Rambling on Kinder Scout

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The 1932 mass trespass at Kinder Scout has passed into rambling legend and is seen as a milestone in the fight for the right to roam. Located in the north of the Derbyshire Peak District, and very close to the Manchester conurbation, this moorland plateau is of outstanding beauty, with views of Snowdon on a clear day and a 30-foot waterfall that the winds blow into the sky.

But 70 years ago, Kinder Scout was a private moor reserved for grouse shooting. And the famous demonstration, organised by the British Workers Sport Federation, was very much part of the 1930s class war. The confrontation with police and game keepers on the one side and a mixed group of communists, students and ramblers on the other resulted in scuffles, arrests and prison sentences. In his statement at the dock, Bernard Rothman, one of the organisers, argued their case:

Some 300 or more ramblers, he said, had gathered to protest against the enclosure of moorland in Derbyshire. Ramblers, after a hard week’s work and life in smoky towns and cities, went rambling at weekends for relaxation, for a breath of fresh air and a little sunshine. They found that the finest rambling country was closed to them because certain individuals wished to shoot for about ten days in the year, and ramblers were forced to walk on muddy, crowded paths and denied the pleasures of enjoying to the utmost of the countryside  – From Forbidden land by Tom Stephenson, Ann Holt, and Mike Harding

Taking part in the trespass was 17-year-old Ewan MacColl, singer, poet and activist, who was inspired to write the ballad The Manchester Rambler. Here’s an extract:

The day was just ending as I was descending
Through Grindsbrook, just by Upper Tor
When a voice cried, Eh you, in the way keepers do.
He’d the worst face that ever I saw.

He called me a louse and said, Think of the grouse.
Well I thought but I still couldn’t see
Why old Kinder Scout and the moors round about
Couldn’t take both the poor grouse and me.
He said, All this land is my master’s.
At that I stood shaking my head
No man has the right to all mountains
Any more than the deep ocean bed.

It wasn’t until 1952 that ramblers were finally given access to the moor. But this year there is good reason to recall the mass trespass with the announcement that Kinder Scout, owned by the National Trust since 2000, has been declared a National Nature Reserve. The transformation from what was once a playground for the rich has been completed.

The beautiful photograph is from the Kinder Trespass site.

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