Thank you to all those involved in organising these events, any suggestions or ideas about an event would be warmly welcomed. Please don’t hesitate to contact me on:

Maggie Swindells maggieswindells@gmail.com  07729327940 /01625 829671

Friday 20th March 1.30 pm Stockport Guided Walk with Judith Wilshaw organised by Maggie Swindells
 4th and 5th April   National Conference  Bristol
Friday 12Th April  Start of fortnightly Strollers’ walking programme
Thursday 23rd April ‘Bombay To Mumbai’ Indian Meal – organised by Andy Davies
Friday 24th April to Sunday 26th April Long Walkers Weekend – Aberystwyth to be organised by Colin Park
Thursday 14th May Provisional start of evening walks organised by Steve Hull
Friday 19th to Sunday 21st June Weekend Away  Patterdale organised by Jane Gay
Thursday 25th June Coach Trip Settle organised by Anne Thompson
Monday 29th June ‘Footpath Inspectors Gathering’  3.30 pm Macclesfield Tennis Club organised by the Footpath Committee
Thursday 2nd July ECR Walk Leader Training Macclesfield Tennis Club (more details to follow)
Saturday 4th July Walk with a Ranger organised by Jane Gay
Friday 7th August to Sunday 9th August Long Walkers Weekend – Anglesey (exact location to be decided) to be organised by Steve Hull
Thursday 20th August Meal following final evening walk provisional booking at Farm Made, Rainow organised by Nick Wild
Saturday September 5th Coach Trip to Church Stretton organised by Gina Thompson and Maggie Swindells
Friday 18th to Sunday 20th Sep Ambleside Weekend away – Andy Davies
Saturday 12th September (date change) Walk with a Ranger organised by Jane Gay
Saturday 31st October Ceilidh and Supper at the Victory Hall Mobberley  organised by Tony Battilana
Saturday 14th November 2020 ECR AGM Macclesfield Tennis Club
30th November 2020 Ramblers Association Area AGM
Saturday 5th December Christmas Carol short walk – Jenny Bordoli
Saturday 12th December Week End Christmas Lunch at The Windmill organised by Teresa Marshall preceded by a walk organised by Jane and Frank Gay.

Coronavirus – advice for members and volunteers

Walking is a great way to bring groups of people together, to enjoy the outdoors on foot.  Over 50,000 group walks (and other activities) take place every year, and we take the welfare of our volunteers and members very seriously.

With the spread of coronavirus posing a risk to public health, we’re following government updates and latest NHS advice closely. 

For now, most people can carry on as normal.  Remember you can help to minimise the spread of the virus by:

  • catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue, and throwing them away immediately.
  • washing your hands with soap & water regularly (or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser if not available).
  • avoiding close contact with people who are unwell.

If you think you might have coronavirus, recently returned from a high-risk area, or have been in close contact with someone who is unwell – you should contact the NHS coronavirus service online, or call 111.  There’s a chance that you might be asked to self-isolate, which means staying at home and avoiding public places (including Ramblers group activities).

We’ll continue to monitor the situation, and will update groups and areas via the website and volunteer newsletter.  If any further action is needed (such as the cancellation of walks), we will contact area & group chairs and secretaries directly. 

If you have any questions, please get in touch with the supporter care team on 020 3961 3232 / membership@ramblers.zendesk.com

For more information click Coronavirus

Footpath Inspectors Gathering

Monday 29th June – ‘Footpath Inspectors Gathering’

All current Footpath Inspectors and their partners are invited to a ‘Gathering’ to be held at Macclesfield Tennis Club (off Park Lane SK11 8LF) starting at 3.30pm.

This is both a social event and will allow intention of some interaction with the ECR Footpath Committee to discuss the annual inspection process, learn how the past results have been put to good use and to strive for consistency in future  inspections. After a brief presentation there will be time for ‘questions and answers’ and then informal discussion over tea and biscuits. Partners of the Footpath Inspectors are also very welcome, particularly as we know that many of them assist in the Inspection Task. We expect the event will be concluded by 5pm.

The main event will be preceded by a short walk starting at 1pm until 3pm open to all attendees, probably around part of the Alderley Edge National Trust area and we may try to direct the walk past some examples of footpath problems and the efforts of our footpath maintenance team.

More details will be circulated to the Footpath Inspectors during March – but in the meantime please put this date in your diaries

ECR Stockport History Walk



Led by Judith Wilshaw

Local history is an engrossing subject, always something new to discover, never an end in sight.”

