Essex Area Ramblers

At the heart of walking in Essex

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

24 May 2018

I hope you have been enjoying this wonderful walking weather. I have been able to lace up my boots regularly over the last month, including a fantastic day with Margaret Manning, chair of Greater Manchester and High Peak area, and representatives of local groups. We had a terrific walk on the beautiful, new 50 mile Salford Trail. As ever, I found the most valuable part of the day was having time and space to exchange perspectives, to try and walk in each other’s shoes, and to share our understanding about what is happening in different parts of our organisation, so that we can continue to work well together to help everyone to enjoy the outdoors on foot.   
Shared learning, listening and mutual understanding were also to the fore at an excellent Welsh council at Gregynog Hall in Powys. Gregynog is a historic Welsh arts and conference centre, set in a stunning landscape. It hosts a famous music event each summer and, appropriately, the weekend had something of a festival feel, with much laughter and singing and a great twmpath (barn dance) on Saturday night. There was an exciting sense of progress in the air. Two new committee members were elected and the marvellous Will Renwick @WillWalksWales - the youngest person to walk the Wales Coast Path and Offa’s Dyke - was appointed as the new Ramblers Cymru president. This month’s newsletter video was recorded at the council.
I also spent time this month meeting more of our partners, including an inspiring invitation to join the Campaign To Protect Rural England (CPRE) board away-day in The National Forest outside Burton upon Trent. Established in 1995 as a brilliantly ambitious scheme to regenerate an ex-coalfields area, the forest now covers 200 square miles across Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire. With 22 circular walks and a 75 mile trail it is already a walker’s paradise. I have also continued to meet with our active travel partners: Living Streets, Sustrans, British Cycling, Cycling UK and the Bicycle Association. Together we are now developing an ambitious shared vision to make walking and cycling the natural choice for short journeys.
Back in the office, I have joined a busy and exciting round of valuable meetings. Our board mission and finance sub-committees have both met, in advance of our quarterly board meeting which takes place this week. We also ran an induction session to welcome our new trustees. And we held our quarterly business plan meeting, at which staff review progress against our business plan, prior to updating the board on our performance. I always find these kinds of regular meetings a great way to take stock of where we are and to see more clearly what is coming over the hill and what we need to do next, to ensure we remain focused on our most important priorities and are able to support each other in delivering them.
The need to remain united and supportive of each other is particularly true at the moment in terms of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). As we all know, the new regulations come into force across the UK this week. Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard and well to prepare for it. We have provided guidance to ensure we are ready for GDPR, but the new legislation is complex and best practice is not yet clear. As such, we have committed to continuously seeking your feedback and evolving the guidance where necessary. We have heard some valuable concerns over the last few weeks and, as a result, we have re-clarified some of the existing guidance and amended one area of the guidance with immediate effect - as outlined in this newsletter below.
This month’s newsletter also includes a sincere thank you for your active engagement with this year’s Walk About festival, which starts this weekend. There are updates on key initiatives such as Don’t Lose Your Way, the Suffolk Network Rail inquiry, countryside protection work and our Agriculture Bill and Paving the Way campaigns. There is also exciting news from our data and digital transformation and membership teams who have been working together to include QR codes on membership cards. And there is some great news on rights of way, which I encourage us all to take a moment to celebrate…

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

VIDEO: May 2018 - Welsh council:
NB. If the video isn’t appearing on your screen, please make sure you download the pictures as part of this email. Alternatively, you can watch the video here.

Walk About festival - thank you for all you have done to make it happen
Walk About will run from 26 May to 3 June. We want to say a huge thank you for all the work you’ve done to make it better than ever. This includes helping find ‘hidden gems’ on the walks you are organising.  We’ve used some of these gems as part of a digital marketing campaign, as well as in wider publicity, to encourage people to take part in Walk About and join the Ramblers. It’s not too late to use the festivals toolkit to promote your walks in the local press or via social media. If you have any questions about Walk About please contact James, George and Becky in the delivery team via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
View the festivals toolkit ►

Don’t Lose Your Way - please note the update on this exciting project

This important project, which is looking at how we support volunteers working on restoring historic rights of way, is now in full swing. During 2018 the project will be scoping the additional resources needed to ensure that we make the most of this one-time opportunity to correct the definitive map before 2026. We are looking at improving and enhancing our guidance and training, recruiting more volunteers, getting greater access to archive material and identifying any required IT solutions.

The project’s volunteer advisory board is helping to ensure that we deliver real tangible benefits for those volunteering on Don’t Lose Your Way. To find out more about the project and the work of the volunteer advisory board, please visit the website or contact our Don't Lose Your Way project manager, Jack Cornish, via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Take a look at the Don't Lose Your Way web pages ►

Data and digital transformation - please note the new QR codes on membership cards 

As we reported last month, our new Ramblers insight hub (intelligence centre) is now being tested by a group of around 60 volunteers and staff. It currently features two useful pilot dashboards which cover Pathwatch issues and led walk participants respectively. We are now working on a volunteer dashboard and the hub is still on schedule to be rolled-out across the organisation by the end of the year. It is exciting to be able to see real data about our organisation and our work and we are looking forward to making the hub available to our wider staff and volunteer community after the testing period.

