On 19 September 2004 I set foot on Parkhouse Hill in Derbyshire’s Peak District for the first time by right.
It was the day that the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 took effect in the first two regions to be mapped in England, parts of the south east and north west. Until then access to this spectacular hilltop and many other places was prohibited.
I joined an event in the Peak District’s Goyt Valley to celebrate the start of the new rights, for which we had campaigned for more than a decade and activists before us for more than 100 years. At last we could wander from public paths over mapped land by right. It was a big day.
Ten years on and the act has caused no problems to landowners; their fears have not materialised. People have acted responsibly and access has not conflicted with other interests. In the uplands the gains have been significant. In the lowlands they are less so, for the act failed to provide much new access to downland.
Nevertheless, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act was a massive step forward, reversing the landowner’s age-old power to keep people off land which had been mapped for access.
We should raise a glass on this tenth anniversary and thank all those volunteers who campaigned tirelessly for our freedom.
And on this significant day for Scotland we should also acknowledge that the access brought by the Land Reform Act 2003, won largely by the Ramblers in Scotland, is the best in Europe.