HISTORY OF THE CAMBRIDGE RAMBLING CLUB
During the summer of 1927, several friends, who had enjoyed holidays with the Co-operative Holidays Association (CHA) (now re-named Countrywide Holidays Association) and were members of that organization, met informally for rambles in the Cambridge area. As the summer went by, they felt there might be demand for a club to arrange walks which other CHA members could join, and so, prompted by a CHA reunion in January 1928, it was decided to hold a meeting to discuss this possibility and, perhaps, to establish a club of this nature.
This inaugural meeting was held at 7:30 p.m. on 1 February 1928 at the Corner House, Market Hill, Cambridge. (This venue, over the present Burton’s shop, proved so suitable that it was used for many years.) There were 38 people present, and Arthur A. Ashman (known as Andy) was elected to the chair. Officers were elected (a president, two vice-presidents, a treasurer, and five committee members) and an auditor appointed. The elected president was P. C. Fitzgerald.
The question of affiliation with the CHA was discussed and it was decided that this should be sought. The name of the club was also decided upon: the Cambridge CHA Club. The committee was asked to consider the formulation of the rules and it was moved that the annual subscription should be five shillings (25p.), with an entrance fee of one shilling (5p.). After some discussion, the meeting considered that this figure was too high, and an amendment was carried that the annual subscription should be three shillings (15p.) and the entrance fee remain at one shilling. This was confirmed at the annual general meeting held during the following October. Also, it was moved that the number of non-CHA members in the club should not exceed the number of CHA members.
It was suggested that rambles should take place on Saturdays, Sundays and Thursdays (early closing day in Cambridge). The formation of a tennis club was proposed, but, as there was not sufficient support for this proposal at the meeting, a decision was postponed. The acquisition of a club room was also discussed.
Following the inaugural meeting, the first committee meeting was held on 14 February 1928 and the rules of the Newcastle CHA Club were adopted for use by the Cambridge club. After this, committee meetings were held every month and a programme of walks arranged for the following month. The first ramble took place on 26 February 1928 and was from Brooklands Avenue to the Roman Road (no details of route known).
By September 1928, a sub-committee for social affairs had been formed. This was far-ranging in its proposals: a folk dancing class was arranged and a room was hired in St Andrews the Great church hall, Emmanuel Road. A Halloween party was arranged, and, after this, a Christmas party, for which the tickets were two shillings and sixpence (12½ p.) each. For several years, club parties were held in Matthews’ restaurant in Trinity Street, and later in the Dorothy Café in Sidney Sussex Street.
At the first annual general meeting on 31 October 1928, it was reported that the club had 50 members, and during the year there had been eleven whole-day excursions and ten half-day visits or rambles. Visits to Chivers Factory and to Hinchingbrooke House had been exceptionally popular. On the rambles, distances covered were 12 to 15 miles. The question of the tennis club was brought up once again and it was decided to form one. A tennis court was eventually hired on the Gonville and Caius College field, off the Coton footpath for £12 p.a. Twenty-three people joined at 12/6d (62½ p.) per person per season. Play was on weekdays only.
A holiday fund was established, but details of how this functioned are not described in the minutes of the meeting. It appears to have been very successful and survived up to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. Its success may have been due to the hard work of Harry Stevens, who was Club Treasurer during this period and placed the club’s finances on a firm footing.
During the winter, a play-reading group was formed, and visits to the Meltis Chocolate Factory at Bedford and to the Zoo were arranged by the Social Committee. By February 1930, there were problems with excessive numbers of ladies wishing to join the club. According to the minutes, rather than limiting the numbers of ladies, it was decided to canvass actively for more male members, but Elsie Layton recalls a different experience when she and a girl friend tried to join. They were refused membership, so they decided to go ahead on their own. They set out with rucksacks and maps, and, before long, on one of their own rambles, they met the Cambridge CHA Club, coming towards them. They stopped to exchange greetings, and when he heard of their exploits, Andy Ashman decided that two such adventurous spirits must not be denied membership of the club and so they were allowed to join. This story has a further happy ending, because Elsie met her husband-to-be, George, through the club and their subsequent wedding was the first of many within the club.
Other social activities flourished and waned, including badminton and table tennis, but, by the third AGM in October 1930, it was decided to concentrate on rambling. In 1931, the monthly committee meeting was dropped and meetings took place every three months instead. In these pre-war years, rambling was extremely popular as a national pastime and, in an effort to seek out new walks in the rather limited terrain of Cambridgeshire, the club was soon using cars to assist in searching out new ground, although trains, running frequently and inexpensively in those pre-Beeching days, were also popular.
