A LEADING actress is throwing her support behind plans to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Britain’s biggest rights of way dispute.

Westhoughton’s Maxine Peake is getting behind plans to celebrate the Battle of Winter Hill in 1896.

In September that year, thousands of people from Halliwell and surrounding areas, took part in huge protests in defiance of wealthy landowner, Colonel Richard Ainsworth, after he blocked off public access to the moors to host private grouse shooting parties with his friends.

There was widespread anger when public access to the moors was blocked.

On September 6, thousands walked from the bottom of Halliwell Road, up Smithills Dean Roan and then via Coal Pit Road onto the moors, defying Col Ainsworth, demanding their right to access the Winter Hill moors.

Although the dispute was unsuccessful, years later Bolton Council took ownership of much of the land on Winter Hill, helping to ensure public rights of way.

A commemorative Winter Hill walk is planned from Halliwell to Winter Hill on Sunday, September 5, and people are being encouraged to take part.

Maxine said she has fond memories of doing the commemorative walk herself when she was younger, and is happy to see this anniversary being celebrated.

She said: “I think it is really important that we remember Bolton’s battle for Winter Hill in 1896. This was an important fight by ordinary people to access local moorland.

“I was only eight when I went on my first commemorative walk in 1982, with my late mum Glenys and step-grandfather Jim. There was a real sense of camaraderie.

“People wanted to come together and celebrate an important chapter of working class history that could so easily be forgotten.

“The fight for the right to roam is as important today as it was in 1896. We must keep on fighting for better access to open spaces.”

Organisers hope that after the difficulties of the pandemic during the past 18 months, the walk will be an opportunity for people to enjoy local moorland and celebrate local history. Other activities are being organised in conjunction with The Woodland Trust, Bolton Ramblers, Smithills Hall Museum and others.