Trailbikers follow in the footsteps of Kinder Scout's original trailblazers

Eighty years after ramblers' protest opened up the countryside to all, petrolheads demand the right to rev
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The Independent Online

Eighty years ago, a determined band of walkers armed with little more than a mackintosh and a round of sandwiches set out to reclaim the British landscape for the common man.

The success of the mass trespass on Kinder Scout in Derbyshire sparked a rural revolution and led to the creation of the national parks.

But those who choose to enjoy the great outdoors not on two legs but on wheels used yesterday's anniversary to gather close to the iconic gritstone peak to highlight what they claim is a growing campaign to exclude them from the countryside altogether.

About 100 off-roaders drove trails through the Peak District National Park before descending on the headquarters of the park authority in Bakewell to demand their legal rights to rev.

Mike Irving, of the Trail Riders Fellowship, said it was time to act after years of being marginalised by walkers and other groups.

"The Kinder Scout trespass was for everyone to have the right to use the footpaths and the byways and the bridleways and the old rights of way. We are not criminals but we are being demonised. We are gradually being hounded off the lanes," he said.

Mr Irving said organisations such as the Ramblers were waging war on off-road vehicle users who were restricted to just one per cent of the 2,459km of tracks in the Peak District National Park.

He said water erosion, agriculture and walkers all caused damage to the landscape. "The pollution we create is insignificant compared to the cars which come to the park each year and we are no noisier that the Forestry Commission operating a chainsaw in the middle of a forest," he added.

Last month the National Park Authority set out a plan to manage the impact of 4x4s, quad and trail bikes on contested routes and announced a crackdown on illegal off-roading.

Parks have been forced to step into the row after being given new powers by the Government to impose traffic regulation orders.

John King, who leads the Take Back the Tracks Campaign for the Friends of the Peak District, said popular off-road routes such as the Long Causeway out of Sheffield and Chapel Gate which skirts Rushup Edge took in sensitive ecological sites and some of England's most stunning scenery.

"There is the noise and there are issues of safety. Horses get spooked quite easily by engines. I know there is a code of behaviour but some people obey these things and some do not. The routes get so bad and uneven, so rocky and unstable they become difficult to walk on," he said.

But the campaign, which is backed by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, does not want a complete ban. "Everyone can co-exist if they all behave themselves," said Mr King.

Nicky Philpott, director of policy and campaigns for the Ramblers, said off-roaders should be limited to suitable legal routes. "The introduction of motorised vehicles into many parts of the countryside shatters the peaceful enjoyment of those seeking to escape the roads; bringing fumes, noise and increased danger to walkers, horse riders and cyclists," she said.

Historic ramble: Kinder Scout, 1932

It was 80 years ago yesterday when hundreds of ramblers sought to strike a blow for those wanting access to large parts of the countryside by staging a mass trespass on Kinder Scout mountain in the Peak District.

The protest was sparked by anger at walkers being denied access to public land, with no right to roam. Two groups set off from the villages of Edale and Hayfield to climb the 2,000ft (600m) mountain. Before reaching the top, they clashed with gamekeepers employed by the Duke of Devonshire. Scuffles broke out, with five ramblers later jailed. But weeks later, 10,000 ramblers met for an access rally in the nearby Winnats Pass. That eventually led to the creation of National Parks in England and Wales, with the Peak District the first area given the status in 1951.

Chris Stevenson