At a committee meeting in March 1936, the benefit to the CHA of the link with the Cambridge club was more clearly stated. The secretary had attended a meeting of the CHA Southern Group at which the need for greater encouragement of members to attend CHA holiday centres was stressed and for more propaganda to extend interest in the organization. (For many years after the war, the CHA sent a speaker to the Cambridge Rambling Club’s annual reunion, and, during the 1950s, delegates from the club were sent to the annual general meetings of both the CHA and the HF.)
First mention of the Ramblers’ Association is made in the minutes of a committee meeting held in July 1938, when Alec Norman was elected as Ramblers’ Secretary to supply the RA with information about footpaths covered during walks. This proposal was submitted to the CHA and subsequently approved.
On 29 September 1939, three or four weeks after the outbreak of war, a committee meeting of the club was held to discuss future activities in view of the international situation. It was decided to restrict rambles to one each month and to use bicycles instead of cars in order to get into the country, presumably to save petrol. The current programme was revised to take account of these changes. By 1941, however, rambles were back to two per month and the tennis club was still active. Cycles were indeed used, and for quite considerable distances, to gain access to the countryside. For example, we have a record: “31 May 1942 – cycle to St Ives. Walk Houghton Mill, Hemingford and the Thicket. Meet Girton Corner 10:30 a.m. Tea out”. One wonders how many of today’s ramblers would tackle that outing! During the war, the club was kept in existence largely through the efforts of Marjorie Howe and Alec Norman. They arranged the programme of walks month by month, had them typed out, and distributed them personally to members. No subscription was levied, and Marjorie and Alec provided financial support for administrative costs out of their own pockets. Members of the armed forces were welcome to join in rambles when on leave, and Marjorie remembers one young soldier giving her sixpence (2½ p.) towards expenses, which she accepted gratefully!
In 1944, the President, P. C. Fitzgerald, died, and Andy Ashman, who had founded the club so many years previously, was elected in his stead. He remained President until 1947, when he left Cambridge to live in York and was elected as the club’s first Honorary Life Member. Andy and his wife had been staunch members of the club from the beginning. Elsie Layton remembers baking a huge cake for his birthday; this was consumed at a tea party at Six Mile Bottom, where the club often had a meal at the end of a walk. Elsie also recalls the huge bowl of boiled eggs that was placed on the table and how it was replenished when empty (at that time, eggs were rationed). In those days, walks usually ended with tea somewhere, often at a pub, which is a luxury we seldom enjoy in 1987.
The Ashmans are also remembered for the generous loan of their tennis court in the grounds of Cory Lodge in the Botanic Gardens, where the club played when, eventually, the Caius College court was no longer available.
On 10 November 1945, the first post-war AGM was held, and the activities of the club during the war, and of its members, were reviewed. At that time, there were 28 members in the club. The old question of affiliation with the Holiday Fellowship (HF) was raised again, but it was decided that it was not necessary, as the invitation to join rambles, which had been made to HF members several years ago, remained open.
At about this date, the Social Club and its activities ceased officially, but many functions continued informally. For example, table tennis enjoyed a renaissance in the 1950s and was played with great enthusiasm for several years at various locations in the city, including the Duke of Argyle pub in Argyle Street, off Mill Road, the Abbey church hall in Occupation Road, and Emmanuel church hall in Trumpington Street. Eventually the club owned two tables of its own. In the winter of 1961-62, Marjorie Howe began her bridge evenings, which remained on the programme for about fifteen years. The weekly rambles were, of course, well-attended. Public transport was still plentiful in post war days, and weekend ramblers made frequent use of local trains and buses. For the first time, the problem was aired of what to do about people who came on the rambles, and sometimes obtained programmes, but did not join the club. This problem remains today.
Immediately after the war and until 1968, a day on the river was an annual event, known as “Punts in Hunts” because punts were hired at Hemingford in Huntingdonshire. Afternoon tea was obtained at the boathouse at first, but, in later years, tea was not available and so punts were also hired at St Ives and St Neots.
The club’s first youth hostel weekend took place in April 1948. As most people then worked on Saturday morning, the party left Cambridge after lunch to cycle to Croxton Youth Hostel, stopping for tea at Newmarket. After supper at the hostel, there was a short walk. On Sunday, the walk was to Santon Downham via Fowlmere, stopping at the Devil’s Punchbowl, which was dry that year, to dance an eightsome reel to the music of bagpipes carried by a member of the party. They returned along the river bank to Croxton, then cycled to Grimes Graves and went down to explore the underground tunnels before starting the journey back to Cambridge. Near Lakenheath, they were offered a lift by a kind lorry-driver. This was accepted gratefully and they passed through Newmarket to the sound of the pipes and entered Cambridge with musical accompaniment.
