Andrew Terrill

The outdoor diary of a writer, photographer, and wilderness wanderer

On Ode to Kinder Scout

A FEW WEEKS AGO I had the great pleasure of talking with author Sarah Lister for her ‘Wild About Kinder’ podcast: HERE. This podcast focuses on one of Britain’s most treasured mountains, Kinder Scout, a unique mountain in a multitude of ways.
For various reasons, I enjoyed taking part in this podcast more than any other I’ve ever been on. Sarah is such a warm and genuine podcast host (which isn’t to say other podcasters aren’t!), and talking with her about a shared love for a specific wild place was curiously pleasurable. Kinder Scout played a prominent if not foundational role in my own outdoor journey, and it was profoundly wonderful to revisit it.
I hope that you’ll give the podcast a listen! But even more than that, I hope that you’ll consider sharing the podcast link with others, especially with others interested in walking in Britain. Sarah’s podcasts are gentle, honest and insightful… and above all they are full of love for nature and people. In my opinion they deserve a wide audience!

Wild About Kinder Podcast

Revisiting those early years on Kinder Scout with Sarah prompted me to pull out a bunch of old photographic prints and slides. Compared with the photos I take these days the quality is low – especially in some of the prints – but I decided that a selection might be worth scanning and sharing here regardless, along with a magazine feature I wrote nineteen years ago to pay homage to Kinder Scout. So, here we go: come join me on a jaunt around one of Britain’s finest mountains…
kinder scout heather
August on the Northern side of Kinder Scout.


An Ode to Kinder
(First published in The Great Outdoors Magazine, August 2005. )

Of claggy days on Peakland moors,

Of muted hues and looming tors,

Of startled grouse that rise and shriek:

“Go back, go back” on to the Peak.


We are on Kinder Scout today, you and me (although we’ve never met before) and we are running the full circuit of the plateau. We’ve adopted a steady and sustainable pace and our feet are skipping along in early-run ease, dancing over rocks and bogs, over heathery clumps and grassy tussocks. The rhythmic swing of our arms perfectly matches the controlled breaths we are trying to take. I don’t know about you, but I feel alive and full of running. I feel as though I could keep going all day…

We’ve only been under way thirty minutes but already this shared run has become the most important part of our lives as though it and nothing else could ever matter. And we are in the hills after all – what could be better than that? As we run east above Edale I sense us both developing a strong connection with this remarkable mountain, a connection that feels utterly different to the one that develops when walking. But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised: a run touches different emotions and stirs the senses in different ways, and through that reveals notably different aspects of a place. Today we are paying less attention to long-distance views and instead are staring more intently at the peat and rocks beneath our feet. It’s fascinating how much you can learn about a mountain when you examine it in this focused way. Somehow, by seeing less, but focusing on details, we are absorbing more.

kinder scout winter running northern edge
A winter run on Kinder Scout.

The plateau stretches away to our left, moody under a dark sky and oozing water. Possibly, it would seem foreboding if we hadn’t spent the last fourteen years learning its secrets. At least, that’s how long I’ve been learning them; for all I know you’ve been wandering Kinder longer and know it better but are simply not letting on. For me, this is where it all began; this was my first real taste of wild country. It intimidated me on those early visits but now I’m as comfortable up here as I’d be in the company of any time-tested friend. I’ve visited Kinder now more times than I can count. I’ve walked, wallowed, run, rested, climbed, jumped, backpacked, sunbathed, slept and even swum up here. And now I’m back once again, sharing it with you…

Our ascent from Edale was a lung-busting, calf-pumping, will-testing haul, but we made it to the tors at Ringer Roger without stopping and now face the pay-off: fifteen view-drenched miles on springy peat with no further sustained climbs. Fell running doesn’t get much better than this: a high-level belvedere route that continues onward for mile after mile after mile.

Kinder Scout Grindsbrook Sunlight Summer
Looking across Grindsbrook Clough to Ringing Roger and the Kinder Scout Plateau.
Kinder Scout climbing bouldering on Ringing Roger
Bouldering on Ringing Roger.

I love running in the mountains, really love it, although no more (and no less) than I love sauntering along carelessly with hands in pockets, or sitting in silent vigil in some wilderness camp, or resting in balance after the crux of some climb. There are as many ways to enjoy mountains as there are mountains themselves, but I do love running in them. It’s like breathing: without it, life wouldn’t be the same.

Today, I’m not running to compete. The time we take is irrelevant. And neither am I running to fulfill the obligation of some fitness regime. No, I’m running because I’m alive, because I have two legs that work, because I can. I’m running for running’s own sake, for the simplicity, freedom and joy of it. I’m running, quite simply, because the world is too full of possibilities to always walk.

