Milestones on the Road to Freedom

1865 Commons and Open Spaces Society formed

1876 Hayfield and Kinder Scout Ancient Footpaths Association formed

1884 Liberal MP James Bryce introduces first access to mountains bill

1893 Co-operative Holidays Association formed by TA Leonard for rambling holidays

1894 The Peak & Northern Footpaths Society formed in Manchester

1900 Sheffield Clarion Ramblers founded by GHB Ward – the first working class rambling club

1905 First Federation of Rambling Clubs formed in London

1932 Mass trespass on Kinder Scout; five ramblers imprisoned

1935 Ramblers’ Association founded

1938 Access to mountains bill introduced by Arthur Creech-Jones, becoming the severely emasculated and largely unused Access to Mountains Act of 1939

1945 Rambler and architect John Dower produces his report on national parks

1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act passed, allowing access agreements with landowners

1951 Peak District becomes the first national park and negotiates access agreements to Kinder Scout the following year. Sixty per cent of access agreements are in the Peaks

1965 Tom Stephenson’s Pennine Way long distance path opens, crossing Kinder Scout and Bleaklow

2000 Countryside and Rights of Way Act passed, enshrining the right of walkers to roam freely in open country

2001 First access forums set up

Extract from article by Roly Smith for the Guardian on 17 Apr 2002

National Parks

Britain’s National Parks Today

One big family There are 15 members of the National Parks family in the UK, beautiful areas of mountains, meadows, moorlands, woods and wetlands. 
They are areas of protected countryside that everyone can visit, and where people live, work and shape the landscape.

And each one is managed by its own National Park Authority that looks after the landscape and wildlife and helps people enjoy and learn about the area.
The UK’s 15 National Parks are part of a global family of over 113,000 protected areas, covering 149 million square kilometres or 6% of the Earth’s surface. We are linked to Europe through the EUROPARC Federation – a network of European protected areas with 360 member organisations in 37 countries.

There are 10 National Parks in England, 3 in Wales and 2 in Scotland, they are:

  • England –  Dartmoor, Exmoor, Lake District, New Forest, Northumberland, North York Moors, Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales, the South Downs and the Broads which has equivalent status to a National Park
  • Wales – Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast and Snowdonia
  • Scotland – Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

Not ours – but ours to look after

Each National Park is administered by its own National Park Authority. They are independent bodies funded by central government to:

• conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage; and

• promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of National Parks by the public.

If there’s a conflict between these two purposes, conservation takes priority. In carrying out these aims, National Park Authorities are also required to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the National Park.

The Broads Authority has a third purpose, protecting the interests of navigation, and under the Broads Act 1988 all three purposes have equal priority.

The Scottish National Parks’ objectives are to also promote the sustainable use of natural resources, the sustainable economic and social development of local communities and more of a focus on recreation.

For more information and links to all 15 National Park websites, see:

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Peak and Northern Footpaths Society

The Peak and Northern Footpaths Society was set up in 1894 to preserve and extend public footpaths. Its first campaign was to secure a right of way around Kinder Scout from Hayfield to the Snake Inn (which does not go onto the summit plateau itself).  It succeeded with this mission only two years later, and this path remains a very important access route to this day. It was used by the Mass Trespassers from Hayfield in 1932 to reach the places where they wanted to stage their excursion into the forbidden areas of Kinder Scout.

Extract from Peak and Northern website:

On the 29th July 1894, an anonymous letter appeared in the Manchester Guardian pointing out that Kinder was only part of a larger problem. The public was being excluded from more and more stretches of moorland, and there was no authority whose special business it was to see that old-established rights of way were respected. A meeting was held in the Piccadilly Restaurant, Manchester, on the 3rd August and the first minute book of the Society records: 
“At a meeting held at the above restaurant on this date convened by Mr. W H Chadwick of Church Lane, Gorton, to consider the best means of securing the public rights of way over Kinderscout from Hayfield to the Snake Inn, it was resolved – “That Mr C T Tallent Bateman take the chair.” After discussing the best method of securing the public right, it was resolved – “That a society be formed to preserve public rights of way within 50 miles of Manchester and such society be called The Manchester and District Footpaths Preservation Society”. It was moved by Mr. Abel Heywood and seconded by Mr. J B Cooper – “That the Society first deal with the public right of way over Kinderscout from Hayfield to the Snake Inn”. Resolved –”‘That Mr L Caradoc Evans of Didsbury be appointed secretary pro tem”. A meeting was held the following day (4th August) at Hayfield when some gentlemen from Derby and elsewhere attended and it was resolved to send to the proposed Society a recommendation that it be called The Peak District Footpaths Preservation Society, and ‘those present pledged themselves to join it”. The Society was formed officially at a meeting held at 7pm on Thursday 16th August 1894 in the Young Men’s Christian Association Hall, Peter Street, Manchester.

24th September 1896 the Manchester Guardian reported “The Peak District and Northern Counties Footpaths Preservation Society has happily succeeded in its first enterprise. The favourite route over Kinder Scout, from Hayfield to the Snake Inn, has been secured for ever to the public. All that remains to be done is to form a path, erect signposts, and build a small bridge over the Lady Brook near the Snake Inn. Everyone will then be able to take this delightful walk through some of the finest and wildest scenery in the Peak District without let or hindrance. This peaceful victory over the landowners, who threatened for a time to close the path, although within the memory of man the public had always enjoyed the right of way, speaks volumes for the energy and tact displayed by the officials of the Society. The appeal the Society now makes for £500 to pay the legal and other costs incurred in securing the footpath, will gain a ready response). Mr Benjamin Armitage of Chomlea has already contributed about £184 which, it is interesting to know, is the balance of a Fund raised by an old Manchester footpaths preservation society, founded in 1826 and existing as late as 1863. The remainder will no doubt be found by private subscribers. the Society that has rendered such a great public service should not remain a moment in doubt whether its labours are appreciated for it has much work to do in the future”

For more information about the Society, see their website:

Mount Street / Peter Street, Manchester

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Sheffield Clarion Ramblers 
and GHB Ward

George Herbert Bridges Ward, known as G. H. B. Ward or Bert Ward
(1876 – 14 October 1957) was an activist for walkers’ rights and a Labour Party politician.

Born in central Sheffield, Ward worked as an engineer in a local steelworks. In 1900, he founded the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers recognised as the first working class rambling club with a walk around Kinder Scout. The club was named for The Clarion socialist newspaper.

The Clarion Rambling Club became the chief organisation campaigning for public access to the moorland areas of the Dark Peak.  As early as 1907, Ward participated in an illegal mass trespass of Bleaklow, a forerunner of the 1932 Mass trespass of Kinder Scout.

The Club also affiliated with the Labour Representation Committee, forerunner of the Labour Party. Ward became the first Secretary of the Sheffield Labour Representation Committee, on which he represented the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, later becoming Chair. A major political interest was his campaign against infant mortality, calling for increased supervision of midwives and the milk supply and for education of mothers.

In 1910, Ward became the founding editor of the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers Club Handbook, which he used to describe the history and lore of the Peak District and South Yorkshire. He also successfully campaigned for the Ordnance Survey to amend some place names, and was involved in founding the Hunter Archaeological Society He also revised John Derry’s Across the Derbyshire Moors.

In 1912, Ward formed the Hallamshire Footpath Preservation Society,and in 1926 he founded the Sheffield and District Federation of the Ramblers Association. An area of Lose Hill, in the Peak District, was given to him by the Ramblers Association in 1945 and named “Ward’s Piece”; he subsequently presented this to the National Trust. Ward also worked on the purchase of the Longshaw Estate, and was a founder member of the local Youth Hostel Association.

As a civil servant Ward was subject to a 10 year injunction that banned him from trespassing and probably only referred to James Watts’ land in the parish of Hayfield but he still went ahead and did it. There is a photo of Ward trespassing on the Hope Parish side of Kinder, in 1924, in the book ‘Days of Sunshine and Rain’ by Ann Beedham, which is about the journals of Mass Trespass participant George Willis Marshall.