The annual Christmas dinner was started again in 1949. About 22 people dined at Rose Haie, Teversham Corner (later demolished to make way for the bypass). This proved popular and in the following year, 1950, 31 people enjoyed a traditional Christmas dinner at the Linden Brooke, Coton, the meal being followed by party games and carol singing. This cost seven shillings and sixpence (37½p). The event was repeated each year until 1963, after which the Linden Brooke became too small for the number of people who wished to attend. Since then, the dinners have been held at a variety of venues.
A regular annual outing was the trip to the “Five Miles from Anywhere, No Hurry”, the pub at Upware, in Harry Stevens’ motor boat. Those who failed in the ballot for a seat in the boat travelled by bus or car. Many delightful photographs of bathing parties and picnics exist from this time. The boating tradition was revived in 1962 by Cyril Cooper with his narrow boat Raleigh, and for several years the outing included an overnight stop with a bonfire at Lode Farm. Members slept on the boat, in the farmhouse, or round the bonfire, and there was an early morning walk before breakfast.
In 1947, the name of the club appears as the “Cambridge CHA Rambling Club”, and at the AGM in 1948 affiliation with the HF to form a CHA/HF club was discussed yet again. In 1949, following considerable correspondence with the parent organizations, the club became known as the “Cambridge CHA/HF Club”. In 1969 the programme is headed “Cambridge Rambling Club (Joint CHA and HF Group)” and in 1985 as “Cambridge Rambling Club”, which was probably, at this stage, a necessary simplification. In 1950, a new constitution was approved, and the rules stated that membership should be open to members of the CHA or HF and to those proposed to the Secretary by two members of the club. Another change to the rules took place in 1956, when Olive Sawyer put forward the motion “No committee member, not being an officer of the club, shall serve for more than two years consecutively, unless insufficient nominations are received”. This proposal was adopted, but not without some argument.
The club celebrated its 21st birthday on 12 February 1949 with a party attended by about 60 people. This is commemorated in the records by an account written by Andy Ashman, who returned to Cambridge especially for the event. He mentions the magnificent birthday cake and it is pity that no photograph remains for us to see what Andy described as a “ramble in the art of cake-making”. This referred to the icing and accompanying decorations, which depicted a typical walk across ploughed fields, complete with hedges, and a signpost. It was a large cake, and represented many donations of margarine, sugar, eggs, flour, etc.; for food was still rationed. In his written account, now in the club’s archives, Andy quotes from the speech he made at the party: “Many people have passed through it [the club], many have found great joy through the friendships they have made. These things are so worthwhile. Let it go forward in strength and vigour …Keep it fresh! … Keep it young! …”.
At this time (from 1948 to 1953), a log book of rambles was kept, each walk being reported by one of the participants, and comments made by others. Some people illustrated their accounts with sketches or photographs. These books are now in the archives.
In 1953 the Silver Jubilee was celebrated with a party at the Red Cross room in Glisson Road. At that event, a play was presented entitled “Ye Gods, or Too Old at Twenty-Five? – a masque, being a solemn and horrible warning and entertainment”. The part of Venus was played by O.S. (Olive Sawyer), Diana by Margaret (Brothers), Mercury by Eric (Chamberlain, the composer of the masque who later married Margaret), Mary by Gladys (Stimson), Adam by Harry (Haworth), and the Four Marjories by themselves (Howe, Clarkson, Clarke and Stiles). There was an attendance of about 50 people at the party and, on the ramble along Fleam Dyke on the following day, a record attendance of 22 walkers, a number which was not exceeded for several years.
During the 1960s, the Ramblers’ Association organized special “Ramblers’ Trains” from London to various places in the countryside. Parties were dropped off at different stations and RA members led walks of different lengths. Tea was arranged and the train picked up the walkers again on the return journey. The Cambridge Rambling Club usually joined these rambles when the special trains came into this area, and a particularly exciting day was when the already-closed line from Audley End to Bartlow was opened again for one day only for the Ramblers’ Train.
The club also travelled on the last train to run from Sudbury to Haverhill before that line was closed. A group of people, dressed in deep Victorian mourning and carrying a coffin, boarded the train at Sudbury. The coffin was later found to be full of bottles of beer, which were consumed by the funeral party during the journey.
