Here is the June 2016 PDGLA Newsletter.
We’ve concentrated on two areas of news.
The first is the Peak District National Park “green lane’s Action Plan for 2016/2017”. This plan is important because it determines what PDNPA intend to do in the next 12 months.
Many regards to all of our friend and supporters
Membership Secretary / Treasurer
“The time has come” your editor said “to talk of many things” (and apologise to Lewis Carroll). I have been your newsletter editor for eight years (16 editions) and this edition, besides being my swan song (but see below), heralds innovations in how ECR communicates with its members. You are reading it on our new-look website/blog developed with much initiative and hard work by our webmaster Roger Fielding.
As I said last time, we needed a fresh approach – one which is more timely and dynamic than once every six months when a lot of the news is “old hat” and one which can take advantage of modern communication methods such as smartphones and tablets.
Although Roger is still developing the new system, it appears that I may still be involved, so groanfully you may not be totally shot of me just yet. After all, I have to have some outlet for my much celebrated humour.
Having thrilled you with all this good news, I want to boringly remind you of recent newsletter history which has led us to these changes. Most of us (and I include myself) loved to receive a 6-monthly newsletter through the post which we could read over our shredded wheat and coffee, but for the last three years the posted version had to be limited to eight of the 14 or more pages and even then, could only be sent to the few members who requested it in their questionnaire response. Most of you could only access the newsletter on the website, and it had become increasingly clear to me that, apart from a small number of loyal readers, most regular walkers did not read it at all or just skimmed through it cursorily.
Although I was rather miffed a couple of years ago when a member said to me “You have to understand Ralph, nobody reads it”, I have concluded that if we replace “nobody” with “very few”, he was correct, and so to a large extent I was wasting my time and energy. Even my wife Margaret had never read the newsletter on-line until a few days ago.
Clearly, we needed a fresh approach, one which members felt they could engage with. In my last editorial I asked you to send me your comments and ideas. I think it proves my point about how many of you read what I write, as other than our webmaster Roger Fielding, I received no comments and ideas at all. Probably none of you read my editorial. For that matter, perhaps none of you are reading this one, so …. but this gets rather philosophical!
By the time a 6-monthly newsletter is published, most of the news is old news. In these days of websites/blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc few are interested in old news, we want topical news which we can get much more conveniently on our smartphones and tablets than on a PC or even on a laptop.
I was also concerned, that with so few people reading the newsletter, topics which keep their importance, such as footpath inspection and maintenance reports, were being missed by members.
I hope you will all welcome the new approach; Roger and I will be interested in your views. Do please use the contact form on the web site to send a message of support or dissent and your ideas to us. I say “us” because in our most recent discussions, Roger and I have concluded that it is not correct to say that the newsletter has died, as it is being reincarnated in the form of timely articles on the website. So despite my swan song protestations, it looking like you will still be able to send articles to me and I will edit them appropriately for the website. I do not know how all this will pan out as we are still on a learning curve.
Thirty years ago, in 1984, I joined the Ramblers having been captivated by the landscape of the whole area – from Peak to Plain – as soon as we moved to Cheshire. Driving up to Teggs Nose for the first time I knew that I had to explore all that lay before me – and the East Cheshires provided the guides, mines of information and enthusiasm, stimulating days out and, particularly their companionship. Saturday walks and, come the summer, Thursday evening walks as a mid-week bonus, became a highly valued source of exercise, fresh air and general rejuvenation after work. Taking the family and our walking boots to the Jura mountains, the signposts proclaimed, “Le pays qui respire” and I thought, “The countryside which (lets you) breathe” – that is just what the East Cheshire Walks allow us all to do. And then I was introduced to Weekends Away, Coach Trips, Newsletters, Hoe Downs, Christmas Lunches and a great deal more all through our amazing fellowship and volunteers.
So, having benefited so much, it is more than time for me to try to give something back to the Group. I want to thank the many members who have encouraged me to join the Committee again ( I did so for a couple of years in the late 1990’s) this time as Chairman and especially my proposer, Ian Mabon. Also my predecessor, David Gylee, has provided generous support in the handover – one-to-one advice, a welcome party at his house for the new boy and the capable and well functioning Committee, all of whom I am relieved and grateful to know are staying in post; and he will be with me at the Area AGM on 21st November. And this mention of the Cheshire East Area brings me straight to business and “A New Vision for The Ramblers” published by Central Office in October and available on The Ramblers website.
