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.
We often get asked what to do if there is a problem with the path network, if it’s blocked, overgrown or there are crops on the footpath. Ian Mitchell, our area footpaths officer, has written this guide on what to do.
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.
Last year, Dereham Town Council put in claims to have a number of paths in the town registered as Restricted Byways. The claims were put together by the Town Clerk, with input from Ian Mitchell. Much of the evidence submitted related to historic usage of the routes, and was collected both by The Ramblers, and through local advertising, including a ‘drop in’ morning at Dereham Windmill, which lies adjacent to one of the routes claimed. The issue was also complicated as a planning application was being processed which affected some of the routes, and the Town Council ensured in discussions with the developer that they were aware of, and accommodating, the claims.
The initial response from Norfolk County Council in reviewing the evidence submitted, was to propose making orders for some of the routes to be Restricted Byways, but others only to be Public Footpaths. In practical terms, the Town Council and The Ramblers both thought this was a nonsense, as it would have resulted on users of the Restricted Byways having to turn back where the only continuation was on a Public Footpath. Ian sought advice and input from The Ramblers national office, while the Town Clerk conducted his own review of past decisions, as the County view appeared to be based on the validity of evidence regarding cycle usage.
We are pleased to note that the orders now made by the County are for Restricted Byways for all of the claimed routes.
Ramblers’ General Council, which is the national organisation’s annual meeting, took place on 1st and 2 April 2017 in Southampton. Four of us went from Norfolk, with Richard May going as a trustee candidate, Julian White and Peter James going as delegates and Ian Mitchell going as a visitor.
There was a walk before the formal proceedings of General Council began and this went around Southampton Common. The local Hampshire group led this and ensured that we given some interesting historical facts and it was a great opportunity to meet other delegates from across the country.
The meeting was opened and chaired by Des Garrahan, the national chairman, who balanced a professional and informal approach. The new Chief Executive made her first speech to General Council and I hope she is able to move forwards on her central theme of improving and enhancing communications. Our new President, Stuart Maconie, was also announced.
Richard May, our area chairman, was standing again for trustee after losing out last year. He was one of 15 candidates, although one didn’t turn up to General Council because of other commitments, and one, Hugh Dyer-Westacott (who has written a book), withdrew during the event.
With regards to the motions, Norfolk area had an amendment to motion 4 on ploughing and cropping.
Motion 4 was proposed by SYNED (South Yorkshire and North East Derbyshire) group. They opposed our amendment and we felt, after discussion with them, that General Council would likely not support our amendment based on these comments. We decided on that basis to withdraw our amendment.
We proposed a motion on funding lost ways, which is essentially about appointing a project officer and establish funding for the 2026 project, also ensuring that volunteers are co-ordinated and offered national assistance. The board of trustees proposed an amendment which we were content with and accepted. Cheshire East proposed a motion which essentially said that we should focus only on key routes, not trying to put in a claim for all footpaths. We opposed this, and it was a close vote, which fortunately went in our favour as the amendment wasn’t passed. Our original motion was though passed unanimously.
The results of the trustee elections was a little complex as there were three places for three years, two places for two years and two places for one year. That meant two elections throughout the day, but in short, the results were:
ELECTED IN FIRST ROUND
Rebecca Dawson – 87
Paul Rhodes – 80
Richard May – 78
ELECTED IN SECOND ROUND
Teri Moore – 80 (will serve two years as a trustee)
Sophie Clisold-Lesstor – 77
Peter Carr – 53 (will serve one year as a trustee)
Peter Rookes – 51
Well done to Richard, our area chairman!
The organisation from the national office was excellent, and there were plenty of staff on hand who made an effort to engage with the delegates. The event ran smoothly in terms of timing, technically and in ensuring all members were able to get their voice heard.
The meeting ended with a contribution from the European Ramblers, and they have a very positive agenda and the Danish chairperson came to speak. She spoke about the importance of getting people out into the countryside, whether on foot, by bike or on horseback.
It was another really useful weekend for everyone who attended, great for meeting other delegates and putting forwards the view of Norfolk Ramblers to the national organisation. Next year’s event will be held in Bangor in April 2018 and anyone who is interested in attending can let us know at any time over the next few months!
It was our annual AGM this week and we were delighted that it was well-attended. It was held in Acle and Great Yarmouth group did an excellent job at leading an interesting walk and ensuring that an extensive range of cakes were provided!
The pre-AGM walk went around the Norfolk Broads and was only partly muddy!
Richard May, the Chairman of Norfolk Area Ramblers, opens up the meeting. Ken Hawkins, our secretary, is on the left and Peter James, our treasurer, is on the right.
Richard presented Ian Mitchell, our Vice-Chairman, with a certificate marking his extensive work to protect the footpaths of Norfolk. He has worked tirelessly, and has a knowledge which is unparalleled in the county, to help the Ramblers and his honour is very well deserved. He now goes on to a national award at General Council in Southampton in early April 2017, and our fingers are firmly crossed.
The wonderful range of cakes provided at the end of the AGM. Walking is important to the Ramblers, but so is food 🙂
Des Garrahan, the national chairman of the Ramblers, gave a talk about the future of the organisation and how volunteers were helping to achieve our aims. He also gave further information about the 2026 deadline of when paths have to be recorded on the Definitive Map to ensure that they are protected.
Lloyd, the beautiful Guide Dog!
Graham, with his guide dog Lloyd, is partially sighted but was able to complete our pre-AGM walk with assistance, showing that this no barrier to walking with the Ramblers! Helen Sismore came from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, and gave a fascinating talk on how we could welcome those with sight difficulties and ensure they can take part in walks. There will be a future blog post about this!
Julian White, the External Communications Officer, said:
“This was a lively and interesting AGM where there were discussions covering several areas, particularly regarding the 2026 deadline. It was great to have Des present so that we could ask questions and so that our members could hear more about what is planned. Helen also gave encouragement and ideas on how we could welcome more blind and partially sighted people to our walks. And thanks to Great Yarmouth group for the cakes!”
North Norfolk has two newly recognised very useful paths on the Definitive Map of public rights of way that have come about by dedication by their landowners. One is now a restricted byway that runs between Sustead and Bessingham passing Thurgarton Old Hall and the southeast end of Sustead FP3. The other is now a bridleway called Coopers Lane on the OS map in Gresham.
The former came about after two local people started collecting evidence from local users because of a change of landowner, and seeking advice from the Ramblers and receiving some documentary evidence from us.
The second came about after local residents heard that last year the owner made a deposit with the County Council under the Highways Act 1980 section 31(6) of a map of his land about Gresham, Aylmerton and East Beckham (NCC ref: D14-12) and a declaration that there were no more than the already recognised rights of way. The local residents must have protested to him and Mr Clifton-Brown MP is to be congratulated on deciding to dedicate this enclosed path.
These dedications under the Highways Act 1980 section 25 are arranged by the County Council free of charge (at the moment) to either claimants or landowners. Faced with solid evidence, they are a way of the landowner retaining some control of the present situation as, if say new gates have been constructed, they are part the package and nobody can object.
Higher rights (say restricted byway over bridleway) might still be claimed but it would have to be a separate claim for a modification order upgrading the status of a recognised path and it may not get much user evidence now, and perhaps have to rely on a single historical document.
Ian Mitchell, the Norfolk Area Footpath Co-ordinator.