The New Mills police building where the Kinder Scout trespassers were held

The New Mills police building where the Kinder Scout trespassers were held

A leading campaigner said walkers risked being made into criminals under a planned coalition Government law.

Kate Ashbrook raised the spectre of renewed criminality at an event commemorating six ramblers who were jailed for their efforts in securing the right to walk on the Peak District hills.

Ms Ashbrook, who is president of the Ramblers and general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, told a gathering of more than 300 people that provisions in the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill would make trespass a criminal offence in certain cases.

She was speaking at New Mills Town Hall, across the road from the place where Benny Rothman and five other Kinder Scout trespassers were first incarcerated 81 years ago, after a confrontation on the hill with the Duke of Devonshire’s gamekeepers.

Ms Ashbrook said: “The bill threatens to make trespass a criminal offence by creating public spaces protection orders – in fact, exclusion orders – applied to places like open country and village greens, where the public currently has the right of recreation.”

She also accused the Government of being driven by development dogma, and of a piece-by-piece dismantling of the planning system, with potentially disastrous effects on previously protected areas such as village greens and national parks.

“National parks are certainly not safe,” she said. “The Growth and Infrastructure Act undermines the duty of public bodies to have regard to national-park purposes.

“Neither are our 13 National Trails, which guarantee access to the best of our wild country but which the Government is proposing to hand over to local trails partnerships.”

Kate Asbrook with, from left, Jon Stewart, Phil Moody, Keith Warrender, Terry Howard and Boff Whalley. Photo: Keith Warrender

Kate Asbrook with, from left, Jon Stewart, Phil Moody, Keith Warrender, Terry Howard and Boff Whalley. Photo: Keith Warrender

Ms Ashbrook called for renewed campaigning, reporting path problems, lobbying councillors and MPs to get across benefits of outdoor activities for health and the economy; working together to get a better deal for walkers, riders and cyclists, and learning from the Kinder trespassers’ legacy.

She also launched the Friends of Kinder Trespass membership group, organised by the Kinder Visitor Centre Group of Hayfield, whose members already include Sir Chris Bonington and Lord Hattersley and which has long-term plans for a trespass visitor centre in the village.

A programme of the 60th anniversary event, signed by trespass leader Benny Rothman, will be auctioned on the group’s website to raise funds.

Other speakers were Terry Howard, chair of the Kinder & High Peak Advisory Committee; Keith Warrender, who gave an illustrated history of the trespass, and Jon Stewart, manager of the National Trust’s Peak District estate, which includes Kinder Scout.

The event finished with music by Boff Whalley, founder member of the anarcho-punk-pop band Chumbawamba, singing the band’s tribute to the Mass Trespass, You Can, accompanied by accordionist Phil Moody.

The Chapel-en-le-Frith Male Voice Choir finally led the traditional singing of The Manchester Rambler.

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