We are now including QR codes on membership cards for the first time, so that, in due course, our walk leaders can start registering who is participating in our group walks. Registration will be done through the new walker registration app (version 1) which is in development and is being piloted over the summer in Essex, Wiltshire and across Scotland. In the future, anyone renewing their membership will receive a fantastic new card with a QR code. If you have any questions about QR codes, please contact our membership team via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you have any questions about the data and digital transformation programme more widely, please contact our data transformation director, Laura Scarlett, via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
GDPR - please read the updated guidance and respond to the re-consent email

We started to work together on GDPR readiness in November last year when we shared the Ramblers data protection policy and some initial information about GDPR with you and asked you to start to prepare by doing some data housekeeping and identifying what personal data your group or area currently manages. In March, as promised, we issued new guidance in the GDPR toolkit and let you know that we had hired a data protection officer to work with you, to listen to your feedback and to support you to manage data in accordance with the new regulations over the coming months and years.
Throughout this process, we have committed to listening to your feedback and to updating you regularly. Since March we have made terrific progress together to put in place all the necessary procedures and policies to ensure that the Ramblers is ready for GDPR. Your responses are helping us to refine and evolve our guidelines and procedures, especially in the many “grey areas” within the new regulations, to ensure that our guidelines meet our needs across our organisation - at group, area and national level - and keep our charity operating within the law.  As a result of your helpful input, we have now issued this update.
This update has already been sent to area and group chairs, secretaries and membership secretaries. It includes further clarification on four areas of the guidance which some of you have sought to understand in more depth, specifically: the re-consenting exercise (which commenced as planned in the middle of May), the retaining of historical archives, gaining media consent for images and photos, the maintaining of local lists and the sharing personal data. This update also includes a change of guidance with regards to the “grey area” of consent around newsletters and walk programmes.
Please can you read this update and respond to the re-consent email as soon as possible if you have not already done so. More information on how consent will be used can be found as part of within the frequently asked questions document (FAQs) in the toolkit. You have our ongoing commitment that we will continue to listen to your feedback and continue to evolve our procedures and guidance as and when necessary, to best meet the needs of the whole organisation and to stay within the law. If you have any further questions, please continue to refer to the toolkit, speak with your membership secretary or get in touch with Felix Wilkey, our data protection officer, via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Suffolk level crossings - please note that our role in this inquiry has now come to an end

The Ramblers’ involvement in the long-drawn-out public inquiry into Network Rail’s proposals to extinguish a large number of pedestrian level crossings in Suffolk has come to an end: we made our closing submissions on Friday 11 May. We are very grateful to several volunteers from Suffolk who testified as to the merits of retaining many of the crossings, and to the inconvenience, loss of amenity and (in some cases) road-danger that they believe would result from the proposed closures. Their task was made particularly challenging by the slow progress of the inquiry: several witnesses could not be called on their assigned day and had to return. Our advocate and rights of way consultant Sue Rumfitt did a brilliant job marshalling our arguments, cross-examining witnesses and making legal submissions. The inquiry is yet to finish, and we await an update on when the Secretary of State for Transport will announce the result. For further information please contact our senior policy officer, Eugene Suggett, via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Agriculture Bill - please let us know if you have examples of best practice to share 
Thank you to everyone who responded to the government’s consultation on the future of food, farming and the environment - almost 13,000 people signed our petition. We have submitted our response and are now awaiting the next step in the government’s proposals. The Agriculture Bill is due to be published in the summer, and we will continue to need your active help in making the case for countryside access. We want the bill to include measures which ensure farmers fulfil their existing legal responsibilities for path maintenance and are rewarded through public payments for increased and improved public access. As part of our campaigning on this issue we would like to shine a light on those farmers and landowners who are already doing great work, who engage with Ramblers members on path maintenance, who go above and beyond in their duties, or who simply never let a path on their land fall into disrepair. If you know of any farmers or landowners who meet these criteria and/or you are interesting in being involved in this campaign, then please do get in touch with our campaigns team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Countryside protection - please get in touch if you would like any support on these matters

Thank you again to all the countryside secretaries, walking environment officers and others who filled in the survey which we shared with you at the end of last year, to tell us how you are finding this role and the accompanying guidance. A number of people volunteered to join a new sounding board, which met in April, and we are now working on updates and ideas for how we can help to support volunteers in this role. In the meantime, if you would like support on any countryside protection matters please contact our policy and advocacy officer, Alison Hallas, via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

