RETRO: Walking festival traces historical footsteps

Sheffield Clarion Ramblers walking in Sheffield, 1900 - 1914. Credit: Sheffield Clarion Ramblers
Sheffield Clarion Ramblers walking in Sheffield, 1900 - 1914. Credit: Sheffield Clarion Ramblers
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Sheffield Walking Festival’s signature event will celebrate 84 years since the Abbey Brook Mass Trespass on Sunday 18 September.

In 1932 a group of 200 dedicated ramblers gathered to walk illegally over private moorland in the north west of Sheffield.

The Ramblers, founded in 1900, were the first working men's walking club. Credit: Sheffield Clarion Ramblers

The Ramblers, founded in 1900, were the first working men's walking club. Credit: Sheffield Clarion Ramblers

Abbey Brook was a demonstration in response to the imprisonment of five walkers on the more famous Kinder Mass Trespass five months earlier.

The trespasses were organised after a long-standing feud between gamekeepers who owned the moorland around Sheffield and steel workers who wanted to escape to the country for weekend hikes.

The first ever working men’s walking club, Sheffield Clarion Ramblers, was the driving force behind the protests, with founder and Labour politician G. H. B. Ward at the helm.

The Abbey Brook trespass helped to make areas of moorland open to the public that are now enjoyed by thousands every year.

The Ramblers were powerful activists when it came to walkers' rights. Credit: Sheffield Clarion Ramblers

The Ramblers were powerful activists when it came to walkers' rights. Credit: Sheffield Clarion Ramblers

The protesters also paved the way for similar public areas to be introduced across the country.

Chris Prescott, one of the festival organisers and leader of the Abbey Brook walk, said: “We want to celebrate and acknowledge the achievements of those who pioneered our right to access the open countryside around Sheffield, something that is easily taken for granted yet offers so much to the quality of life here in the city.

“We hope it will be a fitting finale to this year’s festival.”

Sheffield’s prolific walking community has maintained a strong presence since the Trespass. The city boasts more walking clubs than anywhere else in the UK.

Organised by Sheffield Walking Forum and supported by The Outdoor City, the festival brings together many of the city’s walking clubs along with a host of Sheffield’s outdoor communities and national organisations such as The Wildlife Trust, Peak National Park Authority, RSPB, Ramblers Association and Walkers are Welcome.

Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Business and Economy, Councillor Leigh Bramall said: “All the walks are led by experienced and knowledgeable guides, many of whom are local historians and authors, who have kindly donated their time in order to make the walks free to attend and as a result they have created a fantastic opportunity to truly showcase The Outdoor City.”