About Kate Ashbrook

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation body, founded in 1865 (its founders went on to create the National Trust in 1895).

Kate AshbrookI have been chair of the Ramblers three times, and have served on the board of trustees, with a four-year spell as president, for the past 40 years, never missing a trustees’ meeting while on the board.  I am now a vice-president of Ramblers GB and of Ramblers Cymru, and Ramblers Scotland.

I am also the footpath secretary and press officer for the Ramblers’ Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and West Middlesex Area, vice-chair and trustee of the Campaign for National Parks and of the Dartmoor Preservation Association, patron of the Walkers Are Welcome Towns Network, vice-president of the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society, patron of the Sheffield Environmental Movement, and a member of the Institute of Rights of Way and Access Management.

I carry out surveys for the British Trust for Ornithology and am learning to identify birds by their songs and calls.

Articles on the website of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, here and here, say a bit more about me and my campaigns.

The views I express here are my own.


49 Responses to About Kate Ashbrook

  1. Doug Dew says:

    Hi Kate
    I wonder if you have seen this campaign?


    It is now the 5th highest campaign idea on 38 Degrees. It has reached this position through the efforts of canoeists and swimmers, but the scope of the campaign is far wider than just waterways. I wonder if you might be able to help mobilize assistance from people in the rambling community?


  2. Ed Kendrick says:

    A pedant writes…
    Shouldn’t the sentence in the above paragraph read “its founders went on to create the National Trust in 1895” not 1995?


  3. Jill Hood says:

    Hello Kate,

    Can you help us ? Here in Stone in Staffordshire. We have launched a campaign to KEEP WESTBRIDGE PARK GREEN. A beautiful open green space always described as the village green of our town. Stafford Borough council has announced plans to build on the park , a much needed facility for teenagers ( I would welcome it) on the area which is already built on with a gym and car park. The facility will be financed by a development of a supermarket . the green has been used for recreational purposes for over many many years, football, dog walkers, food and drink festival, the week long summer festival plus the annual bonfire. There are 2 sets of badgers established and otters are iminent in the river Trent which meanders through the park. The Stone canoe club is housed on the park as are two buildings which house Scouts Brownies, Rainbows, cubs and Beavers , they all use the park for play time. School children have congregated there for ever and its the safest and only large green space which is hugely popular with everyone in the town. Visitors too.Our petition of 4,500 signatures will be presented to the council on Tuesday and on November 20th there will be a meeting held at our Alleynes High School. The way in which our town is always described is a large town ( population 16000) with a village mentality and it’s said with fondness! We have just been awarded the RHS Britain in Bloom silver gilt , the young peoples award and runner up with the community award. I should value your help as I know thousands will too. I do hope you can help us. If you agree we can pay your expenses if you decide to come to Staffordshire.

    Kind regards

    Jill Hood 077364 13097

  4. Hi Kate,
    I found this page via Google, but see no link to sign up to receive further blogs. The “Register” link seems to be about starting my own blog. Dream on.
    Thanks for being on the walk today, with your ever-cheerful self and source of so much information – salacious as some of it was!!!

  5. Carla Jones says:

    I’m a student currently doing my dissertation and for my dissertation I’m hypothetically re-designing The Rye in High Wycombe. I came across your blog as I’m trying to find out information about the legislative controls on the environmental impact of The Rye. I’m wondering if you have any information I could use or if you could point me in the right direction as I’m having difficulties finding anything.


  6. John Gay says:

    Good afternoon Kate
    I live in Glenridding in the Lake District (lucky me) but we have a proposal we are fighting to stop a zip wire being installed in the open countryside of our valley. It will be a four line installation with riders zipping down at some 40 to 60 mph with up to 32 using it every hour. The lines will run from a crag called Stang End (or Haystacks) NY 362 176 at the head of the valley to a farmer’s field just above the village (NY 377 171). You might think that the National Park authority would be dead against this because it is in the open landscape of the valley and would desecrate the character and quality of the area. In one sense they do indeed oppose it in that the planning department of the National Park have come out firmly against it. So we’re home and dry then? No unfortunately not, you see the landowner of the area around Haystacks has agreed in principle for the proposal to continue to the planning stage and of course that is all about the money they would gain. So who is the landowner? Well none other than the National Park itself! Furthermore the head of the National Park Richard Leafe has taken a personal interest and is in favour of the scheme! So I imagine you can see our problem now with a very clear conflict of interest present.