FRIDAY 20th March 2020

Start time 1.30 pm at The Plaza Theatre, Mersey Square,

 Stockport SK1 1SP

Going at a reasonable easy pace Judith’s three mile history walk round Stockport town centre will take about two and a half hours.  Judith will make frequent stops to explain significant features. The itinerary features traces of the early history of Stockport, which was the focus of Judith’s talk to ECR in October, and follows through to modern times.  As you would expect, we will be looking at things in geographical, not chronological order.



Numbers will be limited to 25


Early booking is recommended


Minutes of ECR committee held Monday 3 February at 1.30pm


Jane Gay – chair

Dave Barraclough – footpath committee chair

Maggie Swindells – social secretary

Colin Finlayson – treasurer

Kathryn Carty – secretary


Sue Munslow – membership secretary

Keith Anderson

Actions / discussions

  1. Minutes of previous meeting of 11 November 2019 approved.
  • Maggie has already put an entry for safeguarding information (children and vulnerable adults) in FAQ’s and this will shortly go onto the website.
  • The walk grade descriptions will be updated on the following lines (not verbatim)

Short – 5 to 7+ miles approximately

Medium – 8 to 10+ miles approximately

Long – 11 miles plus

Easy – moderately flat walking on good paths

Moderate – Generally on good paths in undulating terrain but with some steep inclines

Strenuous – expect a fair bit of ascent and possibly some mild scrambling.  Route may take open country rather than trodden paths.

Stroller – 3 to 4 miles on even ground with little ascent and few easy stiles.

  • Recce charges

A charge of £5 per head is suggested to event organisers and if costs are not covered, this will be mopped up by surpluses on other events.  Prior to publishing the event organisers are advised to discuss with Colin F costings of an event and the reimbursement of reasonable expenses.  The amounts claimable are not fixed and will vary according to the event. It was felt that amounts should not be prescribed as a non-standard set of circumstances always arises.

  • Value for cost of subscription.  Colin had spoken to the FC at Ramblers but there has since been a staffing change so this will be mentioned to HO again.  It was felt that the competition from low annual fee walking groups, which are affiliated with national Ramblers for a small charge, is not recognised by HO.  The affiliated groups benefit from Ramblers insurance and our footpath maintenance. HO needs to publicise the footpath work which Ramblers members do in order to generate new members.
  • Walk programme This was considered to be holding up well and, as agreed at the AGM, walks will continue as before.  Some gaps are unavoidable without new younger members coming on the scene.  Members of other Ramblers groups have been taking advantage of ECR’s extensive programme.  Walk leaders need gently reminding to put their walks on the notice board two weeks before the date of leading so that they get posted in good time onto the national website. The stroller walks are going ahead.

The new system “what three words” was briefly discussed.  It is another way of locating a walk starting point with a phone app.

  •  Footpath maintenance work as reported in Dave’s footpath committee meeting of January 2020 below.
  • Planning for the 2020 Footpath Inspections is going ahead smoothly by Tony Battilana. He may have a small shortfall in inspector numbers and no longer has a reserve list. In due course we may request that the Committee approves a request to circulate the membership for new volunteers. (This might be combined with information to members on how to report path problems to PROW and a request from PROW for more volunteer involvement – see other points).
  • Routine business  is working normally on footpath problems, PROW Diversions and comments on road schemes. There are a couple of problems that we are pressing PROW for better attention, including footpaths on the   new airpath link road.
  • In the absence of much new initiative for maintenance work from the Projects Group, Nick Brearley is starting to identify ‘minor maintenance’ tasks from the past footpath inspections, with the intention of discussing these with Brian Richardson. This is exactly the purpose of the historical footpath inspection results. Nick was the organiser of the working party to clear undergrowth on the National Trust path at Alderley Edge and has personally cleared an overgrown path by the Airport Hotel, Altrincham Road.

Basically we still need new volunteers for the committee and footpath maintenance work.

