On the 29th-30th March 2014, hundreds of Ramblers members, volunteers, supporters and staff spent a sunny weekend in conference rooms at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool for our annual General Council.

General Council elects the Board of Trustees who run the organisation on behalf of members. It holds the Trustees to account, approves the Annual Report and Accounts and provides guidance on policy. It’s also the ultimate authority for changes to our constitution.

Inner London Area had one of the largest delegations there, with three directly elected representatives (Helen Abbott, Elspeth Cox and Phil Marson), three trustees (Des Garrahan, Moira Fraser and Alex Mannings), a member of the agenda committee (Clare Wadd) and a visitor from the Area (Teri Moore), observing the proceedings having volunteered with the organisation of the meeting at Central Office.

Informal business kicked off on Saturday morning with six workshops.  My train didn’t get me in in time to attend them, but I heard afterwards that there were some passionate discussions in them, particularly the session on volunteering.  

After lunch, we moved into the formal business of the meeting, with feedback on progress on motions from previous years and a series of new motions.  Inner London made clear its concern that the ongoing governance review would not complete in time to address the issues facing London-wide Ramblers organisation in time for the next GLA and Mayoral elections in 2016.

The motions brought to 2014 General Council were on a variety of topics, including how we respond to the 2026 deadline for claiming historic paths, support for volunteers, getting to access land, and the walking environment.  In an unusually consensual Council, all motions were passed - usually after amendment and an interesting discussion.  As an Inner London representative, I always find it interesting to hear the issues facing volunteers in the rest of the country; not having public footpaths in our Area means there are whole areas of work we don’t do and our public transport facilities give us opportunities that are unique to us.

Discussion of the motions extended to Sunday morning but, before that, there was another series of workshops and fringe sessions and dinner.  

Before dinner, I attended a session