Essex Area Ramblers

At the heart of walking in Essex

Sent to: all active volunteers who have registered on the Ramblers website.

23 March 2018


Since I last wrote to you we have had rather a lot of weather. Walking through our local woods last weekend the primroses were once again buried beneath a snowy blanket and the Great Spotted Woodpecker was unseasonably silent. We still managed to hold our board meeting last month, despite the blizzard. The trustees prepared for general council, approved our annual report and accounts, reviewed progress against our new business plan and discussed an exciting proposal to roll-out the current Scottish walk leadership pilot across all three nations over the coming years.  
Staying with Scotland, I have just come back from Scottish council where I was inspired by some wonderful speakers including Ben Dolphin (Ramblers Scotland president), Grant Moir (CEO of Cairngorms National Park) and our own amazing group leaders who shared some of their successes, including the visionary work of Jay Wilson and the Inverness Ramblers to develop the John O’Groats long distance trail. Over the weekend Alison Mitchell (Convener of Ramblers Scotland and a trustee) and others, also took us on some fantastic circular walks around Aberdeen.

All those gathered at Scottish council were saddened to learn of the death of Jerry Pearlman, our former honorary solicitor for more than 30 years. Jerry fought countless campaigns on paths and access and often appeared in court and at public inquiries on our behalf. He helped to set legal precedent many times over, and he drafted the legislation which later became the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. He served for 18 years as a member of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. You can read more about his magnificent achievements for ramblers here.

Between Scottish council, our board meeting and the snow, I have continued to get out and meet more of our existing and potential partners. Over the last month I have been able to meet with Natural England and the chief executive officers of both the Sport and Recreation Alliance (SRA) and the Youth Hostel Association (YHA). We are members of the SRA along with 319 other organisations and our links with the YHA go back to our inception. In all three meetings we recognised we have a mutual interest in helping everyone to enjoy the outdoors on foot and agreed some shared next steps.
In staff news this month, I am delighted to be able to let you know that we will be joined next month by Rachael Bayley as our Interim Director of Delivery and Development. Rachael is a highly experienced leader who has made a significant positive impact in six major charities including heading volunteering development at Save the Children, the Samaritans and the Children’s Society. She is also a Director of the Association of Volunteer Managers – the professional membership body for volunteering. Rachael joins us on 6 April until the end of December 2018. I know you will join me in thanking Simon Barnett for all he has done for the Ramblers and in welcoming Rachael.

This month’s newsletter includes an opportunity to learn more our partnership with People’s Postcode Lottery which has recently provided our charity with an amazing financial boost. You can also find out about the winner of our first ever Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood Award and if you would like to take part in testing a new app as part of our data transformation programme please let us know. We really need your help in responding to the new government consultation which will shape the upcoming agriculture bill. We have produced a joint response (with the British Horse Society, British Mountaineering Council, Open Spaces Society and Cycling UK) to outline our support for protecting and enhancing countryside access and it would be great if you could sign the petition.

Other items in this newsletter include a further update, as promised, on General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and on the important public inquiry in Cambridgeshire which has just concluded. There are also items on some terrific recent path successes, on our Walk About festival this summer and on the Ramblers continued support for Walking For Health this year. It remains for me to wish you a very happy Easter holiday season, complete with your own version of Ken Dodd’s ocean tides, fading sunsets, stars above, fields of grain, falling rain, sunshine and love. I look forward to seeing some of you at general and at Welsh councils in April.

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

People’s Postcode Lottery (PPL) - please find out more about our partnership here

As a charity, the Ramblers relies on much-valued income from a variety of sources including our members, supporters, corporate partners, trusts, and players of People’s Postcode Lottery (PPL). Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have supported the Ramblers since 2016 and our partnership has gone from strength to strength. Last year PPL invited the charity to become a society lottery operator, so we could benefit from 32% of proceeds from the draws promoted on our behalf. Other charities supported in this way include the Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust, Canal and River Trust, Friends of the Earth and UNICEF, to name a few of the charities supported directly.