  • Since the FP Meeting, Neil Collie and I have met the new PROW Enforcement Officer – Nicola Swinnerton –  (half time, covering half of Evan Pedley’s parishes). She is very enthusiastic (it was her proposal to have the introductory meeting). She is keen to make maximum use of volunteers, using the PROW list of ECR volunteers authorised to carry out minor work on footpaths. This might involve more frequent work than the annual inspection by volunteers and we are discussing the best level of collaboration to encourage/authorise contact with our members. I can report more details to the main ECR Committee.
  • We understand that the long awaited repair of the ‘Donkey Bridge’ at Pott Shrigley has been completed within the last week and the footpath re-opened. ECR contributed funds towards this repair. Although this has been long delayed, it is a fully satisfactory outcome of our support. It might be a suitable topic for a publicity article.

8.Lost Ways

This is very specialist area and there is no-one willing to take over the project, much to Colin Park’s disappointment after all his good work. We have  a shortlist of 5 lost ways which is currently in abeyance.  Costs of taking this forward are not yet being considered.  Dave’s footpath committee considered the subject in his report

Lost Ways – the FPC noted that the AGM had not found a replacement for Colin Park. It remains my view that the FPC already has plenty of work and should not add this to their responsibility. It is my personal view that the existing network of paths in Cheshire East is better than most and extra work on Lost Ways has limited value – given the long and tedious process to make the claims. However, the Committee is reviewing the merits of a small number (5) of potential claims from the Lost Ways list for comparison with a couple of potential new paths that we have already identified.

In Colin’s publicity report he commented about lost ways as follows

The other point I wish to raise is ‘Lost Ways’. Since standing down from the position of co-ordinator, no one has come forward to take on the position. It would be a pity if all the hours of work I undertook on researching this project was to go to waste. There are definitely some paths in our area worthy of saving.

9 Footpath Inspector social

The suggestion for a social event was approved by the committee but it was suggested that catering could be done in-house by buying sandwich platters and by volunteers baking.  There will be a maximum of probably 50 to 60 people probably on a Friday afternoon sometime in July.  There will be a walk put on beforehand. Those invited will include partners of FP inspectors as they often do the work alongside them.  Committee members will also be included.

The suggestion for this is included in Dave’s FP committee report.  Dave will develop these proposals and report to the next Committee Meeting.

We would like to organise a ‘Footpath Inspectors Meeting’ in the summer–the last was several years ago. The objectives are

  1. A ‘thank you’ meeting for their efforts
    1. To communicate and ‘train’ the inspectors to encourage consistency. (There have been a number of inconsistent and ‘over enthusiastic’ reports in the last couple of years!!)
    1. Obtain feedback and suggestions on the Inspection programme

We suggest inviting the Inspectors (about 39 in total) plus partners (who often help with inspections plus the Footpath Committee and Main Committee. The expected number might be 50 to 60 people. After discussion it was felt that widening the invitees to others (such as project group volunteers, walk coordinators, walk  leaders, social organisers etc) would be too large and would dilute the purpose of the meeting. Possible venues are Macclesfield Tennis Club or the Wizard Tearooms at Alderley National Trust, with light refreshments provided. We propose that the cost of this (for room hire, tea and cakes) should be covered by ECR at about £10 to £15 per head. Colin Finlayson considers that we have the funds. It  is a matter for the ECR Meeting to discuss and approve.

10.   Social secretary’s report

        Maggie’s report below summarises the progress she has made.

        As always fresh members need to come forward to volunteer to put on trips.

Thanks go to all our fellow ramblers who continue to co-ordinate walks, lead walks and provide social events for our group. Their continued support and enthusiasm is much appreciated.

The Social Calendar for 2020 is filling up nicely. We have, in addition to an excellent walking programme, an additional event in the calendar for most months throughout the year. 2020 was kicked off with Keith’s Sherry Walk organised by Lorraine and Melanie. Thanks go to both of them for organising this event. In February we will host a talk from a representative from Styal Prison about The Clink and the positive impact it has had on reducing reoffending rates. On the 20th March Judith Wilshaw will lead a guided history walk in Stockport and we hope to end the walk with afternoon tea at the Plaza in Stockport.

Members of ECR have very kindly volunteered to organise four weekends away for members. Thanks go to Jane Gay, Steve Hull, Colin Park and Andy Davies. These events require a great deal of planning and organisation and I’m very grateful to all of them for giving up their time to put these events on.

Ann Thompson is organising a coach trip to Settle in June and Gina Thompson and I are organising another coach trip in September. We’re meeting in February to agree where to go!

I’m hoping to book another event in late October, possibly a talk, Barn Dance and or quiz, and a second history walk in the summer with Rodney Hughes. In addition I will investigate further First Aid training which was requested at the AGM.