I’m also running because travelling without baggage, without even rainwear or water perfectly reflects the way I now feel about Kinder. I’m at home on this spongy tableland: what do I need extra gear for? You, of course, are being arguably smarter – you’re carrying the minimal survival gear everyone should: map, compass, waterproofs, some emergency rations, a lightweight survival bag. But I’m up here to experience the mountain unchained. Over recent years I’ve backpacked too many miles laden like an ox and this is the antidote. There’s a dash of freedom in it that’s beyond measure.

kinder scout winter running
Freedom on Kinder Scout, with the Vale of Edale, Win Hill, Lose Hill and the Hope Valley, below.

The path we are following twists through an insects’ forest of heather and starts bearing north. A grouse explodes from our feet, Bleaklow rolls into view directly ahead and the clouds lower a little, blurring the horizon. At every turn we recognise familiar brush strokes from our favourite mountain masterpiece: heather and bilberry spilling over coarse-grained millstone grit; patterns left by recent rains in beds of soft peat; dark hags curling at the lip like breaking waves; tufts of cotton grass bowing before the wind; small brooks gushing whisky-coloured water. It’s not wide views or big-scale features that define a mountain like Kinder but the small details, the delicate brush strokes that are often overlooked.

 kinder scout gritstone rock detail
Kinder’s details…

Kinder Scout Grindsbrook Morning Light

Kinder Scout gritstone frosted rocks
Frosted gritstone tors.
kinder scout plateau moorland pool
A small boggy pool atop the Kinder plateau.

On my first visit I made my way to the so-called highest point and met a peat-splattered threesome already there. They were moaning in chorus about the non-summit nature of the summit, but were clearly missing the point; if ever there was a mountain that is about more than its summit then this was the one. Kinder is deep cloughs and wind-sculptured crags. It is sphagnum bogs and rough moorland grasses. It is winds to lean into and clags to get lost in; it is dagger rain horizontally flung. It is landing with relief on a gritstone island in a sea of succulent peat and wandering fifty yards to progress just ten. It is curlews and skylarks and golden plovers; it is ragged sheep and darting hares; it is empty spaces and wide skies. On Kinder, the highest point isn’t the point at all.

Kinder scout october 1988 first visit summit
Standing on the so-called summit of Kinder during my first visit, October 1988.
Kinder scout october 1988 first visit plateau
The succulent summit plateau, October 1988.
kinder scout mount famin afternoon
View to Mount Famine on my first Kinder visit.

We trot on in single file, you and me, not talking much, just drifting in and out of the trance that can make a long run such a reliable way to leave behind the ‘ordinary’ modern world. Soon I’m swallowed up by the old elation that threatens to burst free in lunatic-like screams. I look back and you too are grinning like a person unhinged. With each stride I’m reliving past Kinder visits and moments. Each loop in the path and each feature bring old memories back to life. A run around Kinder is like flipping through an album of treasured mountain moments…

I remember the January when I was nineteen and new to the hills and could think of little but being in them. Not willing to waste even a minute of a precious visit to Kinder by sleeping in the valley – and not aware that it was then against regulations – I slept on the plateau instead, bivvying under the stars in a cheap plastic survival bag. By morning I was soaked with sweat and the bivvy bag was furred by frost and plated in ice, but when the sun rose through golden morning mists and time itself seemed to stop the perfection of the moment rendered every discomfort utterly irrelevant.

kinder scout fog morning mist february 1989
Sunrise on Kinder Scout seen from my bivvy bag, January 1989. The sheep came by to inspect the strange human lying on the frosted ground.

I remember the time a full moon and a forecast for clear skies sent me scurrying up for a solitary night hike. I climbed beneath a moon so brilliant the bicycle lamp I carried for light was redundant, but by the time I gained the plateau an impenetrable clag had formed. I swear I could barely see my feet and quickly lost the broad path on Kinder’s southern edge, back then the most churned-up and unlose-able pedestrian thoroughfare in the British hills. But I persevered with my plan and, after three claustrophobic hours, the mountain rewarded me for it: with no warning it shed the clouds until they filled the Vale of Edale with a silver, moonlit sea. I’d lever experienced anything like it – the magic was incomparable. It only lasted five minutes, but it was worth the effort, worth facing the dense nighttime clag. It was even worth the fear that followed two hours later when heavy footsteps and heavier breathing followed me in the fog until I fled the moor as though all the hounds from hell were nipping at my heels.

kinder scout fog morning mist and sun
The sun shinning through drifting fog above Kinder and Edale.
kinder scout winter fog
Approaching winter clag on Kinder’s southern edge.

