The Spirit of Kinder – 26 April 2014

Walkers and ramblers – young and old – gathered at Sheffield Town Hall on Saturday 26 April. Their aim was to celebrate the `Spirit of Kinder` – the mass trespass on Kinder Scout which occurred on Sunday, 24 April 1932, and which many argue led to the passing of one of the most significant post-war Acts of Parliament – the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. This Act created National Parks – both for the protection of their natural beauty and so that they could be enjoyed by all of us. It also created the system of Public Rights of Way and Definitive Maps familiar to us all today.

Some will debate the significance of the Kinder Trespass, arguing that it caused opposing sides to re-trench in the fight to open up our countryside to a public right of access. But no-one can doubt that the event has become an iconic symbol in the ongoing battle to create and extend access to our most precious landscapes. It is right that we celebrate this pivotal event each year and continue to salute the aspirations and the courage of those ordinary people whose aim was to open up the countryside for everyone.

On Saturday, new and old campaigners gathered to hear an impressive range of speakers talk about the current pressures on access to our predominantly privately owned green spaces. Kate Ashbrook, of the Open Spaces Society, called for a rekindled effort to address the challenges and cut backs in public spending which threaten access work today. John Mothersole, Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council, Bill Bevan, the Sheffield-based archaeologist and interpreter, and Annabelle Kennedy of the Sheffield Wildlife Trust, also spoke at the event about the importance of the Peak District moors to the people of Sheffield and why they are so highly valued. Young people from the Sheffield Woodcraft Folk described other trespass events which also contributed to campaigning in the last century.

So to add my own celebrations to this important anniversary – here are the lyrics to the song composed by Ewan MacColl (Kirsty’s dad!) after the Kinder Mass Trespass. You need a brass band to get the right effect – but I’ll be raising a glass to those early campaigners this evening!

Manchester Rambler (© Ewan MacColl)

I’ve been over Snowdon, I’ve slept upon Crowdon,
I’ve camped by the Wain Stones as well,
I’ve sunbathed on Kinder, been burned to a cinder,
And many more things I can tell.
My rucksack has oft been me pillow,
The heather has oft been me bed,
And sooner than part from the mountains,
I think I would rather be dead.

Chorus: I’m a rambler, I’m a rambler from Manchester way,
I get all me pleasure the hard moorland way,
I may be a wage slave on Monday,
But I am a free man on Sunday.

There’s pleasure in dragging through peat bogs and bragging
Of all the fine walks that you know;
There’s even a measure of some kind of pleasure
In wading through ten feet of snow.
I’ve stood on the edge of the Downfall,
And seen all the valleys outspread,
And sooner than part from the mountains,
I think I would rather be dead.

The day was just ending and I was descending
Through Grindsbrook just by Upper-Tor,
When a voice cried, “Hey, you!”, in the way keepers do,
(He’d the worst face that ever I saw).
The things that he said were unpleasant;
In the teeth of his fury I said
“Sooner than part from the mountains,
I think I would rather be dead”

He called me a louse and said “Think of the grouse”.
Well I thought, but I still couldn’t see
Why old Kinder Scout and the moors round about
Couldn’t take both the poor grouse and me.
He said “All this land is my master’s”.
At that I stood shaking my head,
No man has the right to own mountains
Any more than the deep ocean bed

I once loved a maid, a spot welder by trade,
She was fair as the Rowan in bloom,
And the bloom of her eye matched the blue moorland sky,
I wooed her from April to June.
On the day that we should have been married,
I went for a ramble instead,
For sooner than part from the mountains,
I think I would rather be dead

So I’ll walk where I will over mountain and hill
And I’ll lie where the bracken is deep,
I belong to the mountains, the clear running fountains
Where the grey rocks lie rugged and steep.
I’ve seen the white hare in the gulleys,
And the curlew fly high overhead,
And sooner than part from the mountains
I think I would rather be dead.

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