Monday, 16 January 2017

Register it or lose it - public footpaths or bridleways

Access campaigners want the public’s help in ensuring that public footpaths or bridleways become officially recorded. Because if they are not then the public may find that come 2026 they no longer have access. 

That’s because under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, on 1 January 2026, the official definitive rights of way map is scheduled to close for claims for public footpaths and bridleways that existed before 1949. 

Numerous historic routes could be lost as just because people currently use a public footpath or a bridleway does not mean it's protected especially as in some areas very few routes are currently recorded. After 2026 a landholder can stop the path forever if it is not officially recorded.

What can I do to check?

Obtain a definitive map at your local library or council office. If you discover a path if not recorded contact the surveying local authority to see that it is not already accepted as a public highway as the authority may be able to assist in asserting your rights.

Where the authority cannot assist you will need to either gather evidence of use over 20 years or more or unearth historical evidence. Many individuals are willing to do this but there are also organisations that can help such as the Open Spaces Society. (OSS)

The society has established the Find Our Way Fund to assist those who are investigating unrecorded pathways. They are also running courses on how to set up a local group that can then carry out research, apply routes and make applications. 

The British Horse Society (BHS) has hundreds of affiliated local bridleway access groups. One of the most active is the Forest of Rossendale Bridleways Association. (FORBA) This was formed after a local farmer shut access in 1979 to horse riders and cyclists on an ancient highway between Edenfield and Rawtenstall. 

FORBA succeeded in restoring access in 2013. Key to the victory was the hard work and enthusiasm of the group’s secretary, a passionate horse rider called Chris Peat. She was helped by local genealogist John Simpson, whose reams of data on local history included a lease dated 1622 referring to “the adjacent King’s Highway.” Success came after a Lancashire County Council Planning Inspectorate Hearing dismissed objections that the route should remain closed. 

“It was a great day when we were finally able to ride our horses along what is known as Bury Old Road. Of course, most cases don’t take that long. I have submitted five or six successful claims and Lancashire County Council’s processing of them is down since 2000 from 10 years plus to around half that to day.

“The process is quite complicated and you need maps and evidence from users of the highway. You must contact as many landowners as you can find. All this means it may take 2-3 years before a claim can be made to the County Council who will then investigate by walking the route and undertaking their own research. In the final case a public inquiry will be held.”

Peat currently has around 20 further access claims submitted to Lancashire County Council. 

“I’d urge anyone who is keen to get involved in protecting our historic routes to get involved with a local group like ours or approach the OSS, which continues to do some great work in defending public access in the countryside.” 

Open Spaces Society is at

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Our History: Strength and Unity exhibition

This article was written for the Landworker magazine but in the event was not used. 

If there was a prize for the brightest, most interesting stall at this year's Great Yorkshire Show (GYS) then Unite's would have surely been in top spot. 

The free Our History: Strength and Unity exhibition has been refined since 2015. It is a stunning creation that allows visitors to explore the Luddites, farm workers, miners and suffragettes struggles of the past and relate them to modern campaigns around saving the steel industry and Sports Direct.   

A specially available Unite News 16-page paper packed with historical articles on workers’ struggles was snapped up by many people. 

Little wonder then that visitor numbers to the Unite stall rocketed to 2,314, up by over a thousand on 2015. Schoolchildren and members of the public were accompanied by a combination of volunteer and professional actors in period dress who helped to animate the exhibition stories.

The youngest actor was Darcey Crewe, aged 11, who performed the role of a young Huddersfield ‘baby suffragette’ Dora Thewlis, a mill worker who at aged 16 was imprisoned for trying to storm Parliament to demand Votes for Women. “I like acting and I admire Dora. My school, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary in Castleford, has allowed me to be here for all three days and I really like it. I think the children who we speak to also enjoy the experience.”

Abbey Harland, aged 10, from Grove Road Primary School in Harrogate certainly did so. “The exhibition was very interesting. I particularly liked the talks about women’s votes as I did not know how tough it was for the women involved, many of whom were imprisoned and force fed. It is good that they won the Vote as that has made our lives better today.”

