Aims of the Ramblers' Association
The Ramblers' Association exists to facilitate, for the benefit of everyone, the enjoyment and discovery that walking outdoors can bring; and to promote respect for the life of the countryside.
The Association encourages walking, protects rights of way, defends the beauty of the countryside and has campaigned for many years for freedom to roam over uncultivated, open country.
The Ramblers' Association is not affiliated to any political party and is required by its constitution to be non-sectarian. The Association is a democratic, voluntary organisation, registered as a charity (no. 1093577) and as
The Ramblers' Association
THE RAMBLERS' ASSOCIATION exists to facilitate, for the benefit of everyone, the enjoyment discovery and health benefits of travelling on foot in Britain and to promote respect for the life of the countryside.
Since its beginnings in 1935, the work of the Ramblers has been in pursuit of its charitable aims: to encourage walking in Britain, to protect public paths, to campaign for freedom to roam over uncultivated open country, and to defend the beauty of the countryside. Members organise walking and campaigning events through the year in support of these aims.
The Ramblers' Association aims to bring a love and understanding of the countryside to the minority of the population who never walk there, either because they do not have the means, because their mobility is impaired by disability, or simply because they have not yet had the opportunity to discover the sense of liberation and enjoyment that walking for pleasure in the outdoors can bring. An estimated 95% of walking routes in Britain are impassable to wheelchairs and others who have mobility impairment The Ramblers' Association seeks to open up the countryside for people with different physical abilities. It seeks to involve young people in its work and has a number of young people's walking groups across the country. And it seeks to include people of all races and creeds in its work
The work of the Association has brought many new freedoms to walkers since its inception in 1935. The year 2000 was an especially important one: at last after 65 years of campaigning by the Ramblers and others, walkers in Britain will have freedom to roam in certain areas of open, uncultivated countryside.
As we enter 2001, membership of the Association has reached 130,000. Members may take part in organized walks, get involved in conservation work help campaign for better access to the countryside, or just support the work of the Ramblers by paying their annual subscription. The governing body of the Ramblers is its General Council, a democratic body which establishes the association's objectives. Welsh and Scottish Councils aim to further the objectives of the Ramblers in their countries.
The association is not affiliated to any political party and is required by its national constitution to be non-sectarian. The main office is in London and there are also offices in Wales and Scotland.
Thanks to Ramblers' volunteers, thousands of miles of paths are opened up and kept open for the public to enjoy. In recent years, there has been a dramatic improvement in the state of the paths in England and Wales. Many more are now open, signposted, and shown on the map thanks to volunteers' efforts, but there is still a long way to go. Some landowners abuse the network by blocking paths with crops and barbed wire, or by threatening people who use them. By law highway authorities (county councils, unitary councils, and metropolitan authorities) must protect the public's right to walk footpaths and must remove obstructions, but many of them are doing a very poor job. Audit Commission figures published in March 2000 show that in England only 75% and in Wales only 48% of paths are easy to use.
In many parts of Britain Ramblers volunteers have launched campaigns to persuade their tardy authorities to take action. They point. out that walking is free, healthy, lucrative for local trade, and is everyone's right. They persist until the councillors take notice and do something to improve matters.
Members, also go quietly about their work reporting path problems, surveying, clearing, waymarking and building footbridges and stiles, and opposing path diversions which bring no benefit to the public. In Scotland, local groups also carry out valuable footpath work and press for new rights of way to be created.
The Association is recognised as a much respected source of expertise. It seeks to have illegal obstructions on rights of way removed and, where necessary, prosecutes offenders. It urges farmers to obey the law on ploughing and rights of way and calls upon local authorities and the government to ensure that these and other laws are respected. The Ramblers seek restrictions on the grazing of dangerous animals such as bulls in fields containing pubic rights of way, and press for new rights of way to be created where necessary.
Part II of the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill introduces a number of significant changes to rights of way law. The Association has been closely involved, lobbying the Government, MPs and Peers, to seek to ensure that those changes will not weaken the existing provisions protecting rights of way.
At local level voluntary footpath secretaries oppose public path closures and diversions if they are not in the public interest and carry out research to add unrecorded public rights of way to definitive maps. If necessary such matters are pursued to public inquiry and if inquiry decisions appear contrary to the requirements of the law, the Association will consider High Court action.
Freedom to Roam
After more than a century of campaigning we now have a new law in England and Wales which will secure greater public access to open countryside for generations to come. The new law provides a public right to walk on certain types of uncultivated land, measures to improve the footpath network and greater protection for wildlife and the countryside. The National Assembly for Wales will take forward the implementation of the legislation in Wales.