A ceilidh organised by Tony B has now been fixed for 31 October 2020 and Jane has also organised a short walk with Martin the Ranger for 12 September 2020.

11.  Treasurer’s report

As at 31 January the bank balance stands at £6353.11.  The Christmas lunches (weekend and mid week) were well attended and broke even.

12.  Membership secretary’s report

January 2020

At the end of December the total membership was slightly down again to 553 with only 2 joining.

However, in January we have already 5 new members this month.  Four live in Macclesfield and one lives in Crewe.

Another trend is having more members from other Cheshire groups walking with us particularly on our longer walks. A few of them have said they are attracted to our programme because of the number of walks we put on , and long walks which are at a good pace. 

13 Publicity report

Colin needs people to write up articles of their walks and send them to him along with a photo or two for entry in the paper and for our website.

There is little to add to the Publicity Report other than I am still writing articles which are published in the Macclesfield Express each week. I continue to write up article on group walks. It would be great if more people provided short article on walks which could go on our website.

14. Format of minutes

It was suggested that the members’ reports could be copied and pasted into the minutes rather than included as attachments.

15.  Website discussion

The current website was discussed from the viewpoint of new / potential members alighting on it.  Some parties felt that the walks within the next 7 days page which comes up would be exactly what potential members would want to see.  Some felt the About page was the better home page.  Both are easy to locate.

16. National Conference

Jane would be going to this along with Steve Butterfield who is Area Secretary.

17.  Chair’s report

It is ECRs  turn to attend National Conference which is on the fourth and fifth of April. I have circulated the committee and nobody has come forward to say they would like to attend. I am attending and have invited Steve to attend with me as I think it would be a good opportunity to discuss the future of the area. I think I might have to be nominated to attend but not sure perhaps we can do that anyway!

I think some of you will have noticed that we were asked to complete a group walks survey in one of the bulletins that came out from central office. Roger has completed this and for that I thank him. He did mention in communication that he would like a password protected area on the website. He has talked to me about this and we both think it would be a good idea and then things like the minutes of meeting could go in that area and not be available to anybody else to read. 

We are still in need of 2 committee members and someone to take charge of Lost Ways. 

18.  Diary dates

  • ECR AGM Saturday 14 November
  • Area AGM Saturday 30 November
  • Next meeting at Jane’s Tuesday 5 May at 1.30pm.

19.  Future action points

  • First Aid training to be booked through HO though actual training is done by St John’s Ambulance. (MS)
  • Gillian Kaye to be asked about repeating walk leader training as her previous training was excellent. (MS)
  • All to pursue new committee members (preferably two)
  • FP committee needs at least one new member.  A female on the committee may be a good thing.
  • More volunteers needed for footpath maintenance
  • Colin to pursue value for cost of subscription.
  • Volunteers to be pursued (by all!) for organising social events.  (Brian Griffiths will be great loss to the group.)
  • Walk leaders to be encouraged to write a report for Colin’s publicity as this may attract new members. 
  • Walk co-ordinators to remind leaders to put walks on website two weeks in advance.

Kathryn Carty – secretary

Frequently Asked Questions For New Walk Leaders

Frequently Asked Questions for New Walk Leaders  

The following Questions and Answers supplements the information provided for Walk Leaders published by the Ramblers Association. Walk Leaders Check List