Abbey’s teacher, Miss Kitchingham, was glad she had taken the decision to visit the Unite exhibition with her class of 10/11 year olds. “It was really good and the actors talking to them has meant the children really engaged with the subjects, making it both educational and enjoyable. I’d recommend it to other visiting school groups.” 

All of which was music to Andy Pearson, the who organised the exhibition and engagement with the public at the GYS, where Unite has had a permanent stall and presence going since the 1950s. “It has taken around six months preparation. We have been fortunate  to have been helped by the National Mining Museum, but everyone, the Unite staff and our volunteers of all ages who have assisted have done a great job. I think we have managed to show how unions were important in the past and are vital today.” 

The really good news is that the exhibition can be reassembled in other locations, where it is sure to go down a storm.

What I wrote one month after the Hillsborough disaster certainly stood the test of time

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Dare to Be Free: women in the trade unions past and present book by Mary Quaile Club

Dare to Be Free: women in the trade unions past and present is a short informative book that has been published by the Mary Quaile Club, which aims to organise ‘regular discussions on working class history and its links with contemporary political issues facing working people in Tory Britain.’

The first half of the book, which is written by Michael Herbert, explores how Mary Quaile, who started work as a shop assistant at aged 12, worked tirelessly to organise low paid women into trade unions in order to improve their wages and conditions. 

Mary, born in 1886, became joint secretary of the women's Trade Union League in 1903 where she worked closely with the trade unionist and women’s rights organiser, Mary Macarthur. 

In 1911, Quaile began working as an assistant organiser for the Manchester Women's Trades Union Council, which soon after helped organise a successful four month strike by women at Bradford Flax Mill on Gibbon Street, Manchester. In 1916 Mary helped establish a new union amongst women woodworkers and succeeded in getting substantial wage increases for many women. 

In 1918, Mary became the National Women's Organiser for the Dock, Wharf and Riverside Workers' Union and she retained this post when the union became part of the Transport and General Workers' Union in 1922. This was the biggest union in the country. Mary stayed in post up until 1933.

According to Herbert "Mary needs remembering as she was a leading female trade unionist in her day. The issues she so successfully tackled of low pay and irregular work remain alive and so Mary's work has great relevance today. "

The second half of the book is written by Bernadette Hyland. It consists of interviews with ten contemporary active grass roots women trade unionists including Unite's Nilufer Erdem, who has been involved with the Fair Tips campaign that targeted Pizza Express and who said: "only through the union can you protect your rights." 

The book’s launch on 4 June 2016 was followed by the performance of the Dare to Be Free play that was written by Jane McNulty. The play explains how waitresses in a Manchester cafe in 1908 are ready to strike for the same things as fast food workers in 2016/17, namely proper pay, decent working conditions and the right to organise collectively. 

The audience included Unite hotel workers branch members. "The play was very powerful. It captured perfectly what workers’ experience everyday in the hotel sector and where those who openly join Unite are marked out by their employers for victimisation. I am looking forward to reading the book on Mary,” said Khadija Najlaoui. 

Dare to be Free: Women in the Trade Unions Past and Present is available online from News from Nowhere bookshop at

Bernadette Hyland  would be delighted to speak at meetings and conferences about the issues raised by her research for the pamphlet and can be contacted by email:

Book review: AGRICULTURE - A Very Short Introduction by Paul Brassley & Richard Soffe


AGRICULTURE - A Very Short Introduction by Paul Brassley & Richard Soffe 

When YouGov-Cambridge conducted a poll in 2012 they found that 82 per cent of people have a special place in their hearts for agriculture. However the poll also revealed that only 28 per cent of people feel they know much about the sector. So congratulations to the Oxford University Press for supplying a book that explains it all. 

The authors are experts Paul Brassley, who has taught agricultural economics for over thirty years, and Richard Soffe, director of the Rural Business School at Duchy College. Unite’s Charlie Clutterbuck helped on the manuscript. 

