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The Book of Trespass: Crossing the Lines that Divide Us

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It also made me sad how us 'common people' were walked all over when it comes to land ownership and how despite all this empty space around us you'll still hear the people higher up complain that we don't have enough space! The treatment of slaves was another heartbreaker! Meandering. Fascinating. Thought-provoking. In this part polemic, part wanderer’s journal, part history lesson, Hayes organises chapters loosely around particular trespasses he has committed, exploring the history of the land he seeks to access, the beauty of nature and the way words and laws are used to guard land that, arguably, should be common land.

The author takes us on a trespassing journey each chapter with a focus on certain aspects of common law and inequalities. At times the flow can be a bit of a ramble (no puns here) but overall the writing is engaging and quite accessible. adapts Its functionality and behavior for screen-readers used by the blind users, and for keyboard functions used by individuals with motor impairments. Exhilarating . . . A gorgeously written, deeply researched and merrily provocative tour of English landscape, history and culture -- Boyd Tonkin * Arts Desk *

So what happens next? “We want to engage all the people who are already sold on access – the fathers and mothers, the ramblers, climbers and kayakers – and tell them that something is happening, and get them to join us. Then we need to persuade all the people who don’t have much access to land why their lives would be improved if they did. And then, we need to lobby MPs.” His book, he believes, is the beginning of something, not the end. “We will say to people: come trespassing with us!” He grins. “Our hashtag will be #extremelynonviolentdirectaction. There’ll be animal masks and botany, picnics and poetry. But if someone asks us to leave, that’s exactly what we’ll do.” An important book and a fascinating insight. Highlighting the links between land, powerful people and political interests, the history of distribution of land is explained thoroughly and in an interesting way. The author shares his countryside adventures alongside the factual history of trespass. This works well, although sometimes can be protracted. So much thought-provoking information to absorb. It ends on an optimistic note, detailing some of the progress that is being made towards giving more people access to this currently inaccessible land. The illustrative prints are just stunning and complement the writing beautifully.

Rivers and their banks, meadows and woods also do not count as “open access”. In Oxfordshire alone, the public is barred from 90 per cent of woodland. Originally a royal hunting ground listed in the Domesday Book, Cornbury’s 5,000 acres of ancient forest and farmland and its 16th-century manor house are today a green and pleasant land of private profit. Start with Crown land – over 300,000 acres on land managed for public good – yet still without a right to roam Hayes wasn’t what you might call a child of nature. “We came up to the rec to smoke hash as teenagers,” he says. “Sometimes, a couple of woods on from where we’re sitting now, we made fires and messed around. But we weren’t there for nature; it was just free space.” After public school and Cambridge University, he did an art foundation course and eventually, after a series of jobs working in communications for charities, he began working full time on his first graphic novel, The Rime of the Modern Mariner, a take on Coleridge’s famous poem. He has since published three more. Children need to learn about dragonflies by having them land on their noses

Fences, wall and divisions of all kinds run through Hayes’s book – a gorgeously written, deeply researched and merrily provocative tour of English landscape, history and culture through the eyes of the trespassers who have always scaled, dodged or broken the barriers that scar our land. Even with recent, grudging adjustments to the law, people in England have the “right to roam” over only 10 per cent or so of their native country, and to boat down a mere 3 per cent of its waters. In global terms, that’s an almost-unique dearth of entitlement. The length of public footpaths has actually halved, to around 118,000 miles, since the 19th century. Hereditary aristocrats still own “a third of Britain”, even though foreign corporations now run them close (and have colonised the iconic Wind in the Willows villages by the Thames). Hayes wants to understand not just how this theft of access happened, how the old shared culture of the “commons” gave way to absolute rights of ownership, but “why we allow ourselves to be fenced off in this way”. Brilliant, passionate and political . . . The Book of Trespass will make you see landscapes differently' Robert Macfarlane A powerful new narrative about the vexed issue of land rights . . . Hayes [is] practically a professional trespasser these days, no sign too forbidding to be ignored, no fence too high to be climed . . . The Book of Trespass is [Hayes's] first non-graphic book - though the text is punctuated by his marvellous illustations, linocuts that bring to mind the Erics, Gill and Ravilious - and in it, he weaves several centuries of English history together with the stories of gypsies, witches, ramblers, migrants and campaigners, as well as his own adventures. Its sweep is vast * Observer *

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