    I am not against zip wires. There is a very good “Go Ape” facility at Whinlatter near Keswick where the installation is amongst the woodland and so has no impact on the open landscape. Furthermore it has no impact on other fell users. This is quite different to our situation here in Glenridding; we have had so many comments on our blog and petition stating that it would put visitors off from visiting the area. Many businesses in the dale have come out against it as they understand that it is the quality and character of the landscape which draws visitors to the area upon which their trade depends.

    The planning department have made it clear that having the installation in the open countryside is unacceptable as a matter of policy principle and so you see this is not just about our valley but clearly that point applies to any open aspect of any valley in the Lake District.

    I would like to make a point about the area at the proposed start point (Stang End): there is a very busy zig zag public bridleway that runs right across the slope and the start point would be adjacent to this footpath. The planning department in their assessment express many causes for concern about the use of this slope for the proposed installation not least of which is the “dangerous interactions” (their words not mine) between the people on foot and the 4×4 vehicles that will use the footpath to transfer the zip wire customers to the start point. How can they use 4×4 vehicles on a footpath? Well if Richard Leafe is in favour who knows what will be done to change and overcome issues like that. As far as we can ascertain there has been no consultation with interested organisations such as yours for the change of status of the footpath to include vehicles (presumably to make it into a BOAT Byway Open to All Traffic).

    If you or any of your supporters can help please go to http://www.noziphere.org . You will see lots of information including a petition with over 2000 signed so far. We have an important open meeting here on Wednesday 3rd December at 7.00 in the Glenridding Public Hall. Richard Leafe will be there as will a representative from the zip wire company. It should be interesting and all are welcome. Kate, if you or any of your friends or colleagues can make it your presence will be very welcome. The full Pre_Planning Advice Statement from the National Park can be found at http://www.helvellyn.com/national_park_zipwire_advice_statement.pdf
    John Gay

    • Dear John
      Thank you for the information. I’m sorry I can’t come to the meeting but I expect you are in touch with Friends of the Lake District who will no doubt be attending.

  7. Alex says:

    HI Kate,
    Would you be interested in talking to local TV – That’s Oxford, Freeview channel 8, Live from 5pm to talk about access to the countryside in and around the county?
    Let me know

  8. Aimee says:

    Hi Kate, I work on The Great Outdoors Awards 2015 and i’m happy to tell you that, You have been shortlisted for Personality of The Year! Do you have an email i could send some info too? Or if you could contact me at shows@kelsey.co.uk
    Many Thanks,

  9. Lynne Abbott says:

    Hi Kate, It was good to talk to you briefly at the Ramblers Area meeting in Nether Stowey on 18th. I enjoyed reading your blog about the day with some lovely ‘photos of our local footpaths and landmarks. Would you mind if we used your photo of Over Stowey Church for our business engagement pack to go out to walker friendly local businesses? It is just the shot I have been looking for.
    Lynne Abbott
    Stowey Walking

  10. Lynne Abbott says:

    A jpeg would e great. Lynne

  11. Rosie Nye says:

    Hi Kate,

    My name is Rosie Nye and I am a third year archaeology student currently doing my dissertation. I am looking at Tyneham Village post 1943 and was wondering if you had any information in relation to this? I am specifically looking at the politics surrounding the area from 1943 onwards. If you could help me, I would really appreciate it.

    Best wishes,

    • Hi Rosie, thanks for getting in touch. I don’t have anything myself, but have you read Patrick Wright’s ‘The village that died for England’? It could well cover what you need. Let me know. Best of luck. Kate

      • Rosie Nye says:

        Hi Kate,

        Thank you for your reply.
        I am currently reading “The village that died for England” and I am finding it extremely useful.
        I did notice that you knew Rodney Legg. As I am sure that you are aware, he played a pivotal role within Tyneham, especially with the Tyneham Action Group. I don’t suppose there is anything that you could tell me about Rodney?

