Essex Area Ramblers

At the heart of walking in Essex

 

24 November 2017

I love Autumn. I enjoy the heaviness of fresh mud on my boots and admiring the Holly, Hawthorn and White Bryony berries in the hedgerows. I have been lucky enough to enjoy some wonderful walks with fellow Ramblers since I last wrote to you. I spent a marvellous day in the Eastern Peak District with Jez Kenyon (area chair of South Yorkshire and North East Derbyshire Ramblers), the Sheffield 40s and other groups. We climbed the gritstone outcrops and swayed our way across Burbage Brook on a rope swing. The views were magnificent and the company equally so.

I had a similarly stimulating time when I joined Mike Church (trustee and area chair of West Riding Ramblers) at his area council and accompanied the Take a Hike group on a wonderful woodland and canal walk around Calverley. I learnt a great deal from both areas - about what is working well and what is not working so well - and I am grateful to everyone who joined us and shared their insights. In Sheffield and Leeds we discussed how we are keen to continue to enhance communication across the Ramblers. Both areas think our collective dialogue is improving but we all agree that there is more to do. The communication group which I established earlier this year has now developed a full understanding of our opportunities in this regard and I have included an update on this topic in this newsletter.

This monthly newsletter is one of the ways in which we have been starting to improve our collective conversation. It is a blunt instrument, but we need to start somewhere! Encouragingly, I have received lots of positive feedback about how helpful it has been to many of you over the last eleven months. During this time it has also become clear that some areas are unable to cascade it. In parallel, we have also been preparing for the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) requirements which come into force next May. A full update on GDPR is included later in this newsletter. As a result, from next month I will send this newsletter direct to active volunteers with email addresses rather than asking areas to continue to cascade it, until we are able to provide more specific and targeted local and national communication tools.

Sending this newsletter directly to recipients in future will ensure that all individual mailing preferences are respected and prevent any accidental un-subscription. It will also help the Ramblers to gain valuable intelligence about supporters’ engagement levels e.g. what platform this newsletter is viewed on and whether it is opened. We are now developing an exciting new data transformation programme which you can read more about in this newsletter - which will expose this kind of valuable intelligence more fully. By sending this newsletter directly to recipients in future, we can pool this intelligence and build a national picture, which will help us to improve communication and start to reverse our longstanding membership decline through better understanding and targeting of our supporters.  

Other news this month includes a fantastic announcement about our partnership with the People’s Postcode Lottery (PPL). We are delighted to have been invited to join a small number of top flight charities (such as Amnesty, UNICEF, Water Aid and WWF) in operating our own society lottery. This lottery is promoted and managed by PPL and we will have our own draws in their draw calendar. It will provide significant new income for the Ramblers to utilise to help everyone to enjoy the outdoors on foot. As well as information about PPL, I have also included a link to our new business plan in this newsletter, as approved by the trustees in their last board meeting. And it would be great if you have time to join in our conversation about the future of access, through signing the petition and completing the survey.

In staff news this month, Christine Grant, our Director of Services, will be moving on at the end of February, to take up her dream job as Director of Finance and Professional Services at Girlguiding UK. Some of you have worked closely with Christine over the past five years, and I know that you will want to join us in thanking her for her great service to the organisation and wishing her the very best of luck in her new adventure. And finally, I have promised myself I will not mention Ch….mas until December, but I know that many of you are currently preparing for our wonderful Festival of Winter Walks. I hope the refreshed toolkit linked to this newsletter will help you to publicise your festival activities and please do look out for our “i” newspaper supplement on Saturday 2 December…

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

New business plan - please let me know if you have any feedback  

As promised in my October newsletter, our new business plan is now available in the members’ log-in area of the Rambler website and can be found here. This plan has been developed over the past year, with input from staff, trustees and volunteers. It is a concise document which includes five development priorities: improving our infrastructure, gaining insight about our supporters’ needs, developing a regular cycle of high profile campaigns, increasing mutual support for volunteers and generating diverse income streams which have membership at their heart. It is a rolling three year plan (previous plans were annual). And we also intend to develop clear and simple Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) over the coming year, in line with our charitable objectives and strategic framework. If you have any feedback on the plan please send it to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

New General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) - please start to prepare…

In May 2018 GDPR introduces new requirements for all organisations that manage personal data. This involves more stringent requirements around obtaining consent to contact people. We need to ensure that volunteers and staff alike are complying with the legislation. Over the coming months we’ll be introducing and sharing new procedures, guidance and support on what you need to do to prepare for the new laws. If you collect or process any personal data as part of your volunteer role in the Ramblers, now is a good time to take a look at our data protection policy to make sure you’re fully up to date before the new GDPR guidance is rolled out. The policy can be found here.

