Ramblers set off on the 1932 mass trespass

Ramblers set off on the 1932 mass trespass

The new president of the Ramblers said the spirit of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespassers must be kept alive in the face of mounting challenges to the right to access the countryside.

Veteran campaigner Kate Ashbrook, who was elected to the Ramblers’ post at the weekend, said: “We must keep the Kinder trespassers’ torch aflame.”

Addressing a Peak District gathering to mark the 80th anniversary of the battle fought between ramblers and gamekeepers on the area’s highest hill, Ms Ashbrook said: “We cannot be complacent; we cannot treat Kinder as mere history.

“The threats which the trespassers fought are still very much with us, but in a different guise.

“We are in uncertain times, when finance comes before freedoms.

“In England, we do not know the future of the public forest estate; we have no indication from the Government when the coastal-access law will be fully implemented; new planning laws threaten green spaces; and a law change could threaten our ability to register land as village greens.

“Our countryside and our urban spaces and paths are being privatised: for instance, landowners erect intimidating gates and CCTV cameras next to public paths, public land is being sold; local authorities make gating orders on urban paths.”

Ms Ashbrook, who is also general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, told the Edale meeting of examples of how England’s countryside was still under threat.

Kate Ashbrook: 'a milestone judgment'. Photo: Andrew McCloy

Kate Ashbrook: 'a milestone judgment'. Photo: Andrew McCloy

“In the last couple of weeks,” she said, “the Open Spaces Society has fought an unlawful four-mile fence across the Brecon Beacons national park; wind turbines on common land in the Forest of Bowland, Lancashire; an unlawful, bulldozed track across a Gloucestershire common, and golf-course development plans on Kendal village green, Cumbria, and Walton Heath Common, Surrey.”

Much of England and Wales remains out-of-bounds to walkers despite the efforts of activists such as the Kinder ramblers, she said. “While the Kinder trespass led, 70 years later, to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act which gives us responsible freedom to roam on open country in England and Wales, we still cannot gain access to some of that land because there are no legal routes to it, and in lowland England and Wales not much land was mapped for access anyway.

“Scotland has access laws which are the envy of us all. However, gaining new access in England and Wales is increasingly difficult, and we must campaign to keep what we have.

“We never know when the Kinder spirit must be rekindled. That’s why we must keep that torch alight.”

The Edale meeting kicked off a week-long celebration of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass in 1932, led by Manchester Communist Benny Rothman, after which he and five others were jailed for their part in the protest.

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