Mass trespass outside Truro celebrates 90 years of the fight to roam

Members of Cornwall Green Party went for a walk on Sunday around a greenfield site on the outskirts of Truro that is threatened by destructive housing development.

The 18-strong group set out from County Hall, walking along a stretch of the old railway line that forms part of the Newham Trail before branching out across green fields to the south of Tresawls Road – a parcel of land that is being eyed up by housing developer Persimmon as an extension of the recent Copperfields development.

Their initiative was part of nationwide celebration to mark the 90th anniversary of the historic mass trespass at Kinder Scout that eventually led to the establishment of National Parks and the right to roam in the countryside.

The walkers noted a wide variety of plant and animal species that form part of this local ecosystem, and collected several large bags of litter.

Karen La Borde, a Green Party councillor on Truro City Council, said: 

“We chose this spot because access to it from the road has recently been closed off by the landowner, despite it being somewhere where people from Truro have long enjoyed the freedom to walk in unspoilt countryside.

“We also wanted to highlight the fact that these fields are under threat of development by Persimmon Homes, who have put in a planning pre-application on the site. It would be tragic to see yet more of the natural world around Truro eaten up by shoddy, poorly insulated housing and environmentally damaging urban sprawl.

“It’s easy to forget that the right for ordinary people to enjoy the natural world was hard-won by lots of intrepid trespassers who refused to accept that landowners could prosecute or physically assault them simply for taking a walk in the countryside.”

In 1932, a mass trespass by working-class people on a grouse moor at Kinder Scout in Derbyshire started a movement that eventually led to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act in 1949. This established National Parks where everyone can enjoy the beauty of the UK’s natural landscapes. 

Then, in 2000, walkers won a partial ‘right to roam’ over wild, open countryside in England and Wales, without having to stay on paths, when this right became part of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. But this only gives people access to 8 per cent of English land. The Green Party thinks this should be extended much further, to include rivers, woods and Green Belt land. 

A review into how people can be better enabled to access and engage with the outdoors was commissioned by the government last year. But last week the government announced that the review has been wound up and that it would not be releasing its findings – a move that Green MP Caroline Lucas condemned as “utterly feeble”.

In 2020, Natural England’s People and Nature survey showed that during lockdown, eight out of 10 adults agreed that “being in nature makes me very happy”. In addition, 41 per cent reported that visiting local green and natural spaces had been even more important to their wellbeing.  Access to the natural world has  been especially important for people living in the one in eight homes that do not have a garden.

Karen La Borde said:

“People in Scotland and European countries such as Norway enjoy a much greater right to roam. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of access to the natural world for people’s health and wellbeing, yet millions of people in the UK still have no publicly accessible green space within walking distance of their home.”