The Kinder Mass trespass happened eighty years ago but those of us who enjoy the countryside are still reaping the benefits of this courageous act of political defiance.
In defiance of ‘Trespassers will be Prosecuted’ signs about 400 ramblers set off from Bowden Bridge quarry on that fateful Sunday April 24 in 1932. On Kinder Scout they came face-to-face with gamekeepers armed with sticks.
In the scuffle one keeper was slightly hurt. Five ramblers were arrested by police accompanied by keepers. The day after the trespass, Benny Rothman, leader of the Trespass and a Cheetham Young Communist and four other ramblers were charged with unlawful assembly and breach of the peace. Rothman had a previous conviction; he had been jailed earlier for chalking slogans welcoming the Daily Worker’s launch in 1930.
Five of the six accused were found guilty and were jailed for between two and six months. The arrest and subsequent imprisonment of the trespassers unleashed a huge wave of public sympathy and support for their cause.
A few weeks’ later more than ten thousand ramblers – the largest number in history – assembled for an access rally in the Winnats Pass, near Castleton, and the pressure for greater countryside access continued to grow.
That pressure led, in 1949, to The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act and to the establishment of Britain’s first National Park. It also led directly to the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) legislation that we enjoy today.
Fortunately trespass leader Benny Rothman wrote the whole story down and his book was published in 1982 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the trespass. Today Benny’s book, long out of print, is a collector’s item.
Now a much enlarged version of his book has been published to mark the eightieth anniversary. The new volume has more pictures, many in colour, more eyewitness reports of the trespass and tributes to some of the participants such as Communist Folk Singer Ewan MacColl.
Benny’s original story is still a inspiring read and the new and additional material make this a essential addition to those still involved in the battle for access to the countryside for ordinary people.
This review first published in the Morning Star, 2012