The railway viaduct over the River Trent at Torksey has been closed for decades, cutting off the residents of Torksey (Lincs) from their neighbours on the Nottinghamshire side of the river. The only ways into Nottinghamshire involved travel of around 10 miles in either direction to the nearest crossing points. But that all changed on Friday 22nd April when the viaduct reopened, allowing people to walk from one side to the other. A moment celebrated by the handing over of an oak sapling by children from a local Notts school to children from the school at Torksey.
Walkers approaching the viaduct along the Trent Valley Way
The Ramblers had been invited to go along to the opening ceremony and were represented by the Chair, Vice-chair and Area Secretary. Rod and Jenny took along some leaflets and display materials and were able to talk to quite a lot of the people that turned out, including several Ramblers members from Gainsborough Group and members from the Lincolnshire Area Groups. The Notts Guided Walks Partnership was also invited but was unable to display its materials due to their representatives getting stuck on a muddy lane on the wrong side of the river. The list of dignitaries was impressive with parish, district and county councillors present along with senior members of Sustrans and the various funding agencies and bodies.
The journey to getting the viaduct reopened started around 20 years ago when Sustrans took ownership of the derelict structure. Since then, they have steadfastly worked to put the funding and agreements in place to get the viaduct made safe and a new decking put down that can accommodate cyclists and walkers. At the moment, the viaduct is open only to walkers, as the paths on the Nottinghamshire side are footpaths that are accessed from the viaduct by a staggered set of steps and, therefore, not available to cyclists: though a bold Sustrans spokesperson did announce to the crowd that opening the viaduct was the first step of a plan to get all footpaths on the Nottinghamshire side converted to cycleways in order to link up with other cycle routes.
The day was bright and sunny, encouraging many of the local people to come along to the opening and swell the numbers to around 200 people. After the speeches and the unveiling of a plaque on the viaduct wall came the handing over of the oak tree sapling. Then, the assembled throng were invited by a spokesperson to go on a led walk of 4Km on the Nottinghamshire side of the River Trent, which included a short section of the Trent Valley Way, to, “see for yourselves some of the paths that we want to improve in phase two of this project”. (I'll leave the reader to determine how you “improve” a pleasant walk along a grassed embankment).
Around 40 people undertook the walk which was led by the Ramblers Area Chair and back-marked by a member of Sustrans. On the way around, there was a chance to talk and many of the walkers said that it was the first time that they had walked on that side of the River. They all seemed delighted at the chance to have a pleasant stroll alongside the river; though some were distinctly nervous at the idea that the paths might be covered with tarmac. At the end of the walk, I asked the Sustrans back-marker whether he'd enjoyed the walk. He said that he had and that he was surprised by the conversations he had been having with people as he'd walked along. He had, apparently, learned one or two bits of gossip about people in Torksey as well as a little of the history. It's surprising what you can find out when life moves a little slower!
The day ended at the local Hume Arms, where there was another speech and the cutting of a cake to mark the occasion.
My first experience of General Council (GC) was... interesting. I went as an "Observer" - presumably because I wasn't to be trusted with voting rights on my first time out. Four of us travelled up together – me and the other Observer plus the two voting delegates.
Let me say straight away that if you are considering going, then go: it is a worthwhile experience and will tell you a lot about the organisation to which you belong.
From the suits to the staff uniforms and past the casual clothes to the guy who walked into the auditorium wearing shorts and boots, carrying a rucksack, Ramblers are a very diverse and interesting group of people. Some were in bed by 9pm then up at the crack of dawn whilst others were in the bar until 1am then arose (gently) the next morning at a more respectable time.
This year's GC was held at York University Campus and a lovely place it is, too. The accommodation was in campus dormitories that were better than some of the hotels that can be found close to motorways and major roads. The grounds are a delight to walk through, with lakes and waterfowl of all kinds. The dining facilities and food were pretty good, too.
We arrived at GC in time for Lunch – I was first in the queue. Members Day was in full swing and there had already been a morning of workshops on various matters. We registered for the Members Day and were given a bag of things including more paperwork to go with the 150 pages of stuff that we had been sent days before. During the two hours allotted for lunch, delegates were supposed to enjoy a leisurely meal as quickly as possible then look around the various exhibitors. Being first in the queue for lunch meant that I was able to get to the stalls almost before anyone else. Lucky me! This meant that I was able to get my feet properly measured and assessed – apparently, I just need to find £400 for some orthopaedic insoles and a made-to-measure pair of walking boots then I'll be over the hills and far away in no time.
The afternoon programme continued apace with question & answer sessions, addresses and the "pat on the back" awards. Just when I was beginning to think of sneaking off somewhere quiet to have a look at all my paperwork I realised it was 4pm – time to register for GC, itself. More paperwork!! But there was no time to read it as a very helpful volunteer took me by the elbow to lead me to the auditorium where a talk by the Chief Exec was just about to start and she was sure that I wouldn't want to miss it. Turned out to be more interesting than I thought it would be as Benedict finished his presentation by announcing that he was resigning and would be leaving by the end of July – an announcement that seemed to take many by surprise. He alluded to receiving verbal attacks and to frustration with the way things were going. His parting sentence was along the lines of, "There's a vacancy for a footpaths officer with my local group so I might apply for that".
