The spirit of Kinder must live on – Lord Blunkett

  • Contributor information: CNP

03 July 2019

Lord David Blunkett, who is President of Sheffield and North Derbyshire Ramblers and former Home Secretary, argues that we must keep alive the flames of the National Parks movement.

70 years on from the enormous achievement of the 1949 Access to the Countryside and National Parks Act, we must both salute the pioneers before us and carry that spirit forward so everyone can enjoy the benefits of the countryside.

I have benefited throughout my life, as a child picnicking and as an adult rambling throughout south Yorkshire and north Derbyshire. Walking has been a great tonic to me and to many others. I believe that in this modern world we must fully appreciate the benefits of our natural environment, relationships and wellbeing, as well as to our culture, community and economy. As president of the Sheffield and North Derbyshire Ramblers I know that many already keenly feel these benefits.

Earlier this year I was invited to an event commemorating the Kinder mass trespass of 1932. We remembered those who broke the law peacefully and without any collateral damage to others or the environment so we could have the right, simply to walk. To breath fresh air and spend time with our families outside of town and city. The trespass came at a time of great yearning to protect the beautiful sites of the nation and as such the kinder mass trespass would go on to have its own place in the grand story of the environmental movement and how we got the National Parks. Giving the campaign a hard, urgent and moral argument.

Lord Blunkett is a former Home Secretary and President of the North Derbyshire Ramblers

Those from the 19th century onwards who made the case for access for all had fire in their bellies. Until 1949, only 1% of the Peak District was accessible and only 12 legal walks existed. This is unthinkable today. Access to the countryside was and is a fight for the right to enjoy the world outside your window. It was, and remains, a public health issue. This is true whether you work in manufacturing or retail, management or politics.

the Kinder Mass Trespass

The Mass Trespass of Kinder Scout. Photo credit: Peak District National Park Authority.

We must reignite the fires of the National Parks movement. We need to return to those moral arguments for they are just as relevant today. Too few can realistically enjoy time in the National Parks for a number of reasons, and the landscapes we want to enjoy face unprecedented threats from mankind. Without properly protecting these areas of land, fewer lives will be enriched by bird song as mine has. And fewer families can enjoy fresh air of the countryside – as I have.

I want everyone to enjoy the vibrancy of the Peak District and all the National Parks but inertia in Government has shackled the Parks. And there is still some way to go before we have a properly accessible countryside. To overcome this inertia, we must take the spirit of Kinder forward. A spirit defined by collective action for something more important than ourselves, a spirit of mutually and reciprocity.

For 70 years we have enjoyed the most beautiful and highly protected landscapes in the country as National Parks. As they face numerous challenges I hope we will not forget the lessons of the 1930s and 1940s.

By Lord Blunkett,

President of Sheffield and North Derbyshire Ramblers