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 ken-hawkins@tiscali.co.uk.)

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.

Reminder About Walks in Forestry Commission Areas

Just as a reminder for leaders who are contemplating or running walks in Forestry Commission area of eastern England. They are advised to check:


To see whether there are any temporary Closures of Forestry Commission work areas.

This site is updated perhaps monthly and has maps of work areas, but other work also goes on at short notice and leaders need to take account of local instructions beside tracks.

Lord Gardiner Visits Norfolk as Part of England Coast Path Announcement

As part of the update on the England Coast Path, Lord Gardiner, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs, came to visit Norfolk to see how the project was progressing. On the morning of 1 September 2017 he visited Great Yarmouth, where he sampled a newly constructed boardwalk built to provide improved access to the beach there, linked to the England Coast Path.

Four RA members, three of them on Norfolk’s Area Council, met him at Waxham – Richard May (Chair), Ian Mitchell (Footpath Co-ordinator), Ken Hawkins (Secretary) and Catherine Hawkins. Ken and Catherine had surveyed the England Coast Path proposals before implementation; Ken and Ian had met several times with NE staff to discuss RA views, and drafted the formal RA response to the NE proposals when they were issued. All three had subsequently taken various roles in making comments for improvements to Norfolk County Council after the two stretches were opened.

Lord Gardiner made plenty of opportunities to talk (and listen) to all present – Natural England staff, members and staff from Norfolk County Council, Martin Sullivan (Chair of Norfolk Local Access Forum) and the contingent from The Ramblers. He came across as knowledgeable of both the context and specific issues, and expressed interest in the wider environment (eg the sea defences at Sea Palling, and the pipes which had come adrift and were awaiting ‘rescue’). He also generously bought ice creams for everyone in the party from a van parked at the start/end of our short walk.

Comment had been made to Lord Gardiner that we thought it would be beneficial to local businesses in widening their season. This had been taken up with an interview at Great Yarmouth (Munchies), and a similar discussion was had over lunch at the Waxham Barn Café, where he spoke both to the owner Helen and a member of her staff who walked to her job there from Sea Palling, in preference to using the road (which was derestricted and without a footway for a substantial part of its length).

The Minister was responsive and interested in hearing about the concerns of the Ramblers and we hope to continue that engagement. We were also pleased to see the level of media interest on the day, with Anglia TV covering the event. The day was a great success and we’re delighted to see progress being made on the England Coast Path, a project which the Ramblers has been heavily involved with both locally and nationally.

Walkers in Norfolk one step closer to enjoying England Coast Path

People in Norfolk are one step closer to being able to walk around the entire England coastline as Natural England have announced today (1 September 2017) that work has started on every stretch of the England Coast Path.

The England Coast Path is an inspirational project to create the world’s longest continuous coastal trail. In Norfolk there are 4 stretches included in the project:

  • Sea Palling to Weybourne which has been open since December 2014
  • Hopton on Sea to Sea Palling was opened last November
  • Weybourne to Hunstanton is still under consideration, with Natural England expecting to issue its proposals fairly soon
  • Hunstanton to Sutton Bridge is also still under consideration, with proposals expected late 2017 or early 2018

Ramblers’ director of advocacy and engagement, Nicky Philpott said:

“This is a huge milestone in the story of the England Coast Path and one we should celebrate. Building sandcastles on the beach, dipping toes in the sea and taking a stroll along clifftops are favourite activities that cross generations and bring us all together.

So it might surprise you that until recently, a third of England’s coastline was inaccessible. The Ramblers has long dreamed of a country where everyone can freely enjoy our beautiful coast, so we were pleased that after years of campaigning, in 2010, work started on the England Coast Path.”

At almost 3,000 miles long, the path will stretch around the entire English coastline. Not only will this open up new paths, it will create new areas of open access land so people can freely explore headlands, cliffs and beaches, right up to the water’s edge.

Natural England has been working with landowners, local authorities and others to open up stretches of the path and Ramblers’ volunteers have worked tirelessly to walk and survey swathes of coast, mapping out the best route for walkers.

Nicky added: “We’d like to thank our wonderful volunteers who have spent hours exploring possible routes for the path. Using their local knowledge and thinking with their feet they are helping to ensure that the England Coast Path is not just a path, but one of the most incredible walking trails in the world.”

In Norfolk, Ken Hawkins took on liaison between Natural England and The Ramblers during the planning of the route. He said, “Right from the start, The Ramblers put forward proposals for the route, and these always received full consideration from Natural England. Since 2013, we have had a number of productive meetings and a regular exchange of ideas. More than that, after the opening of each section, members of The Ramblers have walked the routes and offered ‘fine tuning’ suggestions to Norfolk County Council, which took over responsibility for them once open.”

The Government hope to complete the England Coast Path by 2020, and the Ramblers is keen to ensure that plans are put in place to maintain the path once it’s complete and has become a National Trail.