All posts by Julian

Rights of Way Sub-Committee – What Happens?

The officers, group representatives and interested parties attend three meetings a year, which are our area council meetings for Norfolk Area Ramblers. We also have a rights of way sub-committee which meets a similar number of times a year to discuss matters of importance to the paths network.

This sub-committee met last week, and in a bid to help explain what goes on, and the importance of the committee, we’ve (many thanks to Ken, the area secretary) put together a short summary of what took place. For anyone who is interested in this type of work, do let us know, we need help in numerous areas such as footpath officers, assistance with 2026 and help monitoring planning applications. At the meeting, representatives from across the county considered a range of issues, the following amongst them.

1 – Big Pathwatch: the Big Pathwatch app is still active, though now used only by a small number of people – only 200 adverse reports were received in the last 18 month, many from just a couple of individuals (who are not identifiable to us). Reports of the problems are sent on to Norfolk County Council (NCC), but we are not clear about the extent to which they are used. We have asked Central Office about their use of the data, and are told that they were working on getting the information live on the website to show the different problems that are being reported across the country. It was noted that this was separate to the Big Pathwatch report which was carried out in a systematic way to show the condition of the footpath network at one point in time. We are planning to add path names to the reports we receive to see what use we can make of them. Our main concern is that, as we are unsure of the use to which NCC puts the reports, we continue to urge everyone encountering an issue to report it directly to NCC, ideally through the online reporting system, which has been improved recently.

2 – Norfolk Local Access Forum: two of our members (Ken Hawkins and Vic Cocker) are also members of the LAF. Ken, who chairs the LAF Public Rights of Way Subgroup, reported to the Subcommittee on a number of issues being taken to the next LAF meeting in July:

(i) – agreement to put a proposal to get NCC Departments (and later others) to formulate a vision of Norfolk as a quality destination for walkers and others, using the tourism and health (including the financial side) benefits, including better co‑ordinated use of volunteers (via proposed parish seminars), all based on the Norfolk Access Improvement Plan (currently going through the final stages of approval)

(ii) – NCC concerns about how it manages roll back of the England Coast Path where there is rapid erosion – NCC is seeking guidance from Natural England on methodology

(iii) – Parish Council seminars to bring together all volunteers and work for public rights of way; the first is planned for October

3 – Actual and proposed changes to the public rights of way network: the Subcommittee reviewed a number of changes, where necessary agreeing the response to be made by The Ramblers. This work depends heavily on the activity of Ian Mitchell, our Footpath Co-ordinator, in maintaining awareness of what is happening, making visits where needed, and presenting the relevant information to the subcommittee for comment.

4 – Restoring the record: Ian also reported on his involvement with the national Ramblers ‘2026’ work, under the title Don’t Lose You Way. He continues to attend a Volunteer Board meeting, roughly every two months.

5 – England Coast Path: responses to the consultation on the route from Weybourne to Hunstanton were noted; both we and NCC were concerned particularly about (1) access to the salt marsh areas in a number of places where Natural England proposed to restrict or ban access, (2) the derisory sum offered for the establishment of the route and (3) the proposal to route the path alongside the A149 near Titchwell.

Congratulations to Łukasz from Hike Norfolk on Completing 100 Mile Walk!

Congratulations to Łukasz (on right in above photo), the chair of Hike Norfolk, for his brave efforts in completing the 100-mile walk across Sussex and Kent last weekend. The walk, organised by the LDWA, was attempted by 450 people and a third withdrew before the end.

Łukasz was joined by Rob (on left in above photo), from Suffolk Ramblers, who was also successful in his attempt to complete the walk. The pair completed the walk within the maximum time limit of 48 hours and the distance was completed without sleep.

Julian White, the area communications officer (and marshal at the event), said:

“Rob and Łukasz both showed enormous energy and determination in completing the walk. The walk requires significant mental and physical efforts and it’s a seriously impressive piece of walking”.

Ramblers Help to Improve Footpath on the Tas Valley Way


Norfolk Ramblers, led by the indomitable Peter James, have improved the footpath on the Tas Valley way for the benefit of walkers. The Tas Valley way is 25 miles long and covers some beautiful parts of Norfolk, with further information at

As can be seen from the above ‘before the work photos’, the steps on the slope down had nearly disappeared and the stile had become unstable and hard to use. The bridge in the area was rotten and so at a cost of £250 and 20 volunteer hours, the work is now complete! Thanks to the helpers from the Ramblers and the parish who helped with the work, and we hope that the path continues to be much used.

And this is how it looks now!


History of Wensum Group

Tony has put together a fascinating history of Wensum Group, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018!

In 1981 a programme of walks had been started by Norwich City Council Amenities Department with help from the Ramblers Association which provided leaders. Walks were publicised via
local newspapers, in the Tourist Offices and at local libraries. At that time participants did not need to be members of the Ramblers Association but were expected to pay for copies of the walks programmes.

