Celebrating 70 Years of Access to our Countryside

On Saturday I joined around 300 people in Castleton to celebrate 70 years of access to the countryside, since the Act of Parliament in 1949 that also set up the Peak District National Park.

The ‘Spirit of Kinder’ event was planned for the slopes of Winnats Pass, but in the face of the driving winds and rain of Storm Hannah, we walked up for some photos and a good dousing, before retreating to the Peveril Centre for tea, speeches and song.

The presence of Jan Gillett, son of gaoled trespasser Tona Gillett, reminded us that walking on our hills used to be an imprisonable offence.

It took acts of rebellion to make the case for everyone to be able to access the countryside, and Clement Attlee’s radical Labour Government of 1945 to pass the legislation.

So I was joined on a platform by the Peak District National Park, National Trust, the Ramblers, British Mountaineering Council, Lord David Blunkett, Sue Hayman – Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment – and Jarvis Cocker, all celebrating our rights of access.

It’s important not just to celebrate, but to protect our countryside.  I was particularly pleased that this week the Labour Party announced our policy of declaring a Climate Emergency.

Those principles are important to put into action and Labour in High Peak is committed to sound environmental policies at local level.

With high air pollution on many of our most congested streets, we need to do all we can to reduce pollution and encourage greener transport.

I was very pleased to open the new sidings at Buxton so that longer freight trains can each take 76 quarry wagons off our streets.

I’ve been working with Northern and Network Rail on improvements to our passenger trains and station facilities to encourage more people to take the train where they can.

High Peak has no public charging points for Electric Vehicles, lagging behind most other councils, and we need to make them available.

Cycling is healthy but our roads are dangerous, so we need more off-road cycle routes throughout High Peak, to help people cycle for leisure but also get to school, work and train stations by bike.

And our council should be using and promoting green energy, and supporting community energy projects, adopting low-energy building standards, as other Labour councils have done.

There’s a lot that can be done, and we need to be ambitious but practical to protect our environment – and our countryside for the next generation.

With Storm Hannah having passed, High Peak is looking particularly beautiful with bluebells, violets, celandines and anemones on our Sunday family walk – which has to be the best way of celebrating our right of access to our countryside.

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