Charlie Clutterbuck is a soil scientist and the book starts by examining soil which is 'a complex mixture of air, water, minerals, and organic matter that has evolved, in many cases, over thousands of years.' What matters for a farmer is the texture and structure of the soil, which physically supports growing plants and supplies water to their roots. 

Humans live on plants and the first chapter looks at how plants grow, what stops them doing so, how growth can be improved and also examines major crops and cultivation systems employed by farmers seeking to increase productivity. 

This is, of course, a life or death subject because when things go wrong, like they did in mid nineteenth century in Ireland with the potato blight that was caused by a fungus, it has a disastrous consequences for millions. 

Chapter 2 looks at the small number of animals that humans have domesticated and examines what farmers need to know about feeding, breeding disease control and production systems in order to make them grow quickly. Whereas breeders historically worked by eye and memory, today animal breeding can be a highly scientific process that has revolutionised livestock production by bringing about genetic change. 

In the past farmers struggled to produce sufficient food for their families. In some parts of the world that remains true today but in most countries, farmers spend much of their time selling their excess supply and chapter 3 considers how the markets, local and international, operate so the food we need to live on makes its way into the shops and restaurants at a price we can afford to pay. 

Chapters 4 and 5 examine inputs into agriculture. Left to itself land will produce only enough food for a tiny number of people. Modern and traditional farming, the latter summed up by John Clare in his poem The Mores: 'Inclosure came and trampled on the grave - Of Labour's right and left the poor a grave'.

The final chapter on farming futures examines the most important questions that agricultural policy makers are currently grappling with including genetically modified organisms. 

The population of the world is calculated to reach 9.3 billion by 2050 and thus the race is on to raise productivity across the globe. 

Published by Oxford University Press,
152 pages



Ye Olde Hob Inn, Bamber Bridge, Lancs 

Ye Olde Hob Inn in Bamber Bridge is a 400-year-old Grade II listed former coach house with a thatched roof. It contains a grill, restaurant and a well stocked bar. The food our group was served was affordable good home cooked food. There was also plenty of it.  The Inn is ideal for some rest and relaxation.

It’s all a distant cry from Thursday June 24, 1943 when several American black soldiers, based at the nearby headquarters of the 1511th Quartermaster Truck regiment, objected to being informed that they she could not be served beyond the then legal closing time of 10pm.

Tension was high amongst the black servicemen, who as was the case throughout World War II were segregated from their white counterparts and frequently suffered great disparities in their treatment. This followed a riot in Detroit four days earlier that had left 25 black people dead, 17 shot dead by the police and following which riots spread to other cities. 

What happened next never appeared in any official war chronicles. But according to Anthony Burgess, author of Clockwork Orange, who was a lecturer at a nearby college after the war, "there was a Bamber Bridge, which was totally black in sentiment such that when the US military authorities had demanded that pubs impose a colour bar, the landlords had responded with Black Troops Only signs."

A longer account of events appeared in a quarterly magazine After the Battle. It was written by military defence analyst and History Professor Dr Ken Werrell. His meticulous research included interviews with survivors. 

On hearing that there was an incident at the pub, two white military policemen (MPs) went to investigate. There was a deep mistrust between the segregated black troops and the MPs, whose appearance  was certain to be poorly received, especially when they attempted to arrest one of the black servicemen for having no pass. A crowd that included some local Britons surrounded and abused the MPs, one of whom drew his gun before they left to seek reinforcements. 

When further arrest attempts were later made the result was a black solider was shot before the black soldiers, on arriving back at their base, began taking arms to defend themselves. In the firefight that followed one black soldier, Private William Crossland, was shot dead. Two other black soldiers and one white were shot during what was termed a mutiny.

When calm was later restored over twenty men from the depot were later found guilty of charges that included resisting arrest and illegal possession of rifles. Sentences ranged from three months up to 15 years although in the event these were later reduced and only one served more than a year.