Critic’s Book of the Year
Mark Cocker singled out This Land is Our Land (Gaia Books, 1997) as one of his two chosen books in the New Statesman’s Critics’ Books of the Year in 2014. He said it is: “A must for everyone who cares about nature, land, politics, law and life in this country.”
More details here.
Outdoor Personality of the Year
Marion was shortlisted in the category Outdoor Personality of the Year by the magazine The Great Outdoors for its The Great Outdoors Awards 2013. The winner, announced in Kendal on 13th November 2013, was the bushcraft expert and TV personality Ray Mears. Marion would like to thank everybody who voted for her and to congratulate Ray Mears on his well-deserved award.
Access rights in Scotland
Marion was interviewed by Cameron McNeish about the history of the struggle over access to Scotland's mountains and the importance of wild country for the BBC Scotland programme The Adventure Show: The Scottish National Trail, 2: Aberfeldy to Cape Wrath, which was broadcast on 28th December, 2012 at 7 pm. You can watch it on the BBC iplayer here
Marion discussed the value of edgelands and their future planning with the authors of the book Edgelands (poets Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts) at a symposium at the Campaign to Protect Rural England in London on 7th November, 2012. You can read about the event here
You can listen to Marion's opening speech here
The history of the struggle over access to Britain's countryside
Marion reviewed Sinclair McKay's book about the history of the battle to secure rights of access for walkers to the countryside in The Guardian in June, 2012.
Talking About Death
How can middle-aged children cope psychologically with the death of their parents for the remainder of their own lives? How can families deal with the taboo surrounding death which has replaced the taboo on sex in recent years?
Marion Shoard discussed these matters on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour on June 28th.
The fight for our forests isn't won
Marion urges a right of access to all woodland in an article in The Guardian's Comment is Free and a speech on the South Downs on 12 May, 2011
An article based on her speech was published in The Guardian's 'Comment is Free'.
Why the Outdoors is Important
The April issue of Trail magazine features the response of a range of people whose work is inspired by an attraction for the outdoors just what it is that fires them up.
The Poetry of the Edgelands
In 2002 Marion Shoard wrote an award-winning essay entitled Edgelands. Now, poets Paul Farley & Michael Symmonds Roberts have written a book called Edgelands: Journeys into England's True Wilderness, exploring the role of the unique environment of the edgelands in our cultural imagination. Marion has written a review of the book for The Observer.
The Impact of the Right to Roam Legislation
What has been the impact of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 'right to roam' legislation in England and Wales?
Marion Shoard takes the features editor of Trail magazine, Phoebe Smith, on a trek across previously inaccessible grouse moor in Lancashire's Forest of Bowland.
Golden Eagle Achievement Award
Marion Shoard was delighted to win the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild's top award, its Golden Eagle award for lifetime achievement in the outdoors field, at the Guild's annual awards ceremony in Anglesey on November 7th, 2009.
Writer – Environmentalist – Older People’s Advocate
Why are cuts being inflicted on the poorest while land goes untaxed? How can we protect our landscape and wildlife from the forces of change? How are we to care for the elderly in straitened times? What can you do to secure your own future in old age? These are the kinds of questions to which you may find answers here.
Two areas concern me – conflicts over the use of Britain’s countryside, and older people’s issues. In each of these fields I have spent years finding out the facts and campaigning for change.
In both areas I write books and articles, take part in TV and radio interviews and phone-ins and give talks – at conferences, meetings of voluntary organisations, book festivals and to students.
Land Ownership and A Right to Roam
My interest in countryside conservation was first fired while I was studying zoology at Oxford University. At first, wildlife conservation and the conservation of the world’s natural resources were my main concerns. After working for four years for the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) in the mid-1970s, I left to investigate the impact of modern farming on the wild plants and animals of the English countryside. However, this investigation soon also embraced the impact of modern farming on the landscape and historical value of the countryside. I talked to people in towns and villages whose lives had been affected by unrestrained landscape change wrought by modern farming, as well as to farmers themselves, landowners and specialists in wildlife, archaeology and public policy on agriculture and on town and country planning. These investigations yielded my first book, The Theft of the Countryside. This examined the damage already caused and urged radical measures to prevent further destruction.
Land ownership in the UK – who owns the land and the powers which the law allows them – absorbed my thoughts over the next few years and in 1987 my book This Land is Our Land. This proposed a new social contract between landowners (public and private) and the wider population, including the introduction of a 'right to roam'. This Land is Our Land was published in tandem with a Channel 4 programme, Power in the Land, which I presented. During the 1990s, I held lecturing posts in rural planning at University College, London and Reading University.
Gaia Books reissued This Land is Our Land as a Gaia Classic in 1997. In my third book, A Right to Roam (1999), I turned again to the idea of greater freedom to roam over the countryside. I examined the struggle over rights of access to Britain’s countryside over the past 1,000 years, looked at the ways in which alternative access systems overseas operate and put forward a detailed plan of how a general right of access on foot to the countryside of the UK could take shape on the ground.
The Sidney Perry Foundation, The Leverhulme Trust and the Nuffield Foundation have funded my research into landscape change and countryside access over the years. I campaigned for improvements to what became the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (for England and Wales) and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, just as I had twenty years before to what became the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
In recent years I have become interested in what may be the most distinctive yet maligned landscape of our time: the edgelands – that is, the hotchpotch collection of superstores, sewage works, golf courses and surprisingly wildlife-rich roughlands which sit between town and country in the urban fringe.
In 2006 I was voted one of the top 100 most influential environmental activists by The Guardian. In 2009 the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild presented me with its Golden Eagle Award for a lifetime’s achievement in the world of the outdoors.
The World of Older People
“The past is a foreign country,” Jan Morris once wrote, “but so is old age”. This is a land many of us are pitched into without forethought or preparation; it happened to me in the 1990s, when my mother, then in her mid-80s, was rapidly developing dementia and also losing her eyesight.
I soon discovered that the information I needed was sadly lacking. There were factsheets, to be sure, but none of the straight-talking guidance I needed to confront the health and social systems which seemed to obstruct my search for good care for my mother rather than guide me to it. Little help was available to show ordinary people how somebody with dementia and doubly disorientated through near blindness should actually be cared for. This despite the fact that around one in six people over the age of 80 have dementia and one in four of our hospital beds are occupied by people with some degree of dementia.
I soon realised that my mother’s plight, struggling with memory loss in a small terraced house, accessed up a steep step and without practical help close to hand might have been different had she addressed years before the possibility that she might fall victim to one of the common incurable, chronic illnesses of old age. Choices we make in type and location of our housing, for instance, are just one area in which it is prudent to bear in mind what the future might bring in terms of disability and isolation.
My handbook A Survival Guide to Later Life (2004) sought to offer advice on many aspects of later life in fields as diverse as diet for older people, homecare, mobility problems, healthcare, access for elderly and disabled people to the urban and rural environment, housing choices, social connections, financial matters and choosing and living in a care home.
Since the publication of that book, I have been giving talks, writing articles and helping individuals one-to-one. Apart from offering guidance I have also put forward considered opinions in such areas as support for family carers, ageism, palliative care and the likely effects of a change in the law on assisted suicide. I have been involved in the work of such voluntary groups as the Alzheimer’s Society, the Christian Council on Ageing and the Relatives and Residents Association.