This represents a homecoming for mountain chronicler Ed Douglas, who has been tramping the hills of his native Peak District for 40 years. His subject, Kinder Scout, is emblematic of the heart of rural England. It has been called the ‘people’s mountain’, whose past renders it far more than a pile of inanimate rock, at least in the imagination of those who are familiar with its history.
“Douglas tells the story in his fine poetic style, ‘pacing out time’s shore’ while walking its northern rim, or when squatting on the summit ‘dismantled by wind and rain, grains of sand washed away, and me with them, pretty soon’.”
The ‘mountain’ (its highest point is only 636 metres) is probably enshrined in the general reader’s mind as the scene of the Kinder Mass Trespass, a 1932 mass protest, when some 500 people converged from three directions on Kinder Scout to secure access rights to open country. This was seen as an act of defiance by the working class taking action against the property-owning elite. Douglas takes the reader though the mountain’s role in local history, from Queen Victoria’s visit to the region in 1851 where she was greeted by 80,000 schoolchildren singing the national anthem, to the remains of an aircraft engine embedded in the peat, the debris of a American B-24 Liberator bomber that crashed into the moor in 1944, fortunately with no loss of life.
The book is lavishly illustrated by John Beatty, a Kinder Scout veteran with more than a thousand days spent on the hill. His photographs show us how this can be a treacherous undertaking in winter. Considering that the mountain lies less than an hour’s drive from Sheffield, Beatty’s photos of walkers struggling in a whiteout or making the ascent in deep snow are a reminder of Britain’s treacherous weather. As Douglas points out, Kinder Scout is a summer venue for walkers, runners and climbers. But for the unwary, in winter it becomes a spectacular trickster ‘that will lead you into a labyrinth and consume you in a mire’.