In 1982, while working as a reporter for Granada TV in Manchester, I was fortunate enough to meet a small, dynamic elderly man by the name of Benny Rothman. The occasion was the 50th anniversary of the Kinder Trespass by a group of 400 ramblers, who in 1932, walked from Hayfield to Kinder Scout in the Peak District. (see link below-ed)
Benny, a member of the British Workers Sports Federation, was one of the leaders of three groups of walkers who converged on Kinder Scout in defiance of the landowners and gamekeepers who blocked their path. Scuffles broke out on the summit, five of the walkers were arrested, but the point was made and the event widely covered in the national press of the day. The point being that the British countryside should be the open and accessible to men and women of every background and class.
According to the Hayfield Kinder Trespass Group, this act of civil disobedience was one of the most successful in British history. It arguably led to the passage of the National Parks legislation in 1949 and helped pave way for the establishment of the Pennine Way and other long-distance footpaths. Walkers’ rights to travel through common land and uncultivated upland were eventually protected by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW Act) of 2000. Though controversial when it occurred, it has been interpreted as the embodiment of working class struggle for the right to roam versus the rights of the wealthy to have exclusive use of moorlands for grouse shooting.
Later generations in the UK, have become accustomed to being able, armed with their trusty Ordnance Survey Map usually found these days on a smartphone, to traverse an astonishing 150,000 miles of footpaths and byways across the UK. Along these ancient routes we follow in the footsteps of our ancestors who forged these paths often thousands of years ago. Few countries in the world have a comparable network for public enjoyment.
But there’s a problem. Somehow according to the Ramblers, we have forgotten, lost or just misplaced almost 49,000 miles of footpaths that are now unrecorded and missing from our current official maps. They all need finding, recording and recovering by 2026 when the legal record of rights of way will be updated.
It’s a massive challenge, and if you care about the countryside and our ability to roam then the Ramblers need your help fast. Their ‘Don’t lose your Way Campaign’ aims to restore these historic routes and you can track down missing paths where you live using their mapping tool.
Time to get those walking boots out, and follow Benny’s ghost across this green and pleasant land. Details of how to get involved can be found here:
Note: There are some great photos of gamekeepers waiting for the original Kinder trespassers in the archives if you can track them down.
Lindsay Charlton is a journalist, entrepreneur fell walker and an enthusiast for many healthy sports
#bennyrothman #kinderscout #rambling #health #sports #countryside #nationalparks