The Trespass Trail Part 1: New Mills to Kinder

Published 28 September 2016

Trespass Trail waymark

On 24 April 1932 an event occurred that has now obtained near legendary status.

It was, of course, the day of the Kinder Mass Trespass; the day when something like 400 and 500 people, mostly residents of Manchester, partook in an act of wilful trespass and attempted to make their way up onto Kinder Scout; land that, at the time, they had no legal right to walk over.

What happened on that day, and after, boosted public support for opening up the countryside, and eventually lead to landowners being required to open up their land to the public. And in 2007 a special walking route, the 14 mile long Trespass Trail, was opened commemorating it all.

And on a sunny Friday in May, I headed out to the Peak District to explore it, and to walk a little bit of history.

Lane down to the River Goyt in New Mills
The path down to the Goyt at New Mills

New Mills is, as you might expect from the name, an old mill town. In fact the town’s name comes from a mill, although not one of the town’s cotton mills from the Industrial Revolution era; no, New Mills is older than that. In fact the town’s name is derived a corn mill erected 1391. That mill was called New Mylne, and you can guess the rest.

Today the town’s better known as the home of the Plain English Campaign, and for the products of Swizzels Matlow, who have made sweets such as Love Hearts in the town ever since 1940 when the company relocated out of Hackney in London when their factory was bombed out in the Blitz. But that’s not all, for the town is also the start, and the end, of the Trespass Trail.

The Trespass Trail’s a circular walk, and sets off from the town’s Heritage Centre; a small museum and information complex that tells much of the story of the town’s growth from a series of hamlets known as Bowden Middlecale, to the post-industrial town that exists today.

Sign for New Mills Heritage Centre
Sign for New Mills Heritage Centre

It might even speak a little about the town’s small role in the Kinder Trespass story, but to find out I would have needed to hang around the town for an hour and a half for the place to open, and I had walking to do. It was time to get going.

For much of its length, the Trespass Trail follows other way-marked trails; the first of which is a ten mile walking trail along the River Goyt known as the Goyt Way; the river’s name being derived from the old word “goit”, meaning a channel of water. Incidentally if you think the word “Goyt” sounds familiar and you’re not entirely sure why, then you’ve probably watched at least one episode of sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf. Writers Rob Grant and Doug Naylor The river’s name was used in several episodes as a psuedo-swearword by the programme’s writers Rob Grant and Doug Naylor in several episodes. Do they mention that in the New Mills Heritage Centre? Well how am I supposed to know? Like I said, it hadn’t opened for the day when I was there

The Trespass Trail joins the Goyt Way at perhaps its most impressive point as the river makes its way through a narrow, 21m gorge called the Torrs. It’s stunning to look up the high cliffs, knowing that there’s a town up there, somewhere, whilst you are hidden away in this narrow crack in the ground. And if that existing was spectacular enough, there’s even old mills down there. Some are long ruined, but the 18th century Torr Vale Mill still remains and continues to house businesses to this day.

The start of the Millennium Walkway in New Mills.
The start of the impressive Millennium Walkway at New Mills

Although the Torrs is narrow and full of a fast flowing river, it’s possible to walk through it thanks to the opening of the Millennium Walkway in 1999. Partly supported by pillars arising from the river bed, and partly by being attached to a large retaining wall, it’s a fantastic and dramatic way to start a walk.

After that, the Torrs Riverside Park (a delightfully reclaimed sewage works) and the endearingly named Mousley Bottom local nature reserve were a lot more sedate, although not to say un-enjoyable, although a part of me was wondering where the links to the Trespass were. The initial part of the walk doesn’t really have much of a connection with it, with the closest link being an an iron milestone in the Riverside Park. It commemorates the launch of the Midshires Way, an epic 225 mile trail connecting the Transpennine Trail with the Ridgeway National Trail, although the only link to the Kinder Tresspass is that it the Midshires Way was officially opened in 1994 by Benny Rothman, one of the leaders of the trespass.

It wasn’t much of a link, and I couldn’t even find it. I looked all around but the milestone proved elusive and eventually I gave up hunting and went back to following the Goyt Way.

