General Council 2013 - A Delegate's Notes

The 2013 General Council of the Ramblers was held on 13th-14th April at the University of Warwick in Coventry. Around 200 Ramblers attended from all over England, Scotland and Wales.

General Council meets annually and is made up of elected representatives from Ramblers Areas and affiliates. It plays an important role in the governance of the charity, including electing members of the Board of Trustees, who are ultimately responsible for the charity, receiving the Annual Report and Accounts, and discussing and voting on motions. There’s also the opportunity to meet fellow Ramblers from other parts of the country and to get together socially.

This year Alex Mannings, Richard May and Richard Trueman were elected to the Board of Trustees following a hustings where Vice President Cath McKay asked them questions which delegates had posed over the weekend. This was my first Council, but I understand that the question and answer session was a new element. Another change this year was the opportunity for an open discussion, including questions from the floor, with the current Board. Both these innovations are for the better and were clearly welcomed by attendees. The new Trustees all have a good deal of volunteering and Ramblers experience which will benefit the Board - Alex is Chair of the Inner London Area and the founding Chair of the London Strollers, Richard May is Area Newsletter Editor for Norfolk and was until recently Chair of Norfolk’s 20s and 30s walking group, while Richard Trueman was until last year Chair of the Tiger Bay Ramblers 20s-30s group, having previously been Membership Secretary.

Thirteen motions were debated, of which nine were passed – the Board of Trustees will discuss these at its next meeting in May and more information will be on the main Ramblers website in due course.

Before the formal business of the meeting, there was an opportunity for volunteers to get together and share ideas and best practice, with workshops on social media, lobbying parliament, planning and a new vision for the Ramblers. In the evening there were fringe events on short walks, urban walking, footpaths and young walkers. This year’s guest speaker was Nick Crane, probably best known for the Coast TV programme, who gave an entertaining talk about his 10,000km and 18 month walk from Cape Finisterre to Istanbul, and his attempt to walk in a straight line across the length of England along the two degrees west line.

Another new element in this year’s event was the President’s Volunteer Awards Ceremony. Nominations from across Britain were displayed for delegates to vote over the weekend, with the winners being presented on the second day by Ramblers’ President Kate Ashbrook. The Isle of Man Ramblers did particularly well, with four awards, but Inner London Area was also successful, with the London Strollers group winning the award for Best Original Recruitment.

Since becoming involved with the Ramblers as a volunteer around a year ago, I’ve heard mixed comments about General Council, so wasn’t entirely sure what to expect of the weekend. While I can’t compare it to previous years, my impression from talking to other delegates is that this was one of the best, and that there has clearly been an effort to improve the way it works. Personally I found it extremely helpful in giving me a much wider picture of the Ramblers as a whole, and I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to delegates from other parts of the country. The workshops and fringe events were excellent and I came away feeling positive about the future direction of the Ramblers.

Elspeth Cox (Inner London Area delegate)