Radical Rambling


Watching a good BBC documentary this evening about the Pennine Way–a long-distance walk in the UK–I learned about Tom Stephenson who fought hard through the 1930s to officially establish the walk.

He was a journalist and activist and campaigned to open the walk to the public, since so much of the English uplands were then owned by private landlords.

A clip of him in the documentary has him saying this of his fellow walkers:

Those of us who have been concerned with projects like the Pennine Way, national parks, access to the countryside, are often accused of being escapists, of being impracticable, of being cranks. Well I admit, we are escapists.

We ran a great feature about the escapist (and Escapological) pleasures and the radical beginnings of long-distance walking in New Escapologist Issue Five (get it here). In it, Stephen Barry writes:

Despite the National Trust and the Ramblers Association appearing very stuffy, they both have quite alternative and non-conformist histories. Thee National Trust was set up by three philanthropists who were concerned about the impact of uncontrolled development and industrialisation, and set about buying and protecting the UK’s coastline, countryside and buildings and have done a fantastic job of it. Meanwhile, a breakaway group from the original Ramblers Association called The British Workers’ Sports Federation (established in 1932 and often quoted as a quasi-Communist organisation) staged a mass trespass on landowners’ land at Kinder Scout, the highest peak in the Peak District. The original protest swelled from some four-hundred to ten-thousand people and reflected the frustration of many working-class people over their lack of access to land that was often only farmed or used for just a few days a year by rich landowners. This was the start of the process that now sees thousands of acres and paths across the UK open for everyone to enjoy.

Let it be understood that walking is political and the perfect cost-free, low-impact, free-will-exercising activity for Escapologists everywhere.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at www.wringham.co.uk/about.

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