This presages the most radical change since the 1970’s in the structure of The Ramblers’ organisation at National, Area and Group level and the respective roles of each. In brief summary, “The Vision” seeks to strengthen The Ramblers ability to deliver its Mission and Objectives by enhancing the role of the Area level working closely with, and reporting directly to the Chief Executive, Benedict Southworth. It is proposed that the Areas will have responsibility for, and oversight of, the Groups and their activities, allocating funds for the delivery of the objectives.
So my thought that joining the Committee would be a matter of “a touch on the tiller and steady as she goes” seems to be short-lived indeed. Therefore, please do read “The Vision” and Objectives statement and comment through the Survey document. Of course, I would like to hear your views personally by telephone, during a walk or by email. And I think that I do recall that, back in 1984, this debate had just come to a conclusion so any member with insights into that round of organisational discussion please get in touch.
Therefore my first Agenda item is likely to be a long running one – I look forward to working with the Committee on it and to keeping you informed.
After 3 years in the role as Chairman of East Cheshire Ramblers Group I am stepping down. It has been a busy, eventful, but nevertheless very rewarding period. I have been blessed with excellent help and support from the Committee and the Footpath Committee, as well as very many other volunteers.
The walks and the special events have been very memorable. As I heard from a member only last week, “This is the best Group to belong to”; I can certainly endorse that opinion.
It is the sign of a healthy organisation when personnel change and the organisation carries on as smoothly as before. I refer specifically to changes in the organisation during the past year; Sue Thersby taking on the role of Long (Week-end) Walk Co-ordinator, Roger Fielding taking on the role of Webmaster and Steve Hull taking on the role of Evening Walk Co-ordinator. So as I leave the role of Chairman, John Edwards will be taking over; an excellent choice who many of you will have known for many years. Even though I have had an interesting and very enjoyable time as Chairman I do personally believe after 3 years that you need someone new with fresh ideas and enthusiasm.
I do also believe that the Group has moved forward during my time as Chairman. I think especially of the excellent footpath project work, the new concessionary footpath, and recognising the necessity of moving onwards into this digital age.
During my second year as Chairman I discovered that the Group was formed in 1973 to ‘maintain and improve footpaths’. Our ethos was (and still is) about footpaths. My thanks on behalf of the Group go to all footpath inspectors as well as the projects undertaken by Brian Richardson and his merry band of volunteers.
All of our special and social events have been well supported, quite regularly events are “sold out” and a waiting list formed. Week-ends away have been vibrant and lively. The organisers (thank you Ann Thompson, Alan Catherall, Jane and Frank Gay) can be relied upon to choose a week-end with glorious sunny weather. Coach trips, organised by Brian Griffiths, have been varied and interesting; again well supported with a “large” coach needed on frequent occasions.
I would also like to remind members about our excellent publicity in the local Macclesfield and Wilmslow Express newspapers. Having been initiated by Roger Norton earlier this year, Walk Leaders have stepped forward and produced articles for the papers that are widely read and appreciated. I have been approached on more than one occasion by people who have noticed our name and are enthusiastic readers. No doubt one day they will come and join us. Helen Richardson is at the moment carrying on Roger’s good work while he is away in Australia. Without doubt this publicity has kept our name in the spotlight and has resulted in attracting new members to join our Group. Please do consider making a contribution if and when you can.
I am frequently impressed by the talents on offer to our Group. As well as the footpath project work mentioned earlier, we do have an excellent website, developed by Graham Beech and continued this year by Roger Fielding, with new ideas and features improving the speedy access to information for all. Then there is the lively and stimulating newsletter, painstakingly put together by Ralph Atherton, which will soon be replaced by a more up to date website facility.
If I have missed anyone out I do apologise. I know that we have a host of volunteers who perform an invaluable service to the Group. Thank you to one and all!
