Sunday February 7th dawned bright and crisp in complete contrast to the previous day's biblical rainfall.
We opened Norwell Village Hall at 8:30 and the ladies from Newark Group busied themselves making vast quantities of hot drinks and laying out the cake stall while the chaps tried to look busy and important arranging tables and chairs.
The first of our guests to arrive - no surprise there - was the indefatigable Chris Thompson. (Chris in full flow provides one of the classic sights of Nottinghamshire Ramblers with coat-tails flying and bootlaces undone). Rod and Jenny Fillingham arrived shortly afterwards and then the hall began to fill up, guests including senior officers from surrounding Area Councils, as well as the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Des Garrahan, who had driven up from London. Alex Staniforth and Judith Anson were also early arrivals and set up the Ramblers display boards.
The first walk left at 9:45 led by our retiring Membership Secretary, Jean Everington (although I think "retiring" is the wrong word to describe Jean). The walk was 7.5 miles to Caunton, returning across a very muddy Bathley Hill.
My own walk was a 4.5 mile walk, again involving an ascent of Bathley Hill with a fine view of the distant Lincoln Cathedral gleaming in the morning sun. We then walked down the Bathley - Norwell road, described by Pevsner in his Nottinghamshire Guide as a "delight", before making a detour to avoid George.
George is a well-endowed black Highland Longhorn bull who is billeted for the Winter, together with his admiring harem, in a field crossed by a public footpath. His owner is legally entitled to keep him in this field and, although George seems very benign, I thought it wise not to test his good nature with a 19-strong posse of walkers. I had previously negotiated an alternative route with a local farmer to skirt the field - we were able to admire George’s impressive attributes through the safety of a hedgerow!
While we were away there was another short walk taking place in the village. This was a Heritage Walk through historic Norwell, organised by Michael Jones, a retired professor of Mediaeval History who lives in the village and is Chair of Norwell Heritage Society. About 12 people went on this walk which was well received - Michael has very kindly agreed to lead a similar walk for a Summer evening as part of the Newark Group's walks programme.
Eventually we all congregated back at the Village Hall, several people having enjoyed Sunday lunch at the local pub. There was a little flurry of anxiety before the late arrival of our Area President, Paddy Tipping. I say "anxiety" because the photographer from the Newark Advertiser had already arrived and I thought we might be heading for a "Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark" scenario but all was well. Paddy arrived and a small group of us walked down the road to have our photograph taken. The photograph can be admired - or otherwise - in this week's edition of the paper.
And at 2pm the main business of the day, the Nottinghamshire Area AGM, started. But that's another story...
This year’s Area AGM was hosted by Newark Group at the delightful village hall in the equally delightful Conservation Village of Norwell.
When the Group hosted the AGM previously they treated those attending to a wonderful range of homemade cakes and again this time they didn’t disappoint. Appreciation for their efforts was widely acknowledged by the 50 attendees. This year will be noted as a time of change: several serving Area Officers were stepping down from their posts including the Area Chair, the Area Countryside Officer – now re-titled Area Walk Environment Officer – and the Area Publicity Officer. A new Area Chair was voted in, Keith Wallace, Mansfield and Sherwood Group and also the Area Newsletter Editor. Unfortunately, the other two posts were unfilled but the Area Secretary would be more than pleased to hear from any member willing to ‘have a go’ – full job description details are available on the Ramblers national website under Volunteer Zone.
For the first time in a number of years we had a guest speaker attending the AGM. Area invited Des Garrahan, Chair of the Ramblers’ Board of Trustees who informed members on a diverse range of subjects Ramblers’ related. Also, we welcomed from the adjoining Areas of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and South Yorkshire who had been specially invited to attend. In his speech to the meeting Des updated the audience on current events including, briefly:
Membership – more women are members both at UK and Area level.
Financial Resources – besides membership fees further income is generated from Ramblers’ Worldwide Holidays and the Post Code Lottery.
Governance of the Ramblers – thought our current set-up is a little old fashioned. A debate on this followed after the close of official business – see below.
The Big Pathwatch – a full assessment of the recently concluded six month project will be released later this year.
A surprising fact: the Ramblers’ has 108,000 members and 25,000 volunteers; the RSPB has 1.5 million members and 33,000 volunteers. Speaks volumes about the dedication of our membership.
New Governance Proposals for the Ramblers At the conclusion of the AGM proper, a lively, and at times, passionate discussion on this prickly subject began; it is currently a major topic for both the Board of Trustees and RA Areas. A good number of AGM attendees stayed on to listen, ask questions and have their say on the direction the business of the Ramblers will be decided in future.
Compiled by Alex Staniforth, former Area Publicity Officer
“My Sheffield relatives were part of the Kinder access campaign and I’ve walked regularly since I was a boy. Halifax is a great base for walking in the Pennines and I still go there but I now normally walk in the Peak National Park. Given time pressures you can find me on local paths on a Sunday afternoon. I was at Ploughman’s Wood last weekend.
National Parks and the Right to Roam are unsung achievements of previous Labour Governments. I’m proud to have worked successfully with the Ramblers on both campaigns. I’m still active in walking campaigns – walking for health and making the countryside more welcoming to the black and Asian communities. As part of my work as Police and Crime Commissioner I walk the beat regularly with Police Officers. They all complain that I walk too quickly!”
Why did you join Ramblers?To enjoy access to the countryside
How long have you been a member? For more years than I can remember!
Where is your favourite walking destination? The Three Peaks in Yorkshire
If you could walk anywhere in the world, where would you choose? Alaska
What is your most memorable walk? Over the top of Pen-y-ghent with the clouds underneath me.
What is your most treasured piece of walking kit? My boots
Have you ever got lost on a walk? No
Who would be your ideal walking companion(s)? The long walk to freedom with Nelson Mandela
How do you relax? Walking or running
What is your favourite meal? Everything (I eat and enjoy everything)
What is your guiltiest pleasure? Too much red wine
What music would you like played at your funeral? Jerusalem
Sum up your personality in three words Works too hard
Photo: Paddy (left) with Louise Clarke & Kevin Greaves