Some time ago I went to the western section of the Scottish-England border and lived in a riverside farmhouse near the west coast. The farmhouse is located in the depths of a remote farmhouse, of course privately owned, but just a few steps away from the farmhouse is a footpath for public use. On the second day of the trip, we walked out of the farm along the walking trail, roamed the River Eden, crossed several other farms, and walked for more than an hour before heading to the nearest village.
In the UK, if you are willing to pull out of the downtown area and choose a village at will, such walking trails can be seen everywhere. The starting point is often just a small wooden sign that is a few miles away from somewhere. According to the direction of the wooden sign, you will find that the road quality varies greatly. Some are cement or asphalt paved paths, others are gravel dirt roads, and some are mud paths that are stepped on the grass. The small arrow on the sign, sometimes pointing to a field is actually a place where the exit can only rely on guesswork.
Some of the walking trails are located in the mountains, by the river or in the woods, but there are also many that need to go through farms or pastures. Whenever you encounter a fence door or a low wall on a walking path, you know you have to enter or leave your private land. At the gates for livestock and vehicles, there are sometimes small gates for pedestrians to push and pull, one can only pass one at a time, called the “kissing gate.” Although it is used to describe the mechanism of opening and closing the door, it can not help but imagine that the lovers kiss each other and the scene is warm and romantic. There are still many places where there is no door at all, just a simple ladder on each side of the low wall makes it easier to climb over. After entering the private farm, you must also be mentally prepared to face each other.
Walking to the suburbs as a leisure has long been a hobby for the British, and there is a special name to describe these people: the rambler. Despite the long tradition of walking on the outskirts, the right to walk through private farms and forests is not always there, but is won through years of struggle by the pedestrians in the suburbs. As early as 1801, British law allowed the public to use undeveloped public land for leisure activities, but private land was not obligated to open to the public.
From the end of the 19th century, with the increase of urban residents, the pedestrians in the suburbs increasingly hope to obtain the right to travel through private land, but this requirement is resisted by the landowners. The dispute lasted for many years, and sometimes the smell of gunpowder was strong. In 1932, some of the suburban walkers chose to openly protest in the famous natural scenic area, the Peak District of England, by deliberately breaking into private territory. The result was arrested by the police, and six of them were even sentenced to jail, but The pedestrians in the suburbs have won widespread support from public opinion.
Despite the support of public opinion, there are still many obstacles in legislation and slow action. It was not until 2000 that the United Kingdom officially promulgated the Rural and Access Rights Act, recognizing that the public has the right to free passage on undeveloped private land, but also respects the rights of others to manage private land and protect nature. Many walking trails in the UK are designed and managed by local governments or public institutions. Generally speaking, not only are the conditions acceptable, but they are also clearly marked on the map and are very convenient to use. In Scotland, the outskirts enjoy a wider range of rights. In addition to hiking, they can also go cycling, horse riding, camping in the wild, boating or swimming in the lake.
The beautiful scenery of the English countryside, walking to the suburbs and enjoying the beautiful scenery can be said to represent a cultural identity. If you are traveling to the UK and want to do something that the British will do, then choose a village, set foot on the walking trail, and do a suburban walker.