If you’d like to read more about GDPR, we liked this article. The ICO also has a good guidance document, which can be found here. Please can you start to get prepared by:
1.    Discussing how you manage personal data within your area/group.
2.    Making a list of what personal data you currently collect and why you collect it.
3.    Documenting who is currently responsible for updating and deleting the personal data you collect.
4.    If you have a website, review online privacy policies and check they match what happens in practice.
5.    Make sure your area/group does not collect or store any personal data relating to children.
6.    Do some data housekeeping: delete any personal data you currently hold which is no longer required.
Please also remember that membership data may only be used for the following purposes:
•    Managing membership status and subscriptions.
•    Providing effective and appropriate membership services.
•    Communicating with members with regard to organisational issues.
•    Undertaking research e.g. to ensure services and benefits are tailored to members’ needs.
•    Promoting Ramblers’ events and campaigns.
•    For Ramblers groups to arrange holidays with group members.
If you have any specific questions please contact Paul Strong at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Data transformation - please let us know if you would like to help us with this work  

Over the last decade, we have fallen behind in our data management capabilities. This puts us at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to insight about our supporters, the benefits they receive from the Ramblers and intelligence around how we are managing our core paths and access aims. The current lack of accurate, accessible intelligence affects our organisation from top to bottom and gives us challenges in both organisational communication and delivery. For this reason, we have now embarked on an exciting new programme of data transformation. This is a strategic programme of work which will change both the way we manage data and our ability to communicate. It will include technology of course, but equally importantly, it will drive – and it will require - behavioural change. Currently we are putting together a short list of area and group volunteers to get involved with this programme. If you have the time and the appetite to input and help us to get this right, please contact Laura Scarlett at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. who will also provide you with progress updates every month.

Communications group update - please let us know if you would like to be kept informed

When I first joined the organisation a little under a year ago, everyone – staff, volunteers and members alike – told me that communication is our biggest issue. This point was reinforced by the comprehensive volunteer area and group infrastructure survey which many of you contributed to last year. This survey showed that our ability to communicate with members by email was widely emphasised as the most pressing need for future development (followed by associated improvements to systems for managing member information). 74% of groups and areas said improved member communications would be helpful. I set up a communications working group of staff and volunteers in May of this year to start to address these issues and to help us to improve our collective dialogue in the future.

The communications group has spent the last six months exploring the issues and has realised that poor communication is actually a symptom of other issues across our organisation. As a result, we have now agreed to focus the work of this group over the next three years on:
•    transforming our data management capabilities (as outlined above)
•    gaining much better insight into the needs of our volunteers, members and supporters
•    re-engineering our planning processes, which are currently too complex and drawn out in some parts of the organisation, and too simplistic and short-term in others
•    improving staff dialogue with, and across, our key volunteer functions/networks, from walk leadership through to path maintenance and everything in between!
We are making good progress, but we will all need to manage our expectations and acknowledge that improving communication across our organisation will take time to achieve. If you are interested in this work and would like to be kept informed of progress, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

People’s Postcode Lottery - the Ramblers are now operating our own society lottery

Since 2016, players of People’s Postcode Lottery have raised a fantastic £700,000 for walkers. Their amazing support is helping us to create happier, healthier communities, by inspiring more people to take up walking and by helping to protect the places we all love to walk. Last year, players supported the creation and delivery of Walk About, our summer walking festival and an amazing 24,500 people joined a group walk.

This year players have supported the Ramblers Cymru Big Welsh Walk which encouraged walkers to challenge themselves and conquer the legendary landscape of Ceredigion. Next month, players support will help to get more people out walking during our upcoming Festival of Winter Walks. You can find out more about the Festival in an associated item within this newsletter.

Players support will also help us to deliver our summer walking festival in 2018. This will ensure that even more people will have the opportunity to experience the benefits of walking and explore the joys of the great outdoors on foot.