        Best wishes,

      • Yes certainly, what do you need to know? does it help to speak on the phone?

  12. Angela Charlton says:

    Kate is truly worthy of this award. A stalwart supporter of access for all.

  13. Hi Kate
    I’m a Sheffield based independent filmmaker and I’m making a short film about the Kinder Trespass of 1932. I’m in the final stages of production having interviewed several sources including Mark Metcalf who I believe has wrote an article on you… Anyway I’m looking to end the film with information about current land rights and issues we’re having and wanted your help. I’ve read some of your blog posts and interviews and I think you could really help me out. If your interested please get in touch. Jordan

  14. alison Taylor says:

    Are there any circumstances where it is acceptable to retain a right of way through a primary school playground in a rural area where an alternative route is available?

  15. alison Taylor says:

    YES, in what possible circumstances could this be the case?
    I am bewildered by your response.

  16. Best continue this correspondence by email, to ashbrookk@aol.com Please explain why you need to know and I’ll try to answer.

  17. alison Taylor says:

    I don’t think that is relevant, it’s either a yes or a no.

  18. I said yes, and you asked in what circumstances, so clearly it is not either yes or no. I’m sorry if I am not giving you the answer you wanted.

  19. eurinco says:

    We’re trying to improve links between green spaces in this part of South Cambs. One of the key paths is shown on the Stapleford Enclosure Map which stated that residents of Stapleford had a right of access (in perpetuity, I think). We’re assuming that doesn’t establish a public right of way, and that some other evidence would be needed, such as statements from people from outside the Parish using it regularly without getting permission over a 20 year period?
    Have you used enclosure maps to establish rights of way elsewhere? Any suggestions as to where we can go for information about this.
    I hope you’re keeping well
    Best wishes
    PS. This is part of my council ward, but I’m just on the district council here.

    • Hi Peter, lovely to hear from you again. Enclosure maps are a good source when researching rights of way, you can try Rights of Way, Restoring the Record which has a website and book. If you are not claiming on historical evidence, you do need to get evidence of 20 years’ use without challenge or permission. Best wishes Kate

  20. John York says:

    Hello Kate,

    I am glad to see you are still campaigning and having some success! The walk is sometimes uphill.

    As a pumpkin gardener on “the other side of the pond”, as was quite interested to discover Slindon Pumpkins and their fantastic fall displays, but sad to here they are shutting down.

    Do you know these folks?


    Farmers are farmers, and can fall on either side of the preservation/access debate. I don’t know where the Uptons are on this spectrum, but perhaps you have had some interaction with them.

    Preservation is preservation and I hope we all can find our best through pursuit of ideals – preservation, conservation, access – and jumping into the thick of it.

    Like activism, farming as a act of jumping into the thick of it. The activist jumps into a political realm, the farmer into an intricate ecosystem that includes wild and domestic plants, animals, weather, climate, soil, seasons, and humans. The farmer lives, learns and grows in that grand system. Sharing all of that with the public is important, too. For better or for worse, pumpkins have become a prominent ambassador of that mission.

    I wish you could see Valley Farm’s nearby neighbor pumpkin patch at Bourne Farm in West Falmouth (yes we did bring some Old World names along with us). Bourne Farm is owned by a local land trust and includes open space, tilled fields, orchard and vegetable gardens. It abuts an excellent town-owned improved pedestrian/bicycle path as well as other open space parcels and a residential area. The farm itself, with total public access and ample connecting trails, serves as point of interest and connecting hub for all of the above.

    Bourne Farm’s pumpkin festival is a bit more commercial than our community Pumpkinfest here at Valley Farm. Diversity in action.

    Thank you again for all your service and for visiting us a few years back.

    John York
    Squeteague Harbor, Cataumet, Massachusetts
    Valley Farm Community Garden, Pocasset, Masachusetts

    (The Wampanoag are still here and with them we have their place names, too.)

