20 June 2017
Phone: 020 7339 8578
General election – please invite your MP to take a walk with your area
Thank you to everyone who wrote to their candidates during the general election to call for a walking Britain. We had a good response to the campaign, with our supporters reaching candidates in almost 90% of constituencies. The positive responses from candidates have been streaming in as well, and we now have a good list of MPs who may champion our cause in Parliament. We will be reaching out to them in order to help build a walking Britain.
Understandably, there is uncertainty around Westminster at the moment. The government will soon start making decisions about the future of agricultural policy, the England Coast Path, our urban walking environments and the role of walking in improving our mental and physical health. Building relationships with MPs is vital for us to make sure that the potential changes are implemented in a way that is as advantageous as possible for our members and for Britain’s 9 million walkers.
MPs can be great advocates for walkers within their constituencies and regularly use their influence to support ramblers when campaigning on local footpath issues. For example, as I mentioned in my May newsletter, in a recent public inquiry concerning the closure of a footpath at Harrow School, the local MP appeared alongside the Ramblers to argue the case for the path to stay open and helped us to achieve such a tremendous result.
General Council (GC) 2017 – an update on motions and draft council minutes
At the board meeting in May, the trustees reviewed the motions from GC2017 and agreed next steps. I’m pleased to say there has been quite a lot of progress already. We’ve made the Brexit motion from Somerset and Cornwall the centre-piece of our general election campaign and, as outlined in the item above, we will continue to work with new parliamentarians and other stakeholders to ensure access is a key component in any new agricultural subsidy system. Please do look out for a complementary feature on access in the autumn issue of walk magazine.
We will also pick up the issue of ploughing and cropping as part of this access work. Last week, our policy staff met with Natural England to discuss the future role of the Rural Payments Agency. In terms of support for areas, and our Don’t Lose Your Way campaign, as I mentioned in this newsletter last month, we are currently recruiting our new area support manager and we are also seeking to recruit a Don’t Lose Your Way project manager over the next couple of months. With regards to shared use, we have recently met with both Living Streets and Sustrans and have scheduled a meeting in mid-July for the group of volunteers who will work with staff and the trustees to develop new guidance on shared use, which will then go out for wider consultation.
Our new governance manager, Simon Kellas, will be joining us from the Institute of Physics in July. Simon will be working with the policy team to ensure that we continue to update you on our progress on GC2017 motions over the coming year. I am also pleased to be able to share the draft minutes for GC2017 with you here. These minutes will be approved at General Council 2018. I know that last year these draft minutes were not circulated until very close to GC2017 and that this was a source of frustration for some of you. I hope the early circulation this year demonstrates to you that we are committed to ensuring that we improve communication between council members, staff and trustees over the coming year.
I am also aware that the board had an outstanding action with respect to motion (4), which the Surrey area put forward at GC2016. The trustees have now revisited this action and reached a conclusion which I thought was important to share with you. As some of you will already be aware, this motion required the board to report on the options relating to the previous governance review by September 2017. Progress on this motion was raised again at GC2017 and I confirmed at council that I had been instructed by the board to review this matter and to provide an update to the trustees at their May board. In this board meeting, it was agreed that the previous governance review is now closed and that no new report is to be commissioned by the board at the current time.
Our new governance manager will work with myself and with the board over the coming nine months to review external best practice in terms of charity governance membership and report back to the trustees at their board meeting in May 2018 on any key findings. I hope this outcome is satisfactory and that it will bring to a close a few turbulent years in our governance and enable us all to focus on moving forward together as one team, to ensure the Ramblers continues to thrive for the next 85 years and is able to fulfil our valuable mission.
Development opportunity – update on area induction and opportunity to register interest
Our president – how to make contact with him if you would like him to attend an event
As you know, Stuart Maconie was elected as our president at this year’s General Council. We’re really pleased to have his support and he’s already helping to spread the word about the important work that the Ramblers does. We are keen to make the most of Stuart’s presidency and to maximise the impact he can have for the Ramblers. As you can imagine, he is in great demand already and although he is very willing to help, he does have limited availability and therefore we need to carefully coordinate requests for his time to ensure we don’t collectively overwhelm him with invitations.
