The saddest thing about the event on 20 July to celebrate Jerry Pearlman‘s life was that he was not with us. He would have loved it. Seventy people from across England and Wales, including Jerry’s family, gathered at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s offices in Bainbridge, in the heart of the national park, to remember Jerry and the many facets of his life.
David Butterworth, chief executive of the national park authority of which Jerry was a member for 18 years, conducted the informal proceedings and spoke of Jerry as his mentor.
He recalled many amusing occasions with Jerry, who could be relied upon to speak fearlessly in defence of the national park.
Jerry was honorary solicitor for the Ramblers for more than 30 years. He practised as a lawyer in Leeds for 60 years, and while his firm was involved in routine matters, Jerry took on cases in defence of public paths, common land and access to open country.
Paddy Tipping (Ramblers’ vice-president and former Nottinghamshire MP who led the access campaign in parliament) told us how Jerry drafted the bill which became the Countryside and Rights of Way Act.
He said that Jerry would be leading us now on the Agriculture and Environment Bills, and would recognise the importance of ensuring that agricultural subsidies won public access.
Keith Wadd (Ramblers vice-president, and vice-chair of its West Riding Area), commented that Jerry always said that the law was a tool designed for Ramblers and we should use it to get paths open.
Colin Speakman told us of plans to create a Jerry Pearlman Way, between Jerry’s home in Alwoodley in Leeds and Harewood House, one of his favourite walks.
Janet Davis (for 30 years a rights-of-way policy officer at the Ramblers), recalled the many cases in which Jerry had been involved, ‘since time immemorial’, and the difference he had made for path workers.
I talked about my work with Jerry over 37 years, and mentioned Jerry’s exposure of the iniquity of landowners who claim inheritance tax exemption in return for giving public access but then fail to do so, or keep it secret.
Debbie Hougie (Jerry’s younger daughter) rounded off, telling us how their family holidays marked the various cases in which Jerry was involved, often taking in a visit to a blocked path which was a current issue.
She spoke of Jerry’s love of the Yorkshire Dales, the dilapidated cottage in Stalling Busk which he bought in 1965 and his battles for his beloved national park.
After an excellent lunch provided by Humble Pie, we drove to the car park on the north-east side of Semer Water in Raydale, close to Bainbridge.
Many of us then did an anti-clockwise walk around the lake, a route which Jerry knew intimately. As Debbie said, he would have been pointing out all the things we didn’t notice, explaining all the landscape features and expounding geomorphological theories on the placement of the stones.
Our route took us along the lane to Marsett, where we crossed the common and followed Marsett Beck before joining Busk Lane for a steep climb to Stalling Busk.
When we reached Stalling Busk, two-thirds of the way round, we stopped at the Raydale Preserves tasting room for tea and chat.
I bought a jar of Raydale chutney with a drawing of Semer Water on the lid.
We passed Bell Cottage where the Pearlmans live. It boasts a blue plaque, organised by Jerry, to celebrate the Ramblers’ access committee’s weekend in August 1996. It met in the old school room, in glorious surroundings, to discuss access legislation (although when we got home, we discovered it had been rather too much blue-sky thinking).
And so we headed back down the slope to the lake, past the ruin of the old Stalling Busk chapel.
It was a good day, and lovely to be together with Jerry’s family and friends, remembering a unique man in his own landscape which he fought to save.