Essex Area Ramblers

At the heart of walking in Essex

20 October 2017


Salutari / Greetings. This month I was lucky enough to join Alison Mitchell, Convener of Ramblers Scotland, at the European Ramblers Association (ERA) Annual Conference in Brasov, Romania. The ERA consists of 61 walkers organisations, from 34 nations, with over 3 million members. Romania is such a beautiful country: bears, wolves, 13 national parks and one of the largest areas of undisturbed forest in Europe. It was an energising and fascinating experience and - whatever Brexit brings - I think we should remain involved with this network in the future, as we clearly have many shared issues and opportunities.

Since I last wrote to you, I have also spent time with the Scottish and Welsh teams. It has been a busy month of travelling, but I think Mark Twain was right when he wrote that “twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do”. Our staff management team spent some valuable time at the Senedd -home to the Welsh Assembly -where it was great to meet Assembly members and discuss the opportunities open to us to influence policy and provide delivery solutions on such important issues as the protection of Wales’s exceptional natural environment.

In Edinburgh, the Scottish team took us for a delightful ramble along the Water of Leith Walkway. This 24 mile long river flows through Edinburgh and out to sea, via the Firth of Forth. The Walkway runs beside the river for 12 miles, through what was once Edinburgh’s industrial heartland, with over 70 watermills. It is now a peaceful wildlife paradise and we saw herons fishing for brown trout. It was also great to take a morning walk in the beautiful Pentland Hills with Jess Dolan, Director of Ramblers Scotland, who has just returned from maternity leave this month. I know you will all join me in welcoming her back.

The staff team have also facilitated a full month of valuable GB meetings. Our board committees –Finance & Operations, Mission and Devolution – have all met, in advance of our September board meeting. It was a significant board meeting, where we finalised repayment of our historic pension liability with the Pension Trust. The trustees have worked diligently and strategically to set aside funds to repay the debt across a number of years and, in September, the debt of £980,000 was repaid in full, and all future liabilities extinguished by agreement with the Pension Trust. This is a tremendous achievement.

In their September meeting, the trustees also discussed and approved the Ramblers annual budget. Our new financial year runs from October 2017 to September 2018. Highlights for the coming year include the approval of a significant budget of £535,000 to update our IT infrastructure and an expansion of staff directly employed in providing strong mutual support to our areas. I will continue to ensure that the full minutes of our board meetings are posted on the members area of our website in a timely fashion and I will also provide you with a summary copy of our exciting new business plan in my November newsletter.

Turning then to what is coming over the hill this month, you can see that we are seeking your support in celebrating 800 years of access in November. We are also looking for our countryside protection volunteers to help us to update our guidance in this key field of work. This newsletter also contains updates on our progress on Don’t Lose Your Way, shared use, Network Rail, roadshows, Countryfile coverage, Stalling Busk conference, Walking for Health, group and area survey, area AGMs, General Council and recent casework developments so plenty of grist to our collective mill.

And finally, thank you to all of you who took part in our joint activity on 1 October - National Grandparents Day -with a fantastic charity called Grandparents Plus. They are dedicated to supporting grandparents valuable roles in the care and development of their grandchildren. I met their Chief Executive earlier this year and we realised that our organisations have very complementary missions. We are now working together to encourage different generations to spend quality time walking and talking together – I can’t think of a more worthwhile activity for us to support.

I wish you, and your friendsand family, some lovely autumn walks.

