The Trespass Trail Part 2: From Kinder, back to New Mills

Published 5 October 2016

Path towards Hayfield, lined with purple flowers

Nice path to take me back to Hayfield

In (Part 1) I walked from New Mills to the sides of Kinder on the 14 mile Trespass Trail. And now it was time to head back to New Mills again and finish my walk with history.

“I was about to show you a lizard,” informed a fellow hiker, stood at the head of the reservoir. “If you hadn’t stopped to look at your paperwork, you would have seen it sat on this rock.”

A lizard basking in the sun? Confound it. Just why did I stop to look at the map just those few minutes earlier?

“Oh hang on, there it is, creeping out from underneath.”

It was too. A small green lizard, probably about 7cm long, and looking all lizard like.

I made some vague noises of appreciation towards the reptile in lieu of anything better to say; well just what can you say when someone tells you about a lizard? I’m no lizard expert. Know nothing about them at all. This left a lull in the conversation that was swiftly filled by my new acquaintance going on in great detail about walk up Kinder to “pick up the markers” he’d left the previous weekend when driving rain had battered the hills. “I didn’t need them, but I knew someone up there would.”

Very public spirited of him, I told him, in a rare moment when I could get a word in edgeways. More than me. I’d just spent the day in the house.

“You going that way?” he asked, pointing towards Hayfield.

“I am, yes.” I replied, half expecting to find myself with a walking partner that I didn’t particularly want. No fear of that, for he set off with a near sprint. There was no way I’d have been able to keep up with him, even if I’d wanted to. Besides, I needed to tie my shoelace, thus giving amble opportunity to put some distance between the pair of us.


Kinder Reservoir

The water filled wonder of Kinder Reservoir

Opened in 1912, Kinder Reservoir has little to do with the Mass Trespass other than that it was there when the hikers walked near it. Back then it was doing then pretty much what it does now: supplying Stockport and its neighbouring towns with clean water to drink and use in an plethora of other exciting ways.

The Trespass Trail now followed a path close to the edge of the reservoir, before heading off down a delightful woodland path lined with bright purple flowers. My next destination was Bowden Quarry Car Park, but first there was just time to take in the sight of a historic sheepwash, built at some point between 1900 and 1910 as a replacement for one further uphill that was demolished during the works to build the reservoir. Again, absolutely nothing to do with the Kinder Trespass, but it was nice to see it.

Bowden Bridge car park

Bowden Bridge car park - the former quarry where the Kinder Trespass set forth from

But what’s this down the road? Could it be something with a historical link? Ah yes, it could. For I was now stood admiring a blue van in a car park. And not just any old car park, but Bowden Bridge car park, located in a former quarry. It was here on that day in 1932 that the protesters met; most arriving by train from Manchester, whilst the main leaders cycled in from Rowarth. A journalist for the Manchester Guardian was amongst them, estimating that between 400 and 500 people, mostly men, had gathered.

Their walk up Kinder complete, they returned to Hayfield, heading along the same road to the village that I now followed. Unlike them I didn’t sing in the streets, and on my walk no one got arrested. For the trespassers, things were different, with the five of the leaders put under lock and key for their part in the scuffle with the gamekeepers.

Those not arrested no doubt headed back to Hayfield’s train station, and made their way home. For me, there was no chance of that as the short branch line to New Mills closed in 1970.

Set Valley Trail, near Hayfield

Set Valley Trail, near Hayfield

These days the old trackbed is, rather inevitably, a bridleway known as the Sett Valley Trail. Following this two and a half mile route would take me most of the way back to where I’d started, through sedate scenery full of trees. Although I would have enjoyed it less if my feet hadn’t started to feel incredibly sore, and my knees rather stiff. Clearly the day had involved more intense walking than I was used to. As I hobbled down the Sett Valley Trail, I quietly muttered my displeasure at those who had closed the service, thus denying me a rather easier way to return to New Mills.

