A FURTHER TEN YEARS WITH THE CAMBRIDGE RAMBLING CLUB (2007-2017)
Between November 2007 and November 2017 Life Memberships were presented to seventeen people in recognition of the work done by them for the Club including being Programme Secretaries, organising Weekends away with Coaches, organising Weeks in the Lakes, working as Officers of the Club and also leading many walks.
Social events held included the 80th Anniversary Party in September 2007 (at Hills Road Sixth Form College Cambridge), Ceilidhs in 2009 and 2010, Lunches (generally at Pubs) either on December Wednesdays or January Sundays to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. There were two ‘bring and share meals’ after Sunday walks – in 2011 and 2012 – in the garden of a member, a Barbecue in 2009 at the Red Lion in Grantchester and the 90th Anniversary Party is due to be held in April 2018.
The September week in the Lake District continued, to Grasmere (2007, 2008 and 2012), Rosthwaite in Borrowdale (2009-2011), Patterdale (2013), Keswick (2014-16) and Windermere (2017). Until 2012 a number of members stayed in Youth Hostels, with others elsewhere, and all could hold a meeting in the hostel in the evening to decide on the following day’s walks (and dine there too if they wished). From 2013 people could make their own hostel bookings if they wished but in practice, none did so, probably because they preferred the greater comfort of self-catering cottages and similar; evening planning meetings were held either in pubs or in the largest rented house. From 2013 there was a group meal out, for example in the Fish and Chip Shop in Keswick. Memorable walks in the Lake District included the popular Catbells circuit and the spectacular Kentmere, Coniston and Fairfield Rounds. The groups each year were twenty-five people or so – substantially those who can do and enjoy the longest and most energetic walks but also with good provision for those who do a bit less.
The tradition of hiring a coach to go away for weekends in the Spring and the Autumn continued including visits to the Forest of Dean, Dovedale in Derbyshire, Ilkley, Malham, Pickering and Skipton in Yorkshire, Church Stretton in Shropshire, Eastbourne and Abingworth in Sussex, Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, Brecon and Llangollen in Wales, Swanage in Dorset, Dumbleton and Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds. The weekend in Autumn 2010 differed in that a coach was not hired and the members travelled to and from Oakham by car or by train. The departure times of trips are now all on Friday mornings and mostly this enables people to have walks at the destinations on Friday afternoons – though the Eastbourne trip is memorable for breaking the outward journey at the National Trust’s Sheffield Park Gardens. Eastbourne is also memorable for the firework display on the beach on the Saturday evening. Latterly a good proportion of the weekends have been based at the Houses of HF Holidays. The costs of the trips have ranged from £105 to £225 per person in a shared room and the increase is largely attributable to inflation (though Friday evening dinners are now provided and the ‘package’ now agreed with the hotels includes packed lunches on Saturdays and Sundays). One of the problems of arranging the weekends is the lack of public transport in Cambridge on Sunday evenings for members to use to travel home afterwards so the coach departure and return place has to be compatible with the availability of safe car parking space for a whole coachload of people (and we have gratefully used space at Milton Road, at Grange Road, in Chesterton, on Newmarket Road and at Fulbourn).
The Budget weekends, and longer periods away at Youth Hostels and other accommodation continued. These included a week in May 2012 as a group booking at Ramblers Holidays Hassness House in Buttermere. In 2012 the number of nights away was 28 and in the other years there were 23 to 27 nights away. Since 2014 a week’s walking each Spring has been spent on a stretch of coast path, mainly in the south-west, using a private coach each day to enable linear stretches to be completed. Long periods away included St Cuthberts Way (2008), backpacking in Yorkshire-Lancashire (2009), Devon and Dorset coast (2010). Hadrians Wall to Appleby (2011), Malham to Kettlewell (2013), Penzance and The Lizard (2014), Helford to Looe (2015), Tintagel to near to St Ives (2016) and Minehead to Babbacombe (2017). Since 2014 rooms have sometimes been booked at the inexpensive hotel chain ‘Travelodge’ and some larger self catering houses have been used. Two night breaks are usually scheduled for February, March, October and November.
The tradition of hiring a coach to take walkers out on a summer Sunday continued and A, B and C walks were enjoyed. The 2009 trip was to Henley and the Chilterns, the 2011 trip planned for the Woodbridge area had to be cancelled because insufficient bookings were received but the other trips went ahead to Southwold, Holkham, Sheringham, Felixstowe and Aldeburgh as the coastal areas are always popular. Always the trips have their particularly memorable moments and one of those for Aldeburgh was that, as a consequence of a lot of rain, some of the party travelled home in dry clothes newly purchased in the Charity shops! Each year, on a Saturday in April, there were walks in London enjoyably visiting areas including Richmond and the Thames, Hampstead, Little Venice, Dulwich and Greenwich.
