Kinder Scout trespass: How mass action 90 years ago won ramblers roaming rights

Posted: April 26th 2022


We still have a very contested countryside and not everything about the impact of National Parks is seen as universally good. I think we will still be talking about the issues at the heart of this story in a further 100 years. Perhaps through a green prescribing lens!!! It tells us:

On 24 April, 1932, a group of young workers decided to stake their claim to the English countryside by staging a mass trespass. The result was arrests, prison sentences - and an outcry that is credited by many as shaping the rural access we enjoy today. BBC News looks back at the uprising on the uplands - and asks what the future holds for roaming rights.

Just over 90 years ago, a typed notice began to circulate among the workers of northern England.

It called on people to join a Ramblers' Rally - a mass trespass - on Kinder Scout, the highest point of the Derbyshire Peak District.

Benny Rothman notoriously received a prison sentence for his part in the trespass

At that time Kinder - and much of the moorland around it - was kept exclusively for grouse shooting by its owner, the Duke of Devonshire, and his gamekeepers patrolled the land to see off walkers.

The rally resolved to challenge this situation.

Organised by the British Workers' Sports Federation, a Communist-influenced group, it extended a "hearty welcome" to the "young workers of Eccles", whether they had been rambling before or not.

The notice extended a hearty welcome to those who wanted to join the rally

Hundreds of men and women saw the advertisement and decided to join the gathering, planned for 14:00 BST on 24 April.

Among their number was Benny Rothman, a young mechanic.

Broadcaster Stuart Maconie has called for the subject of the trespass to be taught in schools

In a BBC interview in the 1980s, he said: "It was possibly a naive idea that if enough ramblers went on a ramble, no group of keepers could stop them because there would be more ramblers than keepers.

Five walkers - including Mr Rothman - were charged with unlawful assembly and breach of the peace and, at Derby assizes, were sentenced to between two and six months in prison for their part in the "riotous assembly".

The outcry that greeted the sentences has been credited by many with starting a movement that led to the foundation of Britain's national parks with the first - appropriately enough - being the Peak District in 1951.

Belinda Scarlett who manages the Working Class Movement Library, the home of the Benny Rothman archive and other archive material relating to the trespass, said the event was "one of the most important examples of direct action of the socialist and communist politics of the 1930s".