There is something littoral about the northern rim of Kinder Scout, the plateau that includes Derbyshire’s highest point. Its start in life was estuarine. Its famous gritstone cap, abrasive icing on a sedimentary layer cake, began as infill of a vast river delta, a Ganges in north Derbyshire. As I picked my way westwards along this narrow shoreline, between Kinder’s summit plateau and the sky, the setting sun emerged below the level of the cloud. The moors to my right – Howden, Alport and Bleaklow – were suddenly bathed in light.
Two thousand feet in the air, I was now walking a fine line between richly textured clouds, some lovely glorious nothing, and the hidden heart of this enigmatic landscape. A succession of visiting writers has considered that heart to be sour, even rotten. That indefatigable walker John Hillaby, once the Guardian’s zoological correspondent, came this way in the late 1960s, calling Kinder’s plateau land at the end of its tether. Watching naked peat steaming with moisture, he fancied its 15 square miles to be entirely covered in the droppings of dinosaurs.
At the top of Fairbrook, which has cut a deep notch into Kinder’s flank, I took a compass bearing and plunged south-west into this great unknown, heading towards the river Kinder, turning round every so often to check my position against the rocks at the edge of the plateau to keep my sense of direction, here in the middle of England. Fairbrook’s water ends in the North Sea. The Kinder drains west to the Irish Sea. At some point in the next few minutes I would cross the watershed.
Yet, far from a dismal, greasy world of chocolate peat, the top of Kinder appeared luxuriantly green. I came across a large patch of cloudberry – from Old English clud meaning hill, rather disappointingly – known in Yorkshire as nowt-berries. The leaves, already crisping in mid August, are lobed, their fruit shading to amber. Some English botanists judge cloudberries not worth the eating, although they are highly prized in Scandinavia, not least as flavouring for akvavit. The restoration of this ruined habitat continues apace. If only Hillaby were here to see it.
Follow Country diary on Twitter: @gdncountrydiary
News Source TheGuardianNews