The first holiday organized for members took place in 1965 and took the form of a week at Whitsun on the Norfolk Broads. The main party hired a motor cabin cruiser and they were joined at the bank holiday weekend by a further contingent, who hired a smaller boat, and by Nellie Bridgeland, who brought her canoe!
An incident still remembered by those who were present, and described to others over the years, was “the day that Arthur lost his shoe”. This was on 27 October 1968. The party was walking down a narrow, muddy lane into Therfield, when Arthur Hulme suddenly exclaimed “I’ve lost my shoe!”. The party laughed and thought he was joking, but they found that Vera was poking about with her walking stick in the mud, which was not really very deep, although green and slimy. Others did their best to help, but Arthur was correct – the shoe had completely disappeared. Most unusually, another rambler, Ron Emmines, happened to be carrying a spare pair of walking shoes so that Arthur was able to finish the ramble in a borrowed shoe.
Alec Norman was an active and much-respected member of the club for over forty years. When he died in 1969, it was decided to provide a memorial to him. There is little remaining in the committee minutes about this, although there must have been much discussion about the trees which were eventually planted along the Roman Road. There is also a stone tablet commemorating his love of the countryside, and these we can see today.
The club’s fiftieth anniversary in 1977 should be mentioned. For the occasion, a 50-mile walk was devised by Henry Bridge in such a way that members were able to join or leave the walk at any one of several specified points. Transport was arranged according to a master plan by David Northrop. The walk began on Saturday morning, 28 May 1977, at Cherry Hinton church, and continued non-stop until tea-time the next day, Sunday, when afternoon tea for all members was served at the University Centre, Mill Lane. About 90 members participated in the walk and four completed the entire walk. To mark this achievement, they were awarded Honorary Life Membership of the club. They were: Henry Bridge, Neville Buttress, John Goldsworthy and David Waterson. Perhaps even more remarkable was the fact that two founder members took part in the walk: Nellie Northrop and George Layton. A celebration buffet supper was held later in the year, on 24 September 1977, also at the University Centre, and further trees were planted along the Roman Road to commemorate the anniversary, together with a suitably lettered plaque.
Another member who was singled out in recent years for services to the club is Geoffrey Burgess, who became an Honorary Life Member in 1979. For many years, the annual London walk, conceived and led by Geoffrey, was a highlight of the programme. The party travelled by train to London, and Geoffrey led a walk through parks and gardens, along canal banks and disused railway tracks, and members discovered a London that they did not know existed. When Geoffrey retired and moved to Devon, he led the second club walking holiday, based at the CHA guesthouse in Dawlish, in 1979. Forty-four members benefited from Geoffrey’s knowledge of the highways and byways of Devon.
The visit of the club to the USA in September 1980 was a memorable venture for all participants. It took place due to the initiative and enthusiasm of Ann Childs, a visitor to Cambridge from Bethany, Connecticut. Ann became a keen member of the club during a year that she and her husband spent in Cambridge, and she kept in touch with individual members as time went by. She even came over to join the club on holidays. Eventually, she persuaded her friends in Bethany to offer hospitality to Cambridge ramblers and 28 people accepted this generous opportunity, including the president, Jean Williamson, who found that she had several formal duties to perform. They walked in the hills, including part of the Appalachian Trail, and attended many functions, such as receptions and parties. History and headlines were made when a swimming party changed into swim suits on the beach. “Brits bare all” claimed the local newspaper! Luckily, a blind eye was turned and no arrests for indecency were made, which, apparently, could have been. The club was pleased to make Ann an Honorary Life Member for her splendid efforts in arranging a wonderful holiday for members. As this account is being written, we hear that Ann is planning to bring the Bethany Wanderers over to England in summer 1987 for a walking holiday, based in the Lake District and in Devon.
There is not sufficient space to describe, in detail, the recent activities of the club over the past twenty years. Much depended on the personal interests and enthusiasms of individual members, but every true rambler is interested in food and many present members will recall enormous tea parties in Cyril and Rona’s garden, once accompanied by a treasure hunt. Delicious food often figures in David and Susan Northrop’s and Neville and Gwen Buttress’s rambles, and Gwen’s strawberry teas in Chippenham Park will live long in our memories. Hot lunch rambles have been popular throughout the years. Soon after the war, visits were arranged early in the year for hot Sunday lunches at some nearby café (originally in the hope of finding Christmas pudding still on the menu). The Temple, near Abington, was used from 1953 to 1957 and from 1966 to 1977. Jeremiah’s, also at Abington, was used from 1959 to 1964, and a variety of other places for the intervening years and from 1978 onwards. For example, Gladys Nightingale arranged several walks around Barrington, so that we were able to enjoy lunches at the Royal Oak. Special mention must be made of the three visits to Royston, when appetizing hot lunches were prepared and served by David Allard at his home. Every room was occupied by people eating curries, pizzas, etc.
