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Today marks 80 years to the day since the mass trespass movement struck out onto the foothills and slopes of Kinder Scout, Derbyshire. This was essentially an urban invasion of private rural land, which was at that time still largely gamekeeper-controlled. This divisive incident and the arrests that resulted from it were arguably a powerful precursor to several later developments in the widening of countryside access. These included the later formation of the National Parks Authority as well as the much more recent establishment of ‘right to roam’ under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000.

The Sense of Place project has already begun to consider the potential for using tools relating to museum collections out in the countryside itself. It hopes to examine ways of facilitating interested walkers in their exploration of the holdings of institutions like MERL. Such virtual rambles might thereby enable them to access information about artefacts in the very places that the items were made, used, or to which they are otherwise contextually linked.

Hopefully we’ll return to this idea as the project develops but for now, happy birthday Kinder Trespass! Incidentally, the Kinder Scout trespass movement has apparently given rise to some influential folk music (as well as other popular discourse) over the years. A good excuse therefore to mention tonight’s MERL Folk Concert.

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Professor Simon Dentith recently delivered a talk as part of the MERL Seminar series entitled Cobbett’s ‘Rural Rides’: country writing at a time of change, in which he drew interesting parallels between the early 19th century travel writing of William Cobbett and the more recent exploits of the writer Will Self. This comparison was rich with insight into the complexity of literary explorations of the landscape, as well as of the places encountered along the way. For me this raised interesting questions about the rich seam of material referents that are so key to the construction of ideas about the rural past and the rural present.

As part of the project we have been giving some consideration to the ways in which ramblers and walkers might wish to explore the MERL collections, perhaps making use of online resources whilst out in the landscape itself. I was reminded of this (and of Simon Dentith’s talk) when I spoke just now to Felicity Ford about a project that she is currently undertaking with her partner Mark Stanley, entitled Walk2012. This will see them walk, not out of London as Will Self did, but into the Olympic capital, recording and charting the things they encounter on the way. As part of their exciting project they walked through a landscape that reminded them of this Museum and of things they had seen during a recent guided tour of the galleries. What more perfect a justification for the Sense of Place project could there be?

Felicity has already commented on the ‘Hefting’ posts on this blog, offering further endorsement of my hill farming metaphor. I very much hope she will continue to contribute to this discussion as Walk2012 progresses.

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