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A treacherous act

July 13, 2014


Seventy-five years ago today, 13 July 1939, the Access to Mountains Act 1939 received royal assent.  My predecessor at the Open Spaces Society, Sir Lawrence Chubb, had a big hand in this but it is nothing to be proud of.  We can only feel relieved that the act was repealed ten years later by clause 84 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 without ever being applied.

In summary, the act did not grant a right of access, it merely prohibited owners from keeping walkers off the land during daylight hours; the act only applied to mountain, moor, heath, down or cliff where there was an order for access, the process for achieving this was cumbersome, slow and expensive, and in certain circumstances trespass became a criminal offence, punishable by fine.

Tom Stephenson, former secretary of the Ramblers’ Association (RA), wrote in detail about the 1939…

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