Whilst other rambling groups actively condemned and opposed the Mass Trespass in 1932, Ward remained silent. The Trespass is briefly mentioned in the Clarion handbook of 1933/34 but Ward never talked about it. Some people believe that Ward knew or was involved in the Sheffield side of the trespass, but as a civil servant he could not admit this.

But the 1943-44 Clarion handbook (p.123) when talking about the Access to Mountains Act 1939 and the proposed “Pennine Way” states: ‘We always opposed the insertion of any trespass clause (a sly reversion of “trespass law”), in the Act, and £2 fine (if slightly modified, after our deputation to the Ministry and protest) for being on the land during any closed period; and the assumption that any rambler who is upon a moor one hour after sunset, and one hour before sunrise, is a potential poacher’.

Late in life, Ward began working at the Ministry of Labour, and retired in 1941 to his house at Owler Bar. In 1957, the University of Sheffield gave Ward an honorary degree of Master of Arts. Ward chaired the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers until his death later in the year.

The National Park’s Castleton Visitor Centre has a dedicate G.H.B Ward display

The GHB Ward archives and Sheffield Clarion handbooks are kept in Sheffield Local Studies Library.

There is also a book by David Sissons ‘The Best of the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers’ Handbooks’ contains a detailed chapter with a lot more information about Ward and the Clarion ramblers as well as information from the annual handbooks.

Copies of Sheffield Clarion handbooks can be purchased in Bird’s Yard in Chapel Walk Sheffield for £5.

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Sheffield SCAM

SCAM:  Origins and Achievements

The crucial contribution of the Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorlands is best summed up in the words of Dave Sissons in his introduction to a book on this subject, ” Right to Roam”. The book, subtitled “A Celebration of the Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorland” has many contributors, was compiled by Dave Sissons, edited by Roly Smith, and published in 2005 jointly by SCAM and Northern Creative Print Solutions.

The 2000 commerative plaque can be found on the wall of Sheffield Town Hall

The Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act, 2000 was a major landmark in the prolonged battle for public access to uncultivated land in the UK, and it marked the successful culmination of more than a century of on-and-off campaigning. It is arguable that the CROW Act would not have emerged from Parliament, certainly not as early as 2000, without sustained pressure on key individuals and organisations over nearly two decades by the Sheffield-based organisation, Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorland (SCAM).

More than any other organisation, SCAM led the way through the 1980s and 1990s with its policy of direct action, reviving the same tactic of mass trespass which had been used by access campaigners before the Second World War, the most legendary occasion being the 1932 Kinder Scout Mass Trespass. SCAM acted as a ginger group on the Ramblers’ Association, which in turn lobbied the Labour Party, especially during the latter decade or so of its 18 years in opposition (1979-1997), urging it to include in its party manifesto a commitment to the passing through Parliament of a new Right to Roam Act.  

Dave Sissons goes on to explain how SCAM started;

In 1981 the UK’s first National Park, the Peak District, celebrated its 30th anniversary. In the Sheffield Morning Telegraph of October 12, 1981, another anniversary was heralded in an article by Tim Brown – the 50th anniversary of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of Sunday, April 24, 1932. The article stated that, ‘Organising committees based in Hayfield and Manchester hope to bring together many of the trespassers of 1932 for a full day of organised walks and other special events’, and ‘Mr John Beadle, chairman of the Peak Park Planning Board, will unveil a commemorative plaque in the disused quarry where ramblers from Manchester mustered before their historic confrontation with a private army of gamekeepers on the grouse moor high above the village.’

The article went on to say, ‘The long fight for a legal right of access to mountains ended in a qualified victory under the 1945 Labour Government’. This provoked a response from Roy Bullen, then working for Derbyshire County Council as Area Careers Officer for the High Peak and Derbyshire Dales, and a long-standing member of the Ramblers’ Association.

