Short Edale Circuit
December 8th: There were ill omens before we set off - freezing weather closing in, forceful winds, risk of rain - and then we counted that there were thirteen of us assembled for the walk. Our intended route was an ascent of Kinder Scout by Grindsbrook Clough, from Edale - Kinder being not only the Peak District's highest and least populated area, but also the most bracing. If a wind is blowing somewhere in the area, Kinder is guaranteed to get it, and usually get it good & strong. The group responded to the challenge by embracing the positive aspects of our outing: a good turnout, a historic and celebrated route, and the promise of a warm pub at the end.
The location for the walk has its own significance, this year being the 70th anniversary of the first Mass Trespass, in April 1932, by the forerunner of the Ramblers association. Several hundred ramblers strode out from Hayfield onto Kinder's then private moorlands, to be met by gamekeepers; several ramblers ending up arrested, but in the long term succeeding in their aim of getting the moors open to the public.
Andrew had bravely taken on the mantle of guide for the walk, and led us along the initial stone flagged path up the valley through what seemed at times a mass of other walkers - perhaps, like us, trying to avoid the crowds of Christmas shoppers in the city. En route we came across a grouse sat in a hawthorn tree, looking over the procession of walkers passing just below, coy but unruffled. Not quite a partridge in a pear tree, but perhaps it was Christmas in the air, even out here. The broad path narrows and ends up in a slight scramble over the upper rocks of the Grindsbrook stream bed, a sort of last challenge before the reward of reaching the plateau. All the other walkers mysteriously vanished once we had reached the summit. We crossed the top through the descending mist to join the path which skirts Kinder's southern edge, which is decorated with obscurely shaped eroded boulders, resembling a Henry Moore sculpture exhibition.
The ground became frozen, and water dripping off grass overhanging the banks formed delicate icicles. Some of the group developed decorative ice-crystals in their hair, as the mist condensed and froze. There may not have been much of a view, but there was a great sense of space on the top. A space you could get lost in! As the mist set in Dan and I tried to pick out the route we believed we knew from previous trips up Kinder. Fortunately we were right, as Dan & I later realised we were both new to the group, each thinking the other was carrying the trust of the group earnt from familiarity. Andrew's willingness to go with our advice, and the good will of the group, were, fortunately, not misplaced. During the course of the day we came to realise that there were a few new faces amongst the group, showing that the appeal of organised, social walking is enough to attract hardy souls in all weathers and all seasons.
As we started our descent we encountered, as if by magic, two other group members (Roger & Cathy?) who were in the middle of a mammoth 17 mile excursion which put our 8 mile jaunt into perspective. It was now just a steady, muddy tramp down out of the mist, and the group stretched into an extended straggle of chatterers, spurred on by encouraging shouts of 'It's only 20 / 10 / 5 minutes now to the pub!' The conquering heroes then conquered a few coffees, beers and chip butties, for good measure, and headed back down into the city, safe in the knowledge that a day spent out on the hills is far more rewarding than a day spent shopping, or in front of the tele, even when its spent squelching through mud in freezing fog.
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