Ramblers try to shed image of militancy

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The Independent Online
RAMBLERS are hoping to make a new accommodation with landowners as part of preparations to draw up a right of access Bill to be put before Parliament, writes Stephen Goodwin.

Harmony in the Hills, a discussion document published today by the Ramblers' Association, tries to live down the image of the rambler-activist, beard bristling with indignation, striding out with his fellows to exercise on the grouse moors of the gentry.

This militant image, fostered by re-enactments of the 1932 mass trespass on Kinder Scout in the Peak District, is seen as counter-productive in gaining access to more open country. It antagonises landowners and upsets ramblers.

Alan Mattingly, director of the Ramblers' Association, admitted that the conciliatory tone of the document, intended as a first step to legislation, was partly a response to that unease.

But he rejected any suggestion that the association was abandoning the 'right to roam' ideals of its founders in 1935. The association RA asserts that people who walk on the moors, mountains, heaths and downs solely for the enjoyment of fresh air and exercise, should not be treated as trespassers; in other words the presumption against public access should be reversed.

The association will ask its 90,000 members to comment on the proposals and then consult conservation and landowning bodies. It hopes to have an access Bill drafted by the end of 1994.

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