In the Morning Telegraph of October 21, 1981, Roy Bullen wrote, ‘Qualified is the correct description, for there are still many areas of wild country to which the public do not have the same legal rights as they now enjoy on Kinder. As Howard Hill showed in his book Freedom to Roam (parts of which were serialised in the Morning Telegraph), there are still some 27 moors in the Peak and southern Pennines alone for which access agreements (or access orders) have yet to be made. Many country-goers believe the protracted negotiations between National Park authorities and moor owners are being delayed unnecessarily. While fully acknowledging the very important access agreements negotiated by the Peak Park Board in its earlier years, the public must not imagine the ramblers’ campaign is over. The gathering near Hayfield next April must, besides celebrating what has been achieved, focus sharply upon what the Peak Park Board and other National Park authorities still have to accomplish.’

A group of Sheffield activists, led by some prominent SWP members, then formed an organising committee to coordinate Sheffield’s contribution to the 50th anniversary event. Right from the start, their determination to be active in the campaign for increased access was made clear. 

So, in addition to rallying support for the planned celebrations in Hayfield in April, the meeting decided to organise an event similar to the 1932 Kinder trespass on some of this non-access moorland to the immediate west of Sheffield. Bamford Moor was selected and Sunday, March 28 was chosen as the date.

Sunday, March 28 was the beginning of British Summer Time and a lot of people forgot to put their clocks forward, missing relevant transport connections. Despite this little hiccup, the Bamford Moor mass trespass turned out to be a tremendous success, far exceeding expectations. Around 300 people turned up, with journalists and camera crews present at least at the start, most of them being not exactly dressed for the occasion. Though deprived of a skirmish, the press and television journalists gave good coverage, and it encouraged the committee to plan a programme of further mass trespasses.

The main Kinder Scout 50th Anniversary Celebrations duly took place on April 24 in Hayfield, with a few Manchester and Hayfield organisers being a bit miffed at the Sheffield organisers stealing a march on them with the Bamford Moor event. There was much media attention plus the presence of the rambling and outdoors ‘establishment’.

The Sheffield group followed the successes of Bamford Moor and the Kinder 50th with another public meeting on Monday, May 17 to plan future strategy. At this meeting it was decided that the ‘Sheffield Organising Committee’ sounded a bit old hat and non-descript, even though it produced a punchy acronym. A catchier name for the emerging organisation was sought and the meeting settled for Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorland, which produced the memorable acronym SCAM – memorable especially a few years later when the American slang term meaning ‘a swindle or con-trick’ gained currency in the UK. A further mass trespass was planned for Sunday, June 27, and the target this time was Bradfield Moors, owned by Fitzwilliam Estates.

SCAM’s current secretary is long term activist Terry Howard. Terry’s description of how his interest in the outdoors was nurtured by membership of the Woodcraft Folk also illustrates that  the practice of trespassing was well established in the Sheffield area long before SCAM was set up, and even before the 1932 mass trespass.

The Sheffield branch of the Woodcraft Folk started in 1929 on what was then a trespass walk below Stanage Edge. There several young people from the Independent Labour Party committed their lives to the ideals of Woodcraft, and the site is now known to Woodcraft Folk as ‘The Rock of Resolution’.

We spent many years in the Woodcraft Folk, rambling, camping, bivouacking, hostelling, never having a Sunday at home. ‘Home’ seemed to be the outdoors. Our leader and mentor was Basil Rawson, known to us as ‘Brown Eagle’. He told us of the early years of the Woodcraft Folk in Sheffield, the anti-fascist rallies and the campaigns for access to mountain and moorland. From him I learned about the 1932 Kinder Mass Trespass, the Abbey Brook Trespass in the same year, and the mass ramblers’ rallies in the Winnats Pass and Cave Dale. I learned later in my life that my mother had been a participant on these early mass rallies.

Other 1930s Campaigns

1929: Ramsay MacDonald sets up enquiry to investigate whether National Parks would be a good idea.

1931: The Addison Report recommends there should be a National Parks Authority to select the most appropriate areas.

