Marion Shoard – Power In The Land (1987) – LWT production for Channel 4


Marion Shoard was born in the west of Cornwall in 1949 and spent most of her childhood in Ramsgate, East Kent. She read zoology at Oxford University and, in order to work in countryside conservation, spent two years at the then Kingston-upon-Thames Polytechnic, studying town and country planning.

She then worked for four years at the national office of the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), campaigning in topics ranging from national parks to forestry, and rural public transport to wildlife conservation. However, she had become more and more convinced that the main threat to the beauty and diversity of England’s countryside was the expansion and intensification of agriculture and, with the help of a grant from the Sidney Perry Foundation, she left CPRE to research and write The Theft of the Countryside (1980).

This book struck a chord with the public and sparked off a lively debate, with thirty letters published in The Times, for example. During the following few years she wrote articles and gave talks on the book’s theme, lobbied on rural issues in Parliament and helped set up countryside action groups. The Theft of the Countryside included proposals to establish new national parks in lowland England.

A second book, This Land is Our Land (1987), examined the history of the relationship between landowners and the landless, and suggested it should be placed on a new footing. This book also attracted attention. Channel 4 Documentary: Power In Land I presented a one-hour documentary on its subject matter made by London Weekend Television for Channel 4 and called Power in the Land. During the next few years, she wrote numerous articles and gave many talks about a wide range of rural issues. She also taught countryside planning and land management to students at universities, including Reading and University College London. Gaia Books reissued This Land is Our Land, expanded and updated, as a Gaia Classic in 1997.

One element of the arrangements she had put forward in This Land is Our Land was the replacement of the UK’s trespass régime with a general right of public access to the countryside, providing much greater freedom to roam.

With the help of grants from the Nuffield Foundation and The Leverhulme Trust, she set to work out how such a right could operate on the ground, after making trips to Scandinavia, France and Germany to see for myself the very different access systems operating in those countries. Her conclusions on access were published in A Right to Roam (1999), which was acclaimed as Environment Book of the Year in 2000 by the Outdoor Writers Guild.

She has recently supported Jean Perraton’s call for a right to swim in inland waters in the UK, through penning the foreword to her book Swimming against the Stream: Reclaiming Lakes and Rivers for People to Enjoy Swimming against the Stream: Reclaiming Lakes and Rivers for People to Enjoy.

Her activities in the environment sphere were profiled in two articles which you can read here: The Essential Marion Shoard The Essential Marion Shoard by travel writer Jim Perrin Accessing All Areas Countryside Access by environment journalist Caron Lipman.

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