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Saturday, 27 April, 2002, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Duke apologises to ramblers
Ramblers walking
Ramblers still want more countryside to be opened up
One of the country's biggest landowners has apologised to ramblers for his grandfather's role in the jailing of five countryside campaigners.

The Duke of Devonshire said a mass trespass on grouse moors at Kinder Scout, Derbyshire, during which gamekeepers clashed with ramblers demanding the right to walk on the estate, was "shaming" for his family.

The 82-year-old was addressing a rally of about 1,000 people from across the country in Hayfield, Derbyshire, marking the anniversary of the 1932 trespass, which began at the town's Bowden Bridge Quarry.

The incident and subsequent prison sentences of between two and six months for riotous assembly for the five men is widely seen as the catalyst for what became a long struggle to secure public rights of access to the countryside.

Kinder Scout
Kinder Scout was known as the "forbidden mountain"

It is also credited by many as leading to the creation of Britain's national parks.

Until 1932 the land around Kinder Scout, at the start of the Pennine Way, was controlled by its wealthy landowners.

A group of 400 walkers - growing increasingly angry at the class divide which effectively meant large parts of England's most beautiful countryside were out of bounds - decided to defy them.

They confronted a line of 30 gamekeepers on the 2,000-feet (600-metres) hill.

Apology

The duke, who owns Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, said he was "only too happy" to apologise as the ramblers "were entirely in the right".

He was met with loud applause as he expressed hope that his support for the Country and Rights of Way Act, passed in December 2000, had done something to "redeem that evil".

The act gives right of access to mountains, moorland, heathland and common land.

And environment minister Michael Meacher, who steered it through Parliament, told the rally it had opened up four million acres of "the poignant solitude of our most beautiful countryside" after a century of bitter conflict and restored the birthright of all walkers and ramblers across the country.

'Fight goes on'

But one of the rally organisers, Roly Smith, said more needed to be done.

Mr Smith, president of the North East Derbyshire and South Yorkshire Ramblers Association, said: "There is still a long way to go. The battle is not over yet.

"Even when the act goes through it will only encompass about 12% of the total land area of England and Wales.

"Since the outbreak of foot-and-mouth, the whole country realised how important walking and tourism was to the rural economy - probably it is equally as important as farming.

"The fight will go on."


We have to continue to push back the boundaries

Open Spaces Society director Kate Ashbrook

Open Spaces Society director Kate Ashbrook agreed.

"We have to continue to push back the boundaries.

"The act will show access works and does not endanger landowners' interests.

"They ignore us at their peril.

"We are good for the economy and their well-being."

Following the rally, chaired by former Ramblers' Association president, singer and comedian Mike Harding, walkers re-enacted the trespass on to the slopes of Kinder Scout, much of which is now owned by the National Trust.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Steve Swann
"For ramblers there remains much still to be done"
See also:

27 Mar 02 | England
Campaigner loses path battle
30 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Act brings right to roam closer
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