny rural screen showing a selection of film clips by great directors and amateurs, inspired by the Kinder Scout landscape. Passages from the Derbyshire-based novel ‘Reservoir 13’ by Jon McGregor were hidden for people to discover.

Musician Jarvis Cocker said: 'This project is about reinforcing the original trespassers’ message: the landscape belongs to everyone – whilst making the point that the preservation of the landscape has now become EVERYONE’S responsibility.'

'Be kind to the landscape. Be kind to the environment. Then stop, close your eyes for a moment and think of how to be kinder. To Be Kinder. Thank you.’

– Jarvis Cocker, Musician

Looking after Kinder

Today the National Trust looks after Kinder Scout, having acquired the moorland in 1982. As well as continuing to provide access to the moorland, the Trust’s 50-year High Peak Moors Vision Project includes encouraging wildlife by developing habitats for them to live in, more trees and shrubs in the valleys nearby and restoring peat bogs, which play an important role in capturing and locking away carbon, as well as being an important place for wildlife.

View of Rushup Edge from Mam Tor at Kinder, Edale and the Dark Peak, Derbyshire
View of Rushup Edge from Mam Tor at Kinder, Edale and the Dark Peak | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The history of Mam Tor

Elsewhere in the High Peak of Derbyshire stands Mam Tor, a 517m hill in Castleton whose name means ‘mother hill’ – so called because frequent landslides have created smaller hills beneath it. These landslides also give Mam Tor another name: the ‘shivering mountain’.

Since before the Bronze Age, Mam Tor has been used as a defensive structure. Iron Age settlers built imposing hill forts on its summit, and Iron Age quern stones discovered in the area suggest it was once used for extensive arable farming.

Upper Derwent Valley

If you’re visiting the Derwent Valley, you’ll discover two impressive, Gothic-style dams at Howden and Derwent Reservoirs. These were built from 1912 to 1916, using 1.2 million tons of stone from Bole Hill Quarry, a once-industrious part of Longshaw in the Peak District.

In 1943, the Howden and Derwent reservoirs were used at stand-ins for the Ruhr dams of industrial Germany, with RAF bomber pilots flying secret practice runs along the Upper Derwent Valley.

Two children sitting on the big stones at Back Tor, Edale, Derbyshire overlooking the stunning view.

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