I will briefly mention Membership, which has seen a steady decline over the last 3 years, part of a trend for some time. While a significant part of the Membership is totally outside of our control, it is indeed gratifying to know that overall walking membership has increased slightly in that period. However, it must be recognised that the Group as a whole is aging. When I joined 9 years ago, the ‘core’ walking membership is still the same ‘core’ walking membership today. We must consider the future walking membership, and I would urge all to reflect and consider how we might attract a younger walking membership in order to keep the Group active and thriving in future years.
Well, the forecast for this weekend could not have been worse. Heavy rain all day Saturday and all day Sunday was the outlook during the forecast on the previous Thursday. We actually managed to have little or no rain on either day. The views were excellent; I had imagined having to actually describe the views to my groups while we trudged through cloud on a wet and dreary day. But thank goodness this was not to be. There were 52 is on this weekend, mainly staying in the Metropole hotel in Llandrindod Wells. What an excellent deal this was; they charged us £57 for dinner bed and breakfast and full use of the leisure facilities. Many of us could be found in the pool, jacuzzi, steam room or sauna at the end of our day’s walking. I really must thank all the leaders. This was by no means the easiest areas to reccie. I know that several of the leaders had a really difficult time. Map reading was a skill which was virtually useless, since clearly marked routes on the map did not exist on the ground. Below follows individual leaders accounts of their walks.
Saturday – Short Walk – Pat & Bob Bland
After torrential rain on the Friday night, Bob and Pat led a cheerful group of sixteen on their 7 mile circular walk starting from The Metropole Hotel. After fifteen minutes the beautiful Lake came into view from where we climbed up through woods and gained the Trig Point on Beacon Hill with its great 360 degree view back to Llandrindod Wells and surrounding countryside. We had cooled down by the time we had reached Shakey Bridge, so named for a previous perilous crossing and after viewing the ancient Church of St. Michael we made our way back to Shakey Bridge for a well -earned coffee stop in glorious sunshine. We then climbed steeply skirting Bailey-Einon Wood and on to Pentre and back West to Glanyrafon for lunch. We were soon back walking via Noyadd and Trefonen and most of the party took afternoon tea at the Cafe on the Lake.
Saturday – Medium Walk – Frank Gay
The walk started at the Railway Station to catch the 10.30 train to Cilmeri, two stops down the line. The train only stops there if requested. The walk began along farm tracks before reaching the beautiful and peaceful Wye valley. Our coffee stop in bright sunshine by the river bank was particularly pleasant but the leader did not allow the party to linger as we had just over 10 miles to cover on the walk. After a few miles we left the river behind but enjoyed excellent views of the surrounding hills. We then headed to our river crossing at Newbridge on Wye. Along this stretch of the Wye there are several paths shown crossing the river but unless you had a boat or a big pair of waders you would get very wet! From Newbridge the route crosses farm land and provides a challenge to the leader’s navigation skills. After one final jungle section we were back in the town and some of the party went for tea at the Lake café others just went to lie down.
Saturday – Long Walk – Graham Bothwell
This walk started with a bus ride from Llandrindod Wells to St. Mathews Church, Llanelwedd. Starting the walk under Llanelwedd Rocks, an SSSI, we removed our waterproofs and gained height passing Maengowan and Caer Fawr, enjoying extensive views towards Castle Bank and Gilwern Hill. Leaving Carneddau the descent to Cwm-berwyn was via a narrow wooded valley entering the site via a lawn! Passing through the next farm, Cefnbychan, we did not encounter the lively dogs and walked up Castle Bank using ‘access land’. We walked along the ridge towards one of the many hill forts in the area and hoped to use one of the hidden footpaths. As the bracken had died back the footpath was now visible and, using access land we climbed towards Gilwern Hill. Crossing a minor road to join a dirt track we had lunch and enjoyed open views across the moors and hills of what was Radnorshire and could just see the Black Hills on the far horizon 25 miles away. On our way towards Gilwern Hill we passed a private limestone quarry where, palaeontologists have found fossils such as trilobites. Apparently the Builth-Llandrindod Inlier is a small area which contains a treasure-trove of fossil information. The return to Llandrindod Wells was via a byway, minor road and footpath taking us over Llandrindod Hill before descending to the café at The Lake where most of the group cleared the outdoor tables before consuming tea and cake.
