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In 1932, barely thirty five years later the freedom had been rescinded.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.
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.