Kindest regards,

Vanessa Griffiths, chief executive officer

Phone: 020 7339 8578

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Twitter: @RamblerVan

Charter of the Forest - please help us celebrate 800 years of access and share your walks with us
November 6 marks the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, a historic document that gave common people the right of access to forest land. This can be seen as the first step on our access journey which, in more recent years, has seen the Kinder Scout trespass, the founding of the Ramblers, the establishment of National Parks and National Trails, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act, the right to create the England Coast Path, and many other achievements.
To mark this anniversary, we’ll be celebrating everything that has been achieved over the last 800 years, and looking forward to think about the future of access. We’ve commissioned new research looking at how people use access and their views on its future, we’ll be launching a petition calling for increased access to forest land, and we’ll be starting a conversation with members around the next 800 years of access.
In my November newsletter we will share the petition with you and will be asking members to join in the conversation. In the meantime, please look out for the anniversary, follow the Ramblers on Facebook or Twitter, have a read through your winter edition of Walk magazine, and get ready to celebrate with us...
If you have any particularly great walks through access land in your area then please do get in touch with us. We’d love to hear of your favourite open access areas and how members are enjoying their rights of access. Please could you send your information through This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. this month.
Countryside protection -please help us to ensure we have identified all our volunteers in this field
As part of our current drive to increase mutual support for volunteers, we’re updating our guidance for countryside protection volunteers. This guidance is currently called The Walking Environment Officer Handbook. We’ll be in touch with those of you who volunteer in this field soon, to better understand what you think of your current role and what tools you need to do this vital job.
We plan to make contact with all volunteers who are recorded on our database as a group or area countryside secretary or as a walking environment officer but -just to make sure we don’t miss anyone - please can you keep an eye out for an email on this topic this month, and forward it to any other volunteers who you believe should be included in this dialogue. We know there are gaps in some areas where it hasn’t been possible to find volunteers willing to take on this key role and we hope that this work will make the countryside protection volunteering role more attractive and easier to fill in the future.
Additionally, if you know of a volunteer who has been doing outstanding work in this field, or a volunteer who has recently had particular success on a countryside protection issue, we’d love to hear from you so that we can highlight these efforts. If you have any comments or queries please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Don't Lose Your Way - please note this update on training and project manager recruitment
Training has taken place this month on the Isle of Wight and in Dorset and we're grateful to both areas and their volunteers for supporting and attending these important sessions. Sarah Wadey and Phil Bucks -the trainers - are from the British Horse Society (BHS). They will be running more training days in November for the BHS and Open Spaces Society and Ramblers volunteers are welcome to attend these sessions.
Please see the Don't Lose Your Way section on the website for more details. Bucks and Wadey have also published a new edition of Restoring the Record. Most areas have received a copy but if you have not, and you would like one, we’ve a small number left. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to request a copy.
A Don’t Lose Your Way project manager role -generously funded by the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust -has now been advertised. This role will scope out this vital project so we can provide support and coordination to volunteers leading up to the cut - off date on 2026 and beyond. Interviews for this post are being held on 1 November and we will give you an update on the outcome in a future newsletter. Once appointed, our new project manager will be coordinating a volunteer advisory group and we will let you know how you may be able to contribute to this group in due course.
Shared use - please register your interest in commenting on our draft guidance
In the last edition of Walk magazine we highlighted the continued pressure to convert pedestrian - only routes into shared routes for pedestrians and cyclists.
The Ramblers policy on shared use is that upgrading a footpath to bridleway or cycle track status must be considered on an individual basis, not by way of universal conversion. A working group has been set up to help shape guidance to support this policy, and to outline the key considerations which volunteers should take into account when responding to shared use proposals in their local area. A consultation draft of this guidance will soon be available and we would welcome your comments to help inform the final version. If you would like to review the draft guidance, please pre-register your interest with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Stephen will be in touch once the consultation document is available in November.
Network Rail update - please help us spread the word and donate to the Ramblers legal fund