Sunday – Short Walk – Jane Gay
I led this walk and about 15 of us left the hotel and walked around the back to the lake. After a couple of seriously steep climbs we were up on the tops where we stayed for the rest of our walk. Even though I say it myself, it was a very pleasant walk with lots of fabulous views. On the reccie, the day before, a very large bull and been standing in front of the style and Frank and I had made a detour!! Having prepared the group a detour was not necessary as he was at the far end of the field. The group did walk very quietly and quickly through that field!! On our return some of us had tea and cakes at the lake cafe while others set off for home.
Sunday – Medium Walk – Sue & Chris Munslow
The weather was just right for walking, a beautiful bright sunny day. We left the hotel to walk by The Lake and enjoy the views before beginning to walk to higher ground through the local golf course and reaching the trig point. Looking back towards the town we could see for many miles the rolling hills of mid Wales. Although it was a struggle to use the map to find a circular walk, trial and error enabled us to discover a lovely byway over a wild and remote moorland . we walked in a south east direction passing smalls lakes and cairns in the remote area Pawl-hir and Careg Grog. As we walked back towards Llandrindod Wells we viewed an interesting landscape which also revealed the long history of early settlements at Castle Bank Hill and St Michaels Church.
Sunday – Long Walk – Ian Mabon
On the Sunday, 5th October, a bright start encouraged 12 walkers to assemble at nearby Newbridge on Wye for the promise of a 12 mile, 2,100 ft ascent walk with a bit of off piste (balanced by some road walking!). Leader Ian Mabon, replaced wife June. Once into Welsh farm land, with the occasional diversion to avoid path obstructions, the path opened onto moorland and we had a coffee break in preparation for the assault on local peak Drum Dhu (538 m). The weather was still fair and to the south we could see the Beacon Beacons and the Black Mountains. At the top, a cairn which looked like a burial chamber, was encountered but efforts to establish its history had drawn a blank. An early lunch stop at 12:30 pm was determined by some gathering clouds which obligingly held off dropping a not very heavy payload until the party was packing up to start the return journey. Cagoules were not needed for long as the route descended to join the Wye Valley Walk, at first through National Trust estate, then fields and woodland back to the start. A particularly pleasant welcome was given to the ECG weekend away and the Sunday long walk party by local business man Pip Samuel who allowed the walkers to use a private car parking area in Newbridge on Wye near the local football pitch.
Jane Gay Photos by Graham Bothwell
The inspiration for this article was Ralph’s August ‘Noughty’ walk from Padfield during which we visited the National Grid point SE0000000000 on the Swineshaw Moor near Stalybridge. This point is as at the junction of grid squares SE, SD, SJ and SK. To prove the point Roger took this photograph of my GPS showing the grid point. This was achieved after considerable wandering about in the heather to get to the exact one-metre square and Ralph’s invaluable help in acting as a screen to cut down reflection. The location was only about 5 metres from a small cairn presumably built by previous visitors in search of the spot, which is not bad considering that the accuracy of a GPS is probably only about 10 metres.
The rules governing the National Grid are somewhat arcane. A grid reference consists of two letters and a variable number of digits depending on the precision required. Four digits will specify the point to the nearest kilometre and ten digits will give it to the nearest metre.
The grid is based on 500 kilometre squares arranged as below. Note that there is no I in GRID.
Each of these squares is further divided into 100 kilometre squares using the same pattern. Thus two letters are needed to specify each square. The first half of the digits then specify the distance from the west of the square (logically called ‘the easting’) and the remaining letters specify the distance from the south of the square (called ‘the northing’).
Because the earth is not flat the grid does not coincide with latitude and longitude lines except that the line dividing squares SJ and SK is at 2 degrees west. This line meets the English coast just north of Berwick-upon-Tweed and leaves it on the Isle of Purbeck south of Poole. In 1997 Nick Crane walked between the two points keeping within one kilometre of the line. A feat that will probably never be repeated since it involved a considerable amount of trespass, crossing lakes with the help of local sailing clubs and military escorts across Salisbury Plain and various airfields.
