...leading to the creation of our National Parks
2015 was the 83th anniversary of what has been called as the most crucial event in the century-long battle for the freedom to roam on Britain’s mountains and moorlands.
The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of April 24, 1932 resulted in the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of four young Manchester ramblers, whose only ‘crime’ was walking on the moors.
Eighty years ago, the highest and wildest moorlands of the Peak District were frustratingly out-of-bounds to the growing army of walkers from the surrounding cities, and were jealously guarded by stick-wielding gamekeepers for their grouse-shooting masters.
On that sunny Sunday morning, about 400 ramblers set off from Hayfield on the western side of Kinder to deliberately trespass on what was then the Peak’s ‘forbidden mountain.’
When they stepped off the path, they were met by a line of gamekeepers and a few scuffles followed. A victory meeting was held near Ashop Head and then the trespassers marched back to Hayfield, where police arrested five people who were charged, significantly not with trespass, but with with public order offences such as riotous assembly.
At their subsequent trial at Derby Assizes, four of the five young defendants received swingeing prison sentences of between two and six months. Ironically, it was the severity of the sentences which served to unite the ramblers’ cause.
The Kinder mass trespass undoubtedly bought the access issue to a head, and acted as an important catalyst to the whole national parks and access to the countryside movement, which eventually led to national parks legislation in 1949 and to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000.
There had always been a strong tradition of walking on the Peak District moors. The Sheffield Clarion Rambling Club was one of the earliest in the country to be founded for working class people in 1901. It was here that ‘the gentle art of trespass’, as it was described by one early access campaigner, was born. The Kinder trespass was merely the culmination of many years of individual and group trespasses.
When the Peak District National Park authority was established in 1951, one of the first things it did was to negotiate access agreements with landowners on those battlegrounds of the 1930s.
Covering over 80 square miles of the national park, these remained in force until the CROW Act of 2000 eventually gave ramblers their cherished right to roam over all open country.
Copyright - Let's Stay Peak District
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015