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Ethel Haythornthwaite

Ethel was born Ethel Mary Bassett Ward on 18th January 1894, in Endcliffe Vale House, which stood in the grounds of what is now the student village at The University of Sheffield.

She founded the Sheffield Association for the Protection of Rural Scenery, also known as the Sheffield Association for the Protection of Local Countryside on 7th May 1924. This went on to become the local branch of CPRE in 1927.

Among those present at the first society meeting were

  • Ethel Gallimore
  • G.H.B. Ward representing the ramblers’ interests
  • Gertrude ward (Ethel’s sister)
  • Alan Ward (Ethel’s brother)
  • Sir Henry Hadow, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield University

Ethel’s life took a transformative turn after the loss of her first husband shortly after they were married.

Encouraged by her family to take rejuvenating walks in the countryside and moorland which surrounded Sheffield, Ethel discovered the profound positive impact nature had on her physical and mental well-being. This, in part, illuminated Ethel’s passion and commitment to the countryside and fundamental to this, was that the countryside could be accessed by everyone, in order to experience those benefits.

In a poignant reflection, Ethel encapsulated the significance of countryside access for our wellbeing, stating: 

'Outside the city – there one began to live. The escape into clean air, the gradual return to nature – with this came satisfaction, peace, freedom, solitude, excitement. One grew to become conscious of its profounder value, something beyond health and high spirits – something to worship.'
Ethel Haythronthwaite

Enthralled by the breath-taking beauty of a thriving countryside, Ethel dedicated her life to preserve the natural landscapes of the Peak District and South Yorkshire countryside, for the enjoyment of all.

To celebrate our Centenary in 2024, we have commissioned Sheffield poet and author Helen Mort to pen a tribute to Ethel’s legacy.

In Ethel, Helen writes a series of letters to Ethel’s memory, inspired by Ethel’s archive of correspondences, to which Helen was given unrestricted access.

Read about the book