officers. Several arrests were made for ‘riotous assembly’ and five ringleaders were sentenced subsequently to imprisonment for between two and six months.
The trespassers’ demonstration of civil disobedience and the public’s reaction to the severity of the sentences was a pivotal moment which contributed greatly to the establishment, in 1951, of large parts of the
Peak District, including Kinder Scout, as England’s first national park. However, the full rights of walkers to roam through the common land and uncultivated uplands of England had to wait until the millennium year with the passing of the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act.
Although a branch line from New Mills, which enabled excursion trains to run from Manchester, closed in 1970 and a bypass, which was opened in 1978, has spilt the village in two, the oldest part of Hayfield, clustering on the eastern flank of the bypass, looks much the same now as it did in 1932. The settlement is still dominated by St Matthew’s Church, whose tower features a large clock said to have been modelled on Big Ben. Some of Hayfield’s cottages cling in picturesque fashion to the steep slopes of Highgate Road, whilst others are set on the banks of the river Sett or are arranged in long terraces that run like contour lines across the surrounding hills.
The beauty of those hills is captured in photographs taken by Simon Bridges, the proprietor of the Elephantstones Gallery,
where displays of his evocative images are supplemented by exhibitions of paintings by Harry Ousey and a selection of prints, cards, gifts and Scandi vintage. Although the gallery closed during lockdown, its goodies remained available online.
When cafés open again, visitors will be able to stop for refreshments at various village tea rooms, just as in the 1930s. Today’s versions are Rosie Lee’s Tea and Coffee Room, on Kinder Road, which serves delicious home-cooked food, and Millie’s Tea Rooms, on the main street, a welcoming place that brings to mind Joanne Harris’s novel
Chocolat, because a cup of coffee or tea at Millie’s is accompanied by a mouth-watering complimentary chocolate, made by the owner and chocolatier Steve Lee. The nearby village chippy is another favourite because it cooks everything to order and is known for serving large portions.
Hayfield has almost as many inns as it had in the 1930s. Kinder Lodge, on the western side of the relief road, has accommodation and serves award-winning full English breakfasts. The main street contains the George Hotel, one of the Peak District’s oldest public houses, as well as the Pack
Horse, a gastro pub with a menu that reacts to the seasons. The Royal Hotel, built originally as a parsonage, occupies a position adjacent to the cricket ground, where Arthur Lowe, who played Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army, was a keen member, and Colosseo, behind the church, is a stylish Italian bar and restaurant.
Although these restaurants and pubs have had to remain closed due to the pandemic, Colin and Leesa of the Sportsman Inn have provided takeaway food for delivery and collection. Their pub is located at the far end of Kinder Road, which is approached from one of the cutest corners in the village, where a quirky back-to-back building houses a butcher’s shop and a laundry.
The road makes its way towards
‘The oldest part of Hayfield... looks much the same now
as it did in 1932’
the Sportsman after passing between a fine terrace of 18th century weavers’ cottages and the 17th century Fox Hall. The hall was the former seat of the Waterstones, one of the biggest landowners in the district.
If the trespassers of 1932 had managed to evade the Duke of Devonshire’s gamekeepers after reaching the end of
Kinder Road, they would have reached a 2,000ft-high plateau before making their way to the Downfall, a waterfall that varies from a mere trickle in dry conditions to a cascade that defies gravity by blowing back on itself in wet and windy weather.
In the months when we were asked to limit our time outside, it was easy for us to understand the frustrations of the ramblers of the 1930s. Like them, we had to confine our view of the Downfall to a distant glimpse of a deep gash on the eastern horizon.
Now, with the easing of restrictions, we can enjoy dramatic close-up views of the Downfall.
In the words of the trespassers’ anthem, The Manchester Rambler, we can, once again, get our ‘pleasure in the hard moorland way’ – keeping a social distance, of course.