After the war, youth hostel weekends remained on the programme for about ten years, until members came to prefer more comfort. Visits were made to guest houses and hotels, and these developed into fairly regular spring and autumn weekends. However, some members still enjoy youth hostels, and so, from 1980, additional weekends have been arranged in these establishments once again. David Allard, Roy Pleasance, and Jill Tuffnell have all arranged these events and have led walks in different areas.
Social events that remain popular include slide shows, usually a mixture of slides showing club rambles and members’ own holidays, so that recently we have been to India with Jean and David, to China with Jill, to New Zealand with both Olive and Gwen, and to the Himalayas with Cyril and Rona.
The annual summer outing, often to the sea, is still a regular feature of the programme. This was first arranged in 1956, when a coach was hired for the day for a “heath and cliff walk in the Southwold area”. The Boxing Day ramble first took place in 1975 and was originally called the “Boxing Day Pudding Remover”. It was suggested by Ken Starling, who, with Margaret, offered a snack lunch at their home to walkers on that day. Mid-week rambles lapsed many years ago, but were revived in 1983 by Olive Sawyer and Jean Williamson with remarkable success. It is not unusual for 30 or 40 people to turn out on a Wednesday, for a generally shorter and slightly slower-paced ramble than on a Sunday, when the roster is usually 20 to 30.
While we cannot often obtain afternoon tea to round off our rambles these days, we usually have a lunch-time pub stop, when bar snacks and ploughman’s lunches can be obtained as well as drinks. However, in the past couple of years, we have noticed a tendency for pubs to have become “gentrified” to catch the trade of family lunches on Sundays, and a large group of wet muddy ramblers is not always welcome. There are still several old favourites where we can be sure of warmth and shelter. As for afternoon tea, we might be lucky enough to find a National Trust property or tea in a village hall in aid of local funds, but normally we make do with a picnic stop.
From this short account, it will be seen that the Cambridge Rambling Club is still a thriving concern after 60 years. With more than 250 members, many different grades of walks, and numerous official and unofficial social activities, there is a great deal to offer members. It is hoped that this brief history will encourage members to search out and present any unwanted programmes, photographs, newspaper cuttings, etc., to the archives. They will be invaluable to whoever prepares a history for the club’s centenary and, indeed, to anyone interested in the history of rambling in this country.
Ailsa Macqueen. February 1987
Archivist, Cambridge Rambling Club
Grateful thanks to Marjorie Howe, Elsie Layton, Nellie Northrop, and Jim Cro for much fascinating information, and apologies, too, for not being able to include everything, and for any inaccuracies that may have crept in. Additionally, Marjorie, Nellie and Jim gave generous gifts of many photographs. Finally, if Olive Sawyer had not kept meticulous diaries over all her years of rambling, this account would not be so comprehensive. Thank you Olive.
ANOTHER TEN YEARS WITH THE CAMBRIDGE RAMBLING CLUB (1987-1997)
On the eve of our 70th birthday, let’s take a look at the past ten years. Quite a lot has happened – enough to merit a further chapter in this history.
We celebrated our 60th birthday on Sunday, 21 June 1987, with a day of ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ walks (in west Cambridgeshire) led by Jill Tuffnell, Anne Vickers and Arthur Hulme respectively. We finished with a splendid tea at the YMCA in Gonville Place, attended by 63 people. To mark this anniversary, Honorary Life Memberships were bestowed on nine members who had contributed their services and enthusiasm to the successful operation of the club: Dorothy Alderson, Leila Brown, Cyril Cooper, Arthur Hulme, Vera Hulme, David Manning, Olive Sawyer, Bert Tabor and Jean Williamson.
Subsequently, two further Life Memberships have been presented: in 1990 to Jill Tuffnell, and, in 1994, to Alan Fakes. (These eleven Life Members join Geoffrey Burgess, Neville Buttress, who retired as Treasurer, after 16 years, in 1992, Ann Childs, John Goldsworthy and David Waterson.)
