Half my life with the OSS

On 3 June 2013 I shall have worked for the Open Spaces Society for exactly half my life.

I was employed in 1984 as general secretary (I have kept the old-fashioned title, which I like) to develop the society’s role as a campaigning body.  It was founded in 1865 to campaign and the very next year it organised direct action, to fell Lord Brownlow’s unlawful fencing on Berkhamsted Common in Hertfordshire.  Campaigning is in our blood.

Campaign successes
The society has helped to achieve some campaign successes.  The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 with its freedom to roam on commons and mapped open country; the Commons Act 2006 which strengthens the protection for commons, and new laws for village greens (subsequently eroded by the pernicious Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013).  We helped to defeat the infamous Ombersley path-rationalisation scheme and the damaging Bodmin Moor Commons Bill for instance.

We can claim sole credit for stopping commercial interests from obstructing footpaths at Henley regatta (I marched through a hospitality tent in my shorts, with a press photographer, on a summer Sunday, the marquee was shifted the following year).

Altercations at Henley regatta, 1990.

Altercations at Henley regatta, 1990.

There are countless paths which have not been diverted out of recognition, because the OSS had the guts to be the only objector; we have claimed land for the access maps and removed unlawful works from commons.

What I particularly enjoy about the OSS is that we can move fast.  We are not shackled by bureaucracy such as regional committees and long chains of authority.  We can react swiftly to events and are always ready to get involved at short notice.

Despite my 29+ years, I have a long way to go before I can compete with my predecessor Sir Lawrence Chubb.  He served as secretary from 1896 to 1948, 52 years, which is surely a record.  By 3 June I shall only have only served for 29 years, 8 weeks and 6 days.


About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Access, common land, Open Spaces Society, Public paths and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Half my life with the OSS

  1. Aiichiro Mogi says:

    Three cheers to Kate!! Someone may blame my expression for it is too Henleyesque.

  2. Here’s to the next 50 years!

  3. hazel perham says:

    Well done Kate – where would we be in Cornwall without you – you inspired so many of us to go out and shout louder and promote our wonderful network of paths. Only yesterday I was being told by two friends how much easier it is to walk on Bodmin Moor and I was then able to tell them about the hard work you put in for the public to be able to walk there.

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