A tribute to Jerry Pearlman

One of the last Ramblers’ events that Jerry was involved in was the unveiling of the Access Plaque in the Dales village of Stalling Busk on 7th October last year.

He first raised the matter at last July’s meeting of West Riding Area Council and it resulted in Jerry, Mike Church and me spending a couple of congenial lunchtimes planning the event. Access was dear to Jerry’s heart. The plaque commemorated a meeting held in the schoolroom of Stalling Busk in August 1996 to draft the bill that eventually became the CROW Act of 2000. Jerry was one of the key figure at the Stalling Busk meeting and much of the first draft of bill was written by him. The CROW Act gave walkers access to 62% of the Yorkshire Dales (many square miles of it visible from Stalling Busk) and to mountain, moorland, heath, down and common land throughout England and Wales – a massive bonus for walkers. Janet Street-Porter unveiled the plaque and several members from the August 1996 meeting came along.

More than anything perhaps Jerry will be remembered by walkers for his footpath work. Underlying this is something that we should not forget – the law protects rights of way and is an important resource for footpath work. For many years, Jerry was the honorary solicitor of the Ramblers’ Association and won several important footpath cases. I suspect that a major reason for his success, apart from his legal knowledge and skills, was that he much enjoyed his footpath cases, and pursued them with an energy and delight.

A recent issue that Jerry became substantially involved in was the difficult topic of footpaths and cycling. In West Riding Area it was initially raised (I think by Jerry) at a West Riding Area Footpaths Committee meeting in late 2016, and Jerry agreed to draft a motion for the Area AGM. There was some discussion at the AGM (not surprisingly there are many different points of view) before the motion was passed. We wanted it to become Ramblers’ national policy so the motion went to the 2017 General Council, held at Southampton University. I proposed it, Steve Noble seconded it, and Jerry made a valuable speech from the floor in the subsequent debate. I think it was his last contribution to this august assembly which he had attended without fail for many years, though we weren’t to know at the time. The motion squeezed through by a narrow majority. The successful West Riding motion had to compete with a rather more cycle friendly motion in the deliberations of the subsequent working party, but Jerry’s wording “The Ramblers opposes proposals for cycling to be allowed as a matter of course on footpaths in England” survives in the final shared-use policy guidelines.

Last but not least, Jerry was a “Concerned Rambler”. “The Concerned Ramblers” were particularly concerned that the protection of footpaths was being de-prioritised in the official policy of the Ramblers, and campaigned for “Footpaths First”. The Concerned Ramblers were very much (though not exclusively) a West Riding Area initiative, and one or two of the early meetings were held at Jerry’s house. One of the successful motions of the Concerned Ramblers at the subsequent General Council (2011) was to ensure that the Ramblers’ Association maintained an adequate legal fund to fight important cases.

Jerry was our West Riding Area president. We shall miss him at the AGMs which he chaired with an idiosyncratic deftness and charm, and all those who knew him will miss the twinkle in his eye.

Keith Wadd