Essex Area Ramblers

At the heart of walking in Essex

 

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

19 December 2017

I am resisting the urge to channel Noddy Holder and shout “It’s Christmas…” loudly. I am a Christmas-o-phile and am always the first in our house to open the mulled wine, watch It’s A Wonderful Life again, and lobby the rest of the family for a tree (against which my husband holds out every year until at least the middle of December…).  I am however conscious that Christmas can be a particularly difficult period, for a whole variety of reasons - often to do with loss or loneliness - but sometimes due to other basic human needs being unmet, through hunger, homelessness or conflict. Six months after Grenfell, I wish you the best spirit of the season as I understand it - a spirit of gratitude, joy, love, healing and hope. I hope you have a wonderful and peaceful holiday.

It has been a pleasure working with you this year. Thank you for your extraordinary efforts. We have achieved a great deal together and I have a strong sense that we are working increasingly well as one team. This spirit of unity, optimism and clarity of purpose is evident in our board. Since I last wrote to you, the trustees have held their November meeting, at which they approved the budget and a draft agenda for general council. Five of our trustees will reach the end of their terms in 2018 - so we will be looking for a new chair and honorary treasurer and three ordinary board members. Please consider putting yourself forward - you can find more about General, Scottish and Welsh councils, trustee recruitment and our “Rambles together” in this newsletter.

As well as attending the board meeting in November, Adrian Harvey (our head of policy and advocacy) and I were also lucky enough to be invited to join the Kent area rights of way team meeting brilliantly led by Averil Brice. With over 70 attendees, the meeting was exceptionally well organised, welcoming, positive and professional. We had a great discussion, and left with homemade apple strudel and a copy of a fantastic piece of policy work outlining how Ramblers volunteers can best respond to planning applications - which is something we can use to develop an organisation-wide policy to share with our rights of way volunteers across the country - this is a great example of staff and volunteers working well together for the benefit of walkers everywhere.

As well as working well together internally, I think we have also made good progress identifying key external partners and funders this year. A few weeks ago I went to Southampton to meet the chief executive and managing director of Ordnance Survey (OS) and OS Leisure respectively. We shared our vision and strategy and agreed that our volunteer-led charitable and campaigning activities are highly complementary to the amazing digital mapping tools and techniques produced by OS’s c.900 employees. I hope our meeting will be the start of a productive and mutually beneficial working relationship. Whenever I meet other agencies, I am struck by the high regard in which they hold the Ramblers and their willingness to engage with us.

In similar vein, I also visited Lord Gardiner, Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs again this month. As the government’s rural ambassador, Lord Gardiner’s brief covers key areas of interest for us, including landscapes and National Parks. He is keen to help us to work productively with both Natural England (with respect to increasing partnership work on the England Coast Path, and supporting National Trails) and the Department of Health (with respect to encouraging more action on green prescriptions) as well as continuing to press our case for access as a public good, as part of the ongoing Brexit agricultural bill discussions. I was encouraged by his willingness to engage with us as a potential part of the solution to the difficult funding challenges which DEFRA currently face.

In staff news this month, Simon Barnett, director of delivery and development, has decided that the time is right for him to seek a fresh adventure. He will be leaving the Ramblers at the end of February. In his time with us, Simon has supported our volunteers and championed our Walking for Health programme, and I know you will join me in thanking him for his service and wishing him the very best for the future.  As covered in the November newsletter, from now on this update will be sent to all active volunteers in anticipation of the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) requirements. If you know of volunteers who are not yet receiving this newsletter, but would like to do so, you can find instructions in this update about how they can register.

This newsletter also contains information about how you can get involved with a new Don’t Lose Your Way advisory board, nominate your local town or city as one of Britain’s best walking neighbourhoods, and recognise volunteers who have made exceptional contributions over the last year. And it is wonderful to be able to share two terrific successes at Telscombe and Warminster, as a result of the efforts of the Sussex and West Wiltshire Ramblers respectively. The path at Telscombe had been closed off for over 45 years, but thanks to the tenacity and perseverance of our volunteers, working in partnership with staff and other like-minded bodies, everyone can now walk again from Brighton to Peacehaven: a brilliant result and one worth celebrating this Christmas.

I wish you and your loved ones some wonderful winter walks and a peaceful holiday season and I look forward to working with you again next year.

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

 “Ramble together” - please note a short video is now available for use at your meetings   
Some of you have asked staff if we could provide a short video, which gives an overview of our work together, for you to use at area and group meetings, and particularly at your annual general meetings (AGMs). As a result, we have produced a little film which highlights our collective impact and scale over the last year, in terms of our walking routes, group walks, volunteers, members and our work to protect the places in which we all love to walk. The video can be viewed here. If you would like to download the video for use at your meetings, you can do so here. Thank you to the brilliant volunteers who braved a very changeable day to take part in the filming and thank you to everyone who has worked – and walked – together over the last year, to help the Ramblers to deliver the impressive scale, reach and breadth demonstrated in this short film.
 
