Ramblers Volunteer Newsletter. Sent to: all active volunteers who have registered on the Ramblers website.
23 November 2018
I hope you have been enjoying the wonderful Autumn weather. The trees - and the fungi in our local woodland - seem to be putting on a particularly glorious show this year. On a more human scale, Autumn is definitely the season for conferences. Since I last wrote to you I have spent a fair bit of time in meetings, happily all of them on stimulating subjects, and the best of them on foot, walking and talking. One such meeting was a ramble and lunch with some of our Herts and North Middlesex volunteers, covering topics ranging from GDPR to cycling and path protection.
Whilst I am thinking about cycling, I also recently hosted the Department for Transport (DfT)’s Cycling and Walking advisory group meeting in our London office. Our new alliance with other walking and cycling charities seems to be bearing fruit as DfT have now announced that they are going to deliver one of our five coalition “asks”: to review the highway code. Last year 402 pedestrians were killed on the roads (a 5% rise in fatalities), so this review is great news for walkers and you can read more about it in this newsletter.
Continuing the active travel theme, I have also just attended the first meeting of a new London Walking Forum, convened by London’s Walking & Cycling Commissioner. We made a terrific start and agreed some tangible actions, including working together in the outer London boroughs and developing a compelling narrative about why walking is so wonderful! Our role within the active travel community is clear and valued by our partners: we are championing access to green spaces, leisure walking in nature, and protection of footpaths and other access rights.
I have also been able to join our Scottish and Welsh Committee Executive Councils at their quarterly meetings, held this time in Shrewsbury and Perth. It has been energising to see and hear the progress that these Committees are making in both nations, especially in their aims to enhance support for area and group volunteers and to find new ways to become relevant to potential new members - through initiatives like the Welsh Cambrian Way project and the Fight for Scotland’s Nature partnership - both of which are covered in this month’s newsletter.
The Board Finance and Risk Board Committee (FRC) is also moving with pace, energy and ambition, not only to ensure we run our day-to-day business effectively and efficiently, but also to look at how we continue to develop and improve the way we do things. This month, as well as approving the audit plan, accounts and risk register, FRC also explored how we could best invest our reserves in the future and approved a clearer and more strategic process for utilising our legal fund - which is a key tool for achieving our mission and recruiting new supporters to our cause.
This month’s newsletter includes an item on a recent website incident which I would like to draw to your attention. There are also articles on trustee recruitment and increased staff support for path maintenance, footpath protection and other public access rights work. And this newsletter includes information about a significant new piece of quantitative research which we will be sending to over 65,000 of our members in the next few weeks. This online questionnaire will give us an invaluable insight into the needs, motivations, behaviours and activities of our current members and will help us to develop our brand promise and our membership offer. If you receive a questionnaire we would be very grateful if you could complete it.
This month we are also seeking your involvement in Time To Talk Day next February. Organised by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, this day aims to encourage everyone to talk about mental health. It builds on our current Festival of Winter Walks theme and our support for the extraordinary new documentary Evelyn (as outlined in the October newsletter). Thank you to all of you who are running Ramblers walks after the screenings of this deeply powerful and moving film. I joined the screening and Q&A session in Liverpool, and the video below includes a short interview with Gwennie Einsiedel, Evelyn’s sister, and Pat Sullivan of our Liverpool group – with sincere thanks to them both.
Vanessa Griffiths, chief executive officer
Phone: 020 3961 3300
VIDEO: November 2018 - Evelyn - the power of walking and talking
Note: To view click on the picture. Alternatively, you can watch the video here.
Website - please note this incident and remain vigilant
As you may be aware, last Sunday 18 November the Ramblers’ website was down for a short period of time. We can confirm that this was as a result of a ransomware incident.
#YouMadeItHappen - thank you and please nominate your colleagues for an award
Board vacancies - please consider applying to become a trustee
Local advocacy and path maintenance - please note the new staff support
Following your feedback, we are developing how we support volunteers to take action on issues affecting Public Rights of Way (PROW) and our access to the countryside. We want to better celebrate the huge amount of work that is already happening to protect rights of way locally, grow path maintenance, share good practice between areas, and provide a package of support that helps volunteers to respond to threats to the footpath network and other public access rights, such as local authority funding cuts.
There are two new areas of support. Firstly, we have asked George Redmayne (one of our staff delivery officers) to develop his role to focus on path maintenance work and on work with areas and groups to support your work with local authorities. Secondly, we will shortly advertise for two new members of staff to lead on PROW work: a local advocacy manager and a local advocacy and casework officer. Their first task will be to work directly with you as volunteers and with local authorities to understand what’s needed – whether it’s new guidance or training, better systems (such as a redeveloped Pathwatch tool), or support to make a strong case for the personal and social benefits of a well-maintained footpath network. Full details of the new roles will be posted on the Ramblers website. Once the roles are live, please do share them with anyone who you think may be interested in applying.