I would like to find out more about leading a walk. Who do I contact?
ECR has a named coordinator for all the following programmes: Short Midweek Walks, Medium Midweek Walks, Weekend Short Walks, Weekend Medium Walks, Weekend Long Walks, Midweek Long Walks, Stroller Walks and Evening Walks. Each coordinator welcomes contacts from walkers who are willing to organise a walk. If you contact the Chair she will put you in touch with the organiser.
Will anyone help me with my first walk?
ECR have a number of volunteers who would be happy to work with you on your first walk. Please contact the Chair, Jane Gay, and she will put you in touch. 
Do I need to be able to read maps?
Being able to read a map is useful but not essential. There are lots of walks which provide pictures and descriptions of walks which are a really useful source for walk leaders. The Ramblers do provide Map Reading training if you wish to attend. This is advertised on the website and via email.
Where can I find a walk?
The Cheshire East Ramblers website under the Walks Planner Tab Walks Planner  provides a number of ideas for walks. There are also a range of books and other websites which are also a useful source.
Where do I find grid references and post codes for the start of my walk?
You can find this information on the ECR website under the Start Point tab. You can also look them up on the internet.
Do I need to recce my walk?
Yes this is essential.  It’s a good idea to ask a buddy to go with you.  It gives you the opportunity to check parking availability, the accuracy of the walk description, spot any potential hazards, timings and distance. 
Can I ask people to use public transport for my walk?
Yes. Walks can involve trains, buses and or trams. Include the information in your walk description and suggest that walkers bring money, bus passes, and railcards.
How do I advertise my walk and what information do I include?
You post details of your walk on the ECR website at LEAST TWO WEEKS before your walk. You click on the Notice Board Tab and click to post details of your walk. It is an easy programme to use. You need to include: the date, the length, the level of difficulty (easy, moderate, strenuous) the starting point including the post code and grid reference, parking costs if any, toilets if any,  a brief description of the route and any specific points about gradient, mud, etc. It’s helpful to look at others descriptions before you write yours.    
How do I grade my walk?             Walk leaders are asked to provide sufficient detail about their walk when they post                     it on the Notice Board so that potential walkers are aware of the level difficulty of the walk. For example; height gain, conditions underfoot or any potentially challenging terrain.
           Walks are graded as follows:                       Length: Short: approx. 5 – 7+ milesMedium: 8 – 10+  milesLong: 11+                     Degree of difficulty: Easy – mostly flat walking on good pathsModerate – this covers the majority of walks; there might well be a steep hill or two but it   will generally be on good paths in undulating terrainStrenuous – expect a fair bit of uphill walking, maybe even some mild scrambling.  We might leave paths for open country but not invariably             Stroller Walks:           These walks are: 3 – 4 miles on even ground with very limited ascents or descents and very few stiles
Can people take dogs on the walk?
It is the decision of the walk leader. If you feel that it is safe for people to do so, no live stock on the walk, then indicate this in your information. If you feel it would be a risk then state this clearly when you post your walk on the notice board.
Do I need a backmarker?
Yes you do need someone to walk at the back of the walkers to make sure the group doesn’t get lost.  It’s a good idea to share phone numbers if you can. When you’re walking you need to keep the backmarker in sight. You may need to stop until they come into view. It’s essential to make sure the backmarker knows when you turn off the path or cross roads. If you have a large group 30+ it’s a good idea to have a middle marker too.
Who do I ask to be a backmarker?
If the person who recced the walk with you is walking they are an ideal backmarker. If not then ask at the start of your walk. Someone will always volunteer. 
What equipment should I take on my walk?
Take a first aid kit, whistle, water, phone, map, walk instructions, plastic bag, emergency services contact numbers, the contact number for the Ramblers Association +44 (0)20 3961 3300.
What happens at the beginning of the walk?
Walks usually start at 10am. It’s a good idea to get there early.  Walkers generally gather well before the start time.  Gather walkers together at 9.50ish and introduce yourself. Give a brief verbal description of where you’re going.  Ask for someone to be a backmarker.  Count the group before you set off!
Should I have emergency contact numbers for all the walkers?
Walkers are encouraged to complete an In Case of an Emergency (ICE) card and carry it with them on their walks. You can have a set of these cards to give out at the beginning of your walks.
What do I do if someone turns up who hasn’t walked with ECR before?