1930s:  Proposals to make Dovedale the first National Park. The Depression created mass unemployment and for many people the only release was to get out into the countryside for cheap and healthy exercise. The northern moors were strictly preserved for grouse shooting and this lead to demands for access and protest meetings in the Winnats Pass at Castleton and elsewhere.

1931/1932: A change of Government and severe financial crisis means Addison’s recommendations are put on ice.
1932 Sunday 24 April: 400 ramblers gather at Bowden Bridge Quarry, Hayfield to trespass on Kinder Scout. Protesters are met by gamekeepers and scuffles break out. Arrests are made and five men are imprisoned. After the skirmish the demonstrators continue along the path through William Clough and are joined by Sheffield Ramblers who had walked via Kinder and Edale Cross. The whole group then walk along the Hayfield to Snake footpath to its highest point where they hold the ‘Victory’ meeting. The Rights of Way Act is passed.
1935: A conference, chaired by Norman Birkett, resurrects Addison’s ‘Central Authority for National Parks’. Tom Stephenson suggests a ‘Jubilee Trail’ along the backbone of England. The Ramblers’ Association is set up amalgamating many clubs across the country.
1936 26 May: first meeting of the Standing Committee on National Parks.

1938: John Dower, the Committee’s secretary, publishes ‘The Case for National Parks in Great Britain’.

1939: After 55 years the Access to the Mountains Act finally succeeds.

1942: The Scott Report accepts the need for national parks and looks at problems facing the countryside.

1945: The Dower Report suggests how national parks could work in England and Wales. A new Labour government sets up the Committee on National Parks, chaired by Sir Arthur Hobhouse.

1947: The Hobhouse Report suggests 12 potential national parks. The new Town & Country Planning Act sets up a ‘land-use planning system’ which includes national parks.

1948: The route of the Pennine Way is decided.

Negotiating Access after 1949

1949 16 December, the government passes the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act setting up the Countryside Commission, the Nature Conservancy Council (now both Natural England) and 10 national parks.

1950 A Landscape Area Special Development Order brings the design and materials of farm buildings in the Peak District, Lake District and Snowdonia under some planning control.

1951 The establishment of the Peak District National Park on 17 April brings the start of protracted negotiations leading to the first access agreements in the country for the public to walk on private moorland. The Lake District, Snowdonia and Dartmoor National Parks also designated.
1952 Pembrokeshire Coast and North York Moors National Parks established.

1953 The first agreement covering 5,624 acres of land owned by the Duke of Devonshire on Southern Kinder is signed with some additional areas belonging to the Youth Hostels Association and local Edale farmers in the same year.

1954 The Peak District National Park’s Ranger Service is set up and the first ranger, Tom Tomlinson, is appointed to work as a ‘warden’ in the Peak District in January. The Voluntary Warden Service is launched on Good Friday. Wardens are trained to help people appreciate the countryside. Yorkshire Dales and Exmoor National Parks are designated.

1955 In February the first access agreement for Kinder is signed.

1956 Northumberland National Park is designated.

1957 Brecon Beacons – the last national park designated by the 1949 Act is established. By the end of the year a further 15 sq. miles of south east Bleaklow are under an access agreement.

1960 Fieldhead information centre opens in Edale.

1961 An access agreement is signed for Langsett Moor. Windgather Rocks at Kettleshulme, near Whaley Bridge, are purchased to resolve a climbing problem.

1962 Stanage Edge access agreement is concluded.
1964 Three rover scouts die on Bleaklow Moor, resulting in the formation of the Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation and Edale Mountain Rescue Team, both staffed by wardens.

1965 24 April: thirty years on,  the Pennine Way is opened. The country’s first National Trail it stretches 256 miles from Edale to Scotland.

1968 The Countryside Act is passed, imposing a ‘duty’ on every minister, government department and public body to have “due regard for conserving the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside.”

1970 The Peak District National Park Authority purchase the North Lees estate including the climbing edge of Stanage.

1972 The Local Government Act establishes National Park Authorities to administer each Park. Forward planning documents – National Park Plans – must be produced.

