The 1932 intrusion drew attention to the Duke of Devonshire’s decree
Yet until a protest march took place on Sunday April 24, 1932 to demand greater access to the countryside, we were allowed to enjoy very little of it. Known as the Kinder Trespass, the walk involved 400 walkers who came together to attempt to scale Kinder Scout, a plateau of moorland in the Peak District which is the highest point in Derbyshire.
It was called a trespass because Kinder was owned by the ninth Duke of Devonshire and other wealthy landowners who had barred public access.
Until the late 19th century, people could roam freely on Kinder, but permission has since been withdrawn.
The owners feared that walkers would disturb the grouse they kept there. Access to the moors was now restricted to a few guests – often other members of the landed gentry – armed with shotguns during the grouse hunting season.
For the trespassers, many of whom were factory workers, marching on Kinder was the rural escape they dreamed of at the end of a long, hard week of hard work in the industrial industries of Manchester and Sheffield.
Denying them access not only took away one of their few pleasures, but also heightened the already growing feelings of tension between classes in 1930s Britain.
The plaque commemorating the bravery of the walkers of April 24, 1932
The intrusion was led by a young auto mechanic named Benny Rothman who was joined by famous folk music legend Ewan MacColl, father of Fairytale Of New York singer Kirsty MacColl.
They had planned a peaceful protest but, as the walkers climbed the forbidden slopes of Kinder, they were confronted by the Duke’s game wardens and other hired ‘heavies’ wielding sticks.
A scuffle ensued, but some of the hikers broke through and made it to the top. Back in Hayfield, at the foot of the western slopes of Kinder, the leaders of the march were arrested. Six of them were tried in court for rioting.
One was acquitted but the other five received heavy sentences ranging from two to six months in prison. None of the game wardens have been tried.
As a result, the intrusion drew national attention and his cause gained support.
Keith Warrender is the author of three books on the Kinder Trespass, the latest of which Forbidden Kinder is published to coincide with his 90th birthday.
The magnificent view of Kinder Scout
He says: “Formal marching organizations at the time appealed to the Home Secretary but the sentences were not reduced. The establishment saw the trespass as a threat to society, which was really a bit far-fetched.”
Keith reveals: “The only injury to a gamekeeper was caused by someone called John Anderson who was actually opposed to the trespassing. He thought one of the Duke’s gamekeepers was overwhelmed by the walkers , rushed to help him and, raising his hand in defense of the guard, ended up hitting him by mistake. He ended up receiving one of the most severe sentences of the entire series, six months in prison. .
Twenty years ago, the 11th Duke of Devonshire, who died in 2004, traveled to the Peak District from Chatsworth, his stately home in Derbyshire, and told a crowd of 1,000 gathered to celebrate the birthday: “I am only too happy to take this opportunity to apologize for my grandfather’s conduct 70 years ago. The Great Trespass was a very shameful event for my family.
“But out of this great evil and these dreadful condemnations came great good.”
The Duke of Devonshire traveled to the Peak District from Chatsworth
That great good was the creation of the National Parks, the first of which was the Peak District, and the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act which enshrined public access to open spaces in our legislation, the culmination of a campaign fueled by the injustices of the Kinder Trespass.
That access is under threat again now, however, according to Nick Hayes, author of a Sunday Times bestseller The Book Of Trespass.
He reveals: “Only eight percent of this country is available to walk under CRoW and most of it is inaccessible to the vast majority of our population (because it is too far from the cities in which they live).
“So we are still in a place where people are fundamentally excluded from nature and all the health benefits that come with it. We need to bring nature to people’s doorsteps. Why should antlers be used only for raising pheasants and not for boosting people’s immune systems? systems?”
What Nick and the organizations he represents, such as righttoroam.org.uk, want is the legal right to roam in wild, open areas of the countryside without having to stick to narrow paths . It is very clear, however, that this should not be seen as a threat to established principles of land ownership.
Folk music legend Ewan MacColl led a protest that changed the law
“The premise of extending the right to roam is that the sanctity of (the landowner’s) privacy is respected, from the outset. And that we also exercise that right with respect for nature and the private property. We’re not advocating walking through people’s gardens or stomping around small farms. We’re talking about access to areas such as woods and greenbelts that wouldn’t hurt anyone. And even then, do it responsibly with dogs on a leash, leaving no trace of our presence.
Those sentiments are echoed by the Ramblers, a pro-walking charity that seeks to make better access to nature a key part of the government’s Leveling Up programme.
James MacColl, Head of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns at Ramblers, told the Express: “We are seeing a big difference in people’s access to nature based on their wealth, location and age. ethnicity. So we’re trying to get the government to include access to nature as part of these policy reforms, and there’s a petition on our website that people can sign if they want to help.”
However, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents land, property and business interests in rural areas of England and Wales, has some understandable reservations about extending the area covered by the roaming right.
CLA President Mark Tufnell told the Express, “These spaces are also a workplace where land, livestock, machinery, wildlife and the environment must be respected. A significant expansion of this already vast network would also likely increase damage to spaces. depends on our already declining wildlife.”
It’s a fair point but, as Nick Hayes says, “How can we be expected to care about the destruction of our planet and its species if we’ve been so removed from nature that we don’t ‘have no personal connection with her?
One thing that cannot be denied is that wandering around the pleasant green land of England can be a good thing, provided you respect the people who live and work there.
Today’s hikers may not have to worry about being hit with a game warden’s baton or a hefty prison sentence if they stray slightly off public trails. But there are other more subtle obstacles to a pleasant walk in the countryside, such as the sabotage of panels and uprights or the blocking of rights-of-way by agricultural machinery.
Walkers, too, should be respectful of nature by avoiding stepping on crops, bringing their rubbish home and not letting their dogs disturb the livestock.
Most walkers, like most landowners, obey the rules but all parties agree that increased access, if it occurs, should certainly be accompanied by increased education on rights and duties of both parties to each other.
These days Kinder Scout is in the hands of the National Trust and, as David Toft of the Hayfield Kinder Trespass Group points out, “With around 80% of it now open to the public, it’s hard to find anywhere on Kinder where you can actually trespass!”
But, as he continues: “Other parts of the Peak District are still off limits and the situation for walkers is even more restrictive in many other parts of the country. If Benny Rothman were alive he would probably tell us that we ‘I have there is still work to do.”
• Forbidden Kinder – The 1932 Mass Trespass Revisited by Keith Warrender (£17.95, Willow Publishing) is available to order from bookstores and online booksellers. Find out more at kindertrespass.org.uk