As you know, over the last year Ramblers’ volunteers in East Anglia have been challenging Network Rail’s proposals to close 130 level crossings. Thanks to their hard work, 18 have already been saved from closure. The first public inquiry - which will decide whether or not these footpaths stay open -has just started for Essex, Hertfordshire and the London Borough of Havering. Ramblers’ volunteers and local residents are giving evidence to ensure walkers and other local path users are heard.
The public inquiry for Cambridgeshire will start on 28 November, followed by Suffolk in January 2018. We are expecting the Secretary of State to make the final decision on whether these crossings will stay open late next year.
Please help us to challenge closures that aren't suitable for walkers by donating to our legal fund. Your donation will help pay for expert legal representation to support our local volunteers and to help us to demonstrate how important these paths are to the local community. You can find out more and donate here, and we would be grateful if you could also help to spread the word by sharing our campaign video with your members. Thank you for your support.
Ramblers Roadshows - please let us know if you would like to host a roadshow in 2018
Our Ramblers Roadshow programme for 2016 -17 has just come to an end. Thanks to some great teamwork between staff and host area volunteers, we were able to meet an amazing 909 members and volunteers across 122 workshops at 12 events. Every participant went away with deeper knowledge of our charitable purpose and how we can work together to deliver our mission. Thank you to everyone who helped to host the roadshows and to everyone who attended.
It is time to plan our next round of roadshows, which we anticipate will run from April to September 2018. If you are interested in hosting a roadshow in your area, please get in touch with Ed Wilson, volunteering co -ordinator on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 30th November. (NB. In Wales, Ramblers Cymru will be liaising directly with areas during the first week of November, to identify specific training needs so please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. instead of Ed, if you are in the Welsh area).
The staff team will take care of the event logistics, including venues and registration. The role of the local area is to help to promote the roadshow and to co-ordinate a small team of volunteers to support the smooth running of the event on the day.
BBC Countryfile coverage -please let us know if we can support you with media requests
Earlier this month we were delighted to watch Ramblers’ volunteer Terry Howard and access expert Roly Smith, on BBC Countryfile, talking about the history of the access movement, the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers, and their book, Clarion Call: Sheffield’s Access Pioneers.
The Ramblers will feature on the programme once more this month so please do look out for us again on Sunday 22 October. Our policy manager, Adrian Harvey, will be appearing to put forward our views on proposals to call for a change in legislation (which would allow public rights of way to be temporarily diverted from fields containing livestock). Adrian has already been interviewed on this topic on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme, which you can listen to here until Tuesday 24 October(the feature is c.07 minutes, 40 seconds into the programme).
If you receive any significant interview requests or secure any major media opportunities - or would like some support in doing so - our press team would love to hear from you well in advance of any publication, press release, or air dates, so that we can work with you to ensure we gain maximum publicity for your area or group, and for the Ramblers as a whole. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to let us know of any significant “new news” which you have on the horizon. The more we work as one team to collectively raise the profile of our work, the more people will become aware of what we do, and lend their support to our cause
Stalling Busk – update on Ramblers gathering to mark historic launch of access fight
Senior Ramblers met at the tiny Yorkshire Dales village of Stalling Busk earlier this month, where vice-president Janet Street-Porter unveiled a plaque to mark the Stalling Busk conference. This conference was a meeting of the Ramblers’ campaign planners in August 1996; those present agreed many of the principles in the draft Access Bill. This became the basis for the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, giving the public freedom to walk over mapped mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land. Theevent was organised by Mike Church and Keith Wadd of the West
Riding area.The 1996 meeting was held in the old school house at Stalling Busk, next door to a cottage owned by Jerry Pearlman, Ramblers’ former honorary solicitor and long - time member of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, who drafted a prototype Access Bill. The plaque is on Jerry’s cottage. Unveiling the plaque, Janet Street - Porter said “There are three basic freedoms: the freedom to vote, the freedom to be equal, and the freedom to walk in as many places as possible”.
The 1996 meeting was a vital step in the Ramblers’ campaign towards the third of those freedoms”. Kate Ashbrook, Ramblers’ vice - chair, who chaired the 1996 access meeting said
“The Countryside and Rights of Way Act was a major milestone in the campaign for greater freedom to roam - but the Ramblers’ job is not done.
Whatever one thinks about Brexit, it is an opportunity to ensure that public subsidies for farmers and landowners include significant spending on public access to the lovely countryside of Yorkshire and beyond”. Paddy Tipping, the ex - Nottinghamshire MP who led the successful access campaign in Parliament added “The next campaign must be to secure greater rights for ordinary people to enjoy the land - this land is our land”.