1974 The Sandford Committee recommends that national parks should have larger budgets and more staff.

1976 Year of the drought and the scene of many devastating moorland fires around the Peak District National Park.

1979 The Peak District National Park rangers celebrate their 25th anniversary.
1980s A programme of guided walks is launched to encourage people from all walks of life to enjoy the Peak District.

1981 The Wildlife and Countryside Act is passed, the first comprehensive protection of listed species and habitats, and includes conservation schemes like Countryside Stewardship. Severn Trent Water in partnership with the then Peak Park Joint Planning Board pioneered the opening of Ladybower Reservoir and the removal of roadside fences.

1982 The 50th anniversary of the Kinder Mass Trespass. Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorland (SCAM) is set up. In October the National Trust buys the Kinder estate declaring it open for access in perpetuity.

CROW Act 2000
The CROW Act can be seen as part of an unfinished agenda. The legal right of access should be extended to coastal areas, woodlands and water. We should be working towards a vision of access which includes urban as well as rural open spaces, and which is at least as good as the Scottish or better still, the Scandinavian model.
We live in an increasingly overfed and under exercised population and our moorlands are places where you can still have adventure, pure and unsupervised; quiet enjoyment, and real darkness at night, where you can still see the stars as they should to be seen. We need to value and use this priceless resource for all members of society regardless of age, ability, status or ethnicity.
We believe that the moorlands act as a vital ‘sink’ for carbon dioxide emissions, and thus play an important part in combating global warming, and they are also crucial for our water supply as catchment areas for the many reservoirs in the hills. Proper management of the moors can also alleviate flooding incidents in the lowlands.
Our moorlands are also important for their biodiversity. How many species have been lost or have declined since the National Parks were established half a century ago, and how much uncultivated land is left for our wild flowers? How much of our internationally-important heather moorland has been over-grazed and eroded, and has the former industrial pollution been replaced by pollution from heavy traffic and aircraft?
We believe that it is important to recognise the beauty on our doorsteps, and that there is no need to travel long distances, polluting the atmosphere, for our holidays and recreation (which also contributes to global warming and climate change).
Just as the shift in the pattern of land ownership caught us largely unawares in the last century, so the continuum of change in the financial support of conservation organisations such as the National Trust and the National Parks is slowly making itself felt today. Increasingly the National Trust finds its expenditure out of pace with its income, and manpower on the High Peak estate, which includes Kinder, has been cut and the National Parks are facing difficulties as successive Government settlements have reduced their income in real terms. Important projects such as the successful Moors for the Future project have been under threat and the new Government Agency, Natural England, suffered major cuts in its budget even before it started.
Our heritage, landscape, biodiversity and recreation are under threat as never before. The legacy which we inherited from the trespassers 75 years ago is a strong one. Benny Rothman, leader of the Trespass, always advocated that if we do not build on the legacy, we will not have a legacy left. The choice is ours.
Roly Smith (from notes by Henry Folkard of BMC and Terry Howard of RA and SCAM)

Ramblers Association
The Ramblers’ Association and the “Right to Roam”
In 1884 James Bryce MP introduced the first bill to Parliament seeking to deliver a ‘right to roam’ on open countryside in England. The bill was reintroduced every year until 1914 and failed each time. Then in 1932 the Kinder Scout mass trespass caused a national outcry and the campaign for a right to roam on open countryside was placed firmly in the public eye.
Years of hard campaigning by the Ramblers’ and others followed the Kinder trespass. The Ramblers’ opposed the Access to Mountains Act 1939 which made trespass a criminal offence, fortunately later repealed, and lobbied for the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, which for the first time defined open country. Unfortunately, it became clear over the years that the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act could not provide access to open countryside on anything like the scale which campaigners hoped.
In 1985 the Ramblers’ Association launched the Forbidden Britain campaign, with the aim of securing a statutory right of access to open countryside. Snailsden Moor in the Peak District was the venue for the first annual Forbidden Britain Day. By 1991 the event was seeing increasing mass trespasses on a scale not seen since the 1930s. Following on from the success of the Forbidden Britain campaign the Ramblers’ Association sought a commitment from Government to provide legislation for a right to roam . This commitment would eventually appear in the Labour Party’s 1997 general election manifesto.
Finally, after decades of campaigning, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW) – which provides a right to walk on mountains, moorland, heath down and registered common land – became law on 30 November 2000 and was fully implemented across England on 31st of October 2005. The RA are currently campaigning for a legal right of access to all coastal land in England and will continue working to secure and protect the public rights to walk on open countryside.
If you value your right to walk freely in open countryside, across moorland, heath and downland, then show your support to the organisation who made it all possible. As a charity, we rely solely on member subscriptions to fund our important work. Help us campaign for walkers’ rights to the coast by becoming a member – join today.

