Kinder Scout, The People's Mountain Review

© Vertebrate

Living within sight of Kinder Scout, I walk or climb on it perhaps once a month on average, and have done so for decades. Despite this, Ed Douglas & John Beatty's book has revealed so many more facets of the "people's mountain" that had been unknown to me all these years. Shorlisted for the 2018 Boardman Tasker award, it's as much a guidebook as it is a historical and political document, and as such it repays being read many times.

Kinder cover shot  © Vertebrate

Perhaps the most common association that people make with Kinder is that of the Mass Traspass of 1932. Despite its fame and the songs that might have been written about it, the Trespass itself only occupies a small part of the book. But it's likely to be among the most accurate versions of the event yet published.

The book is divided into chapters which broadly cover one specific aspect of the hill: sand, sheep, flight, grouse, moss, hare. Within those chapters, the authors expand upon characteristics of the land, and tell an engaging and well researched human history, citing with the many famous names involved in the story of this mountain. All sides are included, even those who cause damage to the ecology and wildlife of the mountain, namely the gamekeepers and grouse shooters.

Whilst much has been written about Kinder in the past, this is now the definitive work on the People's Mountain. It covers so many diverse aspects of the place that it seems insulting to describe it merely as a coffee table book

Kinder 1

Sand deals with the physical nature of the massif itself, its structure, geological genesis and literary history. Long has the mountain been written about, from Thomas Hobbes in 1681 to Alfred Wainwright in more recent times, and by many in between.

Sheep dives into the political & social history of Manchester and Salford from around the time of Victoria's 1851 visit, and the contemporary political machinations within the emerging Labour and Liberal parties. It looks at the politics of sheep and cattle, and the physical challenge of living and working on the moors in severe winters. Kinder Scout's involvement in the literary and religious world is investigated further, with stories of Hannah Mitchell, the novelist Mary Ward, and the yearly "Love Feast" of the emerging Methodist sect.

Flight looks at the various aircraft wrecks on the massif. It also tells the social and political tales of the Kinder climbing pioneers Siegfried Herford, Jimmy Puttrell and Geoffrey Winthrop Young, all set against the Great War.

Grouse is obviously about the grouse shooting industry, but starts with Benny Rothman and the part that tinkers, gipsies and poachers played in the life of the mountain and its communities. The bulk of this chapter lays out the historical framework behind the keepering of Kinder, and the political and social forment that fuelled the conflict between the landowners and those who wanted access. The depth of research in this chapter alone is enough to give a unique and definitive account of the events leading up to the famed Mass Trespass in 1932. The chapter closes with the events of that day and its consequences.

Kinder pic

Moss is an excellent account of the ecology of the moors, and what Ed Douglas describes as the "beautiful factory floor" that is the National Park. No punches are pulled as the impact of industry, greed, sheep farming and shooting interests are laid bare. Kinder Scout, it is quite clear, has suffered greatly at the hands of generations of people who care more about their own prestige and the pound in their pocket than they do about the mountain itself. I once heard a throwaway comment from someone who knows about such things, that Rotherham has more biodiversity than the Dark Peak; this may well be true.

Hare is possibly my favourite chapter, bouncing between Mesolithic hunters, iron age residents of Mam Tor and George Smith, founder of the enigmatic Aethrius Society. There is a "Charged Stone" close to the epic struggle of Extinguisher Chinmey (VS) on the Downfall Ravine that is a focus of the Society's spiritual energy. The enigmatic and beautiful hare is the hero of this chapter, the author's chance meeting with one on a misty day providing a perfect opportunity to reflect on the state of Kinder Scout today.

The photographs throughout the book are all John Beatty's work. They are uniformly perfect and quite excellent; each offers an unusual view of the familiar, or an unexpected view of the unfamiliar. There's a subtlety in the pictures that doesn't necessarily hit you until you see them twice, or in a different light after reading a chapter again.

Whilst much has been written about Kinder in the past, this is now the definitive work on the People's Mountain. It covers so many diverse aspects of the place that it seems insulting to describe it merely as a coffee table book. It would certainly improve the look of any such table, but it is as much an academic exploration of the politics and humanity of Kinder as it is a collection of fabulous pictures. In fact, there is far more writing than pictures, but the relative scarcity of the photographs enhances them to a significant degree.

Kinder Scout, The People's Mountain

Ed Douglas and John Beatty

In 1951 the Peak District was designated the UK's first national park: a commitment to protect and preserve our countryside and wild places.

Sandwiched between Manchester and Sheffield, and sitting at the base of the Pennines, it is home to Kinder Scout, Britain's most popular 'mountain', a beautiful yet featureless and disorientating plateau which barely scrapes the 600-metre contour, whose lower slopes bore witness in 1932 to a movement of feet, a pedestrian rebellion, which helped shape modern access legislation: the Kinder Mass Trespass.

Kinder cover shot

But Kinder Scout's story is about much more than the working class taking on the elite. Marked by the passage of millions of feet and centuries of farming, a graveyard for lost souls and doomed aircraft, this much-loved mountain is a sacred canvas on which mankind has scratched and scraped its likeness for millennia. It is a record of our social and political history, of conflict and community.

Writer Ed Douglas and photographer John Beatty are close friends and have a shared history with Kinder going back decades. In this unique collaboration they reveal the social, political, cultural and ecological developments that have shaped the physical and human landscape of this enigmatic and treasured hill.

Kinder Scout: The People's Mountain is a celebration of a northern English mountain and our role in its creation.

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