Let’s have more militancy in the rambling movement in 2019

Best wishes for all who have followed the blog this year. I hope you all have a great Christmas and a peaceful new year.The_Compleat_Trespas_Cover_for_Kindle

We’ve had some splendid walks this year. I have no “walk of the year”, for we’ve enjoyed them all. But our first ascent of Cross Fell – the highest top in the Pennines – has to be up there on the list. A terrific ascent and we hope to do it again this coming year from a different direction.

But one of the joys this past year has been our exploration of the countryside of County Durham. County Durham doesn’t seem to score highly on destinations when you talk to walkers, which is a great pity. It offers a terrific variety of scenery, some excellent footpaths and bridleways and lots of good, remote countryside. Do look at some of the blogs to see where we’ve walked.

There have been some disasters for walkers this year, notably the de-registering of common land in the Pennines, where the MoD has snatched the fells above Murton and Hilton. If they think that’s going to deter yours truly from walking there, well, they’re in for a shock!

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From Kidsty Pike (c) John Bainbridge 2018

Time, this coming year, for a bit more militancy in the rambling movement. Where was the big rally on Murton Pike against the thieving of common land? I’ve been active in the rambling movement for over fifty years, but it seems to me that rambling organisations have become too much part of the Establishment…

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In the High Pennines (c) John Bainbridge 2018

Where has the fight gone?

I remember the happy days of Forbidden Britain campaigns and trespasses. Where did it all go wrong? With our wild countryside and national parks and AONBs under threat why aren’t they out there battling? Apart from the worthy Open Spaces Society, I hear very little about actual active campaigning.DSCF0344

So this coming year I intend to be far more critical of threats to our countryside and our right to walk across it. It’s important not just to walk but to put something back. Our great outdoors is not just some vast gymnasium, but a precious resource that needs protecting.

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The threatened Murton Fells (c) John Bainbridge 2018

I salute the good folk of Brighton who are fighting to stop building over their precious nature reserve. I applaud the farmers and villagers of Murton and Hilton who took on the MoD. Neither battle is over.

So lets get militant, folks…

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The threatened Whitehawk Nature Reserve.

Enjoy and celebrate our walks but stand up and be counted when our rights to walk and our countryside are threatened…

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

John B.

And do check out my writing blog at www.johnbainbridgewriter.wordpress.com if you are looking for something to read over the holiday.

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Journeys In Forbidden Britain

THE COMPLEAT TRESPASSER
Journeys into the Heart of Forbidden Britain
by
John Bainbridge

WALK MAGAZINE SAID OF THE COMPLEAT TRESPASSER:
“On a vagabonding tour through Britain’s most delightful countryside and forbidden tracts, Bainbridge charts the history of access and assesses the present state of the law. Villainous landowners feature; so do the likes of GHB Ward and CEM Joad, calling at rallies for access to mountain and moor. Gamekeepers, spring-guns and mass trespasses also get a look-in. Redolent of country air, with nature and archaeology dealt with in graphic style, the book evokes the age of campaigns before words like ‘stakeholder’ and ‘partnership’ were hatched out. The author lends his support to the England Coast Path campaign and calls for the Scottish access model to be extended throughout Britain. It’s thought-provoking stuff and well worth a read.”The_Compleat_Trespas_Cover_for_Kindle

In 1932, five ramblers in England were imprisoned for daring to walk in their own countryside. The Mass Trespass on to Kinder Scout, which led to their arrests, has since become an iconic symbol of the campaign for the freedom to roam in the British countryside.

The Compleat Trespasser – Journeys Into The Heart Of Forbidden Britain, written by outdoor journalist John Bainbridge, looks at just why the British were – and still are – denied responsible access to much of their own land. This book examines how events throughout history led to the countryside being the preserve of the few rather than the many.

It examines the landscapes to which access is still denied, from stretches of moorland and downland to many of our beautiful forests and woodlands. It poses the question: should we walk and trespass through these areas regardless of restrictions?

