Little did I know, as the train bore me around the western side of Dartmoor to Tavistock, Devon, on this day 48 years ago, that it was the start of my campaigning career. Nor did I know that on that same day, a few hundred miles away on Malham Moor, North Yorkshire, the Pennine Way was being opened. It’s a nice concatenation of events.
An excited, pony-mad ten year old, I was heading to Hillbridge Farm, Peter Tavy, for the first of many idyllic riding holidays.
Over the years, as I discovered Dartmoor, I wanted to fight for it. Thanks to the support and encouragement of Dee Ivey, who owned Hillbridge, and Sylvia Sayer, the great Dartmoor campaigner whom I met through Dee, I was able to do so. It is wonderful that Hillbridge is little changed since I first arrived there: there are fewer ponies and the riding holidays ended long ago, but it still has all the magic I experienced as a child.
24 April is also significant of course as the day of the Kinder Scout mass trespass in 1932, when hundreds of walkers clashed with game-keepers and five were subsequently jailed—the trespass was a significant milestone in the campaign for access. (You can join the celebrations of the trespassers’ achievements on Spirit of Kinder Day, Saturday 27 April at New Mills town hall, Derbyshire.)
And for me, 24 April is a sad day too. For on this day three years ago we celebrated the life of my dear friend Rozel Lawlor, in a yurt in her lovely garden at Coarsewell in south Devon.
Together, for ten years, we explored much of Dartmoor until Rozel was prematurely struck down with cancer. She too taught me a great deal, about nature and about life.
So all in all, today is a day of memories.