Welcome to Essex Area Ramblers
Essex Village signs
General Council, Bangor, 2018.
As this was the first time I have attended the General Council many of the proceedings and people were new to me. I was mainly in listening mode although I did raise concerns with the Finance Controller regarding the approach to, and communications on, setting budgets and allocations.
It is estimated there are about 9 million regular walkers in the UK, however over the past few years the Ramblers membership has been in gentle decline and now stands at 105000. This brings into stark focus the question - why is this happening? - and more importantly - how should it be addressed?
Ramblers promotes the health and economic benefits of walking and will continue to undertake activities such as footpath maintenance, creating national trails, walk programmes and campaigning to protect the public rights of way. These are vital activities; however it is clear this is not sufficient – we need to do more to stay relevant in today's society. We need to look outwards as well as inwards. There were regular references regarding the need for improved communication across the organisation. Something which we are familiar with.
Overall I found it an informative and useful couple of days. The attendees were positive, knowledgeable and helpful. It is fair to say I have a better insight into Ramblers – and – more to reflect on.
By courtesy of Area Council I have represented Essex at the last 4 Ramblers General Councils.
This year we had presentations on the Data Transformation Project, needing to increase the membership, our working arrangements with People Postcode Lottery, how we need to adjust to the changing walking environment, the reasons to appoint a fundraising manager and how the repayment of the pension deficit has been made.
The level of debate on the motions put forward, like for our own last year, and was high, informed, balanced and non-destructive. During the years when Governance was being discussed, it was angry, strident in tone, unpleasant in content and very negative.
I came away uplifted by the fact the organisation was now facing and not ignoring the future, it was listening to its members, it was heading in a forward direction and that it was in the right hands.
To many members General Council, The Board of Trustees and Central Office are not important. That in its self says much about the past. The next few years will demonstrate how their vision affects our organisation and why our involvement and voice must not be hidden.