An inveterate trespasser, John Bainbridge gives an account of some of his own journeys into Britain’s forbidden lands, as he walks in the steps of poachers, literary figures and pioneer ramblers. The book concludes with a helpful chapter of “Notes for Prospective Trespassers”, giving a practical feel to this handbook on the art of trespass. At a time when government is putting our civil liberties at threat, destroying the beauties of our countryside, and your right to access it, this book is a most useful read.

Available in paperback and eBook on Kindle: Just click on the link to order or to start reading for free:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Compleat-Trespasser-John-Bainbridge-ebook/dp/B00CCQYAMO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1428044393&sr=1-1&keywords=compleat+trespasser

Cumbria Common Land Faces Biggest Threat Since Enclosure Movement

I’m appalled that the Ministry of Defence is applying to deregister Hilton, Murton and Warcop Commons near to Appleby -in what Commons campaigner Kate Ashbrook has described as “the biggest threat to Common Land Since the Enclosure Movement”.

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From the summit of Murton Pike (c) John Bainbridge 2018

Now we walk a great deal on these threatened lands, which are part of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It’s stunning scenery and offers real wild walking of the finest quality.

I hope this will be vigorously resisted.

Friends of the Lake District say:

Cumbria County Council has announced a two day public inquiry into the applications by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to deregister Hilton, Murton and Warcop Commons, near Appleby in Westmorland.

These commons represent 3% of the stock of common land in Cumbria. 15 years ago the MoD applied to extinguish the common rights over the land to give them more control and flexibility. At that time, they stated categorically that they would not apply to deregister the land as common land. This is now precisely what they have done, with little or no evidence as to why. The applications are strongly opposed by ourselves, the Open Spaces Society (OSS), the Foundation for Common Land, the Federation of Cumbrian Commoners, and the local residents.

The inquiry will take place on 12 – 13 September and will be Barrister led. It will only focus on the legal issues surrounding the applications. This is very complex and the OSS has engaged their own Barrister to present their case which we support. There are issues of principle at stake here, namely the fact that the applications are completely at odds with Government policy on common land, that the MoD expressly undertook not to deregister the commons, and also that we believe the applications do not meet the legislative requirements.

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Murton Crag (c) John Bainbridge 2018

Kate Ashbrook, General Secretary – The Open Spaces Society writes:

Local and national organisations(1) are campaigning to stop the Ministry of Defence from destroying a vast area of Cumbria’s cultural history.  The MoD wants to deregister three large upland commons(2)and turn them into private land.  Objectors say the deregistration would be unlawful and flies in the face of undertakings made by the MoD, at a public inquiry, to keep the commons registered in perpetuity(3).

MoD will privatise around 1% (4,500 hectares) of England’s total common land(4) if Cumbria County Council grants it permission(5).  This would be the largest enclosure since the major enclosures of commons in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The threatened commons are to the north-east of Appleby-in-Westmorland, in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

If the land is deregistered, it will bring to an end hundreds of years of tradition of upland commoning, and the farming community, which used to have vital grazing rights over this land, would be denied any opportunity in future to graze their stock there.

The land would also lose protection against encroachment and development since works on common land require the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in addition to any planning permission.

William Patterson of the Hilton Commoners’ Association said: ‘When the MOD negotiated the buy-out and extinguishment of the commoners’ grazing rights (known as ‘stints’) on Hilton Fell, Murton Fell and Warcop Fell, one of the fundamental issues was MoD’s agreement to leave the fells on the commons register.  On the strength of this undertaking, the commoners accepted the buy-out.  It is a breach of trust that the MoD now wants to cancel that undertaking without making a further agreement.  I believe that to safeguard the future of these fells the land must remain on the commons register.’

Julia Aglionby of Foundation for Common Land commented: ‘Common land is the most valuable and protected type of land in England, an immensely precious resource for society that has already been reduced to a mere 3% of England’s area. The MoD’s arguments for deregistering 11,000 acres of commons at Warcop are spurious, legally contestable and not in the national interest.’