Also, in 1987, the first “Lake District Week” took place, in October, staying at Keswick and Derwentwater youth hostels. This was arranged by Roy Pleasance, and proved to be so popular that it has become a regular annual feature. Roy was principal organizer for the first few years, and led many of the walks; now others undertake these tasks (Angela Gardiner, Rita Eady and George Brewster come to mind, and, no doubt, there have been, or are, other people involved). We have stayed at other hostels, too, though Keswick remains a favourite.
Following a suggestion made in 1988 by two members of a friendship group visiting Cambridge from Heidelberg (our ‘twin’ town), nine intrepid members from our club set out in March 1989 to spread goodwill and sample German hospitality. This venture was masterminded in its first year by Vic Merryweather and by the Schwarzwaldverein Ortsgruppe Heidelberg e. V (a hiking club). With the aid of Rita Eady, Christine Pizey and John Capes, and advice from Vic, the exchange continued for several years, up to 1992; after that it ceased on a formal basis, although individual friendships have continued.
Our next expedition overseas was to Paris in January 1991, and was organized by Christine Pizey and Simon Barnes. Simon was working over there at the time, and he planned a full and excellent programme of walks and excursions for us. Ten people enjoyed this visit. The French connection continued in 1993, thanks to Kalman and Marie Claire Szaz, who had retired from Cambridge to Marie Claire’s “roots” in Provence. Arrangements were made by Jill Tuffnell, and, in May, twenty people availed themselves of the opportunity for a week of good walking, mostly led by Kalman and Marie Claire, in the hills around Collobrières.
As well as these far-flung activities, the usual twice-yearly club weekends have continued, in spring and autumn. These are supported by a coach, so that linear walks are possible. Smaller-scale weekends, staying in youth hostels, are also very popular, and about six per year have been arranged recently, mostly by Jill Tuffnell. Here, members’ cars are used for transport. Likewise, barn weekends have been sampled by pioneering spirits, at first with some doubts, but then with great enjoyment. These were first introduced by Chris and Sally Peters.
But what about the regular programme of walks? After all, this is why most of us joined the club and the exotic treats described above are just the icing on the cake. Even this has altered in ten years. There are now well over 500 members, compared to around 250 in 1987, and the programme has expanded to take this increase into account. The latest development is the choice of two walks on Sundays (first suggested in 1992!). Whenever there is a particularly long walk, it is now hoped to provide a shorter alternative. Two walks on Wednesdays, instead of one, were introduced in 1990, following a suggestion made by Margaret Rishbeth in 1989. By 1994, it was decided that three groups were necessary to meet the demand for these midweek rambles thus providing short, medium and long walks. All are well supported. Taking the numbers altogether, it is likely that around 100 people are out on most Wednesdays throughout the year. Mention should be made of Ron Bailey, who has been Programme Organizer for the shortest Wednesday programmes since their inception.
In 1989 Graham Ambrose initiated a programme of summer walks on Thursday evenings. These are usually five or six miles in length, and often end up with a convivial pint. Also on the programme, there are old favourites such as Ron Bailey’s London walks, visits to the Welney Wildfowl and Wetland Centre and the summer outing, as well as occasional interesting oddities, such as midnight walks and breakfast rambles. For the past few years, there have been pre- and post-Christmas celebrations, thanks to the efforts of both Ron Bailey and Tony Palmer. Slide and photograph evenings have continued, enabling us to share holiday experiences with each other, and two valuable sessions of first aid instruction were presented by Chris Peters.
To finish on a more personal note, the Cambridge Rambling Club is now of sufficient historical interest for its archives to have been accepted by the County Record Office. Since last year, all reports, programmes, proceedings, souvenirs and photographs are now deposited at the Shire Hall for sale keeping where members (and others) can consult them freely. It is hoped that these archives will continue to grow and reflect the on-going development of our club.
A.M. July 1997
A FURTHER TEN YEARS WITH THE CAMBRIDGE RAMBLING CLUB (1997-2007)
During these years Life Memberships were presented to Ron Bailey, Annelie Bartram, George Brewster, Muriel Brewster, Rita Eady, Angela Gardiner, Carol Gautrey, Margaret Hudson, Ailsa Macqueen, Janet Moreton, Roger Moreton, Margaret Rishbeth and Faith Wormald as recognition of the work each has done for the benefit of the Club and its members.
On 19 July 1997 a Party and Ceilidh, preceded by walks, were held at Babraham to mark the 70th Anniversary of the formation of the Club. A delightful afternoon and evening was enjoyed by many members. An 80th Anniversary Party, preceded by walks, at Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge is being arranged for September 2007; using modern computer equipment the participants will be able to see screened selected photographs of the Club since the earliest days and filmed material including a group getting off a train at the long lost railway station at St Ives (Cambridgeshire). Ceilidhs were also organised in 1999, 2001 and 2003.