At a Ramblers steering committee meeting on 8 May 1983 it was reported that the Norwich Sports Council had promised £38 towards the cost of forming a ‘new club’. This club became
known as the Thursday Ramblers and it was attached to the Norwich Group. An initial programme of walks was submitted to the meeting. The programme commenced on 1 September 1983 and initially walks took place fortnightly. By the end of 1983, weekly walks were taking place and coach trips had been introduced.

Following a proposal made at a Special Meeting in December 1992 it was reported that Ramblers HQ had reluctantly agreed that a group could be formed separate from the Norwich Group though Ramblers HQ was less than happy to have two groups covering the same geographic area. In March 1993 a steering committee determined that the new group should be called the Wensum Group (having voted against an alternative proposal to call it the Broadland
Group). A constitution was drafted and financial arrangements put in hand. The inaugural committee meeting of the Wensum Group took place on 24 June 1993.

The association with Norwich City Council continued via Monday evening walks which took place fortnightly from May to the end of July. These were advertised by Norwich City Council particularly in the libraries. Sunday afternoon walks, one per month, commenced in 1997. This was to meet the needs of ramblers who were unable, for one reason or another, to attend walks on Sunday mornings.

However, the involvement with Norwich City Council came to an end after they wanted to start charging Wensum Group for advertising its walks in their libraries! That was in 1999. For the next 18 years, with Joyce Smith at the helm as Chairperson, the activities of the Wensum Group extended to periodic social evenings and walk-and-ride trips on a Norfolk Wherry, and many members have participated in the Norfolk Area walking holidays and the non-
walking holidays that she organised.

In 2018 Wensum Group will officially have existed for 25 years and will reach its silver jubilee.

Successful 2018 Norfolk Area AGM

Saturday 27 January saw the Annual General Meeting of Norfolk Ramblers, this year hosted by King’s Lynn Group at Leziate. As usual, the day started with a walk, on this occasion a figure of 8 route through what used to be Bawsey Country Park. 28 Ramblers took part, fortunately avoiding the rain that fell later in the day. Nevertheless, this left them ready for the warmth of the Village Hall, and the hot drinks laid on by the Group.

More members then joined us for the AGM proper which considered all the usual business. Members received reports from all of the Area Officers, as well as from all of our Groups. Elections to Area Council also took place, with all current members re‑elected, plus a new Committee member. At the same time, Brian Ansell left the Committee, with thanks for his long standing work in organising distribution of our Area News. Delegates to General Council were agreed – Julian White and Peter James, with Ian Mitchell attending as a visitor. The sole further business was the approval of a revised constitution for the Area, following which, Richard May, both our Chair and a national Trustee, informed those present about The Ramblers’ work over the last year, and its plans for the future.

To round off the day (after drinks, cakes and biscuits), Philip West gave a talk on Crabs, Cliffs and Coasters – a tour along the coast from Wells next the Sea to Cromer, lavishly illustrated with historical photographs, and accompanied by information and anecdotes. A worthy end to an enjoyable and productive day.

Congratulations to Don Davenport and Dereck Smith

Congratulations to Don Davenport and Dereck Smith from Sheringham Ramblers, who have been awarded certificates for their long service to the organisation.

Dereck Smith has been a loyal servant of Sheringham Ramblers for over twenty years. In that time he has served on the committee for many years as well as being a regular helper at our many social events. However it is as a walk leader that he has made his greatest contribution,always offering 3 walks every booklet (ie, 9 long walks a year). In fact this is the first year that he has had to miss any, after suffering inflammation of one leg-he complained to his doctor that he was having to miss his walks-to which his doctor replied that he was 85! He is now back leading Ramblers as well as his U3A groups as the popular leader he has always been and someone right at the heart of the local group.

Don Davenport has also been a loyal servant of Sheringham Ramblers for over 20 years, has also been a committee man for many years and a regular contributor to the walks booklet, also as a leader of the longer walks. Don also has specialised in themed or event walks in recent years, linking in with the local carnivals. He was a prime mover in taking Cromer into the Walkers are Welcome organisation, and thus like Dereck he has contributed enormously to the well being of a good cross section of local walkers, Ramblers and others. Don is well known to all at Sheringham Ramblers and well respected.

Richard May, the area chairman of Norfolk Ramblers, said:

“It is always a great pleasure to present awards to members that have done so much for walkers in Norfolk, and to recognise all of their hard work. Ramblers, both in Norfolk, and GB wide, achieves great things because of our many dedicated volunteers. Congratulations to Dereck and Don, for their well deserved awards”.

Further information is available at:

Obituary – Jeanne le Surf

Jeanne le Surf has died aged 88 after being affected by Lewy Bodies Dementia for a number of years and living latterly in a home in New Buckenham.

Her life was closely linked with the growth of the Ramblers and walking in Norfolk for nearly 50 years. Jeanne and George married in 1948 and enjoyed country walks around London aided by the Green Line bus service. In 1956 George transferred to the fire service in Norwich with married quarters above the station in Bethel Street. Jeanne and George were appalled at the state of footpaths around the County – little path signage, maps being unclear as to where one could walk.

