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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

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This week, we have facts about the right to ramble. Seventy years ago, working class Brits demanded the right to wander on private property.


CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

[MUSIC: B-52s, “Roam,” COSMIC THING (Warner Bros. – 1989)]

CURWOOD: The right to ramble across Great Britain has not always been self-evident. Seventy years ago, an angry mob in northwestern England descended on a plateau reserved for wealthy grouse hunters. The working-class walkers demanded the right to wander anywhere they pleased. Joan Long is with the Rambler's Association in North Devon.

LONG: People that worked in the factories realized how much land that they couldn't go and enjoy. So they decided they would walk across the countryside.

CURWOOD: What came to be known as the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass soon turned ugly. Police showed up to keep the plateau rambler-free. They imprisoned five people. Seven decades later, space to meander is still at a premium in Great Britain. In England and Wales, less than one percent of the people own two-thirds of all rural land.

This week, ramblers in Britain are reenacting the Mass Trespass. This time, the law is on their side. Parliament has passed a new measure that opens 4,000 square miles of private land for foot travel by 2005.

While ramblers are celebrating, some landowners aren't exactly overjoyed. Some who have put walls and fences up are finding their land recategorized as “open to anyone.” One farmer found a provision in the new law that exempts cultivated land. So, he started madly plowing up his moor, just to keep those pesky ramblers away.

Some landholders are pushing for repeal of rambler rights. But, for now, the law of the land gives UK ramblers the right to roam. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.




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