The organisers of the 125th commemorative march to celebrate the the mass Winter Hill trespass of 1896, held a public Zoom meeting to share details of the upcoming event scheduled to take place on September 5th, 2021. In the meeting, hosted by Bolton FM’s Keith Harris, they outlined their plans for the event.

The intention is to meet at 10AM at the bottom of Halliwell Road (where the original march began), and retrace the steps of the original route.

The first guest speaker, Professor Paul Salveson, opened the meeting by telling the story of the history and background to the original march. Paul has a new book coming out titled Moorlands Memories and Reflections; this contains a chapter dedicated to the original march. Paul is also selling limited copies of his 1996 book, Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’? – the story of the 1896 Winter Hill Mass Trespass. These are available in limited numbers from Paul himself, with all proceeds going to the Bolton Socialist Club who were instrumental in the organisation of the initial walk. Click here for the link.

The actor, committed socialist and activist, Maxine Peake was the next speaker. Peake revealed that she grew up in the shadow of Winter Hill. Her grandfather took her as a small girl on the 1982 walk. This event began her political awakening, her belief being that ‘we have to fight for our right to roam’ and we can achieve this through ‘unity and solidarity’. Both Winter Hill and Rivington holds a special place in her heart; she walks there two or three times each week.

Dr Katrina Navickas was the next speaker; she discussed the access movement — working class people having free access to the moors — and the ways in which the South and the West Pennine moors were seen as ‘industrial’ and already destroyed, and therefore, not protected. As industrialisation continued and the owners of the mills and industry became prosperous landowners, they closed off land to the proletariat. The further denial of access was exacerbated by water companies building reservoirs to feed the burgeoning towns below. Footpath preservation began in 1826 in Manchester, though this was hijacked by middle class groups from the south. There was tension between these disparate groups, direct action such as The Mass Winter Hill march began in the 1890s from the northern groups. Dr Navickas then discussed the various acts of parliament that have been laid down over the years, stating that the ‘right to roam is not a statutory right of way’. Dr Navickas has written a blog page about Winter Hill and the 1896 protests, here

Guy Shrubsole the author of Who Owns England?: How We Lost Our Green and Pleasant Land and How to Take it Back (2019) spoke next. He revealed that half of England is owned by just 25,000 landowners, and that the limited terms of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, or the “Right to Roam” Act of 2000, gives access to just 8 per cent of the country. Shrubsole’s 2019 Guardian article, ‘Who Owns the Country?: The Secretive Companies Hoarding England’s Land’, further explores the contentious issue of land owning in this country. Finally, to wrap up, Shrubsole issued a word of caution about an act scheduled to be debated in the Houses of Parliament which could make trespass an act of criminality. He provided links to a website that campaigns for roaming rights here and to a letter in opposition, urging your MP to vote against the upcoming vote here.

The final speaker was Nick Hayes, author of The Book of Trespass: Crossing the Lines that Divide Us (2020). Hayes is also an activist for the right to roam whose work has prompted media attention from the Guardian, featuring him in an interview article, ‘Forgive us our trespasses: forbidden rambles with a right-to-roam campaigner‘ (2020). Hayes picked up on the themes outlined by Shrubsole, and likewise raised concerns about a partisan press that does not understand the freedom that ‘right to roam’ allows. The press they give is negative and to the detriment of the movement. Further stating that the countryside has become the preserve of the white middle class, he too has major concerns about the upcoming bill. His final rallying call being ‘we should unite to fight for the right to roam’. That once again ‘people power can and should prevail’.

The organiser of the event Chris Chilton revealed in the question-and-answer session at the end of the meeting that he hoped banners representing the Freedom of Lebanon would be paraded on the day. There will be a free courtesy bus service for participants on the walk on the return journey from Belmont back to Bolton; this is provided by Rotala (Diamond Bus North West). The 125th Anniversary has a dedicated Facebook group and more information is available there.

Image credit: Kathryn Gardiner.


Anson, J., 2020. Thousands headed up Winter Hill in the fight for countryside rights. [Online] The Bolton News. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 March 2021].

Chilton, C., 2021. Winter Hill 125 Public Meeting 12th March 2021. [Online] Bolton: Winter Hill 125th anniversary group. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 March 2021].

Cooke, R., 2020. Forgive us our trespasses: forbidden rambles with a right-to-roam campaigner. [Online] The Guardian. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 March 2021].

Navickas, K., 2021. Winter Hill mass trespass 1896 – a history of public space. [Online] Available at: <> [Accessed 13 March 2021].

Salveson, P., 2021. The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896 – Lancashire Loominaries. [Online] Available at: <> [Accessed 13 March 2021].

Shrubsole, G., 2019. Who owns the country? The secretive companies hoarding England’s land. [Online] The Guardian. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 March 2021].