In practice Great Britain is covered by only five of the large squares – Ireland is not covered. These are:
N – North
S – South
H – Highlands or Hebrides, although the square only covers Orkney and Shetland
O – Offshore (but see below)
T – There’s no obvious mnemonic, but it covers south-east England
Looking at points similar to the one we visited on Ralph’s walk that have two letters followed by ten zeroes, there are only 22 which fall on land. These are conveniently listed on the following web site. http://www.geograph.org.uk/article/In-Search-of-OV0000
The strangest of these is probably OV0000000000 because in the whole of the O square there are only a few square metres of land, and those happen to include that point. The point lies on the beach below Beast Cliff in North Yorkshire. Apparently if you want to reach it, you are advised to go equipped with ladders, ropes and other climbing gear, and be prepared to wade knee deep through vegetation packed with ticks and adders. However there are reports of at least two species of beetle when you get there, so our editor is probably organising an expedition at this very moment. The web page at http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3715407 shows a photograph of a dead deer on the beach.
Of the other 21 points one is on the uninhabited island of Taransay off South Harris, and several are probably on private land or otherwise inaccessible. As far as I can see none of them is actually in the middle of a private house, although one does seem to be dangerously close to an electricity substation. All in all visiting each one would be a pointless exercise.
If the schedule for producing a report on membership for the AGM had been put back a fortnight the number of ECR members would have been 624, rather than the 619 I reported. Even so at 619 the total number of members is only ten less than reported at the 2013 AGM. Over a number of years our membership has been declining, and at a much faster rate than this year.
Does our total membership number matter? Our full programme of walks are generally well attended; we have no problems in filling a coach for a day’s walking away from our home area; over the past year our footpath clearance programme has been underway with a group of our members as volunteers working under the dedicated direction of Brian Richardson showing visible improvements to some of the paths in our area; weekends away are booked up and sometimes waiting lists have to be created for social events and meals when they are oversubscribed. This suggests a vibrant, sociable and active core membership exists irrespective of our total membership numbers. Nevertheless membership numbers do count when Ramblers Central office decide how much grant they will allocate to each group. Perhaps, more importantly, if our numbers are haemorraging greatly year on year, this might indicate the group is not functioning well to meet all its members’ needs, even after account has been taken of uncontrollable macro factors, like the economic recession and deferments of retirements, are taken into account to explain this decline.
While not considering our decline in membership had reached a critical point – it had fallen to 614 at its lowest point this year- I contacted the head of membership services at Ramblers Central Office in March to ask if research had been conducted on why Ramblers membership is declining. He confirmed declining membership was not unique to our group, and was in much steeper rates of decline in other areas of the country. More people renewing their subscriptions by direct debit were helping to stem the number of leavers. He told me they were trying to implement a more robust early alert system to other people not using direct debit to remind them when their annual subscriptions are due. Only 12 in our group have subscribed to the ideal; taking out life membership, by calculating their longevity- hopefully- will more than recoup their initial outlay.
Following my request for research I was emailed a 36 page document, with page upon page of histograms , breaking down membership into age groups, gender ,motivations for walking, years of membership etc., accompanied with the apology it had been conducted in May 2011 and now needing updating! Wading through all this, and not wishing to bore fellow committee members at our next meeting with it all, there seemed two salient points. There was a spike in the number of people not renewing membership after 7 years, which did not seem to be explained- perhaps it is the Ramblers equivalent of a seven year itch supposedly occurring in marriages. Even more noticeable, however, was that by far the largest group of people not renewing their subscriptions was after only one year of membership. The overall conclusion- setting aside such specific complaints by new members that the group they were walking with were too old, walked too slowly or too quickly- was that every effort needed to be made to make new members feel welcome when they started walking. Because the new member liked walking did not mean they would automatically enjoy walking with a Ramblers group. Sometimes new members complained they felt as though they were excluded by an established clique of walkers. The message is that as a group we cannot be complaisant about the welcome we are giving to new members, assuming , for example, no effort on our part is required and that they will `pick it all up as they go along`.
There are a number of possible reasons why our membership numbers have only declined by ten this year. It is possible that the group’s excellent website has helped, including accessibility to the walking programme. In order to maintain this attractive and comprehensive programme throughout the year, however, there is a constant need to retain and recruit new walk leaders. Since April this year, organised by Roger Norton, articles accompanied by pictures have regularly appeared in the Macclesfield and Wilmslow Express, which has helped in maintaining our public profile as an enjoyable and worthwhile activity available in our area. Next year I will endeavour to ask all new members how they came to join our group, in order to be more precise whether this is, for example, coming across our website, reading one of our articles in the local paper, or having a friend who had joined, as well as members who have belonged to other groups but have moved to our area.