We are also delighted to be able to let you know that from this month, the Ramblers now operates our own society lottery, licensed and regulated by the Gambling Commission. This lottery is promoted and managed by People's Postcode Lottery and we will have our own draws in the People’s Postcode Lottery draw calendar. For these draws, when players pay a £10 monthly subscription, the Ramblers receive a minimum of 31%. This means that support from players will be increasing and we look forward to sharing news with you about the activities that players’ will be supporting over the coming months. If there’s anything else you need to know, or you have any questions, please get in touch with Selina at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The future of access - please complete the petition and the survey and share the new guide

Last month in this newsletter we asked you to help us to celebrate 800 years since the Charter of the Forest, a seminal moment in our access journey. Thank you to all of you who shared your woodland walks with us. As you are aware, we are using this anniversary to start a conversation about the future of access and to build a base of supporters to join us in championing improved access to the countryside. As part of this work, we are now working closely with our area access volunteers to help us to gather and review evidence. In any areas where we do not have a known and identified access volunteer, we are making contact with the chair in the first instance to ensure all areas get a chance to feed in.

We promised to share our new petition with you this month. Almost 8,500 people have already signed it and over 2,500 people have completed the accompanying survey. But we still want to reach more people, and in order to do that we need your help in:Asking people to sign our petition to call on the government to increase woodland access.

  1. Asking people to sign our petition to call on the government to increase woodland access.
  2. Asking people to share their views on the future of access by completing our survey.
  3. Helping more people to enjoy their existing rights by sharing our guide to open access

If there’s anything else you need, or you have any questions, please get in touch with the campaigns team This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Festival of Winter Walks - please look out for the toolkit and i newspaper supplement  

As mentioned in the PPL item earlier in this newsletter, promotion of this festival is underway, please look out for an eight page supplement in the “i” newspaper on Saturday 2 December, which is dedicated to the Festival of Winter Walks and celebrates the wonders of winter walking. The festival will also be profiled on the “i” website at the same time, encouraging people to get involved. To help you publicise your festival activity, our festival toolkit has been updated with new resources, including the festival logo, poster template, press release template, and visual identify guidelines. Please take a look and use the resources wherever appropriate when promoting your festival activities.

We are also working with a research partner called Skyblue, to evaluate the impact of the festival. We will be in in touch with group chairs shortly, to ask that walk leaders use walk registers to help us with this research – it would be terrific if you could encourage your groups to use them. In January 2018 we will be sharing a survey, also created by Skyblue, with volunteers. The survey will help us to capture what’s working well and what needs to be developed. It will also help us to tell our story around Festival of Winter Walks to players of the People’s Postcode Lottery and to other potential future partners and funders. If you have any questions, please get in touch with our festivals programme manager at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Don’t Lose Your Way - please note we have appointed a new project manager

We are delighted and grateful that the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust has funded us to be able to appoint a project manager for a year, to scope out what a longer term project would look like. We have now been through an extensive recruitment process and I’m pleased to say we’ve secured an excellent candidate to take up this important post. I’ll be able to share their details with you next month and hope you’ll help with their induction in the areas that this work is taking place. One of the first tasks will also be to set up some sort of volunteer advisory board and again we’ll let you know how this will work and how to participate in due course. If you have any queries, please get in touch with our director of advocacy and engagement at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Network Rail - please note there will be a delay to the public inquiry

On 20 October, during the third day of the month-long inquiry into the proposed closure of many level crossing footpaths in and around Essex, an announcement was made that the inquiry would have to adjourn until 2018. Network Rail, promoter of the closures, had not given statutory notice to some of the owners of the affected land, and the adjournment was necessary to enable this to be done. We have since learned that the inquiry may not be resumed until May 2018. We will obviously keep you posted on any further developments. In the meanwhile, thank you for all your support with our fundraising appeal to help towards our legal fees at the inquiries - we’ve already raised close to £5000 which is amazing!

The Cambridgeshire inquiry starts on 28th November so this appeal is still live and every penny we raise will go towards supporting volunteers at the inquiries. Please share the video and fundraising page with your groups and get in touch with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions.