In an attempt to take my mind off the pain, I scoured the area for signs of the trails former life, but they’d long gone. The best I could find was a simple wooden sign marking the site of the long demolished Birch Vale station; even the platforms have disappeared. So instead it was just me and the trees until the trail reached the edge of New Mills town, where the Trespass Trail wandered off towards the town. There were two more places it wanted to show me.

Former police station in New Mills

The former police station in New Mills

One was the former police station, now in residential use but with a brown plaque next to the front door marking the fact that six arrested men (the five from Hayfield, and another who had been arrested at the scene of the scuffle with the gamekeepers) had been locked up in the building. The next day the six were taken where I went next; next door to the court in New Mills Town Hall, where all pleaded not guilty.

And that was that. The Trespass Trail was almost finished. With one last weary stumble down Market Street, it returned me to the Heritage Centre where my walk with history had begun.

Of course the tale didn’t end in New Mills. The arrested men were remanded to appear at the Derby Assizes. One was found not guilty due to insufficient evidence. The other five were less lucky. The jury, a motley collection of military men and country gents, found them guilty and they were jailed for periods between two and six months for the crimes of assault and riot.

New Mills Town Hall

New Mills Town Hall. The court entrance was on the right.

It was those sentences that would prove to be a turning point. Prior to the trial, public support for the trespasses had not been huge. Many of the established rambling groups believed the whole endeavour had set back their cause, making their lobbying to open up access to the countryside more difficult. But the jail sentences given, appeared way out of proportion with the actual crime. The authorities had attempted to teach the six a lesson, but instead had simply turned the public mood against the ‘great and the good’, and towards those just wanting to get out of the smog of the cities.

Despite that, the BWSF didn’t attempt to capitalise any further on what had happened on Kinder. IT was left the established ramblers groups to take up the baton, with these groups even arranging trespasses of their own.

It took some time for the goal of opening up the countryside, to be achieved; the outbreak of war in Europe helped in that respect. But with peace declared, work began in earnest and in 1949 the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was passed, most notably paving the way for the creation of national parks, but also creating ways to open up moorland. Appropriately, the Peak District National Park was the first to open its doors in 1951, and in 1954 parts of the moorland of Kinder Scout were opened up for people to roam over, with the rest following in 1958.

Of course, it’s quite possible all this would have happened without the Kinder Trespass. But without the ability to travel back in time and change history, we’ll never know for sure. What we do know is that the Kinder Trespass helped raise the profile of the cause at the time. Had the police not arrested the organisers, and had the courts not tried to make an example of a bunch of young communists, well the event may well have faded into history.

Plaque celebrating the place where the Kinder Trespass set off from

The Mass Trespass Woz Here

It didn’t, and now the event enjoys almost mythical status. And why wouldn’t it? At its heart, the story boils down to a bunch of working class men who decided to take on the establishment and who, kind of, won. A rather British tail if there ever was one.

The fight isn’t over. Whilst the Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000 finally opened up swathes of moorland in England and Wales for walkers to fully roam over, rights are still fewer than offered in Scotland, and there are constant attacks on footpaths by landowners.

But in New Mills, my walk for the day was done. I’d set off to walk with history, and walk with history I had. Now though it was time to do something that I suspected many of those ramblers had also done on that day; head home and sup a celebratory pint of ale.

So here’s a hearty cheers to those hikers of the past. For we salute you.

Planning your own Trespass Trail walk

Trespass Cottage, Hayfield

This may not be the original name of the cottage when it was built...

The Trespass Trail is a fourteen mile circular walk starting and ending at New Mills. At times it’s an easy walk to do, but has several strenous sections. A route description can be found on the Kinder Trespass website.

There are two railway stations in New Mills. The closest to the start of the trail, which also has a higher frequency of services, is New Mills Central with services to Manchester and Sheffield. Services to New Mills Newtown run between Manchester and Buxton.

Map

Photos

The Trespass Trail

Learn more

Whilst writing this piece, I am indebted to the following webpages which are excellent places to start if you’d like to delve more into the history of the Kinder Trespass:

Your Comments