Every October, my home city - Sheffield - hosts a festival of the written word. It is called "Off The Shelf" and this is its thirtieth year. In twenty eight of those thirty years, I attended two or three events but I realised the other day that I had not been to anything this time round.
I checked out the programme and spotted something that appealed to me this evening. It was held in The Millennium Gallery in the city centre - a talk by an environmental campaigner, artist and writer called Nick Hayes. He has recently published a book titled "The Book of Trespass" and as the title suggests it focuses upon land ownership and the limited rights that people have when out and about in the countryside.
It is a topic that has interested me for a long time. How can landowners possess rivers? Why can't people automatically roam where they wish to as long as they are not causing any damage? And how, for example, did moorland get to be owned by anybody in the first place?
Nick Hayes addresses such matters in his book. However, though this evening's talk was supposed to be about the book, it tended to leap away from it from the very outset. This was partly the fault of the host presenter - a professor of chemistry at one of Sheffield's universities. He allowed the talk to stray and seemed far too keen on the sound of his own voice.
Nick Hayes referred to a ground-breaking mass trespass that occurred in The Peak District in 1932 when countless ramblers climbed up onto The Kinder Plateau which was in the possession of wealthy landowners. Several protesters were arrested and jailed but their protest was not in vain because it brought about long overdue changes in the laws governing land access.
This evening's event was well-attended but there was little time for audience questions. Maybe I will buy "The Book of Trespass" one day but I have plenty of other books to read in the interim.
Sounds like a good read and will refer to your country. We have undeveloped land which we can hike over. In the developed area we are limited to the roads.ReplyDelete
I wonder how the native Americans of Canada viewed land ownership.Delete
Traditionally each tribe or group had a rough territory for hunting. There were squabbles and the territories changed. Aboriginals had no concept of individual land ownership.Delete
Just today I read about a fellow in Alabama who put up the following sign on his property: “Trespassers Will Be Shot. Survivors Will Be Shot Again”.ReplyDelete
Landowners can be extremely protective. I wouldn't want anybody tramping through our back garden.Delete
When I was a kid, for a long time I thought that the land around me was simply "there" - and did not "belong" to anyone. I understood the concept of a garden around a house as being the garden of those who lived in that house, but anything else, especially away from town, out on the fields and in the woods, was just itself and not owned by anyone.ReplyDelete
When I learned that every square inch of land is "owned" by someone - a person, a community or a company -, I found that VERY puzzling. Therefore, Nick Hayes' latest book might be a very interesting read for me.
Sorry to hear the event did not quite live up to expectations. It is vital how a host or hostess handle things, and how important they think they are.
Whenever I see signs in the country such as "Keep Out", "Private Property" or "No Trespassing" my hackles are raised. Many times I have ignored them and gone to investigate anyway. Our wonderful network of public footpaths comes with the proviso that we should not stray off them.Delete
It is a subject that interests me. Our farm had a couple of tracks through it, through our paddocks before reaching Crown Land. We knew it was a legal right of way and maybe once a year someone would use it. They always closed the sole gate after entering or leaving.ReplyDelete
Then there is the question of citizens not being able to own land below the high tide line, and with changing sea levels, this has become problematic.
Of course if your beautiful property on Sydney Harbour sits on the edge of the sea where there may be a small cliff, I believe you can own the land up to the cliff and there will be no public access.
I forget the access rights for rivers. My brain has worked enough for one evening comment and is tired.
Yes. Go and have a lie down Andrew. Don't want you overtaxing the walnut.Delete
If anyone trespasses on my back lawn I shall wag my finger at them most severely.ReplyDelete
That should freak them out.Delete
Didn't it result in the formation of national parks?ReplyDelete
It certainly spurred on the idea of a Peak District National Park.Delete
What about seeing if the Library has the book. I tend to do that and usually find they either have it or will order it for you.ReplyDelete
A useful reminder Briony. Thank you. I have fallen out of the habit of visiting our local library. I could save myself ten quid.Delete
That really DOES sound like the perfect book for you!ReplyDelete
I thought it might be but after the talk I am not so sure.Delete
The idea of people being able to walk through other people's property is so foreign to those of us in the US where "NO TRESPASSING" signs are the norm. I think there is nothing more American than the warning, "Get off my property!"ReplyDelete
Nick Hayes was not really referring to private gardens and yards etc but to woodland, farmland, rivers, clifftops, beaches etc.. This is our world, he might say, why should we be prevented from experiencing it in all its glory?Delete
I thought that most of Alberta was owned but I was wrong. Take a look at this map.ReplyDelete
It's quite interesting but sad that I had no idea about it. I shall have to visit more public land now that I am aware of it.
Alberta is indeed blessed with many square miles of land that is open to the public... and the bears!Delete
Perhaps it's about the hiking accessory shop?ReplyDelete
Forgive Dave his trespasses.Delete
Aren't all public paths supposed to be walked once a year to keep up the right of way? I think there are more restrictions coming into play on public rights of way, after the 2007 closures.ReplyDelete
Our network of public paths is one of England's great treasures. We must protect it.Delete
Public land is exactly that. Public. But landowners have to protect themselves from liability. The US is an extremely litigious society. Between cattle, a large pond, numerous dogs (unleashed, since we live in a rural area), and tempting woods in which to hunt... there are plenty of hazards.ReplyDelete
I don't think that native Americans were as possessive. Generally, they had a much healthier attitude to ownership of the land.Delete