Viv Lewis of The Federation of Cumbria Commoners said: ‘The Federation is very much opposed to the MoD’s proposal to de-register Hilton, Murton and Warcop commons.  Common land is important to hill farmers and makes up some of our most treasured landscapes.  If the hills stop being common land and the commoners lose their rights to graze and the sheep leave the hills, what’s to become of the uplands?’

Jan Darrall, of Friends of the Lake District added: ‘The three commons of Warcop, Hilton and Murton amount to 3% of Cumbria’s common land.  There is no foundation for the MoD to deregister our commons and destroy our cultural heritage and to deny local use.  They gave undertakings during the 2001 Inquiry that the land would remain as common land and are now reneging on this so as to have total control over the land for who knows what?  We need to fight for our rich common land to remain for all to enjoy.’

Hugh Craddock, of the Open Spaces Society commented: ‘For too long, the MoD has wasted taxpayers’ money ruminating on theoretical risks to the future of the Warcop training estate which have no substance in reality.  Now the MoD is wasting more money, and other people’s time, on pursuing an application for deregistration of the Warcop, Hilton and Murton commons which is not only unnecessary and misguided, but entirely contrary to undertakings it previously gave.  We shall fight the MoD in its pointless campaign which has dragged on for too long.  We hope that the MoD sees sense and withdraws its application, and focuses its resources on managing the Warcop commons in accordance with the commitments it gave in 2002.’

Additional notes

1          The organisations are: Hilton Commoners’ Association, Cumbria Federation of Commons, the Foundation for Common Land, the Friends of the Lake District, and the Open Spaces Society.

2             Common land is land subject to rights of common, to graze animals or collect wood for instance, or waste land of the manor not subject to rights.  The public has the right to walk on nearly all commons, and to ride on many.  Any works on common land require the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, in addition to any planning permission.

The three registered Commons are Hilton, Murton and Warcop. The applications to Cumbria County Council are listed as CA14/3 -CL26 Murton; CA14/4 -CL27 Hilton Fell; & -CL122 Burton Fell and Warcop Fell.

3          A public inquiry, held in Appleby in 2001, led to all grazing rights on the commons being bought out by the MoD.  In return the MoD created some additional access opportunities on Murton Common and undertook not to deregister the Commons.  It also undertook to create new common rights to ensure that the commons would exist in perpetuity.  These limited rights were never delivered by the MoD.

4          Cumbria contains around 31% of the registered common land in England which is mostly in the uplands—the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, and North Pennines.  The area covered by commons in Cumbria is 112,786 ha and these three commons cover some 4,500 ha.

5          Cumbria County Council is the commons registration authority for the county and has received three applications from the MoD to deregister the commons of Murton, Hilton and Warcop. The Council will determine the applications but the objectors believe that if it approves them, it would not be in accordance with the Commons Act 2006.

The Battle of Glen Tilt

I’ve written before about the Scottish land access battles which eventually led – in 2003 – to their splendid Land Reform legislation, which allows responsible access to almost all Scottish land and waters. When I walk there I feel envious. We English, though we value the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW), very much recognise we are just – as usual – getting the crumbs from the table.DSCF0537

The Scottish land access was hard won over centuries.

I often think of it as we wander up Glen Tilt, one of our favourite Scottish glens. We were there the other day, a lovely fresh one for walking, passing the scene of the fight for Glen Tilt. Here are some extracts from the account in my book The Compleat Trespasser, which gives a history of the access battles on both sides of the border:

It was in Glen Tilt, a particularly scenic part of the Duke’s 200,000 acres, that one of the most memorable of Victorian access battles took place. The track through Glen Tilt, the only direct route from Blair to Braemar and Deeside, had been a drovers’ route for centuries and was much used by the growing number of recreational walkers, until the sixth duke began to forbid public access.DSCF0542

The first recorded conflict was in 1847 between the Duke and Professor Bayley Balfour and a party of botanical students from Edinburgh University, who were forced off the ancient track.

