Saturday the second of April was a beautiful day in London and, all over the South East of England, Inner London Ramblers' groups were, as they do every weekend, going out to enjoy the spring weather.  Instead, I caught the train to York University for Ramblers' General Council - the "Annual General Meeting" of the Ramblers that meets once a year to review the previous year's activities  and finances and to elect the Board of Trustees that is legally responsible for the charity.York University Campus

Every area of the Ramblers sends delegates to General Council.  As one of the largest areas in the country, making up more than 4% of the total membership, Inner London has three representatives - Dominic Pinto and Phil Marson were elected at the area AGM and Caroline Studdert was subsequently co-opted by the Area Council.  Additionally, four of the twelve currently elected trustees, and the chair of the Agenda Committee (a key body in the administration of General Council) are Inner London areas, making the Inner London contingent the largest one there.

The meeting started with a welcome from the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Des Garrahan (Inner London), and a brief review of the year by Benedict Southworth, the Chief Executive of the Ramblers, who announced that, after four years with the Ramblers, he was handing his notice in.  These were followed by hustings for the following day's elections to the Board of Trustees.  Evidently, being a trustee is an attractive position - all of the candidates had previously served on the board and were keen to do so again.

After dinner, and an informal consultation on the on-going review of how the Ramblers is run, delegates could go for an evening walk in the city, talk Ramblers business in the bar, or have an early night to prepare for the rigours of the following day's business.  Additionally, TV Smith - former singer of the Adverts and 60 year old bored teenager - was playing a gig at a pub a short walk across the fields from the university campus.  Going to a gig in London never involves crossing cattle grids and hedgehog watching with the RSPB, but it does seem to in York.

Up bright and early on Sunday morning, to catch up with old friends at breakfast to talk about the previous evening's activities and the prospects for the day ahead.  The Ramblers is in the middle of a three year process to make the way it's run fit the demands of the 21st century.  This year, we were updating the organisation's constitution.   Over the next year, we will consider the way we're organised in local groups and areas - the current arrangements have been in place since the 1980s and if you were going to design the organisation today, you wouldn't design it as it is.  In 2018 we'll examine the charity's national governance.  Plenty to look forward to there.

Alex Mannings giving the treasurer's presentationAlex Mannings (national Treasurer, Inner London) gave a comprehensive presentation of the financial state of the organisation, aided by three staff members who gave an overview of how funds are spent.  Two striking things from this presentation are the health of the accounts, particularly in comparison to how they were seven years ago, and the low ratio of administrative to campaigning costs we've got.

The remainder of the formal sessions were taken up with the formal motions put to council for decision.  The main outcome of this is that our constitution, as described in our Memorandum and Articles of Association, are now much clearer to read, and expressed in non-gender specific language.  They now form a much clearer basis for future changes.  The remainder of the motions discussed were to position this year's changes to group and area organisation.

The Ramblers is a fantastic organisation, enabling thousands of volunteers to put on tens of thousands of events.  It handles more than ten million pounds each year for public benefit and employs 70 people.  All of this requires good governance and co-operation.  General Council is the means by which our volunteers can set the direction of the organisation.  It can, at times, seem dry and technical, but it's a fantastic opportunity to meet and work with other volunteers from across the country.

(Phil Marson, Chair, Inner London Ramblers)