At the time from 1951 to 1958 a Mr Emms was the County Footpath Secretary, trying to co-ordinate what few members the Ramblers had in Norfolk plus members of the Youth Hostels Association in finding evidence for paths which could be put towards Norfolk County Council’s process for deciding which rights of way to add to the first Definitive Maps of public rights of way.

After Mr Emms resigned with the Definitive Map still unfinalized, the Southeast Area of the Ramblers (which stretched from Norfolk to Dorset) asked the few people with which it had contact if they would take on the position. Jeanne seems to have been the person who volunteered, and carried on that role until John Harris relieved her of it in the early 1990s.

Some of the earliest letters in our files are from 1960 objecting to the deletion of some cliff top paths between Cromer and Sheringham from the Draft Map of public rights of way. Apart from starting to write the walks for the Eastern Evening News in the spring of 1962 (which George proposed in the first place) Jeanne was also thrown into a public inquiry about getting footpaths onto the Definitive Map of rights of way in Salhouse and Horstead that year.

It is difficult to judge how many people followed Jeanne’s walks in the Evening News but every now and again there are letters of appreciation in the files. The files of walks also prove useful sometimes when we are asked by the County Council for evidence that might help in a claim for a right of way. Although the walks were weekly, Jeanne and George always had to have several in hand to allow for weeks when they would not be able to go out and survey because of holidays, George’s work, and other commitments. In the early years their daughter Jane would have had to accompany them. Jeanne wrote the walks and George drew the maps for 40 years.

With the growth in Ramblers membership the unwieldy Southeast Area was split along county lines in the 1970s and Norfolk became one of the first to be a separate Area, with George elected to be Area Secretary and Jeanne the Area Footpath Secretary. With their example and encouragement local membership continued to grow and our various Groups were set up.

The Definitive Maps for the whole County were published in 1965. All the while Jeanne had to examine various proposed path changes and decide if the Ramblers were to resist them or negotiate an alternative. She also had to agitate the County and District Councils for better signage, or to take action against obstructions, usually crops and ploughing.

Gradually Jeanne found other volunteers to train as Assistant Footpath Secretaries, and although in other Areas these AF Secretaries were responsible to the various Groups, in Norfolk they reported to an Area committee. Jeanne and George’s homes in Atthill Road and later Armes Street with its garage effectively became the office of the Ramblers in Norfolk, where committees met or volunteers answered correspondence.

Jeanne was elected to the Ramblers National Executive Committee in 1983 and in 1984 Norfolk hosted the Ramblers General Council at the UEA. But Jeanne and George did not remain involved in the RA nationally after that.

In 1989 Jeanne was appointed by the Secretary of State for the Environment to be a member of the newly founded Broads Authority. This followed a campaign (of which she was part) against the ploughing up of the Halvergate marshes.

To promote the Peddars Way as a continuous route through the countryside, in 1981 Jeanne and George set up the Peddars Way Association which continued its work until 1996.

Jeanne at a tree planting at Neatherd Moor, Dereham in 2007 in memory of Reg Money

Apart from leading walks for the various Ramblers Groups locally Jeanne and George would also lead an annual holiday for the Norfolk Area. Many people remember those.

To sum up Jeanne was an inspiration to us all.

The EDP have also published an obituary of Jeanne. Jeanne’s funeral will be held at 15:45 on Friday 8 December 2017 at Earlham Crematorium

Norfolk Ramblers Donate £300 to North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust

Norfolk Ramblers agreed at our area council meeting on Saturday 11 November to donate £300 to the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust.

The funding will be used by the trust to help pay for notice boards at the canal which will allow them to publicise the walks which are available in the area. The area is used by a number of Ramblers groups and the trust is keen to open up the canal area for use by the community.

Julian White, the Communications Officer for Norfolk Ramblers, said:

“We’re pleased to be able to donate this money to the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust in the knowledge that it will be used to help promote walks along the canal. Several of our groups, including Hike Norfolk, have run walks along the route and we fully support the trust’s efforts to restore the canal”.

Workshop at Norfolk Record Office

We were pleased to have been able to arrange a Workshop at the Norfolk Record Office at the end of last month.  The 18 people who attended were drawn from those who had registered an interest in researching paths to be claimed as rights of way before the infamous cut off for claims based on historical evidence on 1 January 2026.

The Workshop started with a brief introduction to the Record Office itself, but quickly moved to a slide show illustrating the types of records which might be most useful in our research.  (That presentation is available on request from

After responding to questions, and having further information added by our own Ian Mitchell, we were taken to the public searchroom and shown how to order original documents. We then went into one of the strongrooms (to which the public is not normally admitted) to see where the documents are stored, before returning to The Green Room, where a range of relevant documents had been laid out for inspection.

That process also provided opportunity for a lot of detailed questions and exchange of views between small groups of individuals.

Our thanks go to Gary Tuson and his staff at the NRO for providing this session, and in particular to the Education and Outreach Team (Victoria Draper, Kären Gaffney and Claire Bolster) who arranged the workshop, looked after us so well on the day, and also provided the photographs reproduced here.