Ninety years ago, a mass Kinder Scout took place, a protest at the highest point in the Peak District, in which pedestrians, mainly from Greater Manchester, entered and called for greater access to the moors.
The mass offense helped pass national park legislation and helped pave the way for Britain’s first long-distance route, the Pennine Way. But the dreams of those intruders still did not come true. In 2000, the Rural and Road Rights Act introduced the partial right to roam in England and Wales, yet it covers only 8% of England, while the rest is still privately owned and inaccessible to the public. This month, the government overturned a review of the right to roam the English countryside. Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said she did not plan to publish the results of the review, a decision condemned by the activists. Caroline Lucas, a Green MEP for the Brighton Pavilion, said at a memorial service in Hayfield on Saturday that the decision was “disappointing” and “sincerely shameful.”
Anita Sethi before the walk Photo: Joel Goodman / The Guardian
The historical Kinder event of the mass transgression paralleled the issues of access to nature now faced by people of color and working-class people. The British countryside is demographically whiter than cities, with the Natural England study showing that only 1% of visitors to national parks come from the BAME environment. The 2019 Survey of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) states: “I feel that national parks are an exclusive, predominantly white, mostly middle-class club.” that only a “small fraction” in these boards were of black, Asian, or minority ethnicities. A Countryside Charity research report revealed a gap between socially disadvantaged areas and the countryside and highlighted issues such as poor public transport as barriers to access.
For the first time, I followed in the footsteps of the mass Kinder Scout intruders, known as the Manchester Ramblers, after I was racially abused by a man on the TransPennine route who told me to return to where I came from – and so I did. : I’m from the north and I decided to take a reclamation trip along the Pennine Way.
I’m going up again Kinder Scout, this time one of a group of vagabonds who join the Kinder in Color walk, an initiative reminiscent of mass offenses and highlighting the problems of inequality and unavailability that still persist and bring people of color to walk together. Organizers of the event include Sam Siva, also the organizer of Land in Our Names, a collective of racial justice, and Nadia Shaikh, who describes the event as a “coalition” of other groups fighting for better access to the countryside, including Muslim tourists, Black Girls Hiking, Land in Our Names, Right to Roam and Landscapes of Freedom.
North Rim Kinder Scout Plateau, Peak District National Park, England, United Kingdom Photo: John Bentley / Alamy
The event focuses on rituals and healing. “We want to heal the country and ourselves,” say the organizers. “We want to share the space so that our joy, healing and resistance can be filled with the same spirituality we feel when we connect with the earth.”
Rural history is rooted in colonialism, class and exclusion. Walk is trying to change that. Shaikh says accessibility was taken into account in the planning: the starting point for a 3km sightseeing tour is in Edale, for example, given the fact that there is a train station.
Anant from Manchester, who is also part of the Mad Walkers and Manchester Walkers, believes that more ethnic minorities should be encouraged to go out for nature walks. I date people of all ages, including families with young children who climb the mountain for the first time. I speak with people from the Survivor Alliance who say, “We like to go out. We are being treated and recovering from the traumas we have gone through. When we are outside, we feel free. It’s great to meet people and enjoy nature. “
As we go, there is hope and defiance in the air that the dreams of courageous intruders about access to nature for all could still come true.