Caught by the River

Landscapes of Freedom

15th July 2021

Illustration by Nick Hayes

‘Landscapes of Freedom’, a new Sussex-based activist group organising with and in support of the national Right to Roam campaign, is working to ensure public access to the South Downs.

“The countryside belongs to us all and Landscapes of Freedom is committed to a campaign for public land centered around intersectional justice for all communities” they write. “We are a peaceful campaign which is determined to help preserve Downland for future generations and which recognises the importance of biodiversity and people’s connection to the natural world as being central in the global struggle for climate justice.”

Tonight from 7pm, Landscapes of Freedom will be hosting a free online webinar, with speakers including Nick Hayes, Kelly Smith and Anna Selby, on the subject of the Right to Roam in Sussex and the importance to access to land.

Additionally, Landscapes of Freedom are organising a Mass Trespass and picnic, to the place on the South Downs on Saturday 24 July, writing: “The fate of our Brighton Downs sharply symbolises the fate of much of our modern private countryside. Within the lifetimes of our oldest people living today the South Downs used to be a ‘Landscape of Freedom’, with great open scented, flowery pastures, rolling, close-cropped ‘sheep walks’ – largely unfenced – over which people could freely wander, whilst Skylarks made music in the heavens above our heads. To be sure, the mad economics of imperial food policy and the craziness of two world wars had seen these biodiverse ‘chalk grasslands’ greatly neglected in a century of agricultural depression, then turned into army training ranges, and cleared and destroyed by dig-for-victory and post-war ploughing. Even now there are nearly two hundred shattered fragments of these pastures surviving locally…mostly on slopes too steep to plough…mostly in poor condition…mostly unknown to us all. We lost our freedom to wander. We lost most of this hugely-rich ecosystem…this ‘rainforest in miniature’. We were driven from the places we’d played in as children. NOW we want our Landscape of Freedom back! This is in the tradition of the campaign of peaceful mass trespasses that were organised to support government proposals for a limited right to roam in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000)…and in the tradition of the famous Kinder Scout mass trespass of 1932.”

More information, including about how to get involved with the Mass Trespass, is available here.