17 July, 2010

Locations: Kinder Scout, Derbyshire

All the specific locations in Paths of Exile are real places. The photographs in this post show some of the locations for this scene, set on Kinder Scout on the plateau crossing between the head of Grindsbrook Clough on the southern edge and Kinder Downfall on the western edge.

See the map links at the bottom of the post for topographical maps and satellite images.

First light found them in a bleak wilderness of peat. More precisely, at the bottom of a twisting channel where an icy stream had carved its way through the peat to the underlying gritstone. The whole plateau top was riven with these channels, like the cracks in a giant cowpat, and they were deep enough that even a tall man could not see over the sides.
In the distance ahead, the half-light showed two giant grey shapes standing guard on either side of the channel. Ashhere supposed they were trolls, or ancient standing stones of malevolent power, but he was too tired to care. He plodded on, and with diminishing distance and growing light the two shapes resolved into a pair of gritstone tors. Beyond these sentinels the channel made a wide bend to the left and the stream gathered volume to become an infant river running in a sandy bed. A little further on, and it threaded through a jumble of gritstone boulders and plunged over a rocky fall to vanish in a dark hollow scooped out of the plateau side.

Ashhere stared at it, uncomprehending. His first thought was that they had wandered around in a circle and come to the ravine they had climbed up in the night, but he did not remember a waterfall. And slowly he realised that the sun was rising behind him, and the blue-shadowed plains rolling away to a distant horizon were in the west.

“You have crossed Kyndyr,” said Severa’s voice, behind him.
--Paths of Exile, chapter 15

"The whole plateau top was riven with these channels..."

The Kinder Scout plateau is a more or less flat slab of gritstone overlain by a thick layer of peat. Water trickling over the surface eventually cuts channels in the peat, known locally as groughs. If you click on the 1:25,000 scale map link, you'll see the groughs shown as a network of fine blue lines covering the plateau. This is what they look like in real life.

"...deep enough that even a tall man could not see over the sides."

The man in the photograph is six feet two inches tall. To see out of the groughs you have to scramble up the near-vertical peat walls. In dry conditions, like this, the peat is liable to disintegrate under you in a cloud of choking dust, and in wet conditions (i.e. normal), it has the consistency of thick porridge.

"...the half-light showed two giant grey shapes standing guard on either side of the channel. Ashhere supposed they were trolls, or ancient standing stones of malevolent power, but he was too tired to care. He plodded on, and with diminishing distance and growing light the two shapes resolved into a pair of gritstone tors."

Kinder Gates (see the 1:25,000 map link for the location). On a beautiful day in early summer, when this photograph was taken, Kinder Gates is quite clearly a pair of gritstone tors. Looming out of half-light and mist, especially at dawn on a November morning, is quite a different matter.

"...an infant river running in a sandy bed."

The Kinder River was very low when I took this, as it was the driest summer for decades, but you get the idea.

"....threaded through a jumble of gritstone boulders and plunged over a rocky fall to vanish in a dark hollow scooped out of the plateau side"

This is Kinder Downfall. In the very dry conditions when the photo was taken the fall was reduced to a bare trickle, though you can see the boulder field and the ravine. There's a good photo of Kinder Downfall in spate here, which will give you an idea of what it would have looked like to Ashhere.

"....the blue-shadowed plains rolling away to a distant horizon were in the west."

At the time of Ashhere's (fictional) visit in early November 605, the plains west of Kinder would obviously not have been occupied by Greater Manchester!

Map links
Topographical map available online at 1:50,000 scale and the more detailed 1:25,000 scale
Satellite image on Google Maps. You can scroll around and zoom in and out.


Gabriele Campbell said...

I love using real settings, too. Though some landscapes have changed a lot, in more ways than just mentailly (or photoshopally) ereasing Manchester from the horizon. Rivers tend to change by nature, at least in Germany, and man altered their courses even more; bogs were drained to gain arable land, the vast forests with small settlements in between we know from Roman times have mostly become smaller forests in between settlements (with the exception of the mountain areas which are more intact, in comparison). Though you can still get a good impression of the overall landscape, even if you have to mentally move a bend in the Rhine some fifty metres to the left to get it where it was in 9 AD, or turn the meadows in Kalkriese into moors. :)

Meghan said...

Fantastic pictures! I loved gazing at the beautiful and unique landscape. And as usual very imformative post!

Rick said...

The perils of reading out of context - I was thinking that Ashhere must be tired to the point of carelessness to not try and avoid what look like dangerous trolls or standing stones.

Incidentally, did 'troll' (in the literal sense) have the same connotation of big, stupid, and malevolent that it has today? I'd imagine it did, since our image presumably comes mainly from Tolkien.

On Kinder Scout itself, is it the 'continental divide' between the eastern and western watersheds? The trickle of water along a streambed is the norm to me - our streams only fill up after rainstorms!

