Sarah Gardner: I’m a rambler, I’m a rambler
It was a day jam-packed with celebrations to mark the 80th anniversary of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass, an iconic event which captured the desire for better outdoor access. Arguably the trespass paved the way to the right to roam in open countryside in England and Wales (secured via the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000), statutory access rights to almost all land in Scotland (via the Land Reform Act 2003) and helped to make Britain one of the most walker-friendly countries in Europe.
On Twitter the topic trended as walkers and other outdoor access champions commemorated those ramblers who on April 24 1932, led by members of the British Workers’ Sports Federation, took to Kinder Scout in Derbyshire with the intention of making an act of wilful trespass on the grit stone peak. Five of the hundreds who walked on to Kinder Scout were jailed even though trespass was not, and is still not, a criminal offence.
Although the Ramblers Association was officially formed three years after the Mass Trespass, the event has a special place in Ramblers – and rambling – history.
So there was much to cheer about. In the Peak District the Ramblers joined the Kinder 80 Festival, along with the Peak District National Park Authority, Derbyshire County Council, the National Trust, the British Mountaineering Council and the Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorland. Benedict Southworth, Chief Executive of the Ramblers was lucky enough to join a celebratory walk along with Stuart Maconie and, impressively, sunshine! In the south, the Ramblers organised a celebratory walk to Westminster, to hear Green Party MP Caroline Lucas MP and Labout Party MP Fiona O’Donnell MP talk about what the trespass meant, and still means, to the access movement.
As I was in London (oh for the Peaks!), I joined the Ramblers at Vauxhall at 1pm sharp. A large group of staff, volunteers and fellow outdoor enthusiasts rambled along the Thames Path towards the Houses of Parliament, a long line of bobble hats by a sparkling river. Crossing Victoria Tower Gardens we made our way to College Green where we proudly held up a banner proclaiming the 80th Anniversary of the Kinder Scout Trespass, before launching our bobble hats in the air to honour the trespassers. As well as Caroline Lucas and and Fiona O’Donnell, 15 other MPs (including Natasha Engle, Huw Irranca-Davies, Gavin Shuker, Fiona Mactaggart, Angela Smith, Richard Burden, Cathy Jamieson, Mike Gapes and Mark Lazarowicz) came down from Parliament to join in the fun.
The Ramblers Director of Campaigns, Nicky Philpott opened the speeches by outlining how the mass trespass has acted as inspiration to many who believe the outdoors should be enjoyed by all, not just a select few. Caroline Lucas and Fiona O’Donnell then spoke of the importance of continuing the important work to improve access, pointing towards the fantastic Welsh Coast Path and the need to continue work on the English Coast Path – at this point Huw Irranca-Davies, who as the former Defra Environment Minister championed the Coast path, was heard to give an encouraging cheer. Caroline Lucas nobly quoted the lyrics from Manchester Rambler, much to the joy of all, “I belong to the mountains, the clear running fountains, where the grey rocks lie rugged and steep. I’ve seen the white hare in the gulleys, and the curlew fly high overhead, and sooner than part from the mountains, I think I would rather be dead.”
With the motivating words, “Let’s not talk the talk, let’s walk the walk” from Fiona O’Donnell, we all continued our ramble to St James Park, where a riot of spring flowers – red primrose and yellow hyacinth, viola and cherry blossom – and the prehistoric looking pelicans awaited us. Through Broad Sanctuary into the impressive Deans Yard and down Tufton Street which brought us back to Vauxhall via Horseferry Road, we saw a different side of London, many of us commenting on the joy of hidden alleyways and shortcuts through green spaces.
As we walked back to the Ramblers Central Office and an impressive spread of tea and cakes (the pub, the traditional ramblers end point would come later) we discussed how far we have come since that day in 1932 when a desire to ramble could land you in jail. We toasted the trespassers with an acknowledgement that whilst we have achieved much there is still much work to do. To reiterate this, the Ramblers has produced a map especially for the 80th anniversary of the Kinder Trespass, which gives just some examples of places in England and Wales that are still out of bounds for walkers.
You can share your thoughts on the anniversary below or via the Twitter tag #Kinder80 and most importantly, celebrate the Kinder Trespass by enjoying the freedom of a good walk!
Sarah Gardner is Ramblers E-Communications Officer. Follow her tweets.
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