Beer to Branscombe
High Peak Trail
Walking is a popular outdoor recreational activity in the United Kingdom, within England and Wales a comprehensive network of rights of way permit access to the countryside. Access to uncultivated and unenclosed land has opened up since the enactment of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. In Scotland the ancient tradition of universal access was formally codified under the Land Reform Act 2003. In Northern Ireland however, there are few rights of way or other access to land.
Walking is used in the UK to describe a range of activity, from a walk in the park to trekking in the Alps. The word hiking is also used in the UK, along with rambling, hill walking, and fell walking.
Walk through the countryside for pleasure was developed in the 18th-century, due to changing attitudes to the landscape and nature and is often associated with the Romantic movement. In earlier times walking generally indicated poverty and was also associated with vagrancy.
Industrialisation in England, saw the increase in size to the cities where living standards were often cramped and unsanitary. People were escaping the confines of the city by rambling about in the countryside. The land in England, particularly around the urban areas of Manchester and Sheffield, were privately owned and trespassing was illegal. Rambling clubs in the north began to politically campaign for the legal 'right to roam'.
In the 1930s, walking reached new levels of popularity as a pastime, ten thousand ramblers could be expected on the moors of the Peak District, while in the country at large there were countless ramblers out and about.
With increasing numbers came strong demands for walkers rights. Access to Mountains bills, that would have legislated the public's right to roam across some private land, were periodically presented to Parliament from 1884 to 1932 without much success. Mass rallies and trespasses were held in support of this cause, including the most famous mass trespass on Kinder Scout in Derbyshire. However, the Mountain Access Bill that was passed in 1939 was opposed by many walkers, including the organisation The Ramblers, who felt that it did not sufficiently protect their rights, and it was eventually repealed.
Access was improved after World War II due to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, and in 1951 to the creation of the first national park in the UK, the Peak District National Park. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 has considerably extended the right to roam in England and Wales.