I don’t know how you set light to a golf course, but in 1897 a riot of several thousand ordinary citizens did just that. The location was One Tree Hill in Honor Oak, a southeastern suburb of London, and they were objecting to the enclosure of common land so that men could hit balls around it with sticks. They were repulsed, which led Golf magazine to say: “We are not likely to hear anything more of the alleged right-of-way over One Tree Hill, which nature evidently intended for a golf course.”
Golf was wrong. In 1905 One Tree Hill became what it is now, one of thousands of green spaces across Britain, each with its own idiosyncrasies and history, that are kept at public expense for the benefit of absolutely anyone for whatever legal or sometimes slightly illegal activity they choose, as long as it doesn’t impede others’ enjoyment of the same place. It is part of what is, collectively, one of the great achievements of democracy, two centuries in the making, which crosses both classes and the Atlantic. It is the work of Mancunian communists and Republican US presidents, as well as philosophers, woodcutters, poets, bankers, factory workers and politicians.
This is the creation and preservation of parks and commons, both in cities and, in the form of National Parks, in the countryside, that run from the grandeur of Yosemite in California to the more genteel delights of Birkenhead Park in Merseyside, generally acknowledged to be the first publicly funded civic park in the world. They include the more obscure zones of grass and trees from which you are rarely far in British towns. Their different forms have a common principle, which is the availability of nature to all.