Trustee recruitment - please consider standing for the Ramblers board  
The Ramblers needs you! We are looking for new trustees from April 2018 to ensure that our charity grows and delivers our mission to help everyone to enjoy the outdoors on foot. You don’t have to be currently active within your local area or group, or part of any local committee, to stand for election. We need Ramblers members with fresh perspectives and insights, who share our values. As well as looking for a new chair and honorary treasurer, there are three ordinary member vacancies. In 2018 we would particularly welcome applications from walkers with specialist skills in IT and data, HR processes, charity law and the changing policy and funding landscape in England, Wales and Scotland. For further information about becoming a trustee and to download a nomination form, please click here.

General Council - please utilise the new dedicated webpage for 2018  
In 2018 our General Council meeting will be held at Bangor University on 7 and 8 April. General Council is an important and valuable moment in our year. It elects the trustees, holds them to account, approves the annual report and accounts, provides policy guidance and approves constitutional changes. It is also a precious chance for us to spend time together as one team and share best practice and new ideas. We have set up a dedicated 2018 General Council webpage where General Council members and area chairs and secretaries can find all the information and documents needed ahead of the meeting, including the key dates and deadlines. Registration will open on the 24 January. Please click here for full details.

Don’t Lose Your Way - please volunteer for the new advisory board  
We are pleased to announce that Jack Cornish has just joined the Ramblers as our new Don’t Lose You Way project manager. Over the next 12 months Jack will be looking at how the Ramblers can support the vitally important work of ensuring that historic rights of way are reflected on the definitive map before the 2026 cut-off date. At the heart of restoring lost rights of way is the work of volunteers across the country, undertaking historical research and walking potential routes. Jack will be scoping out what support volunteers and local groups need, with a focus on; information sharing and coordination, facilitating access to key archives, additional guidance to support research, and looking to establish a consensus on the prioritisation of paths to be made the subject of research and definitive map modification order applications. Jack is establishing an advisory board of enthusiastic Ramblers members to inform the project. If you are interested in joining this group or would simply like to know more about Don’t Lose Your Way please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhoods - please let us know if your local area fits the bill
As you know, we are committed to producing regular, high impact, campaigning activity in support of our cause. Our next piece of campaigning activity, which will run across the January to March period next year, will raise awareness of how the Ramblers aim to make walking in towns and cities the easy option. As part of this campaign activity we will be launching our first “Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood Awards”, to showcase places across England, Scotland and Wales, where people can walk easily and enjoyably in their daily lives - whether to the shops, to work, to school or to take the dog out. We will be looking to celebrate neighbourhoods with well-connected networks of walking routes, accessible natural green spaces and well-designed built infrastructure. Please fill in this short nomination form and send to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 2 January if you think your neighbourhood is great for everyday walking.
 
Volunteer awards - please let us know who you think should receive an award  
Whether looking after paths and green spaces, leading walks or opening up new places to explore, the Ramblers is a volunteer led organisation and we simply could not do what we do without you - our 26,000 dedicated volunteers - giving your time and expertise so freely. You make a huge difference to the lives of your fellow walkers and to walkers’ rights and freedoms, every day. Our national volunteer awards recognise individual volunteers - and groups of volunteers - who have made outstanding contributions to the Ramblers. You can find out more about the volunteers shortlisted for the 2018 awards and tell us who you think should receive an award by going to our awards page and to cast your vote. 
   
Telscombe path and Warminster bridleway - please join us in celebrating these great successes  
On the gloriously bright and clear 30 November, 50 local people - including a good few Sussex Ramblers - turned out to celebrate the opening of a beautiful off-road path on the cliffs at Telscombe, near Brighton, East Sussex. 47 years ago, the Brighton Sewerage Board (BSB) blew up the cliff, to build a new works at sea-level, and footpath 12a went with it, despite no order being in place to locate it somewhere else. Until now, the cliff-path’s many users - including locals who walk the cliffs daily - have had to divert away from the maritime views and use the heavily trafficked coast road, on the narrowest of footways, for more than half a mile. A grassy compound had room for a path, but the BSB’s successor, Southern Water, said they would object to any attempt to create a path through their land.

In recent years local Ramblers have stepped up their campaign for a new path. Assisted by staff, they have lobbied councillors, arranged photoshoots and - working with Telscombe Town Council and the South Downs Society - obtained good media coverage. Meanwhile, the Ramblers’ lawyers negotiated with Southern Water to ease the passage of the order which would divert the missing path through the grassy compound close to the cliffs. As a result, when East Sussex County Council made the necessary order, nobody objected. Gates are now fitted in the security fence; the notices read ‘Public Footpath’ instead of ‘Keep Out’ and on 30 November the mayor of Telscombe cut the ribbon to open the path, after which all comers repaired to Telscombe Civic Centre for an excellent lunch. This is a terrific example of the extraordinary tenacity and resilience of Ramblers volunteers and of some great teamwork with Ramblers staff, local authorities and other like-minded bodies, to bring significant, lasting benefit to local communities. For further information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In another encouraging piece of news this month, the West Wiltshire Ramblers have successfully secured a new permissive bridleway near Warminster. The group raised the issue of a dangerous junction (where visibility was limited for walkers) with Wessex Water and the Wiltshire and Swindon Countryside Access Forum. Wessex Water then agreed to put in the new path to resolve this issue - a great result for the Ramblers. Sincere thanks go to Brian Micklam, footpath officer of the West Wiltshire Ramblers group, for working on this project over the past three years. If you have any other similar success stories you’d like to share with fellow volunteers and staff, please let us know by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Festival of Winter Walks - please look out for the survey in January, to help us capture learning  
As referenced in my November newsletter, I hope that the festival toolkit has helped you to promote your festival activities this year. I also hope that you were also able to pick up a copy of our supplement in the i on 2 December. If you’re a regular reader of the i please keep a look out for the Ramblers press ads this month, as we will continue to promote the festival throughout the Christmas period. This year, thanks to the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we have also been able to produce a short promotional film to support the festival, which you can watch here.