It’s always helpful to ask at the beginning of the walk if there are any walkers new to ECR. Please ask them to introduce themselves to the group and give them a warm welcome. It’s worth checking in with them when you stop at any point. At the end of the walk ask them how they are and that you hope they manage to come on more walks.
What happens if no one turns up?
You can go home. Let the walk organiser for the walks know.
What happens if one or two people turn up?
You do the walk unless everyone else wants to go home.
Do walkers need to be members?
We don’t check membership cards. Members may bring a friend to try a walk or they can bring a visitor. The general rule of thumb is new walkers can try three walks before they join.
Do people take refreshments on a walk?
Leaders usually stop for coffee for 15 mins an hour after the start of the walk. Long and medium walkers take a packed lunch.  Build in a stop at a suitable place for each when you recce your walk.
Do I have to organise lunch for walkers?
Medium and long walkers take a packed lunch. Traditionally, the midweek short walkers like to go for a pub lunch after their walk.  If you can identify a pub as a starting point that’s ideal. Contact the pub to let them know you will be bringing a party in at lunchtime. Check either at the beginning of your walk or at coffee time who would like lunch and phone the pub with the numbers.
What happens if someone needs a comfort break?
If a walker needs a comfort break they need to let the backmarker or leader know when they step off the walk and return to the walk.
What happens if someone is ill on the walk?
If the person feels able to walk back to the beginning ask another member of the group to go with them and ask them to call you when they get back to the car. If someone is seriously ill contact the emergency services and report back to the walk co-ordinator.
What happens if I am ill on the walk?
You will have many experienced walkers on your walk who would be willing to lead the rest of the walk for you if they have your map and or written directions. It would be a good idea if someone walked back with you to the car or, in the event of a serious illness, calls the emergency services.
What happens if I have to cancel the walk on the day?
Log on to the ECR website – Notice Board Tab – click on the date and post cancelled.
What happens if I have to cancel the walk well ahead of the date?
Contact the walk organiser for the walk programme and they will try to find someone else to lead a walk.
What happens if I have to change the walk?
It may be necessary to change the details of an already posted walk,  maybe due to snowfall making road travel risky or because the leader is ill.  In this case a new message should be posted on the notice board making it clear that it replaces the original posting for that walk.  The programme coordinator will get an automatic email notification of the new posting and he will then liaise with the webmaster to alter the programme on the web site to indicate that the walk is either cancelled or changed and include the new details.  If midweek walk is involved the new details should also be emailed to appropriate walks coordinator, short, medium or long, so that they can circulate the message to their address lists.
What happens if someone has an accident on my walk?
Notify the ECR Secretary as soon as possible and complete an incident form within a maximum of 10 days. The form is sent to the ECR Secretary and they send the form to the Ramblers Association.
What do I do if someone leaves the walk?
Occasionally walkers may wish to leave the walk. They must let the walk leader know. If they walk on ahead of the leader they may also be deemed to have left the walk.
Who is insured on the walk?
For detailed information about insurance please visit the Ramblers Association website Insurance Toolkit
What do I do if I lose someone?
It is very rare to lose someone on a walk. The requirement to have a backmarker, and middle marker for a large group, should ensure that no one gets lost. If you do lose a member of your group you could ask for volunteers to walk back to the start to try to find the individual while you stay with the main party and continue with the walk. Ensure you have shared mobile numbers with the individuals who have agreed to walk back.  
What do I do at the end of my walk?
Ensure everyone gets to the end and thank people for coming. Text/email the walk organiser the number of people who attended your walk.
Can I share my experience with anyone? ECR encourages walk leaders to do a ‘write up’ for the local press and the website. Colin Park manages this process and his email is available from one of the committee members. The article needs to be 250-350 words with a photograph taken on the walk in a JPEG format. If you are unable to attach a photograph or if no photographs were taken Colin Park can add one from my library of pictures.
How do I access training and what is available?
Training events are provided by ECR and the Ramblers Association. The events are advertised on the website and circulated via email.
 Can I take photographs of my fellow walkers?
It is polite to ask walkers before you photograph them whether they wish to be included in your photo. If you intend to use your photo for publicity, or on social media, you should  let the walkers in your group know BEFORE you take the photo.
The Ramblers Association has a Safeguarding Young People and Adults Policy which can be accessed hereSafeguarding