You may have seen that Highways England has announced a plan to build a new bypass at Arundel in Sussex, which would cut through ancient woodland, part of the South Downs National Park and the tranquil Arun Valley. We are supporting the view of Sussex Ramblers that this scheme is unsuitable and are joining others, including the Campaign for Better Transport, the Campaign for National Parks and the Woodland Trust, to urge Highways England to rethink their plans.
Rights of way - please note three pieces of good news
Some of our volunteers applying for paths to be recognised as public rights of way have been waiting for decades for councils to investigate the evidence and make decisions on them. We have repeatedly argued that long delays are inconsistent with the Human Rights Act in terms of an individual having his/her civil rights determined “within a reasonable time”.  The Government now appears to have accepted this - last month the Secretary of State for the Environment ordered Staffordshire Council to determine 14 outstanding claims by one of our volunteers - some of them over 21 years old.  In making this direction, the Inspector cited the human rights legislation, confirming our view that such long delays are unlawful.

On 3 May an Inspector confirmed an order adding 1,130 metres of public right of way to the definitive map at Tregony in Cornwall.  It was not the Ramblers who applied for the order, but Cornwall Ramblers volunteers appeared at the public inquiry and spoke in support. The claim was based on a combination of old documentary evidence and evidence of modern use.  The Ramblers contended that the existence of vehicular rights was demonstrated by an ancient map of 1749 and that other maps also showed the way’s public status. The Inspector agreed, and confirmed the order, preserving a useful right of way in a beautiful ancient holloway, connect an outlying hamlet, Reskivers, with the village of Tregony.

On 4 May, lawyers for the Secretary of State for the Environment agreed with us that in rejecting the Ramblers’ assertion that a 1½ mile footpath at Chevington, Suffolk is a public footpath, an Inspector had made the wrong decision. Long-standing volunteer John Andrews had applied for the path to be recognised on the strength of documentary evidence including an inclosure award and tithe map, but the Inspector found its weight insufficient. Staff took counsel’s opinion and in response to our pre-action letter, the Secretary of State agreed that the decision should be quashed and the matter redetermined. For further information on these rights of way cases please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Paving the Way - please continue to share the Charter
Last week we presented Hastings with our first ever Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood Award. Congratulations to Anthony Slack who nominated Hastings and to all the other volunteers who helped their winning campaign. If you think that your neighbourhood deserves to win in future, then please get your nomination in for 2019, it is never too early to start. Thank you also to all those of you who contacted your council candidates ahead of the local elections across England earlier this month – over 50 councillors have already signed up, with those in Manchester and Salford leading the way.

Helping to create and support walkable towns and cities is an important priority for the Ramblers and we will continue to press our case. Please do get in touch with your councillors to share the Charter if you haven’t already done so. You can download it here and you can find out who represents you here. Please get in touch with our campaigns team via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any further thoughts or questions on this subject.
View and share the Charter ►

Contacting the chair of the board of trustees - please note the chair’s email address
As we reported in this newsletter last month, Kate Ashbrook was elected as the Ramblers new chair at general council in April. Many of you already know Kate as a campaigner who believes fervently that the Ramblers must publicise its excellent work and celebrate its achievements whilst explaining to the public the challenges that we still face to enable everyone to enjoy walking. Kate’s knowledge of the Ramblers is extensive – she was previously a trustee for 30 years (1982-2012), twice chair, president from 2012-2016 and now a vice-president, having served last year as vice-chair. Kate is also general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, trustee of the Campaign for National Parks and patron of the Walkers are Welcome towns network.

If you would like to get in touch with Kate you can do so via email on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and you can also follow Kate on her blog heree.
Ramblers Shop - please make use of a fantastic offer
This month we have a fantastic offer for all Ramblers volunteers - for a limited time only you can save up to 50% on t-shirts, water bottles, rucksack covers and other Ramblers products in our biggest-ever sale. Ordering is quick and easy, just visit the shop and you can start the summer season with some brand new Ramblers kit. Importantly, every purchase you make will help to fund our charitable work to improve walkers' rights and protect the places in which we all love to go walking.  Please note that you will need to hurry – as this sale ends on 10 June. If you have any questions or feedback, please contact our membership marketing officer, Mariusz Wilczynski, via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Go to the Ramblers online shop ►

Ramblers Scotland - thank you to all those who made the annual Gathering a success
More than 100 walkers enjoyed a packed weekend of chatty walks, interesting trails and fun social events at Ramblers Scotland’s annual Gathering festival, held in Perth in early May. Well done to all the volunteers who made it another successful Gathering: it is 38 years since the event began!  We’re also very grateful to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for their support this year.  You can see some photos from the event here. Next year the Gathering will go to the Scottish Borders, with more details to follow nearer the time.


Essex Area Update