Somerset Area

Walk with us in Somersetshire

 

 

  Ramblers Latest News Letter from the CEO



One of the many reasons I love walking is the pleasure of being in nature and seeing the seasons turn.  My joy at finding shiny conkers in Autumn remains childlike and I feel lucky to be working with staff, volunteers and partner organisations to ensure the new Agriculture Bill protects our ability to access the countryside.  Since I last wrote to you, our letters on this topic have appeared in the Guardian and Independent, and we have been called to give evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee inquiry on the Bill. You can find the latest update on this important campaign within this newsletter. 

Whilst I am thinking about working with partner organisations, it was great to welcome Kevin O’Regan, the new CEO of Ramblers Worldwide Holidays and his team, to our regular staff meeting last month. Our two organisations share a rich common history and a strong brand, and we are keen to work closely together over the coming years to make the most of our shared cause, and to find new ways to welcome supporters to our organisations and to promote our walking offers to the general public. 

In further partnership news, I have also spent time recently with fellow “active travel” CEOs: from the Bicycle Association, British Cycling, Cycling UK, Living Streets, and Sustrans. We know we can have more impact by working together on our shared aspiration to make walking and cycling the natural choice for short journeys. We had a terrific meeting and decided to meet regularly next year to progress the “Moving the Nation” vision which I shared with you last July, and to co-ordinate our activities, when it is relevant and appropriate for us to do so. Please do look out for future initiatives from this new informal coalition of six charities: now named the Walking and Cycling Alliance.  

Turning inwards, every organisation has its own internal cycle and Autumn is always a busy time of year for Ramblers staff and trustees, as we complete our annual financial year on the 30th September. We have been spending some time reflecting on what has worked well over the last twelve months and what has worked less well, and we have been planning for the future. We have also been reviewing our performance and setting objectives for the coming year through our annual appraisal process.  I believe this kind of regular learning and reflection is key to our future success as a charity dedicated to helping everyone to enjoy the outdoors on foot. 

The board met in September and approved the GB business plan and budget and ratified the Scottish and Welsh plans too. The trustees also reviewed the risk register and progress on General Council motions, future campaign strategy and key programmes (including Don’t Lose Your Way and Walking for Health). I enclose a link to the GB business plan for 2018/19 - 20/21 (To view this document, and the chart below, log in to the website, navigate to the About Us section, found at the bottom of the My Account page. The documents sits on the right hand side). It is ambitious, and it is our collective roadmap for delivery over the next year, so please let me know if you have any feedback. Trustees will share their thoughts on our progress in 2018, and our priorities for 2019, when they join area AGMs over the Autumn and Winter. 

One of the biggest changes of the last year has been the appointment of new members of our senior leadership team. As well as some changes to the existing team, we have created two new roles (our first Membership & Fundraising Director and a temporary Director of Data and Digital Transformation).  One of the pieces of feedback which some of you have given me is that you are not sure who does what in the staff team, or which department to go to with queries. We have therefore created the Ramblers staff team chart to provide you with this information as well as the video below, to help you to put names to faces.  

This newsletter includes two invitations: to the screening of a new film (as part of this year’s Festival of Winter Walks) and to an online meeting about our new walk register app. You can also find out how to nominate your area as a potential host for General Council 2020 and how to complete the new volunteer Check In exercise. And this month there are also updates about the ongoing Network Rail inquiries, some terrific recent rights of way successes, a tribute to Margaret Bowdery, a reminder of our new phone numbers, an offer via the Ramblers shop, and any news from Ramblers Scotland.   

I hope you enjoy reading this update and I know that trustees and staff are looking forward to walking and talking with many of you over the coming months, as your AGMs start to take place. 

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: October 2018 - Meet the senior leadership team

Note: 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.

