New book celebrates protracted fight for commoners to regain access to spectacular land taken away from them by wealthy grouse shooters in the 1800s
‘Just a day, treading on the skirts of the unknown, in lonely land’ was the enigmatic advertisement for the first Clarion Rake’s Ramble onto the private moors west of Sheffield 110 years ago.
“This midnight ramble had been talked of for six months,” wrote the founder of the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers Club, GHB Ward. “The ladies had made short skirts and had bought hobnailed boots, and the gents had arranged for a camp kettle and outfit for al fresco tea parties on the heather.”
The nighttime start of their Rake’s Rambles meant the Sheffield trespassers could evade gamekeepers on their ascent to off-limits moors like Bleaklow and Derwent 25 years before the rather more famous Kinder Trespass of 1932.
“We want to make sure that Sheffield’s part in the the campaign for access to moorland is noted,” said Terry Howard of the Sheffield Ramblers Association. “Bert Ward and hundreds of Sheffielders were trespassing on Kinder well before the ‘Kinder Trespass’, which was really only a one-day affair.”
A new book about the Clarion’s exploits, written by longtime access campaigners Dave Sissons, Terry and Roly Smith, was inspired by the discovery of an old photo album in a skip, and a set of glass slides in a member’s attic picturing the male Clarion ramblers hiking over peat bogs in plus fours, with the ladies carefully protected from the elements by winter bonnets rather than Goretex.
When I go out the bus is often full of Chinese students heading out to the Peak District. There are lots of young people going out now and that’s extremely encouraging. But there’s still the question of are we getting all the ordinary working class people out walking, and people from ethnic backgrounds? And if not, how do you do that?TERRY HOWARD
One of Terry’s points in Clarion Call is that Ward and his Sheffield colleagues helped begin the protracted fight for commoners to regain the moors that had been taken away from them by wealthy grouse shooting estates in the 1800s. The famous trespass of 1932 commemorated by Ewan McColl’s Manchester Rambler song was just another stage in the process culminating in the CROW act of 2000, finally restoring access rights to the ‘lonely lands’ of the Rake’s Rambles and other English and Welsh heaths, hills and moorlands.
The Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorland was the key organisation in securing those rights, one more reason for the Outdoor City of Sheffield to gain additional national recognition as the Capital City of Walking, Terry believes. Not least because there are now more walkers setting out from Sheffield than there have been for years.
“And it’s such a mixture, with rambling groups, family groups, friends groups,” said Terry. “When I go out the bus is often full of Chinese students heading out to the Peak District. There are lots of young people going out now and that’s extremely encouraging. But there’s still the question of are we getting all the ordinary working class people out walking, and people from ethnic backgrounds? And if not, how do you do that?”
A question also being addressed by the city’s Move More campaign which is targeting walking to get more Sheffielders fit and active. Leisure centres at High Green, Graves and Concord soon hope to run new health walks from their Clinical Assessment Centres, if volunteers can be found to complement the existing team of 130 volunteer walk leaders running the city’s Step Out Sheffield health walk programme, which won a national Ramblers Association Innovation award this month.
With the recent addition of a Sheffield United Community Foundation walk from Bramall Lane, Step Out Sheffield will have 25 health walks around the city for people of all ages who want to improve their health by taking an easy-going walk with a group of new friends. Organiser Sue Lee reckons more than 400 people take part every week in the largest volunteer-led health walk scheme in the UK.
“The Outdoor City has real potential, but it’s got to appeal to those people who have not been reached, people who’d rather spend time walking round Meadowhall than going out to the outdoors,” said Terry.
Families, schools, and public transport access all need targeting, he suggested, with a range of avenues to encourage people into their local countryside.
“Those early Clarion people would be encouraged by what we’ve got now, but they’d still want to see more people on board with the benefits of walking.
GHB Ward said: ‘A rambler made is a man improved’, which says a lot, I think.”