Walking for Health – please volunteer to help us to shape the future of this programme
As you will be aware from previous updates in these newsletters, the exclusive partnership agreement between Macmillan Cancer Support and the Ramblers for funding of the Walking for Health programme has come up for review and will end in March 2018. We are currently exploring future funding options, and are taking the opportunity to review how we work in partnership with others to deliver Walking for Health, and how we deliver the outcomes we want to achieve.
Local organisers – training for new campaigners and a further chance to volunteer
It is fantastic that 25 walkers from across the country have already signed up to be part of our new volunteer local organiser network. We are holding the first training session on 21 June. If there is someone signed up in your area, we will be in touch soon to let you know and to talk about how you would like to work with them.
Two area success stories - in Yorkshire and in Cornwall
Residents whose large gardens back onto an urban footpath in Goole, Humberside, persuaded East Riding of Yorkshire Council to make an order to extinguish a 224-metre strategic footpath between estate roads. The path is well-used and a good short cut, away from the noise and fumes of roads, but the adjacent residents said that anti-social behaviour occurred on the path so it should be shut, and East Riding of Yorkshire Council agreed, and made the order, despite the legitimate use.
Some people objected to the order. Amongst the objectors were Tony Corrigan, footpath secretary and Mike Jackson, his predecessor as footpath secretary, Ramblers East Yorkshire and Derwent area. Alan Kind of the Byway and Bridleway Trust objected too. They pointed out that if the path were lit and better-maintained, instead of partially obstructed, it would be used more, and there could be less of the alleged misconduct. They also pointed out that other statutory tools, e.g., night-time gating, were available and should be tried first.
The Inspector agreed with the Ramblers that there was no case for extinguishing the path and the criteria in section 118 of the Highways Act 1980 were not met, so on 4 May 2017 she declined to confirm the order following a site visit and on hearing the Ramblers’ representations.
In another success story, on 18 May, Planning Inspector Susan Doran confirmed an order made by Cornwall Council to add 32 metres of bridleway to the definitive map and upgrade 65 metres of footpath to bridleway status, making the route usable by cyclists as well as walkers. These may be only short lengths, but they are strategically important as they close an existing gap in the network. The result is that bridleway number 2 Cardinham now connects with footpath number 1 Cardinham, so walkers can turn off there if they like; meanwhile riders and cyclists can continue on the upgraded stretch to connect with a byway-type unclassified road, the U6139. It is a great result for horse riders, cyclists and walkers, thanks to the Cornwall Ramblers’ support of the order.
Ramblers Roadshows – a chance to book your free place at one of the remaining events
In partnership with Ramblers Walking Holidays and local area volunteers, the 2017 roadshows are a great opportunity to get the most out of your Ramblers membership. You can sign up for walking skills sessions and volunteer support workshops and meet other members, walking experts and specialist partners. The roadshows have received terrific feedback and there are still places available at our events in Swansea, Edinburgh and Kendal. You can find out dates and details and book your free place here.
Ramblers Cymru – update on the Rights of Way group and introduction to new staff
The Rights of Way and Access group in Wales reached its first anniversary this month, having been revived last year to bring together some of our most experienced members. The group holds deep knowledge to help inform and tackle footpath and access issues at a national level. The group is currently focusing its attention on a number of important issues including the case for the Wales Coast Path becoming a National Trail; how Ramblers groups are consulted on planning applications; and how the Welsh Government can be urged to bring forward its overdue legislative proposals for improved access. At a local level, members of the Rights of Way group continue to make a real difference, most recently securing another success at a public inquiry objecting to the downgrading of a bridleway near the village of Abercarn in South Wales.
The Ramblers Cymru staff team is now up to strength with three new staff members joining in June: Catherine Morgan, area support and administration officer; Amber Powell, people and walking officer; and Amanda Hill, walking spaces officer. Kate Marshall has moved to her new post as communications and engagement officer. It is an exciting time, with lots of new energy and enthusiasm for helping deliver our ten year vision in Wales. If you are attending the national roadshow in Swansea on 24 June, some of the team will be there, so please do go and say hello.
Ramblers Scotland – opportunity for potential area training coordinators
Disputes and complaints – corrected contact details for those seeking advice