A New Way To Find Our Walks

You may have noticed that a lot of random words have appeared on the walks programme on our home page. It’s not a mistake but a new, additional, way of locating the places where our walks start.

It is called what3words. Each 3 metre square in the world has been assigned a different combination of three words by What3words Ltd and they supply a smartphone app which converts the three words into a location and can then guide you to that place. The idea is that what3words is more accurate than a post code and easier to remember than latitude and longitude or a grid reference. At the moment you need the app to make use of the words but in the future it is likely that satnavs will accept them.

What3words won’t be replacing anything on our web site – it is just another way to guide you to our walks.

Harrop Brook Bridge

Historic Footbridge Saved

An iconic stone arch footbridge across Harrop Brook near Bollington has been saved from collapse thanks, in part, to a donation by East Cheshire Ramblers. The bridge was probably built in Victorian times. It is in the Peak District National Park and is on the Gritstone trail, a popular long distance trail stretching from Disley all the way south to Kidsgrove.

Over the years the bridge supports have been eroded by the force of the Harrop Brook and the bridge is in danger of collapse. However, the cost of restoration far exceeded the cost of replacing it with a ‘standard’ timber footbridge. East Cheshire Ramblers considered that it would be tragic to lose this unique little structure and have pledged £500 towards the cost of restoration. CEC obtained similar donations from Pott Shigley, Bollington and Rainow Parish Councils and also from the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society. The repairs are in hand and due for completion by summer 2019.

This is an example of the work of the Footpaths Committee of East Cheshire Ramblers whose members regularly liaise with the Public Rights of Way Unit of Cheshire East Council. The Footpaths Committee monitor an area stretching from Disley and Poynton in the north to Wincle in the south. The Committee strives to ensure that all the public footpaths in this area of East Cheshire are in good order.

Harrop Brook Bridge showing a gap in the stonework at the right hand side of the photograph.

General Council, Manchester 2019

Reflections on General Council, Manchester 2019

A highly organised and slick event. The staff, Trustees and the volunteers for the event were all wearing the same T shirts emphasising the One -Team-Approach. All the staff and Trustees sat along the front row of the auditorium. Senior staff members were called upon in turn to give their part of the presentation supported by the Trustee who had been involved with that topic.

‘Van’ (Vanessa) Griffiths the new Chief Executive appointed 2 years ago, emphasised we are all One Team, no more divisions, but embracing change and moving forward together. We were reminded that we didn’t belong to a walking club but to a movement. The Ramblers organisation is aspiring to become the ‘Go-To’ place for walking. Central office is listening and new methods would be modified in light of feedback. Local successes need to be shared with the Trustees and Central Office (CO).

First priority was to address the slow decline in membership over the last 15 years and there was a promise to achieve membership growth ‘within 3 years’. We needed to be a welcoming organisation reaching out to new members, and recognising that the majority of members do not go on organised walks.

The new IT Director spoke lucidly about the ‘Digital and Data Transformation’ going on and spoke about her priority to make it easier for everyone, The vision included new phone apps that would enhance your walking experience. The ambition was to build a system as good as Trip Adviser that would advise you about the local area –even tell you which path to take to avoid a muddy section? 5 databases have been combined into one and the new digital dashboard is there to be used. Walk leaders would zapp members cards at the start of walks so that CO could collect all sorts of lovely data about what we were doing. This data is useful to justify support from funders. In answer to a question, the director said that if ‘someone really didn’t want to be zapped it would not be compulsory’. More on the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) later…

The finances are in good order. £3.9 million surplus this year. But legacies contributed £1.6m and are notoriously unreliable. £250,000 is earmarked annually for legal fees opposing footpath changes – is this sufficient?

I didn’t stay for the dinner, apparently there was a quiz all about Manchester…. and guess which table won…… Greater Manchester & High Peak Area!

On the second day, there was the election of three new Trustees. All the candidates were passionate about walking….all embraced change and most were experienced in change management and knew it was difficult……

Next was the consideration of the motions that had been put forward. Only seven this year including one to rename the Agenda Committee to be the Motions Review Committee. Did it need to be debated?……. Yes it did!

Next up was GDPR and a motion asking the Trustees to acknowledge that locally held databases were OK. Apparently not, and a Trustee threatened us with a one million euro (or was it ten million euro?) fine. CO have it in hand with a dashboard app where areas and groups will be able to access the information they need? No doubt our membership secretary has all this in hand.

Third was a motion asking for an increase in publicity for the work ‘we do in improving the quality of the Public Rights of Way and in campaigning for increased access’ We were told that two new posts have been created for two years: Local Advocacy Advisors, one in the south and one in the north, who would help with this.

Fourth motion was asking for school packs to help recruit young people (and their parents) ‘who then stay with us for all their lives’.

Fifth motion was bemoaning the change of Policy by the Environment Agency (EA) towards maintenance of river banks where they impinge on rights of way. Apparently CO had been re-assured by the EA chief exec there was no change in policy with respect to river banks ‘on their land’. But most problems occurr not on EA land …….?

Sixth motion was on national planning guidance on green spaces and rights of way. Laudable stuff to press for strengthened guidance….

Seventh motion was an entertaining speaker on a motion to create a diverse and representative General Council (GC). She argued very persuasively that diverse organisations make better decisions and asked that Areas examine how they select there representatives to GC. Were there actual or perceived barriers that made participation by women more difficult? The Trustees to report back to 2020 GC which is to be held in Avon.

I can’t remember which motions were carried or defeated (except the first which, thankfully, was passed unanimously) but all the details of the motions and much more is on the Ramblers website.