We run on, you with your memories, me with mine. At the head of Blackden Clough I recall a heat wave when I plunged into the icy pools of Blackden Brook, as well as a winter epic when the clough was a maelstrom of snow. My feet skated on ice, my hands numbed themselves on rocks and turf, and by the time I’d reached the plateau I was soaked to the skin from sweat and snow. Keen to cross Kinder swiftly and thaw out in Edale I stepped onto the plateau – and at that exact moment a flash of lightning and simultaneous CRACK of thunder split the blizzard clean in two. With one foot still in Blacken Clough I spun on the spot and started straight back down. At no time before or since have I changed a route in the mountains quite so fast.

kinder scout plateau woolpacks in winter storm
Rough weather on the edge of the Kinder Plateau during another visit.
Kinder scout plateau in winter fog
It was in conditions just like this that I reached the plateau’s edge, only for lightning to flash. 
kinder scout winter signpost snow
Navigation on and around Kinder isn’t always straight forward.

Today there is nothing severe in the weather, although the clag is forming fast, and by the time we’ve rounded Fairbrook Naze we are well and truly in it. Tors loom and vanish in the fog like barely formed thoughts. Our legs start to feel heavy in the clinging peat; at least mine do – you still look impressively strong. But tiredness is all part of the adventure; if you challenge your endurance a long run can take you through many of the emotions that can also be found during a multi-month backpacking trip. And it can leave you just as renewed by the end.

Our memories continue to chase us. We pass The Edge above Black Ashop Moor, where I enjoyed the best day’s rock climbing I’ve ever had, when sunlight and cloud shadows rolled over moor and valley and I felt in tune with the world and the rock. I remember chasing a rainbow down the Woodlands Valley from here once, too, as well as guiding eight Scouts back across the plateau on a day so hot the peat was dust and once the sun had finally set we could still feel its warmth rising in waves from the hags. We finished at a spring I know that bursts clear from a slope high above Grindsbrook and the Scouts, young lads from the suburbs of London, all said they’d never tasted anything so fine.

kinder scout black ashop moor
The rich light of a summer evening spills across Black Ashop Moor, seen from Kinder’s northern edge.
kinder scout climbing hiking to crag
Climbing partners heading up Fairbrook, with the crags on Kinder’s northern rim rising above.
kinder scout climbing approaching crag
Approaching the looming gritstone crag. The scene is uncannily reminiscent of the crag in Colorado that I now live directly beneath. This similarity brings immense joy.
Kinder Scout Climbing
Friend Martin Storey, who led the route, observing my inelegant battle with the grit. 

We reach Kinder’s western-most point, make a sharp left and pass Kinder Downfall a mile later. Today, the Downfall is flowing as gravity intended – it’s not frozen into organ pipes or blowing skywards in a westerly gale. Today, it spills over gritstone blocks and vanishes into the clag. I can never pass the Downfall or look out towards Hayfield without paying homage to all the mass trespassers and access warriors both past and present who have risked being labelled criminals by the ruling classes for fighting for something that is, in truth, a natural moral right. This right to access nature and to wander at will up here is something I will never take for granted. (Kinder mass trespass.)

kinder scout downfall
Kinder Downfall flowing in ‘upfall’ mode. Fierce winds blowing from the west are common.
kinder scout downfall winter thaw
Somewhere, I have a set of slides showing the Downfall frozen – but I can’t lay my hands on them. This shot, during a thaw, at least has walkers in place to add some scale.
kinder scout hayfield reservoir
The Downfall amphitheatre seen from Hayfield Reservoir, near the scene of the famous mass trespass of 1932.

My running becomes laboured on the path to Kinder Low, but energy returns a little on the southern edge. We are on the home stretch now and, although I reckoned earlier I could run all day, I’m now glad that I’ll soon be able to stop. We pass Edale Rocks, Noe Stool, the Wool Packs, The Pagoda, Pym Chair – all old friends, each known down to the smallest detail. And even the clag has details. It’s not a monotonous blanket of heavy greyness but a fascinating world of suspended droplets that swirl in unseen currents and give substance to the air itself. My home now lies five-thousand miles from Kinder in an environment that’s the next driest thing to a desert, and I miss the clags intensely. I yearn, sometimes, for dampness, long to feel its touch on bare skin. And yet back when Kinder’s mists first wrapped themselves around me I barely gave them a second thought. Or, if I thought anything, it was resentment for an obscured view, and fear at the idea of becoming lost. I considered this as I ran, marvelling at the treasures offered by Kinder, ‘ordinary’ treasures that can so easily be overlooked.

the woolpacks on Kinder Scout
The Moat Stone in the heart of the wonder-filled woolpacks area on Kinder Scout.
kinder scout gritstone outcrops december 1988
Gritstone tors in the fog.
kinder scout gritstone moat stone close up
The Moat Stone.
Kinder scout gritstone summit map check
A check on navigation, sheltered from a thuggish moisture-laden wind.