Walking for Health - please note this progress update
As mentioned in my July and August newsletters, we have been exploring the potential future direction of our English Walking for Health programme, once the current partnership with Macmillan comes to an end next April. We have taken feedback from a wide range of stakeholders including Walking for Health volunteers and co - ordinators, Ramblers area and group volunteers, staff and trustees, and other national organisations with an interest in physical activity through walking. I know that many of you have given us online and workshop input -for which we are very grateful - thank you.
The views of all our stakeholders, combined with survey results and a literature review, have helped us to create two diagrams which describe the desired outcomes for the future. The first diagram explains the benefits that a participant should experience and the factors that motivate them to try a walk in the first place...and then keep coming back. The second diagram outlines the services that the Ramblers aspire to put in place in the future - in principle, and subject to funding - to help local co -ordinators to organise a great local short walk programme. The diagrams and an accompanying narrative are available here. We will continue to keep you updated and if you have any queries or further input, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Group and area survey - please look out for an update later this month
In June this year we shared the key findings from the survey which many of
You completed earlier this year. The intention of this survey was to help us to better understand area and group volunteer infrastructure needs and to improve the mutual support which staff provide as a result. We promised to come back to you this month to let you know what improvements we believe we will be able to make as a result of your feedback. Please look out for an email to all area and group chairs and secretaries outlining our planned improvements. We’ll also be posting a news story in our volunteer zone after the email has gone out. If you have any queries or would like to give feedback on this email please email Susie Corfield, volunteering manager on
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Area Annual General Meetings (AGMs) - please let us know if you would like any staff support
We have been delighted to receive your area AGM forms back over the last few months. It has been fascinating to read about all the different plans which areas are currently making to maximise member attendance this year, and to attract new volunteers to these key meetings. Some areas are sending out personalised invitations, providing lunch or tea, running pre-AGM walks and offering transport to and from the AGM. Some areas have invited great external speakers from partner organisations such as national parks, local authorities, wildlife trusts, or even the town crier! If you would like support with speakers and/or a discussion on how to get more people involved in your AGM please contact the area support team via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit our area toolkits on the Ramblers website.
General Council (GC) - hosting GC in 2019, registering your membership of the online forum and GC 2017 motions update
The board is inviting expressions of interest for any area considering hosting General Council in Spring 2019. The board will review all expressions of interest and select a venue at its meeting on 25 November. Submitting an expression of interest is a straight-forward process and involves completing a short form which is available here.
Completed forms should be submitted by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Thursday 16 November and any questions directed to Simon in the interim.
As covered in previous newsletters, we are piloting a new online forum, for General Council delegates, trustees, area chairs, area secretaries and members of Welsh and Scottish Council executive committees. This forum was requested by General Council in 2016 and has been available for registration since May 2017. Many eligible volunteers have already registered and shared posts, on a variety of different topics, via the forum. If you have not yet registered and are keen to make contact with your colleagues you can do so here. Please remember that if you change your volunteer role you will need to let us know via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so that we are aware that you are entitled to be a member of the forum and are able to process your registration.
At the General Council meeting in Southampton we promised to keep in touch through the year and provide a six - month update on the motions approved in April 2017. Ahead of the formal update -which will be provided as part of the general council papers for the 2018 meeting in Bangor -we have prepared a short report setting out some the work which has taken place around those motions since April. If you have any queries or would like to give any feedback on this report please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Casework - update on recent decisions at High Ham and Cavendish - Pentlow
We learned in August that despite carefully - argued objections from the Ramblers and other organisations (like the British Horse Society, with whom we were working), the Inspector, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has decided to confirm an order to delete a public right of way at High Ham in Somerset, on the basis that it must have been put on the definitive map by mistake.
