Hayfield is a beautiful village with many fascinating buildings including Fox Hall on the Kinder road which is dated 1625. The original Hayfield parish church was built in 1386, but this structure was washed away in floods and rebuilt in 1818.
The parish of Hayfield consists of Birch Vale, Little Hayfield, Rowarth and Hayfield Village.
Hayfield was at one time a woollen centre. Before the numerous mills were built many houses operated as cottages industries, with a workshop in tall attic rooms where wool was woven on frames. Calico printing and paper making also provided employment locally in the 19th century when many of the cottages were built.
On August 4th 1894 at the George Hotel in Hayfield the Peak District Footpath Society was established with a meeting of men from Manchester, Sheffield and Derby.
Besides holding an annual fair, a twice yearly gathering was held at Hayfield which was known as the 'Shepherds Meeting' when stray sheep from the moors were sifted out and given back to their owners.
Hayfield has many customs and traditions including the annual well dressing festival in July and the Hayfield County Show and Sheepdog Trials. Also popular in the area are fell races which include The Hayfield Championship series. More unusually named races though include the Padfield Plum Fair Scamper, Tanky's Trog and the Lamb's Longer Leg!
In 1979 the whole village of Hayfield was evacuated for the night following an incident on the main road when a lorry carrying inflammable liquid gas overturned and caused panic throughout the village.
The claim to fame for Hayfield is the fact that this was the birthplace of Arthur Lowe (22.9.1915 - 15.4.1982) who is best remembered for playing the part of Captain Mainwaring in Dad?s Army.
Hayfield lies equidistant from Glossop which is four miles to the north and Chapel-en-le-Frith to the south.
Hayfield is the gateway to Kinder which towers above it like a Lost World. Should you venture up onto the High Plateau of Kinder Scout it can certainly turn into a Lost World should the mist descend and you find yourself climbing up and down the groughs or trudging through peat bogs.
Kinder Scout is retrogressive moorland where the soil is excessively acid and inhibits the growth of many varieties of plant life. Rainfall causes erosion of the peat to the underlying gritstone, developing deep groughs up to 12 feet wide with slimy sides which can suck the unwary into inky black bogs. Bilberry and Crowberry are the only tolerant species of plant, whilst in the cloughs you can find siliceous grasses and heathers on the gentler slopes. On the exposed bleak summit are many areas devoid of any plant life where either murky bogs, mounds of soggy peat or boulders of millstone and acres of exposed grit give the appearance of some desolate alien planet. Kinder was once described as a black morose platform of gritstone.
It is interesting to note that depending just where rain falls on Kinder Plateau determines two totally different destinations. If rain starts to trickle east it will flow into the Derwent and on to the North Sea, but if it trickles west into the Sett, it joins the Mersey and then flows into the Irish Channel.
At one time Kinder and the surrounding moors were private, accessible only to the landed gentry who came to shoot grouse. Until the 1930?s it would only have been possible to follow a couple of recognised paths from Hayfield to the moors and not to venture from these. There were notice boards erected at several points, warning of the consequences of trespassing. The moors were privately owned and many keepers, often wielding guns, were employed to protect them from the casual walker who had not obtained a permit. Great lengths were followed to bring the trespassers to justice, even to the extent of publishing photographs in newspapers with a reward for identification. J HB Ward who was a staunch campaigner for permission for the public to walk the moors, argued that because old rights of way existed, the moors should allow public access. He organised the mass trespass which took place on 24th April 1932 onto Kinder Scout, when 400 ramblers set out from Bowden Bridge and walked up William Clough and onto the moors. Scuffles near the top with the keepers resulted in 6 ramblers being arrested and charged with riotous assembly and assault. 5 were sentenced to prison for between two and six months, but their efforts were well rewarded. In 1949 as a result of the 'National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act' the Peak District National Park was founded, and within a few years of its inception an agreement was made allowing free access to the moors apart from a few days during the grouse shooting season which runs from 12th August until December.
During 1982 the National Trust bought over 3,000 acres around Hayfield which included Kinder Scout, the Downfall and two farms, for £600,000. This set the seal on the area remaining open to the public.
One of the best ways of walking up onto Kinder and to The Downfall is to set off from Bowden Bridge at the back of Hayfield village and to walk up William Clough which rises to the left of Kinder Reservoir. On reaching the top of the clough there is a well walked path across the top of the escarpment to The Downfall where the infant river Sett drops 100 feet in the highest natural waterfall in the Peak District cascading over huge gritstone boulders. In winter the Downfall blows back in a plume of spray that can be seen as far away as Stockport. There are interesting rock climbs in the area including Pavlova and the Chinese Wall Quadrinnacle.
The view from The Downfall to Mermaids Pool and Kinder reservoir some 1,000 feet below are superb, whilst in the distance are the chimneys, high-rise stacks and buildings of our industrial north.
The Kinder reservoir above Hayfield nestles below the escarpment and is trapped in a moorland embrace. It was built in 1912 for the Stockport Corporation. Whilst set in woodland on the far side are the quadrangular buildings of Kinder Upper House which are mainly 20th century with parts dating from the 16th century. Here Mrs Humphrey Ward wrote much of her novel David Grieve, based on the surrounding countryside.
It is said that the Mermaids Pool contains a beautiful nymph who hides until dawn when she bathes. A spell is cast on anyone catching sight of this mystical figure, ensuring that they live forever!
The Pennine Way which is a long distance walk of 250 miles from Edale to the Scottish border runs along the top of the Kinder escarpment above Hayfield. The route was first suggested in 1935 by T C Stephenson and was granted official approval in 1951.