Shared use (England and Wales) - reminder that consultation closes on 27 November   

Following on from the update in my October newsletter and the follow up email to area chairs and footpath secretaries, the draft shared use advice note is still out for consultation and we have already received some very helpful feedback. The deadline for comments is just after this newsletter is distributed, on Monday 27 November, after which time the consultation feedback will be collated and discussed with the working group of volunteers who have helped draft the document, at a meeting to be held in early December. Once finalised, the advice note will be available online for volunteers and will form the basis for ongoing engagement with organisations representing other users. The draft advice note is available here. If you have any queries please contact Stephen Russell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“Walkable” places  - new report launched with the Local Government Information Unit

As the pressure to deliver more housing increases, we are keen to start a public conversation about the kind of places we want built rather than just the number of houses delivered.

With this aim in mind we’ve teamed up with the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) to publish a new report investigating how local authorities are working with developers to make places more ‘walkable’. We have just held a panel discussion in the Houses of Parliament which attracted local government, developers, planners, MPs and like-minded organisations to discuss the findings of the research and the Ramblers’ new policy on urban walking. For more information visit our website here.

High Ham - please note the update on this case  

Readers of this newsletter may remember that we learned back in August that, despite carefully-argued objections from the Ramblers and others (like the British Horse Society, with whom we were working), the Inspector acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had decided to confirm an order to delete a public right of way at High Ham in Somerset, on the basis that it must have been put on the definitive map by mistake, decades ago. This was unfortunate, as it was a picturesque and strategic route; and it was Ramblers’ volunteer Stan Marriott who had this path registered in the 1950s. We believed that the Inspector had misapplied the law, effectively making us prove the existence of the right of way now when the evidence available in the 1950s was no longer accessible. We sent a letter-before-action to the Government Legal Department asking them to consider whether the Inspector’s approach was correct.

Disappointingly, the Government Legal Department rejected the arguments we made in our pre-action letter. The trustees have therefore reluctantly decided that, in this particular case, the dangers of conceivably losing significantly outweigh the merits of possibly winning, so we’ve decided not to go to the High Court, to avoid the risk of a potential adverse principle being set in the higher courts.  There is still an important point of principle here which needs to be aired in the courts - but this is not the case to do it with. Our volunteer in Somerset, Carl Earl, has worked tirelessly in the matter, but has kindly recognized the reasons for our not taking the matter further. Other organisations (such as the OSS, the BHS and the Byway and Bridleway Trust) have all offered to make a contribution to our taking counsel’s opinion in the matter, and we have accepted these with thanks. For further information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Clipstone, Nottinghamshire - please note that Ramblers have secured a new path  

In a more encouraging development, Nottinghamshire Ramblers, in collaboration with Clipstone parish council, have won a new, strategic path 863 metres long, which, in combination with other paths makes a good circular walk for local residents. Walkers can now step off a bridleway called Clipstone Drive, walk alongside some attractive woodland, Garibaldi Plantation, down to the river Maun, and return a different way through a nature reserve on another bridleway, past a series of ponds, Spa Ponds.

The basis for this path to be recognised was long use by the public, but it was bedevilled by all sorts of legal complications: the land was Crown Land, to which the Highways Acts (under which rights of way are usually proved) do not apply, so we had to rely on the arbitrary rules of ‘common law dedication.’ Nottinghamshire Council rejected the application on that basis, but our volunteers, led by Steve Parkhouse, appealed to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State agreed that there was at least a prima facie case for this, so ordered the council to make an order. The landowner objected to this, so the matter fell to be determined by an Inspector.  To prove ‘common law dedication’ we have to be able to show that for at least some point in time during the period of use, the land was in the possession of somebody with the capacity to dedicate a right of way; and the Forestry Commission - occupiers of the land during most of the material period of public use - appear not to have capacity to dedicate.    

The Inspector was persuaded that in certain circumstances it is possible to infer the dedication even where the land is leased. Such an inference as this is hardly ever drawn. But she found it was possible here: the freeholders lived locally and would have been aware of the long use and they took no action to prevent the use. The Inspector therefore confirmed the order adding the path to the definitive map. For further information about this, or any other legal cases, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Group Walks and Events Manager (GWEM) - please note the system updates this month  

Please note that there will be a small update to the GWEM this month, to improve the contacts system. This is because we have received a significant amount of feedback that contacts are too easy to duplicate and hard to delete. GWEM editors and contributors have been updated about what to expect, what the changes are and what they need to do. There may be some short-term work to tidy up contacts - but this will make contact management much easier in the future. If you have any questions about this update please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Walk leader checklist - please note there will be some delays in order fulfilment  

