Author Topic: The long fight for rights  (Read 2723 times)

Offline Badlad

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The long fight for rights
« on: December 04, 2017, 03:08:02 pm »

When it comes to access, the question is often asked, “…but what about the wishes of the landowner”.  Landowner wishes, and indeed their rights, are clearly important but are they sacrosanct?  Some cavers suggest that they are, while others, by their actions would suggest that they are not.  It is worth looking back at the history of countryside access to gain a better understanding.  Luckily a recent edition of the Ramblers magazine covers this subject.

According to the article, the long and turbulent history of the fight for access to Britain’s countryside started exactly 800 years ago.  Just two years after the Magna Carta, in 1217, when Henry 3rd re-established the rights of free men to access royal forests and common land with the ‘Charter of the Forests’.  This is considered the first access legislation and included the vast majority of what we would consider the countryside today.

Throughout the Middle Ages these rights were eroded away as over 6 million acres of common land was enclosed.  The main Enclosure Acts of 1750-1860 benefited the landed gentry in the name of agricultural efficiency but also enclosed moorland areas for the rearing of grouse. 



This wholesale ‘land larceny’ enraged many and so the protests began. The 1847 Battle of Glen Tilt between Edinburgh walkers and the Duke of Atholl’s ghillies and the 1896 mass trespass of Winter Hill in Lancashire being some of the first.  Many outdoor societies and associations formed around this time who demanded better access to the countryside.  Individuals too, such as the MP James Bryce introduced the first Access to the Mountains Bill.  Soon to be British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, summed up that mood, “Who ordained that a few should have the land of Britain as a perquisite, who made 10,000 people owners of the soil and the rest of us trespassers in the land of our birth?”

The Plaque on Winter Hill


Pressure began to build in the Peak District surrounded as it is by the great industrial cities of Manchester and Sheffield, with its mills and factories and back to back terraces.  Who wouldn’t want to escape to the nearby hills, but most of them were now allotted to various landowners and “Trespassers will be Prosecuted” signs appeared everywhere and were enforced by strong arm gamekeepers.  This was typical on Kinder where the celebrated mass trespass of 1932 saw a group of ramblers imprisoned, not for trespass, but public order offences.



The Ramblers Association formed in 1935 and soon had a membership larger than any political party.  With growing leisure time and increasing mobility of the population, politicians who traditionally supported the landowners, had to take note.  Hence in 1949 the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was passed.  The Act provided the framework for the establishment of our National Parks and also addressed public rights of way and access to open land.

The anticipated voluntary level of access was still resisted by landowners but the major opportunity for change came with the landslide Labour Government victory in 1997.  The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 granted public access to all open country, mountain, moor, heath and down.

In Scotland the situation was different where land access was on the basis of custom and tradition.  During the 18th and 19th centuries the Scottish lairds, hereditary aristocratic landowners, had forcibly evicted many Highland communities through the Clearances taking the land for grazing.  Campaigns fought back over the succeeding century or so, however, as new landowners ignored access traditions and countless paths were destroyed, political will began to grow.

This brought about two national parks in 2000 and was followed by the Land Reform Act Scotland in 2003.  This gave perhaps the most progressive access rights in the whole of Europe which allows freedoms to the majority of land.  In addition, it places a legal duty on landowners to manage the land in such a way that respects access rights.  The supporting Scottish Outdoor Access Code makes clear that the public share responsibilities too.  This sets the benchmark for future access legislation such as that being discussed by the Welsh Government at the moment.

Opening up the countryside for greater access should be welcomed.  2012 saw the opening of the Welsh Coastal Path.  Next the Ramblers have woodlands in their sights.  At the moment only 38% of woodland in England is available for the public to explore and that includes a great deal of permissive access which could be closed off at any time because there is no legal right to keep it open.  In England and Wales most access to caves relies on permissive access too.  Many cavers believe that the CRoW Act gives them the same rights to caves as it does climbers to crags and scramblers to gullies.  These campaigns are just another small chapter in the long fight for access.

The Ramblers article is much more detailed and urges us all to sign its petition to secure better access to woodland.  Their article starts off with an apocryphal story and I am going to end with it.

A group of Sheffield ramblers were caught trespassing in the Dark Peak before we enjoyed the freedom of access we do now.  They were approached by an irate, stick-wielding gamekeeper, who brusquely ordered them off his master’s land.  ‘But we aren’t doing any harm’, said the ramblers leader, ‘we’re just out enjoying the fresh air’.  Incensed, the red faced gamekeeper retorted, ‘this land doesn’t belong to you, lad, it belongs to my master.  He fought for it y’know’.  ‘All right’, replied the rambler, calmly taking off his jacket, ‘I’ll fight you for it then’.

It may be a story but it emphasises that the public would never have gained access to any part of the countryside without a long fight.

   
Plaques celebrating the law breakers.  Once criminals now applauded.  On the anniversary of the trespass in 2002 the Duke of Devonshire apologised for his grandfather whose gamekeepers were involved in the Kinder Scout confrontation.

Offline mrodoc

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2017, 06:06:17 pm »
They certainly need a right to roam in the Irish Republic. The book of walks for Connemara is wafer thin, The Twelve Bens of Connemara national park contains one hill you can walk up. The Burren national park has one walk on one hill as well! The second deepest cave in Ireland is currently inaccessbile to cavers. We have it lucky in the UK compared to many other countries.

Offline ChrisJC

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2017, 06:39:19 pm »
Well said Badlad.

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Offline caving_fox

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2017, 09:13:07 am »
A great post badland. Thanks.
They certainly need a right to roam in the Irish Republic. The book of walks for Connemara is wafer thin, The Twelve Bens of Connemara national park contains one hill you can walk up. The Burren national park has one walk on one hill as well! The second deepest cave in Ireland is currently inaccessbile to cavers. We have it lucky in the UK compared to many other countries.
I was of the understanding that for much or Ireland (and indeed the rest of Europe), it was very permissive - no formal right to be there, but equally no one much cares if you are, providing you're sensible about doing no damage and keeping out of 'obviously' private land. Ireland's had a bit more development in the last decade or two though, so maybe that's changed.
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Offline NigR

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2017, 11:25:58 am »
Superb overview, demonstrating perfectly that what is happening today down in the valleys of Wales and up on the fells of the Dales is all simply part of the naturally evolving historical process. Always good to know that the spirits of the past will be with you when the going gets tough!

Offline royfellows

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2017, 11:33:29 am »
I cannot help but feel that if these events of the past were to take place today not only would the various banking interests ("Who owns Killdrummy Eatate" -
 http://www.andywightman.com/archives/4024) and 'Shadow Companies' who are often the landowners be in opposition, but also conservationists who would see a free access to the countryside as being detrimental.

It appears to me to be an uneven balance of the wishes and freedoms of the many V the wishes and concerns of the few.
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Offline Ship-badger

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2017, 09:03:57 pm »
Thank you for a great article.
It is good to know that I am in such fine company whenever I am venturing where someone says that I am not allowed.
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Offline NewStuff

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2017, 09:34:56 pm »
Now, that was a good read.

someone says that I am not allowed.

I usually take that as a challenge being laid down  ;) :lol:
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Offline Simon Wilson

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2017, 12:17:27 pm »
A great post badland. Thanks.
They certainly need a right to roam in the Irish Republic. The book of walks for Connemara is wafer thin, The Twelve Bens of Connemara national park contains one hill you can walk up. The Burren national park has one walk on one hill as well! The second deepest cave in Ireland is currently inaccessbile to cavers. We have it lucky in the UK compared to many other countries.
I was of the understanding that for much or Ireland (and indeed the rest of Europe), it was very permissive - no formal right to be there, but equally no one much cares if you are, providing you're sensible about doing no damage and keeping out of 'obviously' private land. Ireland's had a bit more development in the last decade or two though, so maybe that's changed.

I think you're correct and I would go further and say that in any country where there is wilderness people generally tend to have access to it as a right. I'm not sure of the detail of the laws regarding access but in most Alpine countries anybody can wander as they please in the mountains.

Many countries have something called Crown Land or a similar term where the public have a right of access to vast areas; for example about 89% of all land in Canada. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crown_land

And in many countries also it is seen to be of benefit that people have access for 'recreation' purposes. Let's forget the 'open-air' crap, we all know what they mean when they say public recreation or something similar. In Australia they use this phrase "encouraging public use and enjoyment of the land."   https://www.crownland.nsw.gov.au/crown_lands/about_crown_land

I have been caving in several countries where access to Crown Land includes caves. I think DEFRA are being disingenuous in the extreme by pretending they don't know what the intention of the CRoW Act is.

The CRoW Act was long overdue and by passing it the government was falling into line with most other countries in giving the public the right of access to that land which it was seen to be beneficial that the public have access and in most countries that right includes caves.

Offline Rhys

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2017, 12:28:43 pm »
I think the CROW Act is a good thing and was the culmination of years of campaigning. It is excellent that we now have written down in law that we can roam, at will, over vast areas of land. However, personally, I don't think it has had any impact on my activities as a fell runner and hill walker. All the designated Access Land areas I visit now were always effectively open before the Act came along. I ran where ever I liked across unenclosed uplands before and I still do now.

There may well be areas that opened up as a result of CROW, but I don't where those are.

It is great that it's enshrined in law though. Of course, our sovereign parliament could reverse the Act if it wished!

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Offline mrodoc

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2017, 12:42:33 pm »
A great post badland. Thanks.
They certainly need a right to roam in the Irish Republic. The book of walks for Connemara is wafer thin, The Twelve Bens of Connemara national park contains one hill you can walk up. The Burren national park has one walk on one hill as well! The second deepest cave in Ireland is currently inaccessbile to cavers. We have it lucky in the UK compared to many other countries.
I was of the understanding that for much or Ireland (and indeed the rest of Europe), it was very permissive - no formal right to be there, but equally no one much cares if you are, providing you're sensible about doing no damage and keeping out of 'obviously' private land. Ireland's had a bit more development in the last decade or two though, so maybe that's changed.
Things have changed as far as I can see. There are some very forbidding notices on gateways in some places. :(

Offline Simon Wilson

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2017, 12:47:42 pm »
I think the CROW Act is a good thing and was the culmination of years of campaigning. It is excellent that we now have written down in law that we can roam, at will, over vast areas of land.
We all owe gratitude to those who fought long and hard for it.

Quote
However, personally, I don't think it has had any impact on my activities as a fell runner and hill walker. All the designated Access Land areas I visit now were always effectively open before the Act came along. I ran where ever I liked across unenclosed uplands before and I still do now.
I'm very surprised by that. I was brought up surrounded by grouse moors where you definitley would be quickly accosted and turfed off and on occasions that was at gun point.


Quote
There may well be areas that opened up as a result of CROW, but I don't where those are.

That's very easy to answer; the whole vast expanse of the Pennine uplands and North York Moors for a start.

« Last Edit: December 06, 2017, 01:05:04 pm by Simon Wilson »

Offline Rhys

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2017, 01:01:27 pm »
Well that's good to know. My main experience is of the Shropshire hills, Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons.

Offline Simon Wilson

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #13 on: December 06, 2017, 01:09:07 pm »
Well that's good to know. My main experience is of the Shropshire hills, Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons.

But you didn't have a legal right to be there. Maybe you were never thrown off but I'm sure other people will have been ejected from land in some of those areas.

Offline Cave_Troll

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2017, 01:11:53 pm »
CROW has probably improved access to Bamford Edge which was always a bit GameKeeperey

Most of the rest of the upland northern Peak is NT and was already open access

Offline SamT

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #15 on: December 06, 2017, 01:15:13 pm »
Off the top of my head, Bamford Edge in the Peak was a great climbing venue with very sporadic access (it being on grouse moor) that required phoning gamekeepers and hoping you caught him in a good mood. 

Intake dale has some mines/caves of interest which was on private land, now on crow land.  (the owner was contacted last year out of courtesy, and was happy with us exploring), but the fact that now, people walking up the dale no longer attracts any attention as it might once have. 

Offline SamT

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #16 on: December 06, 2017, 01:16:01 pm »
Beat me to it.  It definitely improved access

Offline David Rose

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #17 on: December 06, 2017, 01:35:10 pm »
I remember getting yelled at by gamekeepers when I went for a walk on Fountains Fell some years ago - before CROW was passed. I had been working in the area and was about to drive home and fancied some exercise. The same thing once happened to me on the open moors above Malham Cove.

I also recall getting physically threatened by an irate farmer in Co. Clare, when I was out for a stroll with two young children - and despite their presence, he called me every swearword in the dictionary. He was on tractor, so he kind of had the advantage. Very nasty.

Offline Simon Wilson

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #18 on: December 06, 2017, 01:54:23 pm »
You can add the Bowland Fells to the list where I have been thrown off several times by the gamekeepers employed by His Grace the Duke of Westminster. The gamekeepers on Grassington Moor were always quite keen - been thrown off there. There was a time when they were quite keen on Leck Fell as well. But not any more - three cheers for Benny Goodman and the Ramblers.