As also mentioned in my November newsletter, if would be great if you have time to complete the festival survey when it is circulated in January. This will help us to capture learning and to tell our story to the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery and to other future partners and funders. If you have any questions please get in touch with our festivals programme manager This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Thank you to everyone who is running festival walks and activities this year.
 
Countryside secretaries and walking environment officers – gentle reminder to please fill in our survey  
As previewed in my October newsletter, we have now contacted our countryside secretaries and walking environment officers and asked you to give us your views on your role via a short survey. Many thanks to everyone who has already passed this message on for us. In the past few days, we’ve sent out a little reminder to anyone who hasn’t yet filled in the survey to say that it will remain open until the end of December. If there are any further volunteers in your area who are working on countryside protection issues, and who we may not have been able to contact yet, we’d be grateful if you could pass this message on for us. In particular, if you know of any countryside protection volunteers who don’t receive emails from us but would like to receive a copy of the survey by post, please let Alison know via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Group Walks and Events Manager - thank you for your patience, we believe the issues are now resolved
As I flagged in the November newsletter, we have just made some small updates to the contact system on the Group Walks and Events Manager (GWEM).  As some of you will be aware, these updates have resulted in some technical glitches over the last few weeks. If you experienced problems, we are very sorry for the inconvenience and wanted to thank you for your patience as we worked to resolve them. Our testing, and your feedback, suggests that the issues have now been resolved. However, if you encounter any further problems please get in touch via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Ramblers Scotland - please book your place for Scottish council
This year Scottish council will be held on 10 and 11 March in Aberdeen, at the beautiful Doubletree by Hilton Aberdeen Treetops hotel. We had a great event in Dunblane last year, and are excited about another fun weekend of walks, talks, workshops, elections and socialising with members from across Scotland – plus the Dick Balharry Memorial Lecture, featuring our president Ben Dolphin. Scottish council is the annual opportunity for Scottish members to review our work and to hear about new initiatives. You could even stand for election to Scottish council executive committee, which plays a vital role in guiding our work. We're particularly keen to hear from anyone with skills in marketing, fundraising or public health this year. For more details, click here.

Ramblers Cymru - please book your place at Welsh council and register interest in networking sessions  
Welsh council will be held on 3 and 4 March 2018 in Gregynog. Saturday activities will include walks, training, talks and networking, so will be enjoyable and useful for all members. You should by now have received an invitation, and each group can nominate one person, who is eligible to vote, for attendance. If any additional members would like to attend, there will be a cost of £30 (either to be paid by the individual or the group). Please click here to book. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information about Welsh council and the area and publicity networking events outlined below.

Whether you are new to your role or have been in post for several years, Welsh area chairs and secretaries are warmly invited to attend a Ramblers Cymru area networking day in Cardiff. This is an opportunity to meet the staff team and network with your fellow volunteers from across Wales. The day will provide you with an overview of the mutual support available to you and a chance to discuss issues and opportunities with your peers. If you would like to register interest, please complete the doodle-poll with your availability and invitations will follow.

In the New Year we are also launching a networking group for publicity officers across Ramblers Cymru. This group is open to anyone interested in publicity and marketing including web editors and membership secretaries. We plan to hold these meetings quarterly, to provide an opportunity for you to meet with your peers, share achievements and issues and engage in training activities. The first meeting will take place on 30 January in Llandrindod Wells. Please register interest with Catherine by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Instructions for volunteers who would like to receive this newsletter - please follow the steps below
If you are aware of volunteers who are not currently receiving this email, this will be because the Ramblers does not have a current valid email addresses for them on our central system and/or because the Ramblers does not have them registered in volunteer roles. If any of these volunteers would like to receive this email in future, please can you let them know that they will need to:
1.    Ensure they have registered their email address on the Ramblers website here.
2.    Ensure they have registered on the central system as a Ramblers volunteer. To do so, they will need to email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with their membership number (if applicable), details of the role/activities they carry out for the Ramblers, and details about whether they volunteer at group or area level.

Do also ensure your area or group committee send in the Changes to volunteer officers form following their AGM with a full listing of your volunteers.

If you are having any issues with any of the above please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Friday, January 19, 2018