A GROUP of trespassers who marched on a national park have hit back at comments made by park officials.

Organised by the Landscapes of Freedom campaign group, 300 people took part in a mass trespass on the Brighton Downs on July 24.

The event was organised to call for a right to roam both locally and nationally, and for the restoration of the chalk grassland landscape across the Brighton Downs.

Following the protest, a South Downs National Park Authority spokesman said around three quarters of the National Park is farmland – much of which produces local food and drink for the region - with farmers at the forefront to restore nature.

“Although it is perfectly legitimate to campaign for more access and have a public debate on the issue, it is worth remembering that the South Downs National Park is one of the most accessible green spaces in the UK,” he said.

However, Dave Bangs, co-founder of Landscapes of Freedom, has hit back at the statement, stating the former environment minister Michael Meacher “must be revolving in his grave” at the comments.

The Argus: A group of 300 people took part in a mass trespass on the Brighton Downs on July 24A group of 300 people took part in a mass trespass on the Brighton Downs on July 24

Dave said the South Downs statement “entirely omitted mentioning our right to roam over ancient Down pasture”.

“This dream of a restored Down landscape has so withered in the hands of its officials and leaders that a spokesperson omits to mention the crucial open access status which blesses so much of the National Park's surviving ancient pastures,” he said.

“Do we all have to trail along the barbed wire corridors of so much of the South Downs Way and our ridgeland footpaths looking at banal modern pastures and the chemically-sprayed deserts of our modern cornlands?

According to the South Downs spokesman, the hills have more than 3,200 kilometres of public rights of way, including the 100-mile South Downs Way National Trail.

However, Dave said the mass trespass gave 300 people a chance to see “a secret valley which is already in our public ownership, but from which we have been systematically excluded for most of the century since its purchase in 1924”.

“You could walk our Downland footpaths and go home with absolutely no idea of the wonder and beauty of tiny plants and creatures which made our South Downs famous,” he added.

“Will the National Park ever act on Michael Meacher's vision? Set that good man's shade free of this betrayal of his legacy.”

Organisers of the trespass also are calling for Brighton residents to contact their councillors to designate publicly owned downland as open access land.

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