Kinder Downfall from Hayfield

Kinder Reservoir

The Kinder Plateau is a unique and fascinating landscape. A huge plateau of unforgiving peat moorland littered with uniquely shaped weather gritstone rocks and edged by impressive dark peak gritstone cliffs. This walk takes you past Kinder Reservoir and up on to the western edges of the plateau to the Kinder Downfall waterfall then on to Kinder Low, the highest point in the Peak District National Park. This walk is of huge historical importance to all hill walkers. In 1932 a large group of locals from the now Derbyshire and Greater Manchester area set off on a walk that was to change public access rights and hill walking in Britain forever. Most wild land was at the time owned by Game Keepers and Private Landowners who used the moorlands and hills for there hunting pleasure. Not allowing access to the general public who needed to get away from the large industrial cities at weekends. In a defiant stand these proud walkers confronted the land owners and set off on the historic 'Mass Trespass' which started an uproar from the public that went on for many years and in 1955 the first access agreement to Kinder was signed, a first of many to come that allowed us to walk the hills and moorlands today. So not only is this walk truly unique due to the fascinating landscape of the Kinder Plateau, but you will be following in the footsteps of hill walking heroes.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts from Bowden Bridge a kilometre to the east of Hayfield at grid reference SK 048 869. Bowden Bridge is reached by the minor Kinder Road which ascends east from the village of Hayfield. You can follow the signs for the camp site from the village. There is a pay and display car park in the old quarry at Bowden Bridge or if you are lucky on quiet days you can grab a free space on Kinder Road itself.
  2. From Bowden Bridge head north east to north along Kinder Road with the River Kinder on your right. The road passes a house on the right then continues north with Marepiece Wood on the slopes to the left. Listen out for Woodpeckers here.
  3. The road will eventually reach a house on the left and a bridge over the River Kinder by the restored sheep dip. Cross the bridge over the river and then turn left on a footpath that follows the right bank of the River Kinder through the wood.
  4. The path will reach a path junction, here turn left and the path crosses the River Kinder again over the outflow from the Kinder Reservoir Dam. When you reach the other side of the bridge turn right through a gate and head up the steep paved path to gain height and eventually reach the Kinder Reservoir Dam.
  5. Continue along the path now as it follows the northern shore of the Kinder Reservoir then eventually turns left in land towards the stile and footbridge at the bottom of William Clough. On a clear day there are now panoramic views of the impressive western edge of the Kinder Plateau.
  6. Head north from here following the stream in to William Clough on a path that gets fairly steep and rocky in places. In summer months the valley is flanked with purple heather and the rocky path home to Lizards and rare Oil Beetles.
  7. The William Clough path will eventually top out on the col between Mill Hill to the left and Kinder to the right. At the crossroad of paths turn right and head in a south easterly direction on the Pennine Way towards the plateau where a sharp and short ascent will soon see you on the plateau edge path.
  8. You now head in an anti clockwise direction around the plateau. The first spectacle you will see are the weathered rocks of on the right looking over William Clough. On clear days there are fabulous views from here to Manchester and as far as North Wales and Liverpool. If you look beyond the huge cooling towers of Fiddlers Ferry to the west you should be able to make out Liverpool's huge cathedral and sky tower.
  9. The path continues along the edge of the plateau, it is hard to go off course along the plateau edge path. To the left are huge hags and deep black troughs of unforgiving deep black peat and to the right equally unforgiving gritstone cliffs.
  10. The path bends left and heads towards and eventually reaches Kinder Downfall. The waterfall here is the highest in the Peak District dropping a height of thirty metres. Just how impressive the waterfall is depends on recent weather conditions. In summer it is nothing more than a tiny trickling stream, after heavy rain it thunders over the rocks and in winter it can be a full on ice climb. It is also famous for blowing back over on itself when it is really windy as it faces out towards the prevailing winds.
  11. Cross the river over its flat rock bed and head up the other side. Turn right to continue anti clockwise or south to south west along the plateau path. Beware of the rather cheeky and fearless sheep around the downfall if you decide to eat lunch there.
  12. On the subject of wildlife, keep on constant lookout for the Mountain Hares, especially either side of winter when they are easier to spot in their winter white fur.
  13. After a kilometre the path crosses Red Brook. The path splits in two here. Make sure you ignore the descending path and stick to the higher of the two paths staying on pretty much the same contour line heading south.
  14. After another kilometre the path heads slightly in land and ascends over the peat towards the summit of Kinder Low where a white trig pillar sits on top of a large rock.
  15. Kinder Low at 633m above sea level is historically not the actual highest point of the mountain plateau. The spot height of Kinder Scout just 770m to the north east is supposed to be slightly higher at 636m above sea level.
  16. Personally I like to think of Kinder Low as the summit. I reckon the true summit of Kinder Scout will eventually erode over time to probably end up lower than Kinder Low. The area around Kinder Scout is far more sensitive and less likely to last the battering of thousands of walkers boots so I think its good that we choose to summit at Kinder Low.
  17. From Kinder Low trig point head over to its huge cairn of stones and then head off the summit area in a south westerly direction eventually picking up a path made of huge slabs.
  18. Head right along the slabbed path in a westerly direction towards a slight bump on the ridge. This bump on the ridge is actually a bronze age burial mound known as Kinder Barrow. The path rounds the mound and continues its descent towards Kinderlow End.
  19. When the path reaches the end of the ridge it zig zags down a steep rocky descent. Take care here as this can be treacherous when icy or wet.
  20. From the bottom of Kinder low a right of way path crosses a few fields and stiles then picks up the track passing Tunstead Clough Farm.
  21. Navigating this section can be a little tricky. I would say head down towards the stone wall, turn left and follow it for a hundred metres. Here there is access through the wall in to the field. Turn left and head through the often muddy gate in to the next field.
  22. Cross this large field heading directly west to its far end. Do keep dogs on leads as you pass through these fields and leave the farm animals alone, especially at times when they have their young.
  23. Go through to the next and smaller field and head slightly right in a west to north westerly direction to its far end. From here there are a few stiles now and the right of way is sign posted. The buildings at Tunstead Clough Farm should be in view.
  24. Head down the tarmac road that descends away from Tunstead Clough Farm. This road rounds a sharp right then left bend and leads to the road from Bowden Bridge and back to the start of the walk.
  25. Hayfield is a beautiful village with several places to eat and drink.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL1 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 110 Map Click to buy Collins Ramblers Guide Peak District Click to buy Pathfinder Guides Peak District

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.