Finally, Ramblers Central Office has a crucial role to play in maintaining membership numbers. Their efficient administration is important if members are not to feel frustrated and disillusioned. I genuinely believe there has been an improvement overall in the quality and speed with which queries have been dealt with by Central Office over the past year, although there have been some notable, but now infrequent, exceptions to this, and that applications to join appear to be processed more expeditiously than when I joined six years ago. They have instigated a new initiative to help answer frequently asked questions by the memberships, details of which were circulated by email to our members on the 19th November. To repeat, the email addresses to contact them on to answer` frequently asked questions` is http://www.ramblers.org.uk/membershipenquiries . I feel intrigued to know what these frequently asked questions might be.
Brian Griffiths reports that in this age of increasing litigation, the Ramblers insurance company has requested that each group carries out risk assessments in order to minimise claims. The critical areas identified are listed below:-
- Climbing over wooden stiles.
- Climbing over stone stiles
- Descending steep, wet and grassy slopes.
- Ascending rocky gullies.
- Traversing boggy moorland.
- Traversing streambeds
- Crossing ploughed fields.
- Crossing golf courses.
- Passing fields of ewes with lambs.
- Walking with Brian Griffiths and Ralph Atherton
Brian will chair a subcommittee with ten members each of whom will take responsibility for producing one of the above risk assessments. Brian expects he will easily enlist ten ECR members to serve on his subcommittee. Please ring him to volunteer, and act quickly to be sure of your place. Meanwhile he asks all members to take care and use common sense when out and about.
Our AGM was held on Saturday 15th November, 2014 at Macclesfield Tennis Club, and 38 members attended. It was preceded by a 6 mile walk from the Tennis Club, led by Frank Gay, and 27 people enjoyed the walk.
A new venture was held over lunch. Louise Winstanley organised a Bring and Buy walking equipment/clothes sale. The sale raised £69.30 for our Group, and will augment the funding of our Footpath Maintenance Team. Thank you Louise, for all your effort, and members who supported the sale.
Our Chairman, David Gylee retired from the position after 3 years of leading the group, giving valued leadership and guidance. David thanked the many members involved in the running of Ramblers East Cheshire Group in providing a first class service that benefits everyone.
The position of Footpath Secretary remains vacant, but to-date no one has volunteered for this position. The Footpath Committee operate successfully thanks to the many years of knowledge held by the members in footpath matters.
All members of the Committee with the exception of the Chairman stood for re-election and were elected unanimously.
John Edwards was proposed as our new Chairman by Ian Mabon, seconded by Jane Gay. The meeting majority elected John to Chairman.
Next Year’s Budget has been approved by Central Office. Funds for footpath projects and maintenance are available.
The Footpath Maintenance Team led by Brian Richardson has made good progress through the year, and since the start, 123 person day’s attendance with a total of 596 hours being worked.
Membership has declined slightly. However, over the past year, three or four people joined our group each month.
Social programme has been successful, and enjoyed by all who attended the events.
Publicity organised by Roger Norton with the Macclesfield and Wilmslow Express newspapers to publish articles on our walks. Also, thanks to Helen Richardson for co-ordinating the publicity for our walk articles. This publicity has helped to attract new members to our group. Walk articles with a photo are encouraged.
Currently there are insufficient members coming forward to be walk leaders, and the group is addressing this situation.
Ramblers Central Office have issued two documents, “A new governance structure for the Ramblers”, and “The Ramblers: proposals for the next ten years”. Secretary to email these documents to members. Ramblers Central Office is looking for feedback by 31st December 2014, and members are encouraged to respond.
In closing the AGM, Jane Gay on behalf of the Committee and all members presented the outgoing Chairman with a gift to say thank you for his leadership and hard work over the past 3 years. – Well done David.
A walk survey was undertaken for the month of September 2014, and compared with the survey of September 2013. The walks at Patteredale undertaken in September 2013 were excluded to make the two periods comparable. The results are appended this article.
Overall, it was an enjoyable day, and many thanks to Jane and Frank Gay, for leading the walk, and organising the venue, and refreshments