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Let’s have the Right to Roam

December 15, 2013

The people of Britain should not need to trespass in order to visit their own land – the best bits of Britain. The Scottish people now have some of the best access in Europe. They may wander freely across almost all of their own land, given a few common-sense restrictions, such as avoiding gardens and the immediate policies of people’s homes, growing crops and so forth.

How long will it be before the peoples of England, Wales and Ireland have the same freedom?

It is true that in England and Wales we have the CRoW (Countryside and Rights of Way Act). This gives access on foot – with certain restrictions – to mountain and moorland, heathlands, downlands and common land. At the time it was a step in the right direction. I campaigned for it, even though I have never really favoured this gradualist approach.

Looking back over this past decade I think it was a mistake to accept anything less than access with land reform on the Scottish model.

I welcome an annual celebration of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass. I am pleased to see that such an event has been planned for next year and every year. The deeds of Benny Rothman and his fellow trespassers must never be forgotten. See for further information on the annual celebration.

But where are the mass trespasses of today?

Why are we not highlighting the forbidden woodlands and coastlines? Why are we not targeting the downlands exempted from CRoW? Why are we being gradualist at all?

When I was younger, the Ramblers Association held – each year – a Forbidden Britain day. It achieved massive publicity and kept the whole subject of public access to OUR countryside on the public agenda.

Sadly, some elements in the RA watered down the concept.

Now it doesn’t exist at all.

So shouldn’t we bring it back?

I say, yes!

On the weekend nearest to the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass, we should hold a Forbidden Britain Day, highlighting some appalling restriction on our right to roam. We should tell our politicians that we want nothing less than the land access enjoyed by the people of Scotland.

And, if the landowning lobby groups don’t like it, tough! Let us slash the subsidies their members receive, care of we hard-working taxpayers.  Let us make ANY subsidy conditional on free public access to the land we are paying for.

Do you remember those words of John Stuart Mill? “No man made the land, it is the original inheritance of the whole species. The land of every country belongs to the people of that country.”

So, if you are a member of the Ramblers Association, or a political party, why not campaign within those organisations for land reform, with full public access to our countryside?

The need to trespass should be consigned to the history books, replaced by an absolute right to roam.

And, in the meantime let us all walk the landscapes of England, Wales and Ireland as if we already had the land access that the Scots enjoy.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. John Edwards permalink
    December 15, 2013 4:14 pm

    “The Scottish people now have some of the best access in Europe.”

    As I have commented in Walk magazine, there is a great gulf between the law and practice, particularly on golf courses, shooting estates, and access to river banks.

  2. December 15, 2013 6:25 pm

    Powerfully stated, bravo!

  3. December 16, 2013 8:00 am

    I take John’s point and abuses need to be jumped on,


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