Last Sunday was the 90th anniversary of the Kinder Scout trespass, when on April 24, 1932 hundreds of young workers walked on privately owned land in the Peak District of northern England.
Most of England’s beautiful countryside was (and still is) owned by wealthy landowners, who forbade public access to the land. This caused great anger, especially among urban working class young people who enjoyed rambling in the countryside.
So a plan was hatched to assemble a group so large that gamekeepers would be unable to prevent them walking to the Kinder Scout peak.
Leaflets were distributed around Manchester calling on workers to assemble on April 24. One leaflet read:
If you’ve not been rambling before, start now, you don’t know what you’ve missed. Come with us for the best day out that you have ever had.
300–400 people assembled and a whistle was blown — a signal to try to run past the army of gamekeepers armed with sticks. After some scuffling the ramblers successfully passed them and climbed the peak singing socialist songs like The Red Flag.
After the walk six young workers were arrested. The defendants, who were mostly Jewish and working class, argued that urban workers should have the right to enjoy ‘fresh air’ and ‘a little sunshine.’ But the jury of mostly aristocrats and military officers disagreed. The ramblers were convicted and imprisoned for upward of six months.
The harsh sentences spurred further support for the right to roam. And in the early 1950s the Peak District, including Kinder Scout, became Britain’s first National Park.
Is This Land Your Land?
On a related topic, you have surely heard – and perhaps taken part in singing – the song This Land Is Your Land. But the song is usually played and sung without the last three of the verses composed by the song writer, Woody Guthrie. The censorship of these verses distorts the whole meaning of the song, reducing it to yet another banal ‘patriotic’ hymn. To see the original lyrics go to: