For the Many Not the Few

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This weekend marked the 120th anniversary of the granting of freedom to roam on the footpath in Derbyshire known as The Snake. A recognition of the rights of the working man to enjoy at least a few hours away from the grime of factory or pit.

In 1932, barely thirty five years later the freedom had been rescinded.   The grandiose promise of ‘for ever’ was fragile.  Four or five hundred ramblers mostly from Manchester trespassed en masse,  having to fight a pitched battle with gamekeepers  especially enrolled by landowners to keep them at bay. The ramblers won. Trespass was not illegal, but men were accused of rough handling the gamekeepers and a handful were arrested.  Thanks to public outcry they were released and once again freedom of access to wilderness was restored.

The good things in life should be accessible, if not free, to the many not just the few.

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Dave Toft, himself a child of blackened back-to-backs of salford, and introduced to the life changing joy of the wilderness at an early age, read his poem to the 75 of us who had gathered on a grey Sunday to retread those footsteps into the wilderness of Kinder.

Climbing Kinder (for the 1932 Mass Trespass)

To these slopes

Here on the sides of this great and ancient plateau’s edge,

Where the curlew sings on a summer’s day

Its solitary, swooping note

Like a crystal drop of Kinder water –

A song far sweeter

Than any music humans ever made –

The walkers came

To claim for all who’d follow

The right to hear that song

To breath that air with smog- bruised lungs

To taste the sweetness of the open space

To pause a moment from the draining race

Of hard industrial existence

 

And they called those walkers ‘trespassers’

As if by claiming back these stolen treasures

By repossessing all these hard won pleasures

It was they who were the criminals.

 

But when you climb up Kinder now

And feel your legs strain hard against the earth

And fill your lungs with fresh free air

And watch the long white hare

Kicking its legs in the very ecstasy of life

Remember there are those who would have kept this from us

And those who even now would, if they could

Keep us from the silver stream and open moor

And windswept wood.

 

 

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A Parliament of Seagulls?

Marauding seagulls stole my sandwich. I was enjoying my lunch, a brief ten minutes on the beach before a volunteer slot in the local RNLI.  The speed, the stealth, the determination of the posse impressed some bystanders.

 ‘Wo, did you see that?’  

One of them jeered at the seagulls, offering his crisps with a smacking of his lips, ‘come over here if you think you’re hard enough,’ and made us laugh. We’ve come to expect it of seagulls, there’s nothing much we can do.

The randomness of the attack and the unfairness made me indignant but it did make me think.  How helpless individuals are against the might of a determined force. How vigilant we should be and how worried by the stealth taxes and infringements on liberties of those less able to fight back.  We must fight back any and every way we can.

California Dreamin’ or election blues

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Remember that lovely 1960’s song of longing to be in a better place? It came to mind when I was out for a walk today.  A few details awry from the Mamas and Papas’ original. It was a spring day, not a winter’s day. All the trees weren’t in fact brown, they were green. True, the sky was grey and, as it happened the fields were blue.  The beauty of the bluebells made the walk delightful. I was not exactly dreaming of California either.

I’m already in California, the idyl the song  laments –  the sunshine/ beach/ laid back life.  It’s other poor saps who’re having a cold day somewhere else.

Nothing happens unless you make it happen. Vote for change and make the world a fairer place.