September 30, 2020|Reports

“Right to Roam” – Neil Bond

Neil Bond was Wickham History Society’s first speaker since our last pre-pandemic meeting in February. His talk was very timely after the restrictions earlier in the year: a celebration of the ‘right to roam’. Over thirty members and visitors joined our first Zoom meeting on Tuesday 22nd September and enjoyed a well researched and presented talk on the growth of ‘rambling’ and the controversial campaign to secure right of access to the Peak District.

It wasn’t until the inter war years that walking became a mass pastime in Britain. A notice in The Times by a keen walker inviting companions to join him was met by an enormous response and Southern Railways began putting on ‘walking special’ trains from Waterloo. In 1927 the first walking boots catalogue was published and in 1931 the Ramblers Federation was formed, the predecessor of the Ramblers Association.

Kinder Scout in the Peak District became the flashpoint in the struggle for walkers from the industrial conurbations around the Peak District to gain access to the moors. In April 1932 the British Workers Sports Federation organised a mass trespass of 400 walkers onto the Kinder Scout plateau. The landowners had mustered large numbers of gamekeepers and there were a series of confrontations and scuffles. Five of the six walkers arrested for riotous assembly were convicted and sentenced to prison for terms of between four to six months. The cases attracted enormous press attention and there was parliamentary pressure to allow walkers on the moors. This was strongly resisted by the well represented grouse shooting interests and it was not until after the post war Labour Government came to power in 1949 that the Peak District became Britain’s first National Park.

The presentation was followed by a lively question and answer session during which we discovered that the one of our members’ mother was actually involved in the mass trespasses on Kinder Scout!

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