The exterior of the Fox Inn pub, Brookbottom
The idyllic looking Fox Inn at Brookbottom

A steep climb up an old track led me away from the river (although still on the Goyt Way) to the edge of the hamlet of Brookbottom, which despite being tucked away at the end of a very narrow road, and only containing a handful of houses, featured a rather pleasant looking pub known as the Fox. Completely off the beaten track, and with no visible car park or anything, it wasn’t particularly easy to work out where its customers came from, but as it was only 10am, I wasn’t about to find out.

Maybe some of the golfers from the nearby New Mills Golf Club eschewed their clubhouse for the Fox. Who knew? But passing the golf course did mean that the Trespass Trail did fulfil Bowden’s 6th Law of Trail Walking #6; namely that every long distance train must feature at least one golf course on its length. Thankfully though, the trail didn’t require me to walk over the golf course, merely alongside it.

The Children's Inn at Rowarth
Once a coaching inn, and now a holiday home for Girl Guides.

The Trespass Trail now took me along a variety of tracks and paths through fields, to the hamlet of Rowath, where I found the Children’s Inn. That’s a curious name for a pub, you might think. The sign at the front of a cow jumping over a moon, and a cat playing a fiddle may also make you raise your eyes. But not me. I once saw a pub sign featuring a man sitting astride of a goat whilst holding a pint jug in the air. In contrast to that, the sign at the Children’s Inn seems perfectly normal.

Of course the Children’s Inn isn’t actually a pub. It’s actually a former pub, originally called the Hare and Hounds. As the population of Rowarth dwindled, the inn became redundant and the 17th century coaching inn closed its doors. But in 1926 three school headteachers from Manchester took on the building, and opened it up as a holiday home for school children. The Children’s Inn was born and for six years the building allowed many groups of children to get out of the city and into the countryside. It would have done so for longer had it not been for changes in the City of Manchester’s education policy that forced the end of such activities to be abandoned.

There the tale may have ended, but the house found a new, similar use, providing accommodation for groups of Girl Guides; a role it has been doing ever since. It’s a lovely tale, although by now some of you may be wondering quite what this has to do with the Kinder Trespass. Patience my friend, patience. I was just getting that. For it was near the Children’s Inn in 1932 that members of the British Workers Sports Federation held a camp. And the events of that camp directly led to the Kinder Trespass.

The sign for the Children's Inn at Rowarth, featuring a cat with a fiddle, a laughing dog, a dish running away with a spoon, and a cow jumping over the moon.
The nursery rhyme themed sign for the Children’s Inn at Rowarth

Founded in 1923, the BWSF was part of the Workers’ Sport Movement, established to spread peace and understanding through sport. The BWSF’s branches regularly held camps, and Easter 1932 saw members from Lancashire and London meet and stay at a site close to the Children’s Inn. On one day, the campers headed to the nearby fell of Bleaklow, but were turned back by gamekeepers. Frustrated, the Manchester based BWSF members decided they should take action. Just weeks later, they did.

Yes, several miles in, I’d finally met up with history. And now it was time to join the events of that safe. Although it would take me several more miles walking before I did.

A near deserted lane took me past the Little Mill pub in Rowarth itself. With an extensive car park and a large children’s playground, the pub clearly was targeting customers from a wide area. It even had its own railway carriage, in the form of an old Pullman carriage that once ran between London and Brighton, but which was shipped to Derbyshire and converted into sleeping accommodation some years ago.

Yet again I was too early for a pint. Well it wasn’t even lunchtime, and instead I wandered through Rowarth, past the giant waterwheel opposite the pub, and followed a track towards Lantern Pike; a fell donated to the National Trust in 1949 as a memorial to Edwin Royce, a former president of the Manchester Ramblers Federation, who worked hard to open up access to the hills to all.

The top of the waterwheel opposite the Little Mill Inn at Rowarth
The waterwheel opposite the Little Mill Inn at Rowarth

The federation – later to combine with other groups into the organisation we know know as The Ramblers – itself opposed the Kinder Trespass. Some groups believed the trespass would set back their goals of opening up the countryside, whilst others were worried about the types of people involved in groups like the BWSF.

Their concern was rather understandable. The BWSF hadn’t particularly paid any real attention to the issue of countryside access before, and wouldn’t particularly do much after the mass trespass either. It had mostly focused on sending athletes to participate in the first International Workers’ Olympiad in Frankfurt in 1925, and organising a football team to tour the Soviet Union in 1927.

