SPIRIT OF KINDER
If the walkers on the 1932 Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout took the same action today, they would probably be labelled as extremists, and ‘kettled’ before they got out of the car park.
That was the view of Carey Davies, the British Mountaineering Council’s Hill Walking Development Officer, speaking at the fourth annual Spirit of Kinder event held at The Royal Hotel, Hayfield on Saturday (April 23).
The event was organised jointly by the Kinder Visitor Centre Group and the Kinder & High Peak Advisory Committee. A highlight was the moving readings by pupils from New Mills College and Hayfield Primary School, describing their feelings of freedom after a walk on Kinder.
Dave Toft of the KVCG outlined the story and background to the trespass, and claimed that Kinder Scout and access to its moors was the childrens’ birthright. "But according to figures from Natural England, only 8.7 per cent of the country still has free access. So as Benny Rothman would say, our work is not complete.”
Carey Davies explained that the longing for a vision of the land, "for a sense of space and a sense of place,” was universal, describing a recent walk he took through war-torn Palestine.
He added: "With the benefit of hindsight, the Kinder Trespass has now become heritage; an act which mainstream politicans and respectable organisations now feel comfortable endorsing.
"But let’s take a closer look at it. There were 400 young people, many of them unemployed, led by people from ethnic and religious minorities, all following a radical ideology. We shouldn’t lose sight of just how challenging and provocative it was.”
There were still barriers of access, social background, ethnicity, gender, mental illness or disability which prevented many people in this country from knowing the lasting satisfaction of a long walk or a hard climb. He said the BMC was working in partnership with other organisations to try and do what it could to help people overcome these barriers, and crowdfunding campaigns like the BMC’s Mend Our Mountains were repairing badly-eroded paths, such as that below Ringing Roger on Kinder.
"Too many people live lives without landscape, in nondescript and forgotten places which foster a sense of marginalisation and contempt,” said Carey. "Access to the outdoors has to be seen as part of a social whole. I believe the Kinder Trespassers understood this well. Their struggle was always part of a struggle for something bigger.”
Philip Pearson, former Senior Policy Officer at the TUC, and a keen hillwalker, spoke about Benny Rothman’s work as a trade union organiser, in addition to his being the leader of the Kinder trespass.
He said that the environment and climate change were major issues for trade unions today, which he felt Benny would have well understood, and he outlined was unions were doing about it. He added that a local pupil had written: "Freedom means everything to me – it allows me to be the person I am.” Philip said: "This said everything about Benny Rothman, the leader of the trespass.”
Mark Metcalf, author of a new biography of Rothman, explained that Rothman’s four months imprisonment was not wasted, because while he was there he learnt shorthand, which stood him in good stead in his future life as a union negotiator.
Musical interludes were provided by respected folk singer Brian Peters, who led the traditional final singing of Ewan MacColl’s Manchester Rambler.
Jan Gillett, son of one of the imprisoned trespassers and 86-year-old Alan Edwards of Stockport, who as a two-year-old had been carried there by his elder sister, unveiled a commemorative plaque which will eventually form part of a Trespass Trail. Exhibitions of work by local children and local artist Sarah Morley were held in the Village Hall. On Sunday (April 24) walks were led on the trespass route.
Among the organisations attending the event were the Ramblers; Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorland; British Mountaineering Council; the National Trust; Hayfield Civic Trust; Sustainable Hayfield; the Kinder Mountain Rescue team and Friends of the Peak District (CPRE).
September 2015: a £10,000 grant has been awarded by the Peak District National Park to create a "Trespass Trail" in and around Hayfield
TRESPASS TRAIL PROJECT FOR HAYFIELD
Hayfield is about to get some permanent installations in the village to acknowledge that this is where the historic 1932 Kinder Mass Trespass started and ended. The Peak District National Park Authority has awarded a grant of £9,900 to set up a Trespass Trail in and around Hayfield.
The plan is that the grant will fund some interpretation boards, and other information about the trespass, in four locations. A walks booklet will describe a choice of walking routes that take in some or all of these landmarks. The owners of the four sites will be consulted to agree the exact location and design details for each. These detailed proposals will then need to be submitted to the relevant planning authority for approval – two are in the National Park and the other two applications will be to High Peak Borough Council.
It is proposed that there will be a substantial interpretation board on the former railway station site, now the bus station and main car park for visitors to the village. In the first half of the 20th century thousands of hikers, mostly from Manchester, would flood into the village by train every weekend, to access the footpaths of the surrounding High Peak moorlands – but they were not allowed on the iconic Kinder Scout plateau, the highest part of the Peak District.
Then there will be something in the heart of the village, a plaque and smaller interpretation board, to acknowledge that it was here that the trespass leaders were arrested – and subsequently imprisoned - on their return to the village.
The other two sites forming the Trespass Trail already have some information about the event. These are Bowden Bridge car park, about a mile out of the village, which is used by hikers accessing the Kinder Scout area, and William Clough bridge in the moorland valley to the west of the Kinder plateau, about three miles from the village. With the cooperation of the site owners the project aims to add some additional information about the Trespass Trail.
The grant is to be provided from the Sustainable Development Fund of the National Park, and has been awarded to the Kinder Visitor Centre Group, Hayfield. "We are very grateful to the Peak Park for their generous grant” said Group chairman John Harvey. "It is no coincidence that the first National Park established in England was the Peak Park: it was the Kinder Trespass and the outrage felt by hikers everywhere about the harsh prison sentences handed down that led to the legislation for National Parks some 20 years later. Now at last, thanks to the grant, we can have some permanent display material in the village itself to inform visitors about the importance of this event, and what was achieved by the 400 pioneering participants.”
The Kinder Visitor Centre Group are hopeful that this Trail will be completed in 2016, when the 84th anniversary will be celebrated in the village. They also feel it will be an important step on the way to achieving their longer term aim of setting up a visitor centre in Hayfield, to celebrate and explain the Mass Trespass. "It was controversial in 1932, and still has its critics today” says John Harvey "but we think it is a story that needs to be told to help future generations appreciate how National Parks and long distance footpaths came to be set up. These are now enjoyed by millions of people every week.”
Kinder Mass Trespass
In April 1932 over 400 people participated in a mass trespass onto Kinder Scout, a bleak moorland plateau, the highest terrain in the Peak District.
The event was organised by the Manchester branch of the British Workers Sports Federation. They chose to notify the local press in advance, and as a result, Derbyshire Constabulary turned out in force. A smaller group of ramblers from Sheffield set off from Edale and met up with the main party on the Kinder edge path.
Five men from Manchester, including the leader, Benny Rothman, were subsequently jailed.
75 years later the trespass was described as:
"the most successful direct action in British history"
Lord Roy Hattersley, 2007.
April 2012 saw the 80th Anniversary of the mass trespass of Kinder Scout celebrated by a week of walks, talks, and exhibitions, with a launch ceremony featuring Mike Harding, Stuart Maconie, and the leaders of major agencies involved in access to countryside. A new book was published, and commemorative posters are on sale.
We hope to go on to set up a permanent Kinder Visitor Centre in Hayfield (where the 400 Manchester trespassers set off from) dedicated to telling this story, and to serve as a focal point for visitors and for current moorland access issues.