Support from players has raised more than £5m for the Ramblers in 2017 and 2018 (£2.5m per year). The Board of Trustees and senior management have carefully considered how to invest this income. We will continue in our ambition to build a country designed for walking - campaigning for access land and supporting path maintenance volunteers. We’ll invite more people to discover the benefits of walking through our festivals and short health walks. And we’ll be developing a walk leadership training framework to more fully support our incredible volunteer walk leaders. Furthermore, over the next two years, we’ll be transforming the charity’s digital capabilities to provide volunteers and staff with new tools, data and intelligence to deliver and measure lasting impact. We look forward to sharing more about these programmes with you over the coming months.
We know you will join us in thanking players of People’s Postcode Lottery, whose support will help us further our quest to create a country designed for walking, to help everyone to find their feet, and to create healthier communities that celebrate and inspire others to get outdoors. If you have any questions please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood Award - please congratulate the winner!

The votes are in for our first ever Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood Award!
Congratulations to Hastings Old Town, which topped the list, with 21% of the 12,000 votes. Thanks so much for your support in promoting the award and helping us make a really strong case for the importance of designing neighbourhoods with walkers in mind.
Nominations are now open for next year’s award, so please do get in touch if you’d like to nominate your neighbourhood.
This award was the first step in our Paving the Way campaign, highlighting neighbourhoods with well-connected networks of walking routes, accessible green spaces, and well-designed walking infrastructure. Our vision is for all of Britain’s towns and cities to put pedestrians first. To achieve this aim we will be releasing our Walking Charter soon and we will need your support to encourage as many local councillors across the country to sign up to it. We have produced a toolkit for you to use when contacting your councillors ahead of the local elections in May and we will also be also be sharing this with you in April.
Please contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any questions, or if you’d like to request a toolkit or the Charter. We can help you with nominating your neighbourhood or talking to your local councillors ahead of the election in May.

The agriculture bill white paper was recently published – please sign our petition
The government has launched a consultation on its proposals for the future of food, farming and the environment. This will shape the upcoming agriculture bill, which is due to be published this summer. Agriculture accounts for 70% of UK land, meaning that much of our path network runs through farmland. The new policy will have a significant impact on the quality of our environment, and the future of access to the countryside.
The Ramblers have teamed up with the British Horse Society, the British Mountaineering Council, the Open Spaces Society, and Cycling UK to protect the future of countryside access. We will each be providing a response to the consultation, but we know that many of our supporters and volunteers would like to respond aswell.
We have produced a joint response, outlining our support for protecting and enhancing access to the countryside. Please do sign our petition to add your name to this response, and share it with friends, family and fellow outdoor users. We will submit the petition to the government at the end of the consultation in early May to show public support for protecting countryside access.

In related news our policy officer Stephen Russell was interviewed earlier this week by BBC Breakfast for a feature on the future of the natural environment and the importance of the path network. This was a fantastic opportunity to highlight our work on the value of paths and future opportunities for better access under a new agricultural policy. A BBC News version of this story is available here. This was in response to a new report from a House of Lords Select Committee inquiry that took place last year, to which we gave oral evidence. Further information on this can be found here.
If you have any questions please do get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

Sign our petition ►

General Data Protection Regulation - please note the new guidance
As I outlined in my newsletter in November last year, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on 25 May. GDPR will introduce more stringent rules for how organisations manage personal data. In the November newsletter we gave you some information about how to start to prepare - thank you to everyone who has already spent time data housekeeping and identifying what personal data your area or group currently manages. It is a complex area and it has taken us some time to put this guidance together and ensure it is correct and appropriate, so thank you very much for your patience. We are now able to share this guidance with you as promised – you can find it in our GDPR toolkit. If you are an area or group chair, secretary or membership secretary, please look out for a further tailored and specific email which you will receive tomorrow 24 March. This email will have more detail about how the GDPR applies to your specific volunteer activities. We have also hired a Data Protection Officer, Felix Wilkey, who will be supporting you to manage data in accordance with the new regulations over the coming months. If you have any questions, please do get in touch with Felix via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