This was followed by hustings for the various elections that would be happening the next day. There was also Dinner from 6pm to 8pm – no time to enjoy it, though, as delegates were expected to also attend "Governance Discussions". These turned out to be a 10 minute explanation of how to respond to questions with different coloured post-it notes on which you should write the letters "Y" or "N" then stick them on the walls of the room. All around the walls were questions and depending on how you answered, you could then go forward three questions or go down a snake or collect £200 (You're right, I didn't quite understand it).
Finally, by 9pm, it was all over for the day - 3 options – go for a walk; adjourn to my room and read the paperwork or go to the bar and schmooze. Difficult decision, so I went to the bar to think about what I should do. Here, I met the most fascinating people. There was the chance to talk to staff members (easily identifiable in their Khaki shirts and name badges), trustees and even the outgoing President, Kate Ashbrook, among many others. I could name drop everyone but that would just be showing off; though it would go some way towards explaining how I knew for sure that there were people in the bar until 1am.
DAY 2 – SUNDAY
First in the queue for a 7.30am breakfast (are you spotting a trend, yet?). First session of GC starts at 9am with the issuing of "quelle surprise", more paperwork! This session deals mainly with the Annual Report and Accounts plus a load of admin-type things.
After a break, we get on to updates of ongoing motions from previous years then election results then..... 2016 Motions for the rest of the day – what fun!
For a formal report of how the motions went, please see the Area Secretaries report.
As an "observer" (sit still, say nowt and don't vote), I have these comments to make. Why do people who know that they are going to speak to certain motions always sit at the back of auditoria? There appeared to be a sort of any three or four from eight people who would speak to any given motion. These people almost exclusively sat towards the back and in the middle of rows. Every motion saw a couple of them put up their hands to speak. At first, it looked as though the organisers were wise to this as they had several microphones that could be rushed up the steps to the person wanting to speak. But, not wanting to be denied their moment of glory, by the third motion, this little group of experienced GC-goers were quickly jumping to their feet when called and rushing to the stairs to come clumping down to the static microphone on stage. Often, they seemed to have little new to add but, satisfied with their intervention, they would clump back up the steps to their seat. By about the fifth motion, they had this down to a fine art and, being the courteous people that they are, they would wait at the top of the stairs for the previous speaker to come clumping back to their seat before setting off on their own clump towards 20 seconds of fame.
One woman clumped down the steps to the front to announce that she had intended to vote one way but had now changed her mind – then clumped back to her seat without adding anything further.
The star of the motions session, for me, was the mover of a motion who spoke with some passion then, at the vote, abstained!
Even amidst all the serious talk on the Governance Motions there was a moment of surrealism as one speaker took the microphone to announce the latest score in the T20 Cricket.
Then, all too soon, it was 4pm and it was all over for another year.
Would I go again? - absolutely! For all the relentless pace of it, and all of its eccentricity, there are moments when you can sit back and marvel at the variety of people who come together with such passion to support and work for this movement of ours.
And did I really "sit still, say nowt and don't vote"? Not quite. I was invited to comment on each of the motions before the voting delegates cast their votes.
Nottinghamshire Area Ramblers invites you, your family
and friends to join us for a day out in the South of the County.
There will be a walk, a competition, prizes and more, plus a visit to a Creamery, as well as the chance to meet up with other Ramblers and enjoy a day out.
Venue Cropwell Bishop
The day starts with an easy 5.5 mile circular walk that takes us to Colston Basssett, where we will take our lunch break before returning alongside the disused Grantham Canal. When we return, there is a visit (with tasting!) to Cropwell Bishop Creamery.
The walk starts at 10.30am from the Chequers Inn on Church Street NG12 3DB. We have permission to use the car park and the pub will be open especially for us from 10am, selling teas and coffees plus allowing use of the toilets.
The walk is on mainly good paths but with a couple of fields to be crossed. During the walk, there will be a competition for any who want to take part with prizes awarded at the end, PLUS a special prize for an under 16 year old winner.
On the way out to Colston Bassett, we pass the ruin of St. Mary's Church. At Colston Bassett we take a 45 minute lunch break. The church of St. John the Divine will be open to visitors as will the Martin's Arms PH (food available). The pub has an outdoor area (accessed through the pub).
Cropwell Bishop Creamery will be open for us on our return and they will provide some samples of their cheeses etc for us to try and buy!
We finish back at the Chequers Inn where there will be a Ramblers Stall, prizes for the competition winners, and the chance to relax and chat to friends old and new.
Travellers from Nottingham might want to consider catching the bus. The Trent Barton Rushcliffe Villager V2 service leaves Nottingham Broad Marsh at 0952 and stops outside the Chequers Inn at 1025. The walk won't start until the bus has arrived. Buses back are at 1500, 1624 and 1704.