Screenshot of a video with a woman seated and speaking to camera
 
 

Agriculture Bill - we need your help, please write to your MP if you have not yet done so

As communicated in recent newsletters, at the end of August we launched ‘Your Path Awaits’, our new campaign to ensure that the Agriculture Bill protects our ability to access and enjoy the countryside. Over 3,450 people have written to their MP, reaching 94% of all MPs in England and Wales. As a result, we were able to make a strong case for public access ahead of the Bill’s second reading in the UK Parliament on 10 October. Ahead of the debate, we sent a briefing to all MPs in England and Wales. This set out our ambition for an Agriculture Bill that delivers two key ambitions: 

1.    A public rights of way network that is better maintained. We believe that landowners should only receive public funds if they meet their existing duties, including their responsibility to maintain public rights of way. To support this, the Bill should establish a ‘regulatory baseline’ of minimum standards expected of landowners who receive financial assistance, and a clear duty for government to introduce a framework to deliver this in practice. 

2.    A public rights of way network that is enhanced, through improvements or additional routes, where needed. We believe that the Bill should aim not just to support public access, but to enhance it. The Bill should include provisions that enable payments from the public purse to go towards enhancements to the path network. For example, where landowners provide new paths for the public, or improve existing routes to make them accessible to more people. 

During the debate, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs directly referenced the importance of ensuring that “the public have access to our glorious countryside”. We also received strong support from Kerry McCarthy MP (Labour) for a ‘regulatory baseline’ which is essential to ensure a more secure future for existing rights of way. On 17 October, Stephen Russell, our policy and advocacy officer, made this case directly to the House of Common’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee – you can watch Stephen given evidence on Parliament TV. We need the continued support of MPs as the Bill makes its way through Parliament and we will be working hard to make this happens over coming months. If you haven’t done so already, we would love you to help us by writing to your MP - just go to our website enter your postcode and with two clicks you can send our template letter to your MP. If you would like any further information about this campaign, please contact Olly on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In a similar vein, the Welsh Government has set out its proposals for a land management scheme in Wales which recognises and rewards public goods, including recreation and access.  This is a great step towards securing our ambitions for paths and access in Wales, and you can help by supporting Welsh Government’s plans.  Again, it takes just a few clicks to encourage Welsh Government to do the right thing for walking. If you would like any further information about this consultation, please contact Rebecca Brough on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Festival of Winter Walks - please join a screening of “Evelyn” in partnership with CALM


Evelyn movie poster, showing four people walking along a ridgeAs previewed in the September newsletter, this year’s Festival of Winter Walks is fast approaching, and our supporting communications campaign will focus on the value of group walks in helping to combat social isolation and loneliness, and the positive effects of walking on mental health. In keeping with this theme, we are partnering with the charity CALM (The Campaign Against Living Miserably). CALM is leading a movement to tackle male suicide: the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. We are supporting CALM as they release a new documentary, “Evelyn”, from Oscar-winning director Orlando von Einsiedel. The film follows von Einsiedel’s family as they embark on a series of walks in remembrance of their brother and son, who took his own life over a decade ago. It shows how the family - who had barely discussed their feeling of loss in the years since Evelyn’s suicide - were brought closer together by walking and reconnecting with the natural environment.  A series of special Q&A screenings are scheduled, with each showing being followed by a short walk around the local area. You can find out more about the film, the local screening dates, and our involvement. If you would like to know more, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

General Council (GC) - please let us know if your area would like to host GC2020

At the GC2018 meeting in Bangor, we promised to provide a six-month update on our progress against the approved motions. Ahead of the formal update (which will be provided as part of the papers for GC2019) - we have prepared a short report which you can find on our GC webpages, alongside the draft minutes and an informal report on GC2018, and key dates and deadlines for GC2019: which will take place in Manchester on 13 and 14 April. If you have any queries or feedback on GC, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The board is now inviting expressions of interest (EOIs) for any area considering hosting GC in Spring 2020. The trustees will review all EOIs and select a venue for GC2020 at their next board meeting on 5 December. Submitting an EOI is a straight-forward process and involves completing a short form which is available here link to be attached. Completed forms should be submitted by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Thursday 15 November and any questions directed to Simon.

