On Tuesday it will be the anniversary of the mass trespass at Kinder by a group of passionate ramblers. I first heard about this when I listened to the wonderful Manchester Rambler song written and performed by Ewan McColl.
When I was young I would walk with my dad, over the Clent hills then later when we moved to Evesham and then Broadway we walked in the Malvern Hills and The Cotswolds. I took for granted my right to roam and knew nothing of the people who had fought for the right of access to pathways where our ancestors had walked for generations. But then as a child I understood nothing of the concept of ‘ownership’ of land. There was a time when I wandered off a path near Broadway and into a beautiful wood where deer moved through dappled trees. So quiet. Walking happily down the road a land-rover came up behind me with a gamekeeper who questioned what I thought I was doing. Seemed obvious to me. Trespassing. Lucky for me he was a polite gamekeeper, though he did escort me back to the path. Could have been embarrassing had he called the police as the police was my dad!
I have always walked to think, to move, to live, to write. It is a form of meditation. So, as a ‘thank you’ to some of those who have enriched my life by their activism, here is a link to the life story of one, Benny Rothman. He was about the same age as I had been when scooped off the private land in the Cotswold by the polite gamekeeper. Without the likes of Benny much land would be closed off, enclosed and in the hands of bankers. Ownership may still lie with them, but access belongs to all. The freedom of movement, the freedom to enjoy this land belongs to all of us, because of the likes of Benny Rothman.
By coincidence this week I was working on a walking picture for East of the Sun.