See the GDPR toolkit ►

Data transformation - please let us know if you would like to help us with some testing

This month we are focusing on designing tools to register walkers. The data from these registers will give us valuable intelligence to shape our walk proposition and also enforce our membership recruitment (ie. the Ramblers offer of three free walks to new attendees, before they need to become members). On 13 March our trailblazing Swindon & NE Wiltshire group started using the pilot walk registration mobile app. Grahame Lee, area chair for Wiltshire and Swindon, took the register on a small tablet, using our prototype app. He submitted the data back to our new data centre, and we displayed the data in our new walk participation dashboard. All went as anticipated. Over the next four weeks we plan to use this registration method on over forty walks across Wiltshire, Scotland & Essex. In the next newsletter we will share the feedback from this pilot with you. We will use the learnings to develop a next version of the app which will be quicker and will meet user requirements as far as possible. The walk participation dashboard is also being tested to make sure we are including the most useful data. If you lead a group or a particular walk(s) and would like to sign up for the next round of testing - which will be end of May and June - please contact the team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Walk About festival 26 May to 3 June - please prepare your hidden gems
As outlined in my last newsletter, this year’s festival theme is hidden gems. Thank you to everyone who has been planning walks for Walk About this year and thinking about what hidden gems you can highlight on these walks. Please upload your walks to the Group Walks and Event Manager (GWEM) where they will be tagged as part of the festival, and please use the Walk About poster in the festivals toolkit for local promotion. To engage new people with the festival and to help increase membership we will be running a marketing campaign to promote the hidden gems which are to be found on selected walks. We have now been in touch with group chairs, secretaries, walk programme coordinators and publicity officers about how to collect and share hidden gems with us, so please coordinate with them if you have any further hidden gem ideas. If you have any questions, please get in touch with Patrick Scott, festivals programme coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Read more about Hidden Gems ►

Walking for Health - please note the Ramblers continued support for this programme
As I am sure you are aware, for the past six years the Ramblers has run a successful Walking for Health programme in England, in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support. As outlined in the January newsletter, the current programme finishes at the end of March this year. However, national support will continue to be provided to local schemes from April to December 2018, through funding from the players of People’s Postcode Lottery and Macmillan Cancer Support.
From April to December the newly restructured short group walks staff team will support local Walking for Health schemes to maintain quality standards, train those who deliver local short group walk leadership training, communicate with local schemes (through webinars, teleconferences, phone and email), encourage local schemes to foster learning and partnership working and develop relationships between schemes and local Ramblers groups.
The staff team are now exploring whether short group walks can be integrated into, and financially sustained by the Ramblers beyond December 2018. Staff will be consulting with Ramblers areas and groups and with existing Walking for Health schemes to develop and test proposals for delivering short group walks in the future. Staff will also consider how people with specific health and support needs might benefit from taking part in short group walks (building on recent pilot projects with the British Lung Foundation and Kent Carers). More information will be available in the coming weeks. For more information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Network Rail Cambridge - please note the progress on this important public enquiry
The public inquiry into Network Rail’s proposed closure of a number of footpath level crossings in Cambridgeshire concluded on 23 February 2018 at the Shire Hall in Cambridge. Forceful closing submissions on behalf of the Ramblers were made by barrister Merrow Golden, who questioned the validity of the scheme, the methodology used, the legal criteria advanced by the promoters and the merits of the individual proposals. We do not know how long it will take the Inspector to make the formal recommendations to the Secretary of State as to whether the scheme should be implemented: please watch this space and we will continue to update you. For any further information contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

