When access activists from all over the country gather in Sheffield Town Hall this Saturday to celebrate the 82nd anniversary of the Kinder mass trespass, we shall also remember the quiet but effective campaigner Roy Bullen, who died on 27 March aged 88.
I rejoiced in Roy’s company at the many rallies in the run-up to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000; whenever we gathered on the brink of forbidden moorlands in Derbyshire or Yorkshire for rallies and speeches, or we trespassed across open country, Roy was there. Quietly spoken and self-effacing, with an engaging twinkle, he cared deeply for our cause and never gave up the fight for freedom to roam.
Born in Sheffield, Roy was the only child of a Primitive Methodist family; he achieved a good standard of education, supplemented with self-learning at Walkley Library. He spent much of his youth cycling in Derbyshire with his cousins. He left school at 15 and went to work as a clerk at Arthur Lee’s steelworks. Aged 17 he was conscripted to the army and saw active service, suffering from shell-shock which affected him for the rest of his life. After the war he was involved in the repatriation of Belgium and Germany.
He returned to Sheffield and, in 1948, met his future wife Pat at Livesey Clegg Youth Club. They were married in 1952. With their two daughters, Ruth and Janet, they enjoyed wonderful times as a family, walking and exploring.
Roy joined the Ramblers’ Association in 1948 and soon became the secretary of the rambling section of a young people’s fellowship. In the early 1950s he was a voluntary warden on Kinder, where access agreements had recently been obtained under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Later he spent his weekends helping in the Peak District National Park information centre at Edale.
In the 1960s his work took him from Sheffield to north Lancashire, and he lived close to the Forest of Bowland where he started the Preston and Fylde Group of the Ramblers. It was fortunate that he recruited the late Alan Howard, who subsequently became Ramblers’ national chairman and was a feisty fighter. The Ramblers’ group campaigned for access to the forbidden moors of Bowland (which was eventually achieved with the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000) and for the Ribble Way long-distance path (opened 1985).
Ian Brodie, his friend for nearly 50 years, recalls that at the end of the first rally for access to Bowland, in Chipping in 1969, Roy stood at the back and was approached by a Bowland landowner clutching a rally leaflet which, the landowner claimed, had been pinned on a fence post on his land. Ian suspects that the landowner didn’t notice the gleam in the perpetrator’s eye and says that this was an example of how Roy, in the cause of his passionate belief in the freedom to roam, was so consistently but quietly an effective campaigner.
In the 1970s Roy returned to Sheffield and was responsible for reorganising the Ramblers’ vast Sheffield and District Area (which stretched from Edale to Goole and from north of Barnsley to south Derbyshire) into Derbyshire Area and South Yorkshire and North East Derbyshire Area, which fit the 1974 local government boundaries. This was no mean feat, and a tribute to Roy’s quiet diplomacy—for Ramblers’ territorial boundaries are sacred!
Much of Roy’s career was spent in giving vocational guidance to young people. He was careers officer for the High Peak and Derbyshire Dales and delighted in his daily journeys across an area between Glossop and Sudbury, the Derwent and the Dove. He was a founder member of the Sheffield Campaign for Access to Moorland (SCAM). After retirement he joined the Council (now Campaign) for the Protection of Rural England’s Sheffield and Peak Branch committee. He was involved with the Society of Friends (the Quakers) and was active in the Sheffield War on Want Group, the Peace Pledge Union and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He was also a founder member of the Sheffield Local Family History Society and became involved in various local history projects.
I treasure my copies of Roy’s anthologies: I’ll Walk Where I will (a quotation from Ewan MacColl’s The Manchester Rambler) and In Praise of Rambling: Poetry and Prose for Countrygoers. These were published in 1975 and 1990, to celebrate the Ramblers’ 50th and 65th anniversaries with profits donated to the association.
Whenever Roy sent me a letter he wrote on the back of the envelope the initials YWTMOK—‘Yours while there’s mist over Kinder’. As I opened it, I could visualise Roy’s beloved moors with mist hovering over the tops.
Roy could be relied on to defend our freedom to enjoy open country. It was hard for the opposition to argue with such a gentle, delightful person. His anthologies are a rich and ecletic vein of outdoor writing.
I’ll Walk Where I Will ends with a section called ‘The last long mile’. It includes the final verse of the Uist Tramping Song by Archibald MacDonald:
‘It’s the call of the sea and shore, it’s the tang of bog and peat,
And the scent of briar and myrtle that puts magic in our feet;
So it’s on we go rejoicing, over bracken, over stile;
And it’s soon we will be tramping out the last long mile.’
Roy tramped many a long mile in the cause of our freedom; we are indebted to him.