When we are free: a ramblers’ anthem

Today my good friend and Dartmoor campaigner Barbara MacDonald would have been 108.  I like to remember her on her birthday each year with a relevant thought.

I know she would be proud of her granddaughter Anna Tanvir who, from far away, has entertained family and friends all through lockdown.  I wrote recently about the weekly gigs which have cheered us from Dehradun in India, by Anna and Maninder Singh of Indeceltic.  Now they are in France and still delighting us with weekly concerts.

Anna and Maninder at Anna’s wooden house in France

In the French kitchen







During the lockdown Anna wrote a song to give heart to her son Kim who was isolated in France: When we are free.  It was published on 23 May.

When we are free

This song would have struck a great chord with Bar, because it is about family connections across continents, walking and talking (Bar was particularly good at the latter, and one could rely on her for news and insights) and roaming free (in which Bar believed deeply).

The song is about Kim’s strong feelings for his late grandfather, the theatre director and playright Habib Tanvir, about whom I heard so much when I lived with Anna, her mother Jill and sister Vickie in Exeter.  (Despite there being many visitors to ‘the Jillery’, I am sad that I never met Habib.)

It is a song which resonates, about the power and kinship of walking—a ramblers’ anthem.

The power and kinship of walking: Hollins Cross, Peak District National Park

I love my many connections with this family, all springing from my Dartmoor days with the courageous, resourceful and ever-entertaining Bar.


When we are free (listen here)

We’ll go walking, we’ll be talking, you and me
We’ll go walking, we’ll be talking, when we’re free

Light and dark always pulled you in two
Which way to go, what should you do
Fearless by day, fearful at night
Blue eyes searching for what’s out of sight

My father impressed you with his talk and his pipe
His voice so low, his high ideals
He turned away from the cameras one day
My grandson is here, he knows how it feels

A real team-player, a real dream-dreamer
A talker, a thinker, a ghetto boy
I know one day you’ll pack up your things
And set off to try your luck once more

You told me how much you care
For creatures and rivers and breathable air
For freedom to roam, for family and friends
To hug and to share, when all of this ends….



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, Dartmoor, India, Music, Ramblers, walking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to When we are free: a ramblers’ anthem

  1. John Bainbridge says:

    Miss Barbara so much – a great campaigner not just for Dartmoor but also on the campaign to save badgers, which she helped fund so generously.

    • Carley Brown says:

      I was so touched by your lovely tribute to our mother, Barbara and also to Anna and her music. Mama loved you dearly, for good reason! She left me her engagement ring, which I sold and the money went to the Dartmoor Livestock Preservation Society, which she founded and which is still doing very valuable work.
      Thank you so much Kate dear. – Carley

      • Dear Carley, thank you so much. I know the DLPS was deeply grateful for our donation and your mother would have been very happy about that. xxx

      • John Bainbridge says:

        I knew Barbara from the 1970s and she was such good company and great fun. I served on many committees with her and always enjoyed seeing her. A terrific campaigner. We could do with more like her. Regards John

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