The Kinder Mass Trespass now holds a special place in history. Here is a brief account of this famous event and the reasons it came about.
A long time in the making
The Kinder Mass Trespass was held on 24th April 1932, but the event was a long time in the making. During the 18th and 19th Century various enclosures acts moved huge tracts of common land into privately ownership. Land that had been used by Britain’s rural population to graze cattle and grow crops were now out of reach. Many were robbed of both their livelihoods and their way of life.
By the time of the Kinder Mass Trespass there had been unsuccessful calls for a right to roam for years. So we get to 1932. A man called Benny Rothman was troubled. Benny lived in Manchester and loved to head from his home into the Peak District hills. He was passionate about these special places and believed everyone should be able to access them freely.
At that time the Peak District only had 12 legal paths. To visualise that another way, only about 1,200 of the 150,000 acres of land were available to walkers. As the popularity of walking grew these paths became busy and congested. Walkers gradually began to stray from the paths and saw nothing wrong in doing so. Unfortunately this wasn’t a view shared by the landowners. They were known to send staff armed with sticks, dogs or guns to chase them off.
Benny was a member of a group called the British Workers Sports Federation (BWSF). They used to hold an annual camp near Rowarth and experienced a particularly unpleasant confrontation with landowners staff during their Easter 1932 camp. Following this they hatched a plan for a mass trespass of Kinder Scout. Word spread widely. On 24th April 1932 about 400 walkers set off from Bowden Quarry near Hayfield.
In William’s Clough they encountered a group of the Duke of Devonshire’s men and a scuffle ensued. One of the Duke’s men was said to have been slightly injured but the ramblers continued their walk. They reached the top of Kinder Plateau to join a group of protestors who had walked from Edale. Together they celebrated their success.
The group then returned to Hayfield and were met by a large group of police officers. Benny and 5 other organisers were arrested and locked up in the Hayfield Lock Up. They were soon moved to New Mills police station for charging. When the case was heard in Derby court 5 of the 6 were handed prison sentences ranging from 2 to 6 months.
A catalyst for change
The harsh sentences caused a public outcry and gradually a flood of public opinion turned into a tidal wave. A few weeks later 10,000 ramblers assembled for a protest in Winnat’s Pass near our home village of Castleton. Similar protests gradually cemented a change in public opinion and policy makers began to take note.
The Kinder Mass Trespass is widely credited with being the catalyst for legislation which, in 1949, led to the formation of our national parks. It also provided the impetus to form some long distance footpaths including the Pennine Way. Further changes to access laws came as a result of the Countryside Rights of Way Act (CROW Act) in 2000.
The first UK national park
The first U.K. national park became the Peak District National Park in 1951 and the others followed over the coming years. We now have 15 national parks along with 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) stretching across the British Isles. The AONB designation came about as a way of protecting naturally beautiful landscapes which were unsuitable as national parks due to their small size and lack of wildness.
The land within the national parks is owned by a number of stakeholders including farmers, the National Trust and the thousands of people who live in them. The parks are devolved bodies and each has an overseeing body called a national park authority. Sometimes these authorities also own pieces of land, but they primarily work with all landowners. Their main aims are, put simply, to conserve and promote these precious areas.
This individual approach is important because many national park also have their own unique features. They therefore have their own management requirements. The Broads, for example, contains Britain’s biggest wetland area. The Cairngorms is the largest park and also contains both our highest mountain range and largest forest area.
As discussed, the Peak District was where the Kinder Trespass kicked off the long journey to national park legislation. It is a land of contrasts ranging from the famous gritstone of the Dark Peak to the limestone packed White Peak. The park is managed by the Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA). Like all the national park authorities, the PDNPA comprises a number of unpaid staff (appointed by the Secretary of State and local and parish councils) along with a number of paid staff.
They steer the future direction of the park while also dealing with the day to day management. The benefits of the parks and AONB’s is of huge national importance. They reap massive financial benefits for the economy while providing a vital recreation area for both the home population and tourists.
Treasure for everyone
Our national parks and AONB are treasures for everyone to enjoy and their national and worldwide significance is huge. They provide remarkably good value for money, provide homes, recreation opportunities, they are part of our national heritage and are a source of huge pride for UK citizens. Who would have thought though, that the trigger for their formation all that time ago, could have been a group of disgruntled Manchester ramblers!
The Peak District National Park Foundation (PDNPF) is a registered charity established to raise funds to care for the Peak District National Park (PDNP) and to make it more inclusive. We are delighted to be a foundation partner. Please do have a read about the foundation’s vital work here.