Keep the Kinder torch aflame

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‘We must keep the Kinder trespassers’ torch aflame,’ declared Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, speaking at the launch of the 80th anniversary celebrations of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass, in Edale on Tuesday 24 April.

‘We cannot be complacent, we cannot treat Kinder as mere history. The threats which the trespassers fought are still very much with us, but in a different guise. We are in uncertain times, when finance comes before freedoms.

‘In England, we do not know the future of the public forest estate, we have no indication from the government when the coastal-access law will be fully implemented, new planning laws threaten green spaces, and a law change could threaten our ability to register land as village greens.

‘Our countryside and our urban spaces and paths are being privatised: for instance, landowners erect intimidating gates and CCTV cameras next to public paths, public land is being sold; local authorities make gating orders on urban paths.

‘In the last couple of weeks, the Open Spaces Society has fought an unlawful four-mile-fence across the Brecon Beacons National Park; wind turbines on common land in the Forest of Bowland, Lancashire; an unlawful, bulldozed track across a Gloucestershire common, and golf-course development plans on Kendal village green, Cumbria, and Walton Heath Common, Surrey.

‘While the Kinder trespass led, 70 years later, to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act which gives us responsible freedom to roam on open country in England and Wales, we still cannot gain access to some of that land because there are no legal routes to it, and in lowland England and Wales not much land was mapped for access anyway.

‘Scotland has access laws which are the envy of us all. However, gaining new access in England and Wales is increasingly difficult, and we must campaign to keep what we have. We never know when the Kinder spirit must be rekindled. That’s why we must keep that torch alight,’ Kate concluded.

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