Offline Jenny P

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #19 on: December 06, 2017, 02:04:28 pm »
I can remember being in Northern Ireland a few years ago and looking at walking part westerly section of the "Ulster Way", which was being promoted in leaflets.  The first stretch I came to, there was a new house built right across the track which large notices saying"Keep out" and "No Access".  It didn't seem worth bothering if the landowner could do this on a so-called right of way which the government expressly promoted as a walking route.

Don't know how different it is in the Irish Republic but I have found walking in Co. Clare sometimes difficult.  I once found a that a walled footpath (which appeared to be a right of way and was officially signposted to a destination), had been completely filled, wall to wall, with cuttings from thorny bushes over a stretch of 100 yards close to the end.  This made it completely impossible to carry on to the signposted destination and, since I couldn't climb over the walls, also meant back-tracking for several miles to find a way out.

It did seem in both cases that, whilst the law said you have rights, the landowner could do whatever he wanted to in order to stop you.

So, while we believe CRoW gives us rights (with which we must accept the responsibility to behave reasonably), it could happen that we still lose out if the rights are not enforced.




Offline Simon Wilson

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #20 on: December 06, 2017, 02:29:42 pm »
- three cheers for Benny Goodman and the Ramblers.

Benny Goodman might have been involved albeit in a minor way - it was the right era.

Offline shotlighter

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #21 on: December 06, 2017, 04:28:28 pm »
- three cheers for Benny Goodman and the Ramblers.

Benny Goodman might have been involved albeit in a minor way - it was the right era.
He'd certainly of jazzed things up.  :)

Offline Rhys

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #22 on: December 06, 2017, 05:03:25 pm »
Well that's good to know. My main experience is of the Shropshire hills, Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons.

But you didn't have a legal right to be there. Maybe you were never thrown off but I'm sure other people will have been ejected from land in some of those areas.

I reckon there are probably common law rights to access in some upland areas, but let's not go there...

I think my experience is probably due to different land use across the regions. It would seem that sheep farmers were less bothered by walkers than grouse people were.

Rhys

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #23 on: December 06, 2017, 05:39:07 pm »
- three cheers for Benny Goodman and the Ramblers.

Benny Goodman might have been involved albeit in a minor way - it was the right era.
He'd certainly of jazzed things up.  :)

I thought Simon was doing down Benny Rothman's leading role in the Mass Trespass until I read your post and the different surname.   ;D
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Online paul

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Re: The long fight for rights
« Reply #24 on: December 06, 2017, 05:50:27 pm »
I can remember being in Northern Ireland a few years ago and looking at walking part westerly section of the "Ulster Way", which was being promoted in leaflets.  The first stretch I came to, there was a new house built right across the track which large notices saying"Keep out" and "No Access".  It didn't seem worth bothering if the landowner could do this on a so-called right of way which the government expressly promoted as a walking route.

Don't know how different it is in the Irish Republic but I have found walking in Co. Clare sometimes difficult.  I once found a that a walled footpath (which appeared to be a right of way and was officially signposted to a destination), had been completely filled, wall to wall, with cuttings from thorny bushes over a stretch of 100 yards close to the end.  This made it completely impossible to carry on to the signposted destination and, since I couldn't climb over the walls, also meant back-tracking for several miles to find a way out.

It did seem in both cases that, whilst the law said you have rights, the landowner could do whatever he wanted to in order to stop you.

So, while we believe CRoW gives us rights (with which we must accept the responsibility to behave reasonably), it could happen that we still lose out if the rights are not enforced.

Unfortunately, things in the Irish Republic are quite different to most of Europe and probably are the most restrictive:

Quote
From http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/travel_and_recreation/recreational_activities_in_ireland/sport_and_leisure/walking_and_rambling_in_ireland.html

Right of way

There is a distinction in Irish law between public and private rights of way. A public right of way is a person's right of passage along a road or path, even if the road or path is not in public ownership. There are very few registered public rights of way that are not maintained public roads.

A private right of way is the right to enter onto private lands, but only for the purposes of gaining access to or exiting from another piece of land. It is typically an arrangement between neighbours.

The waymarked trails are permissive routes that have been developed with the landowners’ agreement and are not rights of way. Even access to Coillte lands is permissive and you do not have a right of access.

Although, years ago some friends of mine were walking on Macgillycuddy's Reeks in Co. Kerry and bumped into a rather distinguished gentlemen who announced himself as "Macgillycuddy of the Reeks". He was the landowner and was quite happy for them to be walking there!
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