    • Hi John, lovely to hear from you and it was lovely to visit Valley Farm with you in 2015. I didn’t know about the Slindon pumpkins, that’s really sad. Bourne Farm sounds wonderful, we must visit next time I come. Best wishes Kate

  21. John York says:

    P.S. I love the purple and white avatar/icon that appears with my post in the proof copy that just appeared on my screen. Very Wampanoag. Is it possible to keep that avatar in case I comment in the future?

    I don’t claim any Wampanoag ancestry, but I am honored to live among them and on their land.


    (you don’t have to post this … just a request.)

  22. laecwilson says:

    Hi Kate! I hope this message finds you well. I’ve been having difficulty finding an email for someone associated the Ramblers so thought I’d just leave this here on the off chance you see it.

    My name is Lae C. Wilson, I’m a freelance artist and community engagement facilitator based in Manchester. I’m currently working with Walk the Plank, National Parks, Mind the Gap and other freelancers on an R&D project for Festival 2022. The aim of the festival is to provide open, original and optimistic experiences UK-wide that bring together the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths. My team are one of 30 currently researching and developing ideas for how we can bring creativity to the British public, particularly those communities who might not have access to such opportunities. Our project is called Green Spaces, Dark Skies: Journeys to the Land, and our idea is focused on our relationship to landscape/nature/green spaces. A short description of it would be:

    People form moving lines and innovative colour washes pulse across the countryside in a series of eulogies to our precious green spaces and the ground beneath our feet, celebrating contemporary landscapes while exploring the barriers to access for hundreds of thousands of people…and dismantling some of them in the process.

    Our overarching aims are:
    1. Make the countryside more accessible and inclusive for all – from members of the BAME community to anyone with learning or physical disabilities
    2. Take the public on a variety of ‘journeys’ that will create cross-cultural dialogue and ultimately change their perspective and relationship to the landscape
    3. Create a more sustainable culture/ethic (environmental, social, economic) and save the world!!!!

    So fairly straightforward… 😀

    It’s quite a lot to get through but if you would be interested in chatting about how Friends of the Earth might get involved, I’m free most of next week. We’re at the stage of collecting letters of support from potential collaborators so do get in touch if this excites you as much as it excites us. My email is danielle.cw@hotmail.com – look forward to hearing from you!

    Lae xxxx

    • Hi Lae, thanks for getting in touch, it sounds lovely. I’m not involved in Friends of the Earth though. Did you want me to see if Ramblers are interested? Best wishes

  23. Hi Kate. I’m looking for some help with some dangerous Stiles that have been installed by Network rail on a local public footpath and crossing. I’ve had communications with them about it and come to a stand still. I’m really concerned that firstly I can’t use the area now and secondly people and dogs will be injured.

    Do you have any advice?

    Kind regards
    Lucy thomas

  24. fjm1 says:

    Hi Kate. I was wondering if you can help me track down the copyright holders of various images relating to Sylvia Sayer you have on your website? I’d be really grateful for your help.

    Many thanks!

    • They are no doubt scans. Let me know which ones you want and for what purpose.

      • fjm1 says:

        Hi Kate. The ones I’m interested in are in your post titled ‘Shield of the Moor’. I’d like to track down the first photograph of Sayer, the photograph of Sayer under the helicopter, Sayer’s painting of the gun-dropping exercise disturbing horses, and Sayer’s drawing of the visit to Swincombe. I work for a non-fiction publisher, we’re currently working on a book (partly) about Sayer, and I’m researching images to include in the book’s plate section. We’re finding images particularly difficult to track down. Do email me if you’d like any more details!

        Many thanks for your help, I really appreciate it.

  25. What is your email and I’ll respond a bit later? This is Matthew Kelly’s book I presume.

  26. Adrian Amer says:

    Hello Kate,
    Just to let you know I am giving a lecture on Environment Law at Newark Town Hall Saturday morning 12.3.22 that you or some of your colleagues may be interested in. Let me know where I can send you a poster invite!
    I very much enjoyed your talk at the Notts Area AGM a few Sundays ago at Trowell.
    Hoping you are well.
    Kind regards,
    Adrian Amer
    Vice Chair
    Notts Area Ramblers

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