Insight research - please look out for your invitation to take part in the online survey
Of all the things we ‘could’ do, there are some that we ‘must’ do, to return our membership to growth. We need to underpin our plans with robust, evidence-based insight, which will help us to prioritise our resources, focus our efforts and maximise our impact. We are currently undertaking research to help us to understand what walkers need from us and explore their interests, preferences, behaviours, motivations and types of walking. Through this research we will also gain evidence about what walkers think of our brand and what we need to do to encourage them to embrace our cause.
Review of the Highway Code - please watch this space for updates over the coming months
The Budget - please note the impact on walkers and our walking environment
Agriculture Bill - please let us know if you have any examples of best practice in this area
As the Agriculture Bill moves through the UK Parliament, we continue to push for measures that help to protect and enhance our public rights of way. We have submitted written evidence to the Bill Committee - the small group of MPs scrutinising the proposed new rules. The full House of Commons will debate the Bill again towards the end of the year which gives us a further opportunity to push for changes to the legislation.
Time to Talk Day - please let us know if you would like to get involved
As mentioned in this newsletter last month, this Autumn and Winter we are highlighting the positive impact which walking - and especially walking in green spaces and being in contact with nature - has on our mental health and wellbeing. It is a theme that was highlighted in our support for the film Evelyn and one which we will continue to highlight during our Festival of Winter Walks and in the forthcoming edition of Walk magazine.time to change, time to talk day. As mentioned in this newsletter last month, this Autumn and Winter we are highlighting the positive impact which walking - and especially walking in green spaces and being in contact with nature - has on our mental health and wellbeing. It is a theme that was highlighted in our support for the film Evelyn and one which we will continue to highlight during our Festival of Winter Walks and in the forthcoming edition of Walk magazine. Time to Talk Day is organised by Time to Change, the anti-stigma campaign run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. It is a day when everyone is encouraged to talk about mental health. Too many people with mental health problems can feel isolated and ashamed: by talking more openly about this important topic, we can help to change this situation.
The Ramblers will be partnering with Time to Change for Time to Talk Day on 7 February 2019, to highlight the significant benefits of walking and talking about mental health. We would like to invite you to get involved in the week of Saturday 2 February to Sunday 10 February. If you are already attending or leading a group walk during this week, please can you consider starting a conversation about mental health and sharing what you’re doing with us as part of Time to Talk Day. We will create a short guide with tips on walking and talking about mental health, as well as images and text that you can use on your social media and other channels. We will send these to you in January.
Walk magazine - please note the donation ask in the latest edition
Designated Landscapes - please consider responding to this key Government review
Area and groups budgets - please send your returns and be aware of Unity Bank charges
Area and group budgets were approved by the Finance and Risk Committee and ratified by the Board in September. The appeal process has now closed and the results of the (three) appeals will be communicated to the relevant area treasurers. The finance team are now preparing the accounts for the year-end and audit. The deadline for area and group annual returns to central office was the 5 November. Thank you to all treasurers who have already sent their returns and we would be grateful if those areas and groups who have not yet submitted returns could do so as soon as possible.
Don’t Lose Your Way - please note this progress and funding update on a key project
Summer festivals - please note how we will support festivals in 2019
Walking for Health - please note this update on the future of this programme
Membership secretaries dashboard - please note that the phased roll-out is now live
Data transformation - please consider trying the walk register app and Insight Hub
The pilot Ramblers walk register app is now available to all groups and areas and you can download the app from the Apple store or Google Play. With the pilot app any member can register members and non-members on walks, by either scanning the QR code on members cards or inputting their details manually. As reported in the October newsletter, the pilot is showing that 12-13% of led walkers are non-members. This is more than we hoped, and the membership team are currently drawing up plans to test ways of converting them to members. Please note that we plan to provide this information to the groups in early 2019 through the membership secretaries dashboard.
GDPR - please note this latest update on email consent
We are still receiving a few questions from area and group volunteers about whether we could increase our number of email opt-ins if we offered members a ‘local group’ only email consent, which would enable members to receive local group emails but no central emails. This is simply not possible at the moment as we do not have the technological systems in place to tell us whether a member wants local content but not central content (or vice versa or both), or crucially, to integrate this consent with our volunteers, our staff and our email systems. We don’t yet have a central content management system in place in which content is “tagged” in such a way to enable this: e.g. x is a group piece of content, y is a national piece, z is of general interest to walkers and so on. Adding a tick box to our consent forms is easy - it’s all the data work which this requires underneath the surface, to ensure a person gets what they opted-into that is our challenge - and we cannot give members this option without being able to confidently fulfil it...
Volunteer Check In - please ensure you have updated your account details
Welcoming new walkers - please let us know if you have any great case studies
Ramblers Scotland - please note the launch of the “Fight for Scotland’s Nature” campaign
Ramblers Cymru - please note progress on the Cambrian Way and new newsletter
Within the last month we have made great progress on the Cambrian Way project - all of Torfaen County Borough Council is now waymarked, along with Carmarthenshire (outside of the National Park), and work has begun in Ceredigion too. This would not have been possible without the help of the countryside teams from the relevant local councils, and our own amazing Cambrian Way volunteers. Ramblers members from Lampeter have been getting involved with surveying and erecting the waymarks and are keen to continue this work into the future.