The professor and his students had set out from Braemar, observing the flora of the glen for some nine miles before they were challenged by a shooting party led by a Captain Oswald, a Captain Drummond and several ghillies and servants. The botanists were ordered to turn back to Braemar. They refused to do so and pointed out that the track was a public road. The walkers continued on their way until they encountered a locked gate at Tibby’s Lodge, where a ghillie evidently summoned up the Duke, who seems to have gone into a rage at their presence:

The Duke then said, “Well you must return; you don’t move an inch further, unless you break open the gate, which you may do, and take the consequences. Don’t spoil my walks with stamping. Come off that walk every one of you. Every step you take is a trespass – a new trespass. I shall not count it an additional trespass if you return on the main Walk.” Professor Bayley Balfour – “Oh, it’s a trespass then on the side walk, but not on the main walk.” The Duke – “I shall not waste any more words with you; you must return.”

Given that the passage through Glen Tilt is a considerable walking challenge, the trespassers refused to retreat back to Braemar, though they were forced off the track, as the press reported, and ‘in their desperation, they made their escape over a wall, hotly pursued by the Duke’s familiars.’DSCF0544

Unfortunately for Atholl, the case for access was taken up by the newly-created Edinburgh Society for the Preservation of Rights of Way, formed ‘for protecting the public against being robbed of its walks by private cunning and perseverance’. Three of its members, Alex Torrie, an advocate, Robert Cox, a Writer to the Signet, and Charles Law, a merchant, brought an action against the Duke in the Edinburgh Court of Session.

They argued that the road had been metalled a hundred years before and was kept in repair by statute labour. When the decision went against the duke, he appealed to the House of Lords, where he lost once again. While the case creaked through the Victorian legal system – mostly on Atholl’s argument that its pursuers had no right to bring the action – the Duke made headlines once more over a conflict with two Cambridge University students, who found themselves accosted by him and his retainers as they attempted to use the old drove road on a summer’s day in 1850. As one of the undergraduates told The Times:

On Friday, August 30th, we shouldered our knapsacks and left Castletown of Braemar with the intention of walking to Blair Atholl through Glen Tilt, a distance of thirty miles. We might have gone by another road through Blairgowrie and Dunkeld, but as this road was upwards of sixty miles in length, and we were informed by all persons of whom we inquired at Braemar that though the Duke of Atholl, in spite of the decision of the Court of Session, was still endeavouring to stop all who made use of the bridle-road or footpath through Glen Tilt, yet he would not dare use violence if one insisted on a right of passage, we determined to take the shorter road.

It was a decision that was to bring them into conflict with the Duke himself, as one of the undergraduates recorded in his letter to The Times:

“You must go back! Why didn’t you stop sir?” (The Duke yelled). I again took out my pocket book, and preparing to write, said “What is your name?” “I am the Duke of Atholl” he replied, upon which we immediately tendered him our card (which he read and pocketed) and stated that we wished to proceed to Blair Atholl.  However he insisted that we must “go back” to which we urged that the Court of Session had decided that there was a right of way through Glen Tilt, and, therefore we could not be stopped. He replied angrily “It is not a public way, it is my private drive! You shan’t come down; the deer are coming, the deer are coming!” upon which we expressed our willingness to retire behind the lodge till his sport was ended, but he said we had been impertinent, we claimed it as a right, and we should not go down an inch.

Hereupon I said that in that case I certainly would go down, and if he stopped me it would be at his peril, upon which he became impatient, seized my companion by the collar of his coat, and attempted to force him back, refusing to listen to anything we had to say. This unseemly scene took place before the Duchess and another lady, for whose presence he had so little regard as to use oaths and other violence such as you would scarcely expect to hear from the lips of a gentleman. Finding his strength was of little avail, he shouted for help to his unwilling grooms, who were evidently enjoying the scene from a distance, and my companion, seeing opposition was useless against four men, allowed ourselves to be led away by a servant.DSCF0547

The students remained behind the lodge, being advised by a sympathetic highlander to wait around until dark and then sneak down to Blair Atholl. An attempt to escape up the brae was met by pursuit by two ghillies who at first threatened to take the students up as poachers, and then ordered them back to Braemar:

They told us that we would be closely watched, and if we stirred from the path we would be prosecuted for trespassing. On parting, they took care to tell us that it was not their fault; and I will do them justice to say that they did their work very reluctantly. Well now, there was nothing to do but to take the old ghillies advice, and wait till dark. The hills on each side were very steep, so that, besides the danger of being taken up for trespass, it would have been no easy matter to find our way to a village distant 10 miles. For four long hours, then, we were forced to walk up and down this bleak vale in order to ward off the chill autumn evening. When it became dark we proceeded on our way, which gave us no little trouble and uncertainty, as the darkness of the night was increased by the black shade of the pine forests. However, by midnight we reached the hotel, and soon recovered from the fatigue of a day, which, after all, gave us a good deal of amusement.

But this was not the end of the matter. Two days later The Times published a leader about the event. The editorial voice thundered:

The public have as perfect a right of “way” through the Vale of Glen Tilt as the Duke of Atholl has to the possession of any acre of the property which constitutes his estate. The right in the one case, as the title in the other, is the mere creature of law.

In point of fact there was not, at that time, a ruling on the right of way itself, only on the right of the Edinburgh Society to bring the matter to law. However, the Duke appeared to lose interest in the quarrel, perhaps not least because his actions led to him being lampooned in the magazine Punch and criticised in the correspondence columns of The Times.The_Compleat_Trespas_Cover_for_Kindle

Now, you can walk where you like in Glen Tilt.

My book The Compleat Trespasser is out now in paperback and as a Kindle Ebook. Just click on the link for more details and sales offers:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Compleat-Trespasser-Journeys-Forbidden-Britain-ebook/dp/B00CCQYAMO/ref=sr_1_11?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1535275804&sr=1-11&keywords=john+bainbridge

 

Text and pictures (c) John Bainbridge 2018

 

My Walking Book

My walking book Wayfarer’s Dole is now out in paperback and as a Kindle eBook…

In a series of solitary journeys on foot the writer and novelist John Bainbridge explores the ethos of rambling and hiking in rural England and Scotland.Wayfarers_Dole_Cover_for_Ko

On his journeys he seeks out the remaining wild places and ancient trackways, meeting vagabonds and outdoors folk along the way and follows in the footsteps of writers, poets and early travellers.

This is a book for everyone who loves the British countryside and walking its long-established footpaths and bridleways.

And for the armchair traveller…

Wayfarer’s Dole takes its title from an ancient tradition – In medieval times pilgrims travelling the road through Winchester to Canterbury would halt at the St Cross Hospital, a place of rest and refuge for those on holy journeys, and demand the Wayfarer’s Dole – small portions of ale and bread to ease the hunger and thirst incurred on their travels.

Walk Magazine Reviews Wayfarer’s Dole:

“This engrossing book by writer, novelist and one-time chief executive of the Dartmoor Preservation Association, John Bainbridge, explores the ethos of rambling via a series of short essays. The book takes its name from the medieval tradition of offering help to pilgrims on foot, but John’s own adventures take him deep into the moors, downs and mountains as he muses on everything from maps, roadside fires, stravaiging and the protection of our ancient footpaths. It’s a very personal but informed and intelligent journey that will resonate with inquisitive ramblers everywhere.” WALK MAGAZINE.

Just click on the link here for more details or to order: https: //www.amazon.co.uk/Wayfarers-Dole-Rambles-British-Countryside-ebook/dp/B019B4Y4HU/ref=la_B001K8BTHO_1_15?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1523802741&sr=1-15

Journeys Into Forbidden Britain

My subversive volume on illicit country walking is now out in paperback and as a Kindle Ebook. The book examines the history of the access to land on foot movement, with some personal reminiscences of trespassing adventures…

THE COMPLEAT TRESPASSER

Journeys into the Heart of Forbidden Britain

by

John Bainbridge

 

WALK MAGAZINE SAID OF THE COMPLEAT TRESPASSER:

“On a vagabonding tour through Britain’s most delightful countryside and forbidden tracts, Bainbridge charts the history of access and assesses the present state of the law. Villainous landowners feature; so do the likes of GHB Ward and CEM Joad, calling at rallies for access to mountain and moor. Gamekeepers, spring-guns and mass trespasses also get a look-in. Redolent of country air, with nature and archaeology dealt with in graphic style, the book evokes the age of campaigns before words like ‘stakeholder’ and ‘partnership’ were hatched out. The author lends his support to the England Coast Path campaign and calls for the Scottish access model to be extended throughout Britain. It’s thought-provoking stuff and well worth a read.”

In 1932, five ramblers in England were imprisoned for daring to walk in their own countryside. The Mass Trespass on to Kinder Scout, which led to their arrests, has since become an iconic symbol of the campaign for the freedom to roam in the British countryside.

The Compleat Trespasser – Journeys Into The Heart Of Forbidden Britain, written by outdoor journalist John Bainbridge, looks at just why the British were  – and still are – denied responsible access to much of their own land. This book examines how events throughout history led to the countryside being the preserve of the few rather than the many.The_Compleat_Trespas_Cover_for_Kindle

It examines the landscapes to which access is still denied, from stretches of moorland and downland to many of our beautiful forests and woodlands. It poses the question: should we walk and trespass through these areas regardless of restrictions?

An inveterate trespasser, John Bainbridge gives an account of some of his own journeys into Britain’s forbidden lands, as he walks in the steps of poachers, literary figures and pioneer ramblers. The book concludes with a helpful chapter of “Notes for Prospective Trespassers”, giving a practical feel to this handbook on the art of trespass. At a time when government is putting our civil liberties at threat, destroying the beauties of our countryside, and your right to access it, this book is a most useful read.

 Available in paperback and eBook on Kindle: Just click on the link to order or to start reading for free:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Compleat-Trespasser-John-Bainbridge-ebook/dp/B00CCQYAMO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1428044393&sr=1-1&keywords=compleat+trespasser

The Camper’s and Tramper’s Week-End Book

The Camper’s and Tramper’s Week-End Book by Showell Styles is one of those lovely books about walking in the countryside that appeared in the 1950s – in a world free of horrid words relating to walking such as stakeholder, Lycra, recreational paths etc.

Its author, Showell “Pip” Styles, was one of those walking and climbing phenomenons who’ve sadly gone out of fashion in this tiresome 21st century. He wrote a huge number of books on the outdoors, plus novels, and a great deal of walking and climbing journalism.

As the title implies, this is a book to dip into. I can promise you that once you start dipping it’s impossible to stop. Showell Styles had a wonderful way of getting the joys of walking across to the reader. You’ll feel so enthused that you’ll be aching to get out there and camp or tramp.

Part of the book deals with the outdoor life without a tent – true tramping (in modern parlance we’d call it bivvying) where you seek shelter where and when you can. Here are the evocative chapters with titles such as Beds, Barns and Billets, The Roadside Fire, Feats and Follies and some advice on how to become a Tramp Royal (one of my ambitions, never quite achieved!)

The second section deals with more legitimate camping, with chapters on life under canvas, mountain camping, camp cookery and the highest camps.

The third portion of the book is a Vagabond’s Anthology: a splendid collection of poems, prose and songs to see you on the way – and yes! I am old enough to remember sing-songs in Youth Hostel Common Rooms, in those happier days before they were invaded by booze and WiFi. I still have my YHA song book…

I was given a copy of Showell Styles’ book when I was a child and it’s been by my side ever since. It inspired and gave a practicality to my own long tramps around the British countryside, when I spent many a night in barns, billets, rough shelters, caves, hollows in rocks and amongst sheltering trees.

Well worth seeking out – it’s out of print, but you see it sometimes in second-hand bookshops and online book dealers.

Showell Styles wrote a pleasant companion volume too, The Mountaineer’s Weekend Book. Lovers of the outdoors should seek out both.