Open country, green spaces and public paths are not a luxury but a vital necessity, claimed Kate Ashbrook, president of the Ramblers and general secretary of campaign group the Open Spaces Society at the annual Spirit of Kinder Day.
"The Kinder trespassers changed the world. We can too"
The event, which celebrated the 82nd anniversary of the seminal Kinder Trespass, was held in Sheffield Town Hall on Saturday April 26. It also marked 10 years of the implementation of the CROW Act which gave the right to roam in open country.
But all is not well in England's green and pleasant land, according to countryside and access campaigners.
'The governments of England and Wales are attacking our green spaces, making it almost impossible for local people to register them as town or village greens to secure their rights to enjoy them' said Kate Ashbrook, in her speech to an audience of 200.
'The cuts in local authority funding and the obsession with development mean that budgets for maintaining, creating and recording public paths have been slashed. The national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty have to make do with ever-shrinking funds to protect our top landscapes.'
'It’s time that the government recognised that these places contribute massively to our health and well-being, as well as bringing income to the rural economy. We are not a fringe group, we are mainstream. We change lives and we save lives.'
Her response to a government that often seems far more interested in development than conservation or public access?
'We must reignite the campaigning zeal of the Kinder trespassers' said Kate.
'Times are tough for countryside campaigners, but the spirit of Kinder will carry us through. The Kinder trespassers and those before them changed the world. We can too, as we follow in their footsteps.'
Other speakers at the event included John Mothersole, chief executive of Sheffield City Council, who explained that a third of the city was within the Peak District National Park, and half of its area was moorland.
'So the spirit of Sheffield and the spirit of Kinder is very much the same thing. The trespass was a national scene-changer, and a lot of it started in Sheffield' he said.
And he echoed Kate’s view that for Sheffield, its role as “the city of outdoor adventure”, meant both income for the city and jobs for its citizens:
'We are not re-kindling the flame of the trespass here today – it is still alive and never went out in Sheffield.'
Two teenage members of the Sheffield Woodcraft Folk, Felix James and Angus Bruce, and their leader Kat Budd read first-hand accounts of the “forgotten” Abbey Brook trespass in which 200 members took part five months after the more publicised Kinder Scout trespass in 1932.
Various organisations had a stand at the event - the Ramblers; the Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorland; the British Mountaineering Council; the National Trust; the Kinder Visitor Centre Group and the Sheffield Moors Partnership.