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Sheffield SCAM

Sheffield Town Hall Plaque

SCAM:  Origins and Achievements

The crucial contribution of the Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorlands is best summed up in the words of Dave Sissons in his introduction to a book on this subject, " Right to Roam”. The book, subtitled "A Celebration of the Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorland” has many contributors, was compiled by Dave Sissons, edited by Roly Smith, and published in 2005 jointly by SCAM and Northern Creative Print Solutions.

The 2000 commerative plaque can be found on the wall of Sheffield Town Hall

The Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act, 2000 was a major landmark in the prolonged battle for public access to uncultivated land in the UK, and it marked the successful culmination of more than a century of on-and-off campaigning. It is arguable that the CROW Act would not have emerged from Parliament, certainly not as early as 2000, without sustained pressure on key individuals and organisations over nearly two decades by the Sheffield-based organisation, Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorland (SCAM).

More than any other organisation, SCAM led the way through the 1980s and 1990s with its policy of direct action, reviving the same tactic of mass trespass which had been used by access campaigners before the Second World War, the most legendary occasion being the 1932 Kinder Scout Mass Trespass. SCAM acted as a ginger group on the Ramblers’ Association, which in turn lobbied the Labour Party, especially during the latter decade or so of its 18 years in opposition (1979-1997), urging it to include in its party manifesto a commitment to the passing through Parliament of a new Right to Roam Act.  

Dave Sissons goes on to explain how SCAM started;

In 1981 the UK’s first National Park, the Peak District, celebrated its 30th anniversary. In the Sheffield Morning Telegraph of October 12, 1981, another anniversary was heralded in an article by Tim Brown – the 50th anniversary of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of Sunday, April 24, 1932. The article stated that, ‘Organising committees based in Hayfield and Manchester hope to bring together many of the trespassers of 1932 for a full day of organised walks and other special events’, and ‘Mr John Beadle, chairman of the Peak Park Planning Board, will unveil a commemorative plaque in the disused quarry where ramblers from Manchester mustered before their historic confrontation with a private army of gamekeepers on the grouse moor high above the village.’

The article went on to say, ‘The long fight for a legal right of access to mountains ended in a qualified victory under the 1945 Labour Government’. This provoked a response from Roy Bullen, then working for Derbyshire County Council as Area Careers Officer for the High Peak and Derbyshire Dales, and a long-standing member of the Ramblers’ Association.

In the Morning Telegraph of October 21, 1981, Roy Bullen wrote, ‘Qualified is the correct description, for there are still many areas of wild country to which the public do not have the same legal rights as they now enjoy on Kinder. As Howard Hill showed in his book Freedom to Roam (parts of which were serialised in the Morning Telegraph), there are still some 27 moors in the Peak and southern Pennines alone for which access agreements (or access orders) have yet to be made. Many country-goers believe the protracted negotiations between National Park authorities and moor owners are being delayed unnecessarily. While fully acknowledging the very important access agreements negotiated by the Peak Park Board in its earlier years, the public must not imagine the ramblers’ campaign is over. The gathering near Hayfield next April must, besides celebrating what has been achieved, focus sharply upon what the Peak Park Board and other National Park authorities still have to accomplish.’

A group of Sheffield activists, led by some prominent SWP members, then formed an organising committee to coordinate Sheffield’s contribution to the 50th anniversary event. Right from the start, their determination to be active in the campaign for increased access was made clear. 

So, in addition to rallying support for the planned celebrations in Hayfield in April, the meeting decided to organise an event similar to the 1932 Kinder trespass on some of this non-access moorland to the immediate west of Sheffield. Bamford Moor was selected and Sunday, March 28 was chosen as the date.

Sunday, March 28 was the beginning of British Summer Time and a lot of people forgot to put their clocks forward, missing relevant transport connections. Despite this little hiccup, the Bamford Moor mass trespass turned out to be a tremendous success, far exceeding expectations. Around 300 people turned up, with journalists and camera crews present at least at the start, most of them being not exactly dressed for the occasion. Though deprived of a skirmish, the press and television journalists gave good coverage, and it encouraged the committee to plan a programme of further mass trespasses.

The main Kinder Scout 50th Anniversary Celebrations duly took place on April 24 in Hayfield, with a few Manchester and Hayfield organisers being a bit miffed at the Sheffield organisers stealing a march on them with the Bamford Moor event. There was much media attention plus the presence of the rambling and outdoors ‘establishment’.

The Sheffield group followed the successes of Bamford Moor and the Kinder 50th with another public meeting on Monday, May 17 to plan future strategy. At this meeting it was decided that the ‘Sheffield Organising Committee’ sounded a bit old hat and non-descript, even though it produced a punchy acronym. A catchier name for the emerging organisation was sought and the meeting settled for Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorland, which produced the memorable acronym SCAM – memorable especially a few years later when the American slang term meaning ‘a swindle or con-trick’ gained currency in the UK. A further mass trespass was planned for Sunday, June 27, and the target this time was Bradfield Moors, owned by Fitzwilliam Estates.

SCAM’s current secretary is long term activist Terry Howard. Terry’s description of how his interest in the outdoors was nurtured by membership of the Woodcraft Folk also illustrates that  the practice of trespassing was well established in the Sheffield area long before SCAM was set up, and even before the 1932 mass trespass.

The Sheffield branch of the Woodcraft Folk started in 1929 on what was then a trespass walk below Stanage Edge. There several young people from the Independent Labour Party committed their lives to the ideals of Woodcraft, and the site is now known to Woodcraft Folk as ‘The Rock of Resolution’.

We spent many years in the Woodcraft Folk, rambling, camping, bivouacking, hostelling, never having a Sunday at home. ‘Home’ seemed to be the outdoors. Our leader and mentor was Basil Rawson, known to us as ‘Brown Eagle’. He told us of the early years of the Woodcraft Folk in Sheffield, the anti-fascist rallies and the campaigns for access to mountain and moorland. From him I learned about the 1932 Kinder Mass Trespass, the Abbey Brook Trespass in the same year, and the mass ramblers’ rallies in the Winnats Pass and Cave Dale. I learned later in my life that my mother had been a participant on these early mass rallies.

Last Modified: 13 Mar 2013