 

Network Rail inquiry - please note the start of the public inquiry in Essex


A pedestrian level crossingLast month in this newsletter we updated you on the public inquiry in East Anglia. The public inquiry on 60+ level crossing closures in Essex has just recommenced and will run until 9 November. We believe that some of the alternative routes are acceptable, but Essex area volunteers have been working hard to prepare evidence against 30 of the proposals, where the alternatives are long and often involve walking on roads. As we confirmed in our last update on this important campaign, Barrister Merrow Golden is putting the case for walkers, and last week we called our expert witness Des de Moor, who testified on the benefits of walking for health, the environment, and the rural economy, and the need to ensure that walking routes are as attractive as possible. We will also be calling John Russell, (from Motion, a transport planning consultancy) as an expert witness on road safety issues. You can read more about the inquiry or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Volunteer Check In - please take a few minutes to update your account details 


In our August and September newsletters we previewed the Volunteer Check In. As promised, this is now live, so you can now check the roles which we have recorded for you and let us know of any changes. The process only takes a few minutes and can be done by logging into your account. You can do this straight away, and over the next few weeks you will also receive an email reminding you to do so. The Check In will run until the end of November. We are sure that some of your current profiles will be inaccurate, as many of you regularly take on new volunteering activities, and we have not reviewed this information holistically for a while. By making sure your details are correct, staff can then ensure that you receive strong and appropriate support in your role. If you need any further details please contact Cleo Parthenoglou, Volunteer Check In co-ordinator, by phone on 0203 9613188 or on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Margaret’s Bridge - please note this fitting tribute to a great campaigner


A woman speaking, accompanied by three others, all on a bridgeOur Prime Minister took a break from Brexit on 17 September to open Margaret’s Bridge in Maidenhead in her constituency. This was in honour of our tireless campaigner, Margaret Bowdery of the East Berkshire Ramblers who died in 2016.  The bridge is over The Cut and links Oldfield School and Braywick Park, creating a safe, pleasant route. Our chair, Kate Ashbrook, was there to honour Margaret but had not expected to meet the local MP too! Kate took the opportunity to thank the Prime Minister for including access in the recently-published Agriculture Bill, as a public good to be funded by agricultural grants, and to express the hope that such access would become a reality. She also reminded those present of Margaret Bowdery’s great achievements for paths and access for more than 50 years. In particular Margaret campaigned to link up paths, and so a bridge connecting two communities was a particularly fitting memorial. You can read Kate’s blog or contact her via 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 join a Walk Register meeting 
 

The Walk Register pilot continues to go well with over 2,000 walk attendees now registered by the new mobile app.  Around 12% of participating walkers are non-members, which is an encouraging surprise, as is the fact that 73% of them have opted-in to receiving future communications from The Ramblers.  We are now testing various ways to follow this cohort up, to convert them to membership. We are keen for more areas and groups to join the Walk Register pilot, so please let us know if you are interested in getting involved. We will be holding a lunchtime “GoTo” online meeting session, for staff and volunteers, to look at the fascinating data which we are getting from the Walk Register pilot, from 12:00-13:00, on Wednesday 14 November. We have limited spaces, so to book a place please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Friday 2 November. 

Our new Insight Hub - which will provide us with invaluable intelligence about our activities and our supporters needs - also continues to develop well. We now have three dashboards of visual reports, on Pathwatch, volunteering, and group walks (the latter from the new Walk Register). These dashboards are now available to c150 volunteers, for piloting and feedback. Additionally, as outlined in previous newsletters, we continue to pilot a membership dashboard. As this particular dashboard contains personal member details, only membership secretaries can access it. It provides up to date and accurate information about membership and will replace the current monthly membership report. The feedback from our pilot group of c40 membership secretaries has been very positive and is helping us develop the next version which will be rolled out to all membership secretaries over the coming months. We will contact all membership secretaries to share the roll-out schedule and we will run a series of webinars to ensure everyone is comfortable with the new system.

We want everyone to think of the Ramblers first when they want to go walking in Great Britain whether by themselves or with others. We want walkers to explore the outdoors with us and the first step in achieving this ambition is to provide you with the tools you need to develop and share fantastic routes and walks.  This month we interviewed three specialist geo-spatial agencies (experts in acquiring, understanding and storing geographic data) to help us to deliver our new Walk and Route Library. Thank you to the volunteers who took part in the workshop in August and we look forward to continuing to work with you as we develop the Ramblers Walk and Route Library over the coming months. 