A major event during the period was an outbreak of Foot and Mouth in the spring of 2001 and as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of this disease in cattle, sheep and pigs the majority of footpaths were closed throughout the country. There was an immediate stop to our walks programmes. Wishing to resume walking a number of visits were made to London, some towns and Thetford Forest. Footpaths generally reopened in July 2001. The Coton to Cambridge foot and cycle path opened earlier than July and was used for a walk from Coton to Cambridge and back again. When the Fleam Dyke path became open it was walked out and back again! The YHA was badly affected by the loss of their trade and a consequence was the closure of a number of hostels in succeeding years, with reduction of facilities for Cambridge Rambling Club events such as backpacking trips (where the gaps between hostels became too great for day walking).
Members of the Club enjoyed visits to the Lake District for a week each year (except in 2003 when they went to the Isle of Arran instead). Mostly they stayed in the Youth Hostel in Grasmere though Keswick and other Youth Hostels were used and some booked into Bed and Breakfasts or found self-catering accommodation. The majority of the visits were arranged by George and Muriel Brewster, Pam Landshoff and David Harrison though the walks leading was shared by many (and the walks enjoyed by many more).
Club members went abroad together on a number of visits – the basis generally being not formal Club events but independence. These trips included to Prague (2002), Normandy (2005), Austrian Tyrol (2006) and Cantabria Spain (2007).
The Club continued the tradition of hiring coaches for two weekends a year going in the Spring and the Autumn to Abergavenny, Abingdon, Church Stretton, Eastbourne, the Forest of Dean, the Isle of Wight, Kettlewell, Llanberis, Llanwrtyd Wells, the Peak District, Scarborough, Swanage, Weston super Mare, Whitby and Winchester. A choice of A and B walks on Saturdays and Sundays has always been offered, plus C walks either led or ‘DIY’. Some walks have been led by people from local Clubs or the RA or have benefited from advice from them. As there would have been no possibility of walking in the countryside in the Spring of 2001 because of Foot and Mouth the visit planned was postponed to Spring 2002. From 2003 the traditional Friday departure time of 6pm has been varied with alternate departures being on Friday mornings giving opportunities of exploration when the coach arrives at the destinations (not to mention delightful dinners in hotels).
On about six – and latterly eight – occasions a year groups have gone by car, or public transport, to stay in Youth Hostels or similar private establishments. The later May Bank Holiday weekend has often been spent backpacking (Dent to Linton in Yorkshire, the Devon to Somerset Coast, Swanage Dorset to Beer, around Derbyshire, in Shropshire, the Yorkshire Dales, the Sussex Downs and the Coast in Pembrokeshire); there has been at least one linear walk each year. Many years Hostels have been rented (‘rent-a-hostel’) for our exclusive use on a weekend in January or February. The variety of locations is quite extraordinary. These weekend or longer events, organised by Jill Tuffnell and substantially led by her, have been enjoyed by about fifteen members each time though ‘rent-a-hostel’ draws a wider range of walkers averaging twenty-six people.
The tradition of hiring a coach on a Sunday in July continued and A, B and C walks were enjoyed – many of the trips were to various coastal areas of Suffolk and Norfolk because they are the overwhelmingly favourite places of Club members. However we also ventured to the Stamford area and to the Chilterns. Wednesday A and B groups joined forces to hire coaches to go to Norfolk and to Badby in Northamptonshire as Autumn trips.
Ron Bailey continued his extraordinary feat of arranging exciting walks in London around various areas of which many of us were unaware. To unfairly pick highlights, the Millenium Year 2000 included rides on the London Eye (such being the demand that Ron ran the trip twice) and in 2004 to the Hindu Temple in Neasden. Audrey Osborne assisted Ron in 2004 and takes over the continuance of the walks to the standards we greatly appreciate.
