A Peak District hillside that became a battleground ramblers’ right to roam is now at the centre of a new fight – as rangers battle to save one of the world’s rarest nature habitats.
This weekend walkers, campaigners and rangers celebrated the 85th anniversary of the Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout.
On 24 April, 1932, hundreds of walkers descended on the Peak District moor to draw attention to their inability to roam in the countryside. They were met by gamekeepers determined to stop them.
The trespass saw six ramblers arrested – but sparked a campaign that would eventually see law passed to allow people to walk freely over land in places like national parks.
When walkers retrace their steps today, they will trudge across a landscape that is changing rapidly.
The National Trust acquired Kinder Scout 35 years ago. Pollution and certain land management had seen the Scout become one of the fastest eroding peat bogs in the country – with a patch bare black peat equivalent to the size of over 80 football pitches.
But in the last seven years rangers from the conservation charity have worked with the Moors for the Future Partnership, Natural England and water company United Utilities to restore the blanket bog – a habitat rarer than the rainforest.
Rangers have re-seeded 80 hectares of bare peat, planted half a million bog cotton plants on the heather moorland and placed 20,000 trees in the deep valleys that surround the Kinder plateau.
The work will help reduce flooding downstream, improve water quality, save carbon by slashing erosion of the peat from the hillside. Blanket bog is also an important habitat for species like sphagnum moss and mountain hare.
Tom Harman, the National Trust’s Kinder Catchment Project Officer, said: “Kinder is such a special landmark – it has a pivotal role in the history of access to open country in Britain and the setting of National Parks. Many people now massively benefit from our Parks and the right to roam.
“Kinder Scout was once described as a lifeless moonscape. We have done a lot to restore the blanket bog, as well as improving a network of paths to open access to the plateau to walkers.”
Speaking at a standing-room-only event last weekend to mark the 85th anniversary of the Kinder Trespass, National Trust chief Helen Ghosh said that the habitat restoration work at Kinder was an important part of the charity’s strategy. The Trust has committed to creating 25,000 hectares of new “priority” nature habitats, like blanket bog, by 2025.
Stuart Maconie, the BBC broadcaster and newly-elected Ramblers president, called the right to roam over mountain and moorland a “birth-right” of every British citizen.
He said: “I was in Castleton earlier today, and it was just great to see families from all walks of life, colour and creed out enjoying the glorious scenery of the Hope Valley.
“That’s who those brave trespassers of 85 years ago fought for, and that’s who I’ll be fighting for as president of The Ramblers.”