[1967:] Written by Ewan MacColl for a mass trespass organised by the Manchester Rambling Association across fell land scheduled to be closed to the public. The song is now thoroughly absorbed into the tradition and has been 'collected' by MacColl in Canada, where it was passed off as a loggers' song. (Notes 'Spotlight On The Spinners')
[1970:] Written [...] in 1933, and became the official song of the Ramblers Federation. (Notes 'The World of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger')
[1979:] [Ewan MacColl] by the early 1930s had already written songs like 'The Manchester Rambler', which he wrote for a mass trespass over Kinderscout and which is still one of his most frequently performed songs. (Woods, Revival 105)
A few [of McColl's songs] have managed to retain their relevance and popularity through superb tunes and sufficiently generalised lyrics: 'The Manchester Rambler' is a case in point. (Woods, Revival 122)
[1988:] [This is] associated with the campaign for access to the countryside and the mass trespass on Kinder Scout in 1933. [Sung] to a tune from Haydn's 94th symphony. (Palmer, History 29)
[1989:] The first of MacColl's great angry protest songs was [...] a campaign song for one of the great mass actions of the thirties. Hiking was a popular sport [...]. The only problem was that many favourite areas were privately owned grouse moors, where the keepers didn't take kindly to the working-class invasion. There were several cases of hikers being attacked. The solution was a confrontation, a mass trespass over the area around Kinder Scout. MacColl says he expected just a few hundred to join the Trespass, 'but eight or nine thousand turned up'. Police and keepers were waiting, there were pitched battles, and many hikers were jailed.
MacColl's song for the event has survived because it deals with issues that are far broader than a long-forgotten punch-up on the moors. (Denselow, Music 20)
[1990:] Moorland walking, or rambling as it was known in the industrial towns bordering on the Pennines, was a mass sport [in the 1930s] and tens of thousands of young people - and few who were not so young - used to leave the Manchester and Sheffield districts each weekend bound for the moors and dales of Derbyshire. [...]
[My friend] Bob and I had become seasoned walkers during the months we had been knocking around together. Every Sunday we were out on the Derbyshire moors, mostly on Kinder or Bleaklow, driving ourselves to cover more and more miles. [...] The old days when I had toiled up Jacob's Ladder like an old man were behind me now. I was as limber, and almost as tough, as Bob and just as fast. We prided ourselves on the way we could lope for hours on end over broken moorland and on the speed with which we could ascend Wild Boar Clough, Middle and Far Black and the Alport. (MacColl, Journeyman 165ff.)
Written a little time after the trespass [on Kinder Scout, this] had achieved widespread popularity long before its first radio broadcast. Not long afterwards, in 1959, I met a young geologist in Canada who claimed to have heard a version of it sung in a logging camp up the Fraser River. He sang me a snatch of it:
I'm a logger, I'm a logger from old BC way
I get all my pleasure by sweating all day
By the time the revival was in full swing, I don't think there was a walking club anywhere which didn't have its own particular version of the song. (MacColl, Journeyman 358ff)
[1990:] One of the earliest of MacColl's songs, written in the early 1930s, this is widely believed to be a traditional folksong. You can still hear walkers singing it in the pubs on rambles. It was written in 1932 for the mass trespass over Kinder Scout, Derbyshire, when 3,000 unarmed walkers and hikers faced gamekeepers with clubs and police with truncheons. Many of the ramblers went to prison for their action. A plaque in the Edale Tourist Information office celebrate[s] both the trespass and this song. (Notes Ewan MacColl, 'Black and White')
[1997:] The right to roam - mainstay of the Government's countryside policy - was beginning to look a little more penned in this week after noisy opposition from landowners already angry at Labour support for a Bill that would ban foxhunting. [It has] been agreed that the new right of access will not extend to woodland and may be accompanied by a limited right for landowners to charge walkers for use of their land. In addition, they will be given the right to suspend rights of access temporarily. However, the consultation paper will talk of giving local councils a new right to impose public footpaths on private property if it will give walkers access to open countryside. [...] The Labour manifesto called 'for greater freedom for people to explore our open countryside'. [...] Initial access would be confined to mountain, moorland, heath, down and registered common land. [...] In an attempt to scare the Treasury, the Country Landowners' Association has warned that a right to roam could lead to big public liability insurance bills to cover landowners' compensation claims. (Patrick Wintour, Observer, 9 Nov)
[1998:] Britain's ramblers have accused farmers and other landowners of threatening them with guns, iron bars and dogs to stop them using public footpaths on their land. The Ramblers' Association says there has been a 'worrying' increase in the number of incidents in the past year. The association accused Janet George, former spokeswoman for the Countryside Alliance, of inciting farmers to violence with a remark last week that ramblers were useful only when there were no pheasants to shoot. [...] A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said: 'We would condemn any threats or acts of violence against ramblers. We are happy to work towards a voluntary right to roam but it will only succeed if the ramblers adopt a more constructive attitude in their relationship with landowners.' (David Harrison, Observer, 16 Aug)
[1998:] Der Immobilienspekulant Nicholas van Hoogstraten [...] hat den Fußweg an seinen Grundstücksgrenzen mit einem übermannsgroßen, stacheldrahtbewehrten Zaun abgesperrt. Das will eine Organisation nicht hinnehmen, die als Interessenverband die britische Lust am ungehinderten Umherschweifen in freier Natur verteidigt. Die "Ramblers' Association", der 120 000 Mitglieder starke Wanderclub Großbritanniens, kämpft seit 64 Jahren für freien Zugang zu den Naturschönheiten des Inselreichs und will nun juristisch gegen den auf Einsamkeit bedachten Krösus vorgehen.