 

Rights of ways - please join us in sharing and celebrating three successes…  
  

West Somerset Ramblers, led by Ivor Sutton, had met difficulties in claiming a path on the coast at Blue Anchor near Minehead. They made the claim after walkers were stopped from going past new chalets, on a path that has been used for as long as locals can remember.  This path would be safer than an official path on the beach (which has warning signs about dangerous tides) or a busy road. Somerset County Council advised it would take 15 years to determine the claim. Happily, Schedule 14 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1980 allows an applicant to ask the Secretary of State to direct the Council to expedite a claim. Staff advised Ivor about this, and we have just learnt that the Secretary of State has directed Somerset County Council to determine the application within 12 months. This may lead to a public inquiry (since the chalet owners may object to an order if one is made) in 2019/20… instead of in around 2035!

A long-running issue has just been settled in Devon, involving a river-bank path that runs through the Devon parishes of Northleigh, Farway, Colyton and Southleigh. In 2016 Devon area volunteers Rosemary and Alan Kimbell, with assistance from staff, defeated a “deletion order” applied for by the landowners. By defeating this order, we proved that this public right of way exists. A coalition of landowners had attempted over many years to get it deleted from the definitive map, alleging that it had been included in error. We contended that there was no error and an Inspector acting for the Secretary of State agreed we were right. Having proved the right of way exists, we were looking to Devon County Council to build some necessary footbridges…and are delighted that a spectacular bridge over the River Coly has now been completed, which opens a section of the path, and is tremendously good news.

Last month, West Riding volunteers succeeded in an appeal to the Secretary of State after Leeds City Council rejected an application to add several public rights of way at Cragg Woods, Rawden. The public have been using paths in these woods, noted for their bluebells, for decades until they were stopped by barriers. Staff helped local volunteer Richard Smith to draft the Grounds of Appeal. This is the first step: the Council must now make and order to which there will be a right of objection, and staff will be assisting local volunteers further if this leads to a public inquiry. If you would like to find out more about these or any other rights of way cases, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Ramblers Shop - please take advantage of our current 10% discount
 

A Ramblers water bottleIt is never too early to start ticking off your Christmas list, especially whilst we are giving 10% off in our online shop. Whether you are looking for cards or any other gifts, please visit ramblers.ethicalshop.org or call 01420 525542 and quote RAM10 to get your discount. Every purchase you make helps the Ramblers to fund our charitable work to help everyone to enjoy the outdoors on foot. If you have any queries, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

New telephone system - a gentle reminder of the new Ramblers office numbers 
 

As previewed in the August newsletter, as part of our “Tapestry” infrastructure upgrade programme, we have now completed the testing phase and have successfully installed a modern new phone system which links all three of our Ramblers offices in Cardiff, Edinburgh and London. Just to remind you, the new numbers are: Switchboard: 020 3961 3300, Volunteer Support: 020 3961 3170, Membership Services: 020 3961 3232. Please can you start to use these numbers immediately. If you have questions, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Ramblers Scotland - please register to join a free training event on Scottish access rights 


A gate leading to a grassy field and mountainsMembers with a keen interest in Scottish access are invited to register for a free training event in Glasgow from 13:30 – 16:30, on Saturday 17 November, in the Friends Meeting House on Elmwood Crescent. It's a great chance to explore the role of access officers and consider how you could get more involved in access matters in future. We will also discuss lessons learned from positive cases during the past year – including the high-profile successes at the Drumlean and Penicuik estates. Places are limited, so please register to attend ASAP by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Calendar of Somerset Ramblers' Walks

2018 Dec
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The Walking Partnership

Shop at Tesco?

You can now join the Ramblers by using £11 Tesco Clubcard Vouchers to swap for your first years membership. Click on the Clubcard Logo for details.

tesco clubcard

Monday, December 10, 2018