The walks on Sundays, Wednesdays and summer Thursday evenings continued with rare cancellations or changes on days of bad weather. The numbers on Sunday As were generally about fourteen, the Sunday Bs were often, or approaching, twenty. A new group of Sunday Cs (with walks of about five miles on two Sundays of each month) commenced in March 2011 and numbers now average ten with plans to have walks on alternate weeks gaining a couple of extra walks a year! Wednesday walks had As with numbers generally over twenty, the Wednesday Bs fluctuated from a maximum of forty-nine to latterly averaging twelve to fifteen, the Wednesday Cs continued often averaging fifteen plus some who enjoyed lunch and a shorter walk. A new – extra – Wednesday B group commenced in 2015 with the plan to do about seven miles (not slowly and finishing at lunchtime without a pub stop being scheduled) and their numbers built up to averaging seventeen. Over the decade many village pubs have closed, creating problems for those Wednesday groups using them for lunch and car-parking. Thursday evening walks between May and August continued with quite varying numbers participating – the walks are popular and appreciated but access through the traffic difficulties in Cambridge and its surroundings create a lot of problems (a comment was made that the numbers would be greater if one were to count the ‘nearly cames’)!
The 2007 Annual General Meeting was held on a Tuesday evening as was customary but the 2008 and subsequent Annual General Meetings have been held on Saturday afternoons – more civilised than cold and dark weekday evenings in November. The formal meetings have been followed by talks on Trekking in the Himalayas, the Great Fen Project, ‘Cambridge Past Present and Future’ (who run Wandlebury and the Coton Countryside Reserve), a trip to Greenland, the River Cam Conservancy, Wicken Fen, Wimpole, Ramblers Holidays, the University of Cambridge and aspects of First Aid with particular relevance to walking.
At October 2017 there were 538 members of the Cambridge Rambling Club. The Club finances continued to be stable, maintaining some reserve in case of serious problems. For reasons including easy administration members have been encouraged to pay their subscriptions directly by standing order so any change in subscription rate would entail work for the member and for Club officers. The budgetary consequences of incessant creeping increases in postage and printing costs have been countered by more and more members electing to receive information by the cheaper option of email. The subscription rate of £4.00 has not been changed for many years. A significant administrative change has been the development of the Cambridge Rambling Club website which is now the main vehicle for publicising details of the Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday evening walks. The Programme Secretaries place the information and update it when there are late changes – this is quite invaluable when the Programme and Newsletter are issued at four-monthly intervals. For a number of years the ‘overheads’ costs of the weekends with coaches – such as exploratory preliminary visits – were borne by the ‘central’ funds of the Club but these are now factored into the calculation of the sum to be paid by those going on the respective trip. Ramblers Holidays started a scheme, called ‘The Walking Partnership’ whereby people going on their walking holidays could nominate a Club to receive £10 to £30 for use in promoting walking. Since 2011 we have received £2580 and have used it for three gates, a seat, some planings to improve drainage on a muddy path and some leaflets, distributed to GP practices, publicising our Club so that more people may walk with us. A frequent subject of discussion is that of Dogs and in essence the Club is a rambling club and not a dog-walkers club. The principle is that dogs, subject to always being on short leads, may be on the walk at the discretion of, and by permission of, the leader (there are two exceptions to this ‘ruling’ the first being that Assistance Dogs may be on any walk and that no dogs may be taken on Wednesday C walks). The Club contributed to the provision of a seat at Coton in memory of a long standing highly esteemed member who had been President for some years and had done other work for the Club, including leading many walks.
The Club is affiliated to The Ramblers and there is considerable overlap of our Club membership and individual membership of the Ramblers Association and we have been supportive of, and a good few of members have had involvement in, RA activities which included obtaining some winter seasonal traffic restrictions on byways and path clearance (as requested by Cambridgeshire County Council). The RA is represented – with other bodies such as cyclists and horse riders – on the Local Access Forum (LAF) which works to monitor and improve access of all sorts (particularly concerning new developments – eg housing and road improvements – aiming to get more rights of way). The effects of reduction in Government funding to local authorities had implications in Cambridgeshire for paths and walking in that County Council staff were made redundant and, for example, in 2014 contracts to cut field edge paths were let so late that summer grass was not cut back at the best time. The RA organised The Big Pathwatch in 2015 under which reports on the rights of way in England and Wales were compiled. The current (2017) issue is proposals by Network Rail to close many pedestrian level crossings of railway lines seeking to impose inappropriate lengthy or more dangerous alternatives.
After the Club was formed in 1927-8 the members would sometimes travel on the train to St Ives to enjoy walks in that area, until the railway line was closed in the 1960s. In the period now under review the lost railway line has been transformed into the track for guided buses and sometimes walks have been done accessed from the bus stops at St Ives, Fen Drayton Lakes, Swavesey and other stops! During construction of ‘The Busway’ some paths were temporarily closed. The Cambridge Rambling Club continues to flourish thanks to the enthusiastic support of the growing membership – walks and weekend events in 2018, and beyond, are being scheduled.
Minutes Secretary December 2017