Initially it was a rather benign organisation, founded by a wide range of people including Labour Party activists, but over time it was taken over by more radical elements. By 1928, most of the moderates had left and the BWSF had become a wing of the British Communist Party. To many in the ‘traditional’ ramblers organisations, the antics of the BWSF was inevitably something to be concerned about.

Clough Mill in Little Hayfield
Clough Mill, once a place in the cotton trade and now apartments

As well as its camps in Rowarth, the BWSF also hosted events in Little Hayfield, which sits nestled at the bottom of Lantern Pike. The trail doesn’t actually go to the summit of the Pike, instead following its contours around it, at a height high enough to provide a good vantage point of the village below. Once this was a bustling place, with a large mill, but now it’s the traffic of the A624 road that dominates the place as cars and lorries zoom between the towns of Glossop and Buxton.

I made my way past Clough Mill, now converted into flats, waited for a break in the traffic, crossed over the road and walked down a tree lined track towards the moors, but not before passing Hayfield’s hidden swimming pool. The now abandoned outdoor Park Hall Pool was once a major draw for visitors to the village, with swimmers coming from miles around to splash in the water. By all accounts the pool is still there, gently decaying behind a large and imposing metal fence, and much as I wanted to go and hunt for it, I had no real idea where to find it, so instead followed the track out onto Middle Moor.

Public Footpath sign from 1905 pointing to Glossop, via Car Meadow, with the sub-title of "Do Not trespass"
Do Not Trespass. No. Don’t do it.

A gentle climb uphill led me to a footpath running between Hayfield village and the Snake Inn, dubbed the Snake Path. Opened in 1897, it was an early success for the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society, which had been founded just three years earlier. Several directional signs installed by the society still exist, including one from 1905 that stands on the moorland, the words ‘Do Not Trespass’ emblazoned on it. It was this instruction that the mass trespassers were about to disobey.

Like the trespassers, I followed the Snake Path as it went above Kinder Reservoir and then alongside the water of William Clough, although unlike them, I initially took a wrong turning and found myself standing rather confused outside a white wooden shooting hut.

Kinder Reservoir
Kinder Reservoir. For all your water needs.

I was heading for a precise point on the path; the place where the trespassers left the footpath and went onto the forbidden moorland, where they were met by, and had an altercation with, a group of gamekeepers.

Within the leaflet that describes the Trespass Trail, an OS grid reference is given for the turn-off, but for some reason I didn’t seem to be able to find it, even though I had the aide of an app on my phone that gave me my exact location in the correct format. For whatever reason I never found myself at grid reference SK 064895, at the 450m contour. Perhaps I was on the wrong side of the clough; there appeared to be two paths, one on each side of the stream, and I’d picked the most obvious one. But for whatever reason, I never found it and instead found myself walking much further up the hill than I was supposed to, only stopping when I arrived at a crossroads with a path for the summit of Kinder Scout.

William Clough - a stream near Kinder Scout.
William Clough, on the way up to Kinder Scout

This point of history was missed, although did it matter? Just because it’s historical doesn’t actually mean it’s interesting. Even if I had found the exact point of the altercation, what I would have found would have been a patch of moorland pretty much like most of the adjoining moorland. There’s no monument, no marker to celebrate what happened that day. I wouldn’t even be doing anything illegal as the right to roam has been enshrined on these moors for some time.

So instead I rested by a cairn and took in a view of Kinder, before setting off for Hayfield once again. For whilst the trespassers did eventually made it up to the summit, meeting another group of walkers coming from Sheffield, the Trespass Trail doesn’t actually go there. Presumably the walk’s creators decided that would be too much for a day walk for all but the most hardcore; after all, the trail comes in at fourteen miles as it is. Whilst it was tempting to go and see the summit, I wasn’t sure my legs would be too happy with me at the end of the day. No, stopping rather randomly part way up a hill was what was in order, and after a brief rest, I headed back down to the reservoir.

In part two, I follow the walkers back to Hayfield where they are confronted by the police, and where I get aching legs.

Note that in 2022 Derbyshire County Council relocated the New Mills Heritage Centre to a new location in a nearby park. The Trespass Trail remains unchanged.

Kinder Scout
Kinder Scout – the main prize for the trespassers, but not me



23 January 2017 at 7:41 pm

We will use your information for one of our summer walks

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