THE FIRST weekend following the Countryside Rights of Way Act got off to a bright start despite a no-show from goverment ministers, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Several groups of ramblers walked through areas of the Peak District on Saturday and Sunday (Sept 18/19).

But Alun Michael, the rural affairs minister, who was due to attend, cancelled on what was said to be police advice.

Nearly 500 demonstrators, including fellmen from the Lake District and coursing enthusiasts from Merseyside, had planned a ‘welcoming party‘ for the minister.

But three Labour MPs – Paddy Tipping, Judy Mallaber and Tom Levitt – did attend an evening celebration at Chipping village hall.

“It is disappointing that Alun Michael could not be here today,” said Mr Levitt. “He felt the focus should be on the event and not him.”

It is understood that Mr Michael made a low-key and informal visit on Saturday (Sept 18).

Mr Levitt, whose constituency includes part of the park, described the arrival of the CRoW Act as “a tremendous moment”.

“It is something that has been high on Labour‘s list for a long time,” he said.

As the evening celebrations began the MPs were welcomed by a small group of pro-hunting protestors who lined up outside.

The Times reports that hunt supporters are encouraged by the statement from the Prime Minister that he would support a compromise.

Speaking after the Northern Ireland talks at Leeds Castle, Kent, Tony Blair said: “We sought a compromise. 

“Unfortunately it was rejected in the commons and the Lords. We‘ll have to find a way through.”

John Jackson, chairman of the Countryside alliance, told the paper the news was very encouraging.

“We will now tell the Lords that the Alliance thinks the Lords should amend the banning Bill to allow licensed hunting.”

Alun Michael indicated during the hunting debate on Wed (Sept 15) that should the Lords amend the Bill to introduce licensed hunting, he would support it.