Overall impression? For me it was exhausting (even without the evening dinner) but there is no doubt we are on the move and led by an impressive team – none of whom seemed to have been in post for more than one or possibly two years. Will the same team be there in five years time when it will be possible to assess the effectiveness of the changes which we are being asked to embrace? It was inspiring, almost evangelical at times. It is more than about led walks……. we are all One Team working together, and don’t forget the main message…. more members, more members, more members.

One final thought, are we missing out on conversations and consultations with CO as we have no area representatives? Are other areas better informed than we are? Maybe, just maybe, it is time to consider having an Area Chair – even if a ‘virtual’ one?

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East Cheshire Ramblers ensure their footpaths are in good orderThe East Cheshire Group of the Ramblers is active in checking and inspecting the network of Public Rights of Way which exist across the splendid countryside in East Cheshire. There is a legal duty on the highway authority and on landowners to ensure that public footpaths are maintained in a walkable condition.

If you find a path in East Cheshire that is obstructed or want to report a fault to the Council go to the public rights of way page of the Cheshire East council web site – https://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/leisure,_culture_and_tourism/public_rights_of_way/public_rights_of_way.aspx – where you will find a link to an online problem report form.

If, after submitting this form, you do not get a satisfactory response, please report the problem to us using the link at the end of this article and we will follow it up.

East Cheshire Ramblers cover an area of 33 parishes from Poynton in the north to Wincle in the south and, east to west, from Chelford to Rainow.  There are over 1270 paths which criss-cross the area and every path is surveyed annually by our volunteer inspectors. By far the majority of paths  are in good order, thanks to the co-operation of the landowners and the tireless work of Cheshire East Council Public Rights of Way (PROW) Unit.  Sometimes a path can be obstructed by a fallen tree, a newly erected fence or sometimes a stile or gate is damaged. Our inspectors report these faults to the PROW Unit who ensure the fault is rectified promptly.  Some inspectors also fix yellow waymarking signs to ensure walkers can keep to the correct line of the path. To cover such a large area, over 40 of our members are inspectors and we are always on the lookout for more volunteers.

In addition, we have a group of volunteers who undertake more practical tasks such as cutting back vegetation, repairing stiles and improving the path surfaces.

How is all this co-ordinated? Well, since 1986 East Cheshire Ramblers have organised a Footpaths Committee who meet regularly to discuss the latest problems and the progress with the annual path inspections. At this forum proposals for the legal diversion of the rights of way are debated and comments made to Cheshire East Council. We look after the interests of all walkers and we will not agree to any proposal that significantly reduces the enjoyment of the path.  If necessary, but rarely, we will make a formal objection and argue our case at a Public Inquiry. In such cases we are able to draw on the legal expertise of the Ramblers Central Office in London. If you enjoy walking, please join the Ramblers organisation and help to support this vital work.

Here are some photographs to illustrate the group’s work

The footpath goes under the bridge. This obstruction was reported by our footpaths inspector and Cheshire East Council ensured it was removed.

The footpath goes under the bridge. This obstruction was reported by our footpaths inspector and Cheshire East Council ensured it was removed.
A memorial bench was installed some years ago by the East Cheshire Ramblers Group on the Ladybrook Valley Interest Trail in Poynton. Rest a While!

A memorial bench was installed some years ago by the East Cheshire Ramblers Group on the Ladybrook Valley Interest Trail in Poynton. Rest a While!
The path has been eroded by the stream over a number of years. A temporary diversion of the footpath has been implemented.

The path has been eroded by the stream over a number of years. A temporary diversion of the footpath has been implemented.
A fallen tree is blocking the footpath beyond the kissing gate. It is the responsibility of the landowner to remove the obstruction, but if they do not act then Cheshire East Council can remove the obstruction and charge the cost to the landowner.

A fallen tree is blocking the footpath beyond the kissing gate. It is the responsibility of the landowner to remove the obstruction, but if they do not act then Cheshire East Council can remove the obstruction and charge the cost to the landowner.
This has now been replaced by a kissing gate.

This has now been replaced by a kissing gate.
Our footpaths inspector reported this problem and it was dealt with promptly by Cheshire East Council.

Our footpaths inspector reported this problem and it was dealt with promptly by Cheshire East Council.

Here are some links which will be useful to obtain further information on footpaths and rambling in our area

Neil Collie