Britisches Bodenrecht, das bis auf die Vergabe großer Lehen durch die normannischen Eroberer im elften Jahrhundert zurückreicht, besteht aus einem Dickicht, das kaum noch überschaubar ist. [...] Hingegen ist vielerorts der öffentliche Zugang zu Wanderwegen oder Treidelpfaden entlang von Flüssen und Kanälen bis ins Detail geregelt. [...] Die Grundbesitzer müssen ihren Pflichten gegenüber den Wanderfreunden nachkommen. [...] Doch die Landleute seien äußerst erfindungsreich, wenn es darum gehe, die Öffentlichkeit von ihren Liegenschaften fernzuhalten, beschwert sich die Ramblers' Association. Knapp ein Drittel aller Wanderwege in England sei inzwischen unpassierbar. Bei einem typischen Zwei-Meilen-Spaziergang stoße der Naturfreund "mit 90prozentiger Sicherheit auf ein Hindernis". Um zu beweisen, daß es einen plötzlich nicht mehr auffindbaren Pfad immer gegeben hat, legte der Verband vor Gericht Aufklärungsbilder der deutschen Luftwaffe vor. Wichtigste Forderung der Ramblers ist der Zugang zu weiterem Privatbesitz, vor allem in den Bergen und Hochmooren Nordenglands und Schottlands. Um ihn zu erzwingen, veranstalten sie seit Jahren Massenwandertage, bei denen sie zum Ärger der Besitzer nach eigenem Gutdünken durch Hain und Heide ziehen. Sie wollen auch, daß die Labour-Regierung endlich ein Wahlversprechen verwirklicht und ein Wanderrechtsgesetz verabschiedet [...].
Dagegen wehrt sich vor allem der Verband der Landeigentümer, dessen 50 000 Mitgliedern gut die Hälfte des Bodens in England und Wales gehört. Sie sträuben sich gegen einen befürchteten Ansturm spazierwütiger Städter mit dem Argument, daß die alten Gesetze einer Zeit entstammen, in der fast nur Einheimische die Wegerechte in Anspruch nehmen konnten. Die Flurschäden der Wanderer seien erheblich, behaupten die Gutsbesitzer, die sich aus frischgeschärfter ökologischer Sorge gern ein grünes Mäntelchen umhängen. [...]
Wieder einmal - wie schon beim gescheiterten Gesetz gegen die Fuchsjagd mit Hundemeuten - scheint Labour bereit, der begüterten Opposition nachzugeben. [...]
Der widerborstige Gutsherr van Hoogstraaten [...] sinnt auf handfeste Abwehr. Schon einmal mußte er zusammen mit den verachteten "Ungewaschenen" eine Haftstrafe verbüßen, weil er einem Gläubiger ein Killerkommando mit Handgranaten auf den Hals geschickt hatte. Wanderbewegungen auf seinen Ländereien will van Hoogstraaten auf keinen Fall dulden: "Ich möchte diesen Leuten nicht drohen, aber Unfälle gibt es immer wieder." (Hans Hoyng, Der Spiegel, 11. Januar)
[1999:] The Government has abandoned plans to impose a blanket law forcing landowners to give ramblers the freedom to wander over the moors, mountains and heathland that make up about one-tenth of the land surface of England and Wales. Instead, there will be a new framework for striking local agreements that will then have legal force. And, as a further sop to the landowners, the Government will make a belated announcement that one of their number, Ewen Cameron, has been chosen to head the new quango, the Countryside Agency. [Prime Minister Tony] Blair was left in no doubt about the strength of feeling against Cameron and the watered-down right-to-roam initiative among his own backbenches [...].
For the bobble hats, who have battled for a legal right to roam for more than a century, the Government's eleventh hour move has an air of depressing familiarity. Ever since the first feudal landlords ordered peasants off their land, walkers have battled for a legal right to roam over open moorland, glens and hills. Each time they have been defeated by the oldest power in the land - the landowning classes. More than 40 bills on the issue have been introduced in Westminster since 1888. One - Access to Mountains - even made it to the statute book but was so weak that walkers refused to back it and it was later repealed.
Ramblers hoped that this time it would be different. Blair's Cabinet contains none of the large landowners who sat around Mrs Thatcher's top table. [David Beskine, head of the Freedom to Roam campaign,] believes the huge Countryside March in London one year ago spurred the volte-face. Shaken by the scale of the rural uprising in defence of fox-hunting, the beef industry and sheep farmers, Blair buckled. 'Blair and his advisers lost their nerve. There were a lot of angry people in London and a couple of troublesome headlines and he lost it. New Labour's commitment to the wellbeing of Britain comes second to the overriding obsession with newspaper headlines.' After 100 years of failure, ramblers are taking the rebuff personally. (Andy McSmith / John Arlidge, Observer, 7 Mar)
The rural landowner Tony Blair has chosen to promote the right to roam over thousands of acres of English countryside is facing court action for obstructing a public footpath [...]. Ewen Cameron, former president of the Country Landowners' Association, has planted wheat over a popular right of way on his 3,000-acre Somerset estate. It is the second time he has obstructed the path, and ramblers said yesterday he was unfit to head the new Countryside Agency. [Cameron] insisted: 'The footpath is there. People can walk over it. [...] I'll make sure it is remarked first thing on Monday.' He accused [the ramblers] of picking a fight over nothing. [...]
The row comes as Tony Blair faces an embarrassing backbench revolt over Cameron's appointment and his decision to water down Labour's historic commitment for a legal right to roam. (John Arlidge, Observer, 7 Mar)