Fight for our right to roam; The day 400 walkers made history in the hills.
Eighty five years ago this weekend, on an April Saturday of variable weather across the North of England, a group of young lads and girls from Manchester and Sheffield set out for a bit of fresh air in the Peak District hills between their two great industrial cities.
But there was no wandering "lonely as a cloud" for this determined bunch. There were more than 400 of them, in fact, and what they had on their minds was not daffodils, but defiance.
On that day, against hired thugs posing as "gamekeepers" and heavy-handed crowd control by officers of the law, these brave and committed young people trespassed on to so called "private moorland" in Derbyshire and walked on to the summit of vast and lonely Kinder Scout - and into the people's history of these islands. This weekend, I'll be back up there, walking in their footsteps and later raising a glass or three to the memory of what Roy Hattersley called "the most successful act of direct action in British history".
Out of the Kinder Scout mass trespass of 1932 grew many of the best things about British life today for those of us who enjoy our beautiful landscape and open spaces; the National Parks, the Right To Roam and The Ramblers ( formerly the Ramblers Association) a brilliant organisation that, as of this month, I am proud to be president of.
The last president was the indefatigable Kate Ashbrook, whose background is long years of sterling work in the gnarly world of access politics and rights of way as head of the Open Spaces Society.
This is what a great deal of the work of The Ramblers is about, campaigning and fighting for our birthright as British walkers, and it's coiled into the very DNA of our famous old organisation since we formed in the angry aftermath of April, 1932.
The huge, brooding bulk of Kinder Scout has a symbolic as well as physical presence in the lives of working-class people in the North and Midlands.
For generations, acres of open moorland had been forbidden to them following enclosures by the landed gentry.
By the 1930s, some young factory worker walkers such as Benny Rothman had had enough of being harassed and manhandled from the hills that were their birthright.
Thus an organised mass trespass was planned, with the two contingents meeting on Kinder Top. This was no disorganised rabble, whatever the Establishment claimed. A journalist from the Manchester Evening News joined them and young folk singer Ewan MacColl chronicled the trip in song The Manchester Rambler. After a couple of rousing choruses of the Red Flag, in a quarry, the ramblers set off up Kinder followed, with much huffing and puffing, by the far less fit Derbyshire constabulary.
After a few scuffles with "gamekeepers" hired for the day by the landowners, Manchester met Sheffield for a brief celebration at the summit before returning to civilisation, where Rothman and five others were promptly arrested.
The prison sentences handed down to the young walkers caused widespread anger and outrage.
Previously docile walkers organisations were galvanized into forming The Ramblers and, in the intervening years, pretty much every advance in our enjoyment of the outdoors has been down to their tireless work and that of National Parks, Open Access, Right To Roam and Branch Out, which opposed the Forestry Commission's plans to sell off publicly accessible woodlands.
Recent and current campaigns I'll add my voice to include Pathwatch, seeking to keep open every right of way in the face of obstructive landowners and continuing to lobby government to create a path around the coast of England.
In 2009, after consultation with members, The Ramblers Association rebranded as The Ramblers, seeking to embrace a more diverse, even urban outlook. I'm fully supportive of changes like this.
Regarding encouraging more urban folk to rambling, I wholeheartedly approve. I yield to no man in my admiration for John Craven in a Barbour jacket, but there is more to the outdoors than dry-stone walls and bigging up the National Farmers Union.
There's also heroes like Benny Rothman and the city dwellers like me who love the outdoors just as passionately as anyone from the heart of the country, and want to enjoy it, celebrate it and care for it.
When cartoon bad guy Nicholas van Hoogstraten, the millionaire property tycoon, tried to close off a right of way across his land, he described the Ramblers as "scum of the Earth".
After a 13-year battle and numerous legal proceedings, the path was finally re-opened to the public. If these terrific people are the scum of the Earth, then nothing makes me more proud than to be their scumbag in chief.
The Kinder Scout trespass is the most successful act of direct action in British history ROY HATTERSLEY FORMER DEPUTY LEADER OF THE LABOUR PARTY
clash Walkers and 'gamekeeper'
plaque Commemorating trespass
birthright Rambler on Kinder Scout in the Peak District
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Apr 22, 2017|
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