Of all the ramblers in Buentoille’s history, Sunari Vingt is perhaps the most famous. Commonly referred to as the mother of the Free Access movement of the late nineteenth century, Vingt did a huge amount to encourage ordinary Buentoillitants to exercise their natural freedom of movement, and along with it their bodies, too. She is remembered today in a day-long walk through the farmlands and across the valleys and forests that surround the City.
For most of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a lot of land that had previously been deemed wild and therefore unowned was claimed or bought from the state by aristocrats and the more successful of the merchant classes. The forests had been used for centuries by monarchs and commoners alike for hunting, but now the activities of working-class huntspersons were re-named ‘poaching’, and deemed illegal. The mountains and areas of natural beauty were kept for the sole enjoyment of their new landowners, as a status symbol more than any productive use (although the small wildfowl shoots that went on were claimed as justification for the exclusion).
Common folk were not even permitted to pass through these lands, unless it was via trading routes (upon which tolls were often levied, even to non-traders) or if it was on a road or path recognised as ancient, such as pilgrim’s routes. Yet these were few and far between, and whilst plenty of hardened wandering folk ignored and refused to recognise these restrictive edicts, there were harsh penalties for those caught, and this put off a lot of more timid people. Sunari Vingt was one such hardened rambler, but had also trained as a historian and archaeologist, and was frustrated by the lack of access to historical sites that the property laws were causing.
Eventually this frustration became a spurring force that led Vingt to create the First Council of Wandering Folk, which later led to the formation of the Buentoilliçan Rambler’s Alliance. This was initially a small group of loosely-associated ramblers, tramps, communists and itinerant societies like the Ugraim. They staged a couple of early mass protests, but were frequently met by fierce resistance from landowners who hired unreasonably aggressive thugs that they termed their ‘groundskeepers’. The violence was too much for many members of the Alliance, especially with the subsequent victimisation they received in the papers; the groups that made up the Alliance were historically disliked and mistrusted by many Buentoillitants, and could garner little sympathy. Thankfully, Vingt had another ace up her sleeve.
From her many years of rambling, Vingt had built up a good knowledge of Buentoilliçan property law, and knew that if she were to prove that there were more ‘ancient pathways’ than had previously been recognised, she could legalise a larger range of movement for Buentoillitants to enjoy. This was, however, easier said than done. She pored over old maps and studied the lie of the land, but was unable to come up with more than a few ancient routes that simply ran alongside existing routes. Her argument submitted to the powers that were that people must have walked everywhere at some point in history was met with extreme derision. She needed something more.
In the end, Vingt realised that all she had to do was fake it. She made up a number of stone road markers, and managed to carve them in such a way that they appeared to be ancient, even to a trained archaeologist’s eye. She based them perfectly on the existing road markers on the true ancient paths. Under cover of darkness she and a group of ramblers set about burying them across the lands around the City, in little-noticed areas like heath, coppices and hedgerows. Then, when this long and arduous task was complete, she waited for a year, then ‘discovered’ one of these stones leading off from a true ancient path. She then submitted a research proposal and was given access to the land, and found many more, repeating the process until she had found hundreds of paths, criss-crossing the countryside.
There was, of course, a large amount of resistance from the landowners, but her work was frequently peer-assessed by other archaeologists, and she made use of the law to its fullest extent, getting her mandate to access the land from the Guild of Cartographers rather than the landowner. Eventually, the more full range of legal access across the countryside led to an increase in the number of people joining the Rambler’s Alliance, having had a taste of true freedom and wanting more. This in turn led to the mass trespass protests of the 1890s, which eventually led to parliament granting the right to ramble across all wild and semi-wild lands, rights which were further extended and codified after the Revolution.
Today a route will be chosen by the Alliance that follows the fake markers put down by Vingt. There are around a thousand markers in all, and the process of covering and uncovering them all took fifteen years of sustained effort, so the walk cannot reach all of them in a day. Instead the route will attempt to visit many of the most picturesque spots along the way, ending in the Man of Berran’s Hill, a massive marker stone at the peak of the hill, under which Vingt is now buried. There the ramblers will sit in silence, looking out at the view of the City and sea that she loved so well.
Other festivals happening today:
- DROP THAT PIANO, SAM!
- The League of Buentoillitant Loremaster’s Spring Meeting
- Ungar Veliosh’s Discount Record Store Opening