The Countryside and Rights of Way Bill was introduced by the Government in March 2000. Despite strong opposition from some quarters, the Bill completed its arduous journey through both Houses of Parliament to become an Act in December 2000. The passage of the Act is a time of celebration for the Ramblers' Association, the culmination of many years of hard work by volunteers and staff. However, the new rights will not come into force immediately but only once the mapping process has been completed - this could take several years. There is still plenty of work for the Ramblers' to do to ensure that the provisions of the Act are implemented as soon as possible and to the best advantage of walkers.
The Countryside Agency (CA) and the Countryside Commission for (CCW) are the agencies responsible for delivering the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in England and Wales. Over the next year the agencies will be producing various materials to inform the public of the new right of access as well as guides for farmers and landowners on managing public access. The Ramblers' Association hopes to play a major role in the provision of information to the public and will be working closely with the CA and CCW.
Under the Countryside and Rights of Act the countryside agencies have a duty to prepare maps which show all open country and all registered common land, where the new right of access will apply. Pilot mapping projects are currently under way: however it is estimated that the mapping process will take three to four years to complete. It is hoped that the countryside agencies will begin mapping as soon as possible, for there will be no right of access until the maps are produced. The Ramblers will do everything possible to ensure that all areas of open country are properly mapped and that the public get to see the effects of the legislation on the around as soon as possible.
The CA and CCW also have a duty under the Act to create a network of local countryside access forums across England and Wales. These will become important advisory bodies and will influence how local authorities and the CA and CCW carry out the provisions of the Act. It is expected that the forums will be made up of representatives of users, landowners and managers, local authorities, local businesses and conservation interests. Outside the national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, it is likely that local access forums will be based on county or unitary authority territories. It will be vitally important for the Association to be represented on local access forums across England and Wales.
The National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 received Royal Assent in August 2000, formally establishing a national parks system in Scotland. The Act is enabling legislation and the first national park (Loch Lomond and the Trossachs) will be established through further legislation in 2001. The Cairngorms will follow in 2002.
For more than 50 years, campaigners in Scotland have faced an uphill struggle against vested interests determined to prevent any change to land and their control of it The establishment of the Scottish Parliament has provided the driving force for land reform and the Ramblers are delighted that national parks are at the forefront of this work and are arriving on the statute book within the Parliament's first year. Over time the Ramblers believe this will be recognised landmark legislation.
Defending the beauty of the countryside is an integral part of the Association's work. Indeed it is a necessary part of ensuring that walkers can continue to enjoy their view from the footpath and that the open country over which the organisation has secured a legal right to roam is not despoiled.
The success of this Work can be seen in recent moves taken by the Government to better protect the countryside, such as the introduction of a new quarry tax assurance that Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will receive better management and the progress of the designation of the New Forest and South Downs as new national parks. The Association works to ensure that all these moves are carried through - by influencing the policies made by local and central government planning authorities, and also the policies of other organisations that influence land use planning. Members also monitor and, where appropriate, make representations on individual planning applications that present a threat to the countryside and open spaces in urban areas. These may include proposals for quarrying, house building on greenfield sites, opencast coal extraction and new road schemes.
Another important part of Ramblers work, is campaigning to protect and improve public transport in rural areas. This is also a way to help those without private transport or keen to reduce their reliance on the car to explore the countryside on foot.
As devolution becomes more intrinsic to the planning system the Association is working to set up regional working groups to get the voice of walkers heard at this increasingly important level of administration.
The Association relies on its hundreds of volunteers working in their neighbourhoods to reinforce and carry out its aims and policies. In many cases it is their diligence that sparks off major chances in legislation affecting walkers' rights. It is they who are walking, clearing and keeping open our wonderful network of footpaths, spreading a love of the countryside with walks programmes and newsletters and firing enthusiasm in local campaigns. There are 53 areas in England, Wales and Scotland the (organisation is not at present active in Northern Ireland) running 423 local groups.
Willing volunteers are always needed and appreciated, in particular for leading walks, helping working parties clear and waymark footpaths, launching footpath campaigns, helping members with special needs to go on walks, undertaking a variety of administration tasks, serving on local committees, and taking on key posts such as footpath secretary, publicity officer or countryside secretary, according to whichever skills, interests or ideas they may have. If you can help contact your local area or group secretary, the development team at central office or staff at the Scottish or Welsh offices. Al1 offers will be most gratefully received.