|Brighton & Hove Clarion Cycling Club|
Contributed by Michael Walker of Unison.
One Hundred Years of Rambling: Sheffield Clarion Ramblers 1900-2000 (£4 plus 50p p&p from Reg Sykes, 76 Huntley Road, Sheffield S11 7PB. Cheque to: Sheffield Clarion Ramblers)
In the autumn of 1900, following an advert in the socialist Clarion newspaper, 13 people enjoyed a memorable walk round the forbidden Kinder Scout plateau led by GHB Ward. This was the start of the Clarion Ramblers, who still walk and take care of the countryside today, and this centenary booklet celebrates their work and that of the great champion of access to the countryside, GHB Ward. The booklet is full of memories, pictures and tales of walks and other events in Clarion history, notably the creation of Ward's Piece. This land, at the top of Lose Hill in Derbyshire, was purchased by Sheffield and District Federation of the Ramblers' Association in appreciation of GHB's service to rambling and he in turn donated it to the people by passing it on to the National Trust. It's worth noting that in 1928 GHB warned against leaving litter as 'the enemies of Access to Mountains are already making litter an excuse for an argument'. Seventy years later, plus a change... but where are they, these 150?
We could go further, Pevnser in 1959 tells us that 'None of the big cities of England has such majestic surroundings as Sheffield'. I can see them, but how do I get to walk in them?
We find the new Pevsner, for Sheffield, the consequence of a marketing break with the past. But it is still the buildings, not the spaces in between, not the gardens and landscapes or walks, or 'green corridors which penetrate down to the very edge of the city centre.'
But we have also something in our mind, for we know that around 1900 was founded the Sheffield Clarion. This was an early Ramblers' club, founded by G.H.B.Ward, who published a handbook every year and involved the group in increasingly illegal activity, culminating in the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1936. This begat, in some manner, the idea of the national park, the country park, right up to the Countryside Rights of Way Act implemented over the last couple of years.
In the public library there is an extensive local history collection which has a complete set of the Clarion. I open the volume for 1935, and my mind's eye sees a reference to Edward Carpenter commemorative walk, with its route, and a quote from one of his works. I check back to 1934, the walk happened that year too. Carpenter died in 1929. What is going on? Why on earth were the Sheffield Clarion commemorating Carpenter? I don't have time to follow this any further, but this connects with another activity so I shall have to return to this matter
The legendary Sheffield Clarion Handbooks, produced annually from 1900 to 1958, were largely the work of one man – G.H.B. 'Bert' Ward – the 'King of the Clarion Ramblers'. These miniscule booklets, measuring only 3ins by 5ins, were mines of Peak District walking information, and jam packed with fascinating essays on local history, folklore, geology and access information. They were interspersed with anecdotes and quotations from some of the leading outdoor writers of the day, and illustrated by fine black and white photographs of the Peak District and surrounding areas and Ward's own painstakingly-accurate maps. Now avidly-collected especially by Sheffield ramblers, a rare copy can fetch up to £50 in local second-hand bookshops. Collected together for the first time and re-published with an introductory biography of Bert Ward by David Sissons, who has made a study of the life and work of Ward, this is an outstanding opportunity to sample 'the Best of the Clarions'.