Here in the North West of England we are indeed very fortunate to live in one of the most strikingly beautiful areas of the world; from the heavenly vistas in the Lake District National Park, to designated Areas of Outstanding Beauty such as Silverdale and Arnside, to the recent re-claiming of access to the coastal path from Allonby to Silecroft.
Right to roam under threat
But unfortunately, access is not easily accessible and welcoming for everyone. The battle for the right to roam and rights of way, from the Winter Hill Trespass way back in 1896 right up to current lobbying to retain a 300-year-old right of way alongside the River Irwell in Manchester city centre’s New Bailey development, is far from over. Now is the time for action before any further access to our land is lost.
The now infamous Kinder Mass Trespass of 1932, when over 400 young men descended on Hayfield demanding the right of access to the moors after a gruelling working week in the filthy and dangerous mills surrounding Manchester, eventually led to the creation of all the National Parks we still enjoy today.
Behind the scenes, then and now, there was a great deal of low profile, day-to-day hard work in lobbying and negotiating, led by Tom Stephenson, who founded the Ramblers’ Association a couple of years after the trespass. This mass trespass is now an annual commemorative event with a range of activities planned this year on the 23 and 24 April for its 90th anniversary organised by the Hayfield Kinder Trespass Group , including a rally, an exhibition and music. There will also be walks led by the Ramblers association.
Your Movement Matters
The lack of diversity in the countryside has recently been highlighted in the national press and there are many important questions which need to be asked. One of the main barriers is the perception that rural areas are an exclusively white space. The campaigner and founder of Walk4Health, Maxwell Ayamba is exploring reasons why this might be the case. He believes that “There hasn’t been any sustained mechanism or robust policy to address the lack of diversity in the English countryside in a holistic way.”
A recent research project entitled ‘Your Movement Matters’ was initiated by eight of the UK’s leading walking, climbing, and outdoor leisure organisations. The research was carried out by Leeds Beckett University and has created an evidence base of what participation looks like. Participants were asked about stories, motivations, barriers, opportunities, and desires to try new activities.
Reasons for not yet participating in ‘activities they already do’ by respondents from Black, Asian or minority ethnic heritage backgrounds found time (20%), and transportation (20%), were the top two reasons stopping them from being able to participate in their chosen walking activities, but 40% of those respondents who already walk selected cost/financial reasons as a reason for not yet participating in another activity that they are interested in, followed by I do not have the equipment/kit I think I need to participate (37%).
All is not lost however, as impromptu walking groups are springing up all the time through the use of social media and there remains a great deal of interest in walking in the countryside from all groups. The newly-formed Muslim Hikers organised an event on Christmas Day when a record 100 people went hiking around Mam Tor in the Peak District.
They have been completely blown away by the popularity of their events. The media attention that they have received has significantly raised their profile, and been a source of inspiration to many. Another group called Black Girls Hike has also become wildly popular.
The Countryside Rights of Way Act (2000) has consolidated gains in access and helped extend it but Dave Toft Chair of the Hayfield Kinder Trespass group, submitted a freedom of information request which speaks for itself: “Thank you for your enquiry. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 gave the public access to 865,000 hectares of land in England, which is 7% of the total.”
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