This is unfortunate as it is a picturesque and strategic route. Ramblers’ volunteer Stan Marriott had this path registered back in the 1950s, and we believe that the Inspector may have misapplied the law, effectively making the Ramblers prove the existence of the right of way when the evidence available in the 1950s is no longer available. We have taken a barrister’s opinion and have written a letter – before - action to the Government Legal Department asking them to consider whether the Inspector’s approach was correct. We will keep you updated.
On a brighter note, we have just won an ancient case in Suffolk - Essex that has been on our books for as long as the longest
-serving members of staff can remember. A bridge on a footpath has been missing over the River Stour between Cavendish (Suffolk) and Pentlow (Essex) since the floods of 1947.
The definitive map on the Essex side wrongly didn’t show the path connecting with the bridge: so the relevant councils declined to repair it.
Volunteer John Andrews applied to have the map amended so as to give them the duty to replace the bridge, but Suffolk County Council gave it a very low a priority – and effectively sat on our application for 20 years. But now, 22 years after setting the formal procedures in motion, after much lobbying and several appeals to the Secretary of State, an Inspector has corrected the definitive map, so the path is now shown as connecting with the bridge, paving the way for a campaign to have the bridge restored after more than 70 years. Patience is indeed a virtue!
Walk leader checklist and ICE card - please note that the updated forms are now available
As I mentioned in my newsletter last month, we promised to have the updated Walk leader checklist and In Case of Emergency (ICE) cards with you this month, so that you can start to use the refreshed checklist and new ICE card. All walkers can fill in emergency contact details and important medical information on the ICE card, and carry it in an accessible place when out walking. Should anything happen, the walk leader or emergency services can then use the ICE card to quickly establish any medical conditions and emergency contacts. If you would like weatherproof copies of the checklist for your walk leaders and the ICE card for your walkers, please get in touch via
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. If you would like digital copies, you can download them from the Walk Leader toolkit
Sounding board for volunteering - please let us know if you would like to be involved
I also promised last month that I would provide further details in this newsletter about how you can formally put yourself forward to apply to be part of our volunteer sounding board. We’re looking for up to 12 volunteers, undertaking a variety of volunteering roles, across Great Britain. The sounding board will be asked to review each stage of the volunteer journey, as currently set out in Our approach to volunteering.
The sounding board will provide feedback on the extent to which the Ramblers currently meet the high standards we have set ourselves, and agree the most urgent priorities for developing and improving standards across our areas and groups. The sounding board will also be asked to provide feedback on key new volunteer resources: on topics such as safeguarding, data protection, equalities and health and safety. The group will meet remotely by video conference approximately every two to three months, with some work carried out by email in between. If you would like to be involved please email Susie Corfield, volunteering manager, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone 020 7663 8569 for more information.
An inspiring project to offer walks for carers
I mentioned last month that I had attended a walk at the popular Kent area White Cliffs Walking Festival, run by Les Preston and the White Cliffs group. The walk I went on was part of a pilot programme developed by Les,Sue Mott, Carers UK and supported by Sport England. Carers are invited to join the Ramblers once a month for a relaxed, fun and sociable walk in the Kent countryside or along the coast. The idea is to help carers get fit, make friends, exchange stories or just soak up a few moments of peaceful contemplation in the midst of hectic lives. It was a moving and inspiring experience and following the walk Sport England has put together a wonderful film that captures why these walks are so inspiring. It's well worth a watch.
Ramblers Cymru - thank you for helping us to get walkers voices heard in the access debate
The significant Welsh Government consultation which I have featured in the last three newsletters closed on the 30 September. Thank you to everyone who joined our campaign. We were delighted that over 2,400 people sent an e letter to the Welsh Government backing our position, supporting some of the more welcome proposals (including the removal of the 2026 cut - off date for recording historic paths, a statutory code for access and a digital definitive map for Wales) and giving a strong voice to our concerns about the proposed wholesale opening up of the Welsh path network. We will keep you informed of developments.
Ramblers Scotland - find out more about our new Out There campaign
As part of Ramblers Scotland’s new Out There campaign we held a social media celebration this month to say #ThanksForThePath to all the volunteers and groups who are improving Scotland’s path network. The response was excellent and showed just how much people value investment in paths. As mentioned in my September newsletter, Out There aims to encourage more Scots to appreciate Scotland’s amazing landscapes and world class access rights. You can find out more at

Essex Area Events Diary


Sat,3 Mar 2018 19:30 - 22:00


Wed,4 Apr 2018 19:30 - 21:30


Sat,7 Apr 2018 - Sun,8 Apr 2018


Sun,22 Apr 2018


Mon,23 Apr 2018 19:30 - 21:30


Sat,12 May 2018


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