After running the rim of Grindsbrook Clough we arrive back where we started at Ringing Roger. We’ve completed the circuit in a fraction of the time it once took to walk it and Kinder seems smaller as a result and no longer so daunting. But the knowledge we’ve gained of the hill from moving swiftly is worth a thousand times more that anything that might have been lost. Kinder might present a stern face to the world, but when you get to know the mountain it shows a softer side. It’s like gritstone itself: tough on the weathered surface but fragile within.

We fly on the· descent, exhilarated and never more alive, laughing aloud as we take great bounding strides, moving faster than we probably should if safety were our only concern. Once we reach Edale I feel I could explode from the joy of what we just did and, feeling childishly defensive of ‘my mountain’, I check to see if you feel the same. But you’re playing it cool. “That wasn’t so bad,” you murmur dismissively, before a big grin cracks your face and gives the game away.

Kinder Scout edale winter sunset december 1990
The Vale of Edale in winter.
kinder scout edale
Edale village on a frosty morning.

Later, wallowing in campsite laziness, we try to pin down the thing that keeps drawing us back. It’s not because Kinder is particularly high, although it can give feel high and without doubt give ‘big mountain days’. And it’s not for unspoiled nature either, because Kinder is noticeably poorer for recent centuries of heavy-handed use. (Much of which has since been addressed since I was last on Kinder by Moors For the Future). No, we finally decide we keep coming back for the same basic reason that has kept tens of thousands of bogtrotters and several generations returning: for the absolute freedom of it. Freedom to be ourselves; freedom to throw off the shackles of the work-day week and the human world; freedom to find our place in nature; yes, freedom – it’s what the mountain stands for. ‘Kinder  Scout’ should be listed in the dictionary as the very definition of the word.

On Kinder Scout, feet can roam as freely as thoughts wander through the head, and in a nation as crowded as Britain’s such a place is beyond value.


A bitter place, of seeping grouphs,

And clinging peat and streaming cloughs,

And northern grit; it’s all I seek,

Go back, I will, on to the Peak.


A few extra photos…

kinder scout winter sunset and fog
A winter sunset on Kinder.
kinder scout plateau frosted peat hags
Frosted peat after a biting-cold night.
Kinder Scout Edale foggy day December 1988
Kinder looming in the fog above Edale. Typical conditions experienced many, MANY times.
Kinder Scout plateau crossing peat grouphs
Descending into a peat grouph. Certain areas of the plateau are a maze of these deep, twisting channels.
kinder scout plateau doctors gate
Stormy weather at Doctor’s gates along the infant River Kinder atop the plateau.
kinder scout fog hikers december 1988
Typical conditions. Walkers passing the clag, December 1988.
kinder scout winter sunset tors
Late day light on the southern edges.
Kinder Scout Grindsbrook Taking a break
Taking a break up Grindsbrook Clough. Photo taken in the late nineties I’d guess.
 Kinder Scout Upper Grindsbrook summer
Nearing the top of Grindsbrook Clough. A rugged place.
kinder scout upper grindsbrook clough winter
Grindsbrook in winter.
Kinder Scout Upper Grindsbrook
Walkers for scale!
peak district moorland waterfall
Kinder can be a wet place! Small waterfall up Blackden Clough.
Kinder Scout Grindsbrook with my Dad January 1989
A short stroll up Grindsbrook with my Father, January 1989.
kinder scout winter sunset and fog rock
Winter sunset.
kinder scout edale Nags Head
The Old Nags Head beneath Kinder – at the start of the famous Pennine Way.
kinder scout sitting on rocks cropped
At home on Kinder’s northern edge.

For those interested in walking on Kinder Scout, Sarah Listers new guidebook will provide an invaluable introduction. The book describes fifteen varied walks that lead to some of the mountains most special places, many of them places that most visitors miss. Sarah lives beneath Kinder and her love of the mountain shines through in her words and stunning photos. The book is available here: Mountain Walks Kinder Scout. For more information about Sarah, please visit her websites, About The Adventure and Wild About Kinder.

FINAL NOTE: I owe a great debt of gratitude to The Great Outdoors magazine. Firstly, for educating me on outdoor ethics and inspiring me through compelling features back in the late eighties when I was a novice backpacker. And secondly, for taking a chance on me as a new writer in 2000 and publishing my early work. Without that support I may never have developed my own writing craft or gained the confidence to write my two books. Since I first picked up The Great Outdoors, other outdoor magazines have come and gone. But TGO is still going strong, even after more than 40 years. Perhaps it has succeeded because it’s remained true to its roots over the decades, because it genuinely is written by walkers for walkers. The magazine has long been considered the UK’s leading authority on hillwalking and backpacking, and for good reason. If you haven’t ever picked up a copy or subscribed, I hope you will! TGO.


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