Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (est.1894)

PNFS - 80 Years Ago

Ian Salvage, Signpost Editor

This article is from Signpost 58, Autumn 2018

You may remember that in the Autumn 2017 edition of Signpost, I delved back through the Society’s records to see what we were up to 50 years ago. Feeling in the mood for a little more research, I decided to head back 80 years to see what was going on then. The annual report for 2018 makes interesting reading. The first thing that struck me was the size of the ‘committee’, or ‘Council’ as it was known in those days. As well as a Chair and Vice-Chair, there appear to have been 24 further Members. This may be an indication of how automation has simplified our lives, and helped us to do more with less people. Or it may be a symptom of how people are less willing to volunteer these days, citing other pressures that impinge on their daily lives. In addition, there were 7 Vice-Presidents, including a ‘Sir’ (Sir E. D. Simon), an OBE, a CBE and two JP’s. Sir Simon was a Mayor of Manchester between 1921 and 1922, the youngest to have held this office at the time, and is remembered for his efforts to remove slums and build new housing for the workers. He also bought, and then donated, Wythenshawe Hall and Park to the City’s people in 1926. But what were the big events then? One of major significance, occurring towards the end of the year was the ‘Conference of Footpaths Societies’ held in London on 4 and 5 November. Our Society was represented. Our report indicates that: ‘one of the many matters considered was that of access to mountains...Immediately following the Conference, the Commons Society prepared a draft of a new Bill, to be called "Access to Uncultivated Lands Bill"...and steps were taken to endeavour to agree the draft with the landowners’ organisations.’ It had its second reading in Parliament as early as 2nd December, but at this, it was ‘made quite clear that it would have to be considerably amended".

Negotiations between the Commons Society, the Central Landowners Association and the Land Union continued through December, in an effort to gain an acceptable form of the Bill. Our Society attended a Conference called by the Footpaths Society, at which amendments were made to the draft Bill. Several suggestions from our Society were made and accepted. A follow-up Conference then considered suggestions from the landowners’ organisations. Our Society noted that as of the end of December, the attitude of the landowners was not publicly known, and therefore, it was ‘difficult to foretell what would happen to the Bill...during the Committee stage, but your officers and Council feel it is the duty of the Society to do all within its power to help forward the negotiations and the Bill’. It is interesting, though of course understandable, there was no mention in our Society’s report of the fact that the Conference held in November marked one of the first public airings of Tom Stephenson’s inspirational proposal to take forward a long-distance footpath along the Pennines. Of course, the Conference had a much broader remit then than that of long-distance paths, but it was the starting point from which the development of National Parks and Long-Distance Footpaths evolved, albeit not always in as spritely a fashion as that which moved the Bill forward in its early draft stages. If you’d like to read more, the 1938 report can be found here: http://www.peakandnorthern.org.uk/pnfs-publications/annual-reports/1938.pdf.


Next: Glossop Footpath 101

Page title:PNFS - 80 Years Ago
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