Martin’s Sunny Memorial
I’ve stood on the edge of the Downfall,
And seen all the valleys outspread,
And sooner than part from the mountains, I think I would rather be dead.
With perfect timing and to the stirring strains of Ewan MacColl’s access anthem The Manchester Rambler echoing round the rocks on the lip of Kinder Downfall, the sun came out – and the Peak’s biggest waterfall performed its famous party trick.
A strong south-westerly wind funnelled up the Kinder valley and fanned the falling water into a hanging, dancing veil of sparkling droplets. The sun-spattered spectacle of the Downfall’s "blow-back” seemed to be a fitting tribute to the man whose life we were there to celebrate.
Sir Martin Doughty, who died in March this year after a long fight with cancer, was a true child of Kinder, and around 200 walkers gathered on a blustery, sun-kissed day at Kinder Downfall on what would have been his 60th birthday to celebrate his life and legacy.
Earlier at New Mills Town Hall we had witnessed an event which would have given Martin, the founding chairman of Natural England and a former chairman of the Peak District National Park, enormous pleasure. Poul Christensen, acting chairman of NE, announced that Kinder Scout would became the 223rd National Nature Reserve in recognition of its "iconic social and environmental importance,” and in memory of Martin Doughty.
Afterwards, Nick Hodgson, chief executive of Derbyshire County Council (where Martin had also been a distinguished chairman for many years), unveiled an elegant slate sundial made by John Shaw on the wall of the Town Hall, facing the former Police Station where six young men had been held overnight after the famous Mass Trespass in April, 1932. The Town Hall sundial, unfortunately rendered inoperable on a morning of low mist and rain, stands exactly on the 2 deg west meridian, a fact which delighted geographer and outdoorsman Martin.
Kinder Scout was, of course, the scene of the trespass, after which five ramblers were imprisoned merely for exercising their right to roam. Martin’s late father, Harold, witnessed that momentous occasion, and Martin never let anyone forget its importance, not only in the fight for the cherished freedom to roam in the open country, which he was instrumental in achieving through the CROW Act of 2000, but also in the on-going battle to create our national parks.
So it was appropriate that one of the five walks and other events organised to celebrate Martin’s life followed the route of the 1932 trespassers from Hayfield, up William Clough, over Ashop Head and round to the Downfall. Here we met others who had walked over from the Snake summit for the impromptu singsong, which was led by Martin’s widow, Gilly, and his two daughters, Tess and Beth.
The route down via Red Brook and Tunstead Clough revealed tantalising glimpses of the Downfall and Mermaid’s Pool, as occasional brilliant shafts of sunlight painted the tawny moors in a rich, golden light.
The family’s inscription on the New Mills sundial summed up Martin perfectly: "An exceptional New Mills man who loved Kinder and this special town, placed uniquely on the 2nd deg west line of the central meridian. A man who achieved so much in the time he was given.”