Thanks to the dedication of the walks leaders and the Programme Secretaries the Sunday A, Sunday B, Wednesday A, Wednesday B, Wednesday C and Thursday summer evening walks continued. Numbers out on the walks – naturally varying with the weather enjoyed – for the respective groups roughly averaged 12, 19, 23, 30, 20 and 10. From 1999 a number of Wednesday A walkers desired longer and faster walks than the usual 10 to 12 miles and these A+ were intermittently scheduled for a period (extra to the A walks). From 2000 to 2003 we also had summer Sunday C walks of about seven miles once a month but unfortunately numbers were low and they lapsed except as occasional walks among friends. These Sunday and Wednesday walks were invariably in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk but occasional walks were further away. Wednesday walkers continued the tradition of a Christmas lunch prior to Christmas, while many Sunday walkers enjoyed a New Years lunch a week or so into January. Sunday walkers meet at Harvey Road but because of traffic difficulties Wednesday walkers meet at the various locations of the walks – the information generally imparted by “here is a slip for two weeks time” and presentation of a slip of paper with everything one needs to know neatly typed out (though these paper slips are being superseded by some emails). In 2004 there was a very well attended joint Sunday A and B walk in the Devils Dyke area near Newmarket as a memorial to the late Rob Ward.
In 2000 the formality of Club membership cards commenced, primarily initiated by the need to show proof of membership to those local shops which are good enough to allow discount – mostly 10% – on goods purchased. The Club moved into the world of the internet and email in 2001 when Pat Bowditch and David Harrison jointly created the website cambridgeramblingclub.org.uk where the programme and newsletters are given together with membership application forms and a selection of photographs of our events. In 2004, to meet the requirements of Club insurers, the General Secretary commenced the formalised recording of accidents and incidents advising the insurer of those the insurer had need to be informed. In 2006 the facility of paying the annual subscription by bank standing order was introduced.
In 2000 local Ramblers Association members made a Millennium Survey of Rights of Way in South Cambridgeshire, including the state of footpaths, and our Club appreciated and benefited from their work. A long walk – The Fen Rivers Way – from Cambridge to Kings Lynn was created and Club members participated in the stages of the inaugural walk of this in 2001, the latter stages being postponed to the autumn because of Foot and Mouth. The Cambridge Group of the Ramblers Association developed a new linear walking route in 2004 termed the “West Anglia Way” which runs from Cambridge south to Waltham Abbey, making use of nearby railway lines to enable the route to be completed in day stages using public transport. Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act since 2003 local highway authorities have had to establish Local Access Forums and some Club members have membership of this body for Cambridgeshire.
A revised Constitution was written and adopted in 2000 and minor revisions to this were adopted in 2005. In 2002 Club members were surveyed on their views about Trips (eg weekends and Summer). From 1998 the Club started sending Christmas Cards to Pubs as we appreciate their goodness in accommodating members, often bearing own lunches and many times wet, muddy and bedraggled.
As a help to potential and new walks leaders a leaflet “A Guide to Leaders” was written and distributed in 2000-1 and a revised leaflet “A Guide for Leaders and Followers” was made and distributed in 2005. Club membership numbers varied each year between 400 and 525 but because of natural losses there is a continued need for new members so advertising flyers were created and distributed in 2003-4 with revision in 2006. In conjunction with the Cambridge Group of the Ramblers Association publicity leaflets were made available at the annual Oxfam Charity walks in 2006 and 2007.
During this decade cycling, particularly using mountain bikes, became fashionable and we grew used to sharing paths – not necessarily legally on the part of the cyclists. Cars with four-wheel drive also became popular and some of their owners drove for fun on byways creating quagmires for us in the winter months and often deep ruts all year round. The Club supported the Ramblers Association in its quest for Cambridgeshire County Council closure of byways in the winter months (not entirely selfishly because the historic routes were being harmed by the traffic).
Assistant Secretary. August 2007
- 1928-44 P C Fitzgerald,
- 1944-47 Arthur A Ashman,
- 1947-49 Harry L Stephens,
- 1949-51 Alec Norman,
- 1951-53 Marjorie Howe,
- 1953-54 Olive Sawyer,
- 1954-57 Harry Howarth,
- 1957-58 Olive Sawyer,
- 1958-59 Marjorie Stiles,
- 1959-61 Nellie Bridgeland,
- 1961-62 Marjorie Robinson,
- 1962-65 Cyril Cooper,
- 1965-68 Dorothy Alderson,
- 1968-71 Olive Sawyer,
- 1971-73 Arthur Hulme,
- 1973-75 Jonathan Jessup,
- 1975-78 Dorothy Alderson,
- 1978-80 Jean Williamson,
- 1980-83 Bert Tabor,
- 1983-86 David Manning,
- 1986-89 Jill Tuffnell,
- 1989-91 Anne Vickers,
- 1991-95 George Brewster,
- 1995-99 Margaret Graham,
- 1999-2003 Dieter Benziger,
- 2003-06 Walter Shelton,
- 2006- John Pym.