Thank you to everybody who has ordered hardcopies of the revised checklist and new In case of emergency (ICE) cards. We have had a great response and have had to reorder stock as a result, so some volunteers may be experiencing a delay in receiving your order – we apologise for this and thank you for your patience and understanding. In the meantime you can download printable copies from the Walk Leader toolkit. If you have any questions about your order please get in touch via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Area AGMs - please let us know if you have further support requirements and/or feedback  

We have received a fantastic response from areas in response to our request for support requirements for the area AGMs which are taking place from November 2017 until March 2018. Nine out of ten areas have requested a trustee to join them at their AGM this year. We hope to be able to provide a trustee for almost all AGMs - apart from a few which clash with the board meeting - in which case we will try and ensure a member of staff joins these AGMs instead. We have briefed the trustees and staff joining AGMs on the topics which areas have an expressed an interest in hearing about. We have also asked trustees to fill out a post AGM survey so we can look at how to support AGMs again next year. If you have any comments, suggestions or feedback regarding support for area AGMs this year - or next - please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Area chairs and secretaries induction - please let us know if you would like to attend

If you are an area chair or secretary from a Ramblers England area and new to your role, please join us 7 to 8 February at the Ramblers London (Vauxhall) office for an induction session. The induction will run from mid-afternoon on day one (including an optional walk and dinner) until around four o’clock on day two. If you are a volunteer who is stepping down from an area role, please let your successor know about this opportunity. Area chairs and secretaries who came to past inductions have told us that they found them very useful and would strongly recommend the session to others. They also gave us feedback which we have used to continually improve the induction.

The induction will provide volunteers with the information and support needed to run an area. It offers an overview of our mission, vision, strategy, structure, staffing and systems, so that volunteers can gain a broad understanding of how the whole of the Ramblers works together to deliver our charitable aims. It is primarily intended for volunteers who are new to the role of area chair or secretary. However, if there are free places we may also be able to offer them to volunteers who are considering standing as area chair or secretary at next year’s AGMs and want to find out more before they do so, or to existing areas chairs and secretaries who would value some refresher training. For further information contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For volunteers in Wales, Ramblers Cymru is pleased to announce a new training programme will be rolled out across Wales next year. Training will be offered in subjects from rights of way law, to navigation skills and social media. If you are a new area chair or secretary, or think there is any specific training you feel would be of benefit to you, please get in touch with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

And in Scotland, Ramblers Scotland are planning a further Area Leadership Development Day in Scotland next March and chairs will be contacted in the coming weeks to find out their availability.  

Ramblers Christmas cards and other gifts - please visit our online shop!  

If you’re looking for Christmas cards and gifts this Christmas - look no further. You can visit our online shop to browse for great gift inspiration. You can choose from a selection of Christmas cards and other Ramblers products. Every purchase you make will help to fund our charitable work to improve walkers’ rights and protect the places we all love to walk.

Ramblers Cymru - please note the date for Welsh Council 2018

Welsh Council will take place on 3 - 4 March 2018 at Gregynog Hall in Powys. The first day will include training, talks, walks, social and a Q&A session with members of the Welsh Council Executive Committee. All are welcome to Day 1, which is open to voting and non-voting members. Day 2 will focus on formal AGM business. Details about registration will be communicated shortly. Ramblers Cymru will be seeking new members for the Welsh Council Executive Committee (WCEC) this year and will also be featuring groups and areas with successes to share. If you are interested in standing for WCEC or have any best practice you would like to share please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Ramblers Scotland - update on our Mountains of the Mind initiative  

More than 300 people enjoyed a wonderful evening of inspiring photography and talks in Edinburgh this month, raising £2,000 in the process. Edinburgh Young Walkers (EYW) organised the Mountains in Mind  exhibition to highlight the benefits of walking for mental health and wellbeing. It was made possible thanks to funding won by EYW during a pitch to our Scottish council executive committee during a Dragon’s Den-style contest earlier this year. Ramblers Scotland’s convener Alison Mitchell said: “The amazing response from the Scottish outdoor community highlights the increasing recognition that walking can play a major role in boosting people’s mental health and wellbeing.” All the money raised will go back into a new budget for EYW and other Ramblers groups to develop further exciting initiatives next year – so this lovely event will leave a lasting legacy.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018