New path in Kent and path realignment in Cumbria - please note these successes
The Ramblers have collaborated with other bodies in Faversham, Kent to help to create a new creek-side public path, which is both direct and convenient. There is already a spectacular path further out-of-town along Faversham Creek, but for many years the “first bit” on walking out of the town has been obstructed by a new residential riverside development, which has meant that walkers have had to walk through an industrial estate, rather than by the creek. After lobbying, Kent County Council made the order to create the path, but a small number of objections to the new path led to a public inquiry, which has gone in favour of the path. Ian Wild of the Ramblers testified in the path's favour: other collaborators were Faversham Footpaths Group, Swale Footpaths Group, and two local charities (Bensted’s Charity and Faversham Municipal Charities) along with Faversham Town Council and Swale Borough Council. The resulting walk is now a high-quality walking experience, with great views over Oare Marshes, a pleasing maritime-heritage feel, reed-warblers, hen harriers and waders of many kinds…and the Shipwrights Arms - a delightful and unspoiled pub - at the end.
The Ramblers has also been able to assist with the successful realignment of a path in Cumbria. The popularity of the Ramblers-devised Cumbrian Way had led, on some weekend days, to fifty or more walkers regularly passing through a private garden at Mansriggs and Osmotherly, north of Ulverston, Cumbria. The resident, who for the past 20 years had lived happily with the way going through her garden, now requested a diversion, and accordingly Cumbria County Council made a diversion order. Objections were received so the matter went to public inquiry. Noting the proposed diversion to be preferable to the existing way, local Ramblers appeared at the inquiry in support of the diversion, which was confirmed by the Inspector on 27 February. For further information on either of these path successes please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Area induction training - please let us know if you would like to attend future courses
Over the past few months the area support team has been running area induction training in England, Scotland and Wales. The training provides new area chairs and secretaries with an overview of the work of the Ramblers and includes meeting many of the staff team and finding out more about how staff and area volunteers can mutually support each other to deliver our shared remit. It is also an excellent opportunity for area chairs and secretaries to meet colleagues from other areas and share best practice together. If you are interested in attending training (even if you are not a new area chair or secretary, numbers permitting, we welcome anyone who would like to network and enjoy refresher training) please contact your area support officer:
•    North England: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
•    South England:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
•    Scotland: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
•    Wales: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ramblers Cymru - please note the new date for Welsh council and access update

Welsh council was unfortunately postponed due to bad weather, but with the support of WCEC and the Ramblers Cymru staff team, it will now take place at the later date of Saturday 28 to Sunday 29 April 2018.   

As previously planned, the Wales team will be delivering a wide range of activities, talks and training sessions throughout the event. If you haven’t already confirmed your attendance, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

There has recently been encouraging news for access in Wales as the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, set out her post-Brexit ambitions for land management. Over the past 18 months, Ramblers Cymru has called for any new agricultural support system to sustain and encourage public access as a public good. We were pleased to see the Cabinet Secretary’s echo this call for “Welsh land delivering public goods for all the people of Wales”. Ramblers Cymru will continue to make the case for any public subsidies to be linked - not only to compliance with existing legal duties to keep rights of way and access open - but with the delivery of permanent improvements to our path networks and open spaces. For further information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Ramblers Scotland - please note this new BBC documentary

A huge thank you to all the volunteers who helped make Scottish council in Aberdeen such an uplifting event on 10 and 11 March. More than 100 members attended – and it was a great opportunity to hear about the work of volunteers across the country, during a range of workshops and talks. Our president Ben Dolphin gave an inspiring Dick Balharry Memorial Lecture on the Saturday night; using his photography skills to guide us all on a ‘virtual walk’ from summit to valley – while discussing the subtle changes in geology, flora and fauna along the way. We’re very grateful to Cairngorms National Park CEO Grant Moir for sharing his honest and insightful thoughts during a lively Q&A with our director Jess Dolan on the Sunday. Meanwhile, five interesting motions were debated this year, and draft minutes will be published on our website this spring.

On 14 March, Aberdeen Young Walkers starred in The Battle for Scotland’s Countryside documentary on BBC One in Scotland. It was the most high-profile show about Scottish access in many years, and can be viewed until 13 April. If you have any questions please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Friday, April 20, 2018