Carla said...

Gabriele - Rivers change their course over time here too, either by being canalised or diverted or just because they feel like it. If I remember rightly, part of the Vallum at Birdoswald has been eroded away by the river Irthing. The coastline moves too; there was a Roman shore fort at Felixstowe which is now just a few big lumps of masonry on the sea bed.

Meghan - thank you

Rick - yes, that's the problem with snippets :-) Ashhere is following a group of trusted friends so he accepts that as they have safely passed the sentinels he can do so too, despite his superstitions; and he is tired to the point of carelessness having had rather a hard time in the previous 24 hours. Trolls: Good question, and one I'll go into in more detail in another post.

Yes, Kinder is on the watershed between east and west. The Kinder River (the stream that flows over the Downfall) ends up in the rivers around Manchester and thence in the Irish Sea. The stream in Grindsbrook Clough flows into the Derwent, which flows into the Trent, which flows into the North Sea. If you go to the topographical map and zoom out a bit you'll see that the Derbyshire Peak District forms the southern end of the Pennine hill range that runs like a spine through northern England. Crossing the watershed has particular resonance for Ashhere and (most of) his companions because their home is, or rather was, near the east coast.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Oh yes, I forgot about the shores. Most unreliable landscapes. :)

Drusus had a canal built as shortcut from the Rhine to the North Sea, to avoid the delta, but we can't find the blasted thing because neither the Rhine nor the sea coast are were they had been. One of the Roman forts at Xanten is now ten metres under the Rhine, and we can't find remains of the harbour that Dr. Grote is sure had been near Hedem√ľnden because it is buried under a few metres of Weser mud. I really hope they'll pay for some magnet resonance check of the area.

During the occupation time (basically from 16 BC - 16 AD) the Romans used combined manoeuvres of the army and the fleet. The latter had to be sent along the North Sea coast but the ships needed to be small enough to navigate the rivers. More than once the sea tribes of the Frisii, Cananefates and Chauci had to dig a bunch of Roman ships out of sandbanks, and once part of a fleet ended up in Britain where some kindly disposed Celtic chief sent them back instead of plundering the ships.

Carla said...

Which was very kind of the British chief. Who was it? I'd guess the most likely place for Roman ships that got lost on the way to Germany to end up would be somewhere in Trinovantian or Iceni territory - in which case the kindly chief's descendants could be forgiven if they were rather unimpressed with his decision :-)

Rick said...

Yes, it makes a big difference that Ashhere's friends have already gone that way! I did infer, from the era and his name, that he was probably going from familiar English turf to more foreign territory.

I seem to recall a discussion here - because I don't know where else I'd have read it - in which it was mentioned that what had been an arm of the sea in the 14th century (or so) was now an inland valley. (Perhaps regarding a book by Daphne du Maurier (sp?), or someone similar?)

Gabriele Campbell said...

Tacitus doesn't mention a name, he only says:quidam in Britanniam rapti et remissi a regulis - some had been carried to Britain and were sent back by little kings (reguli). Either Tacitus and the sources on which he relied and Icceni) were more of a mess than is usually believed and split in some sort of clans who didn't always listen to the king. ;)

It would explain the fast early victories of Claudius' army. Maybe it took the Roman pressure for them to work together, much like in Germania.

Carla said...

Rick - That would be Tywardreath, in Daphne du Maurier's time-slip novel House on the Strand. The changing geography between the 14th-century storyline and the 20th-century storyline is a major feature.

Gabriele - If I remember correctly, there's a reference to 'Icenimagni' which might imply there were (at least) two groups amongst the Iceni, hence the need for a qualifier. Some of the aristocracy in south-east Britain were on friendly terms with the Romans before and during the Claudian invasion, so the king(s) who sent the ships back may have been among those.

Gabriele Campbell said...

In Germania often some of the noble families in one tribe were pro-Roman, the others were not. Or they were at each other's throats and one party may have asked the Romans for help (that's what Arminius' father-in-law Segestes did). Made for unreliable allies. :)

And boy, is my last post messed up - didn't delete some words there. Argh.

Constance Brewer said...

Lovely pictures. :) Makes it easy to tie words and images together. Hate to be trudging over that landscape, though.

Carla said...

Gabriele - Same in Britain, I think. Some things don't change!

Constance - thank you. Very dry conditions like these, or a hard frost, are the easiest circumstances for crossing the Kinder plateau.

Unknown said...

Does that peat have an odor ?

I would like to visit the Dip in Felixtoe. Maybe in the fall when there'd be some nice frothy wave pictures.

Unknown said...

And I agree with Constance.

Carla said...

Daniel - Not to speak of. Peat has a slight earthy smell, a little like ordinary soil but more acid. Stagnant water in pools and bog holes can be rather whiffy, though, especially if disturbed.