Present Day Issues
Don’t Lose Your Way Campaign
#At the Kinder 81 celebration in 2013, access campaigner Kate Ashbrook spoke about some of the present day threats to access, and why campaigning needs to continue.
“I talked of the threats posed by the current regime to our access and our countryside, a government driven by development dogma which is dismantling the planning system piece by piece. I spoke of the threats to green spaces and village greens; national parks (despite the brilliant efforts of the Campaign for National Parks, the Growth and Infrastructure Act undermines the duty of public bodies to have regard to national park purposes: the thin end of the wedge); and national trails. Local authority budget cuts mean less attention to our public paths and access land, while the Anti-social Behaviour Bill threatens to make trespass a criminal offence by creating public spaces protection orders (in fact exclusion orders).
Trespassers’ torch It’s a dismal list, but just as the postwar campaigners were motivated by the tough times, so too should we rise to the occasion and pick up the Kinder trespassers’ torch.Threats bring opportunities. Walking is inexpensive and healthy, it’s good for the economy, the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy in 2014 should mean more money for access (but let’s make it permanent not permissive access which can be withdrawn at any time); devolution in Wales allows an opportunity to pilot good ideas, and there’s to be an Environment Bill whereby this could be done.
Our worst enemy is not obesity but apathy. If we don’t swim against the current we shall just drift downsteam. Benny Rothman and his colleagues knew all about that. So I made a call for renewed campaigning, reporting path problems, lobbying councillors and MPs to get across the huge benefit of outdoor activities for health and the economy; registering village greens where the land is not yet threatened with development; working together to get a better deal for walkers, riders and cyclists, and learning from the Kinder trespassers’ legacy.
‘The mountains would endure to feed those roots of human nature which are starved in cities and even among cornfields,’ wrote Jacquetta Hawkes in A Land (1951). Long may those mountains endure, along with our freedom to enjoy them”.
14 years ago we won the right to roam over mountains and moor, over hland and downland. When I open an OS map and see this right symbolised by swathes of yellow, I feel proud to be a Rambler and of all we’ve achieved together.
But included in that law was a catch. It said that in 2026, footpaths that aren’t on the map will be left off it. Forever.
We’re now halfway to 2026. We know that over 4,000 paths are still waiting to be added to the map and many more remain undiscovered. If a path’s not on the map it can be closed off, built on, gone forever. 
These are historic footpaths. Paths that have been walked by our ancestors, who used them to go to market, walk to church, visit their relatives. These footpaths are part of our heritage but unless things change, they won’t have a future.
It gets worse. It’s really hard to get a path put on the map. It can take over 20 years, and involves lots of to-ing and fro-ing between landowners, the council, the Government and the people who use the path. We just don’t have that time left.
Working with landowners and councils, we’ve come up with ways to make it easier to put paths on the map. So we don’t have to wait years and years for a path to be protected.
MPs are discussing our plans today. I’ll let you know how it goes, and how you can help as the political debate continues.
Together, we can ensure our historic footpaths have a future.
Many thanks,
Nicky Philpott
Director of Campaigns
PS – you can find out more about the plans and our Don’t Lose Your Way campaign on our website