SHEFFIELD Ramblers will set off from the town hall on Sunday at the start of celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the Peak District national park.
They will walk about eight miles through the city centre and suburbs before reaching moorland and their destination of Wyming Brook, which is within the park.
“From the moors above Wyming Brook we should be able to look back on parts of the city which remind us of the need to look after everything we have and enjoy,” says Terry Howard, who chairs the Ramblers.
For while the group wants to commemorate the Peak District becoming the first national park– on April 17, 1951 – after campaigning by ramblers and other countryside lovers to protect land from development and to ensure public access, it believes new potential threats are on the horizon.
“Although a celebration walk, it also raises the issues of where our national parks are going, particularly because of the savage budget cuts which are challenging their very purpose and existence,” says Terry.
“Already several areas of the Peak District, which were acquired for public benefit, have been disposed of, with more to follow.
“However, it may not be all bad news if we are aware of such disposals and make sure, like our campaigning predecessors, that new managers of such land understand and respect people’s need and continue to manage these assets for the benefit of wildlife and everyone.”
The group is committed to keeping a watching brief on developments locally and nationally to try to ensure hard-fought freedoms are not threatened.
It points to the furore over the Government’s proposed sale of Forestry Commission land and is monitoring the impact of spending cuts on authorities such as the Peak Park.
So far the Ramblers have not raised objections to local initiatives such as the proposed transfer of the running of Losehill Hall conference and residential centre at Castleton to the Youth Hostel Association and the management of the Eastern Moors near Sheffield, which includes the walking and climbing areas of Curbar, Froggatt and Birchen Edges, to the National Trust and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
But it is keeping an eye on any similar agreements affecting areas such as The Roaches in North Staffordshire and the Stanage and North Lees estates near Sheffield. Eight organisations have already expressed an interest in leasing or buying The Roaches and public consultation is being held.
The Peak District National Park Authority says other organisations may have more resources than itself but insists it will only hand over land if it is satisfied on issues such as conservation, recreation and public access.
It has to respond to a 28.5% Government budget cut over the next four years, coming up with an action plan to save more than £446,000 in 2011-12.
Priority is being given to protecting essential services, developing partnerships, promoting voluntary work, generating more income and making efficiency savings.
As the 60th anniversary approaches, the authority will be holding a series of free ranger guided walks over the weekend of April 16 and 17.
The Friends of the Peak District are holding a 60th birthday walk – a ‘Diamond Dawdle’ – starting and ending at Thornbridge Hall, near Ashford-in-the-Water, on April 16, with a choice of 7.5 and 15 mile routes.
Meanwhile Sheffield Ramblers will leave the town hall steps – near a plaque commemorating campaigns to secure public access to the countryside – on Sunday at 10am. It will head for Trippet Lane, Weston Park, Crookesmoor, Crosspool and Redmires Moors on the way to Wyming Brook.
Walking boots, rainwear, lunch, a drink and some walking experience are being recommended – and no dogs, as part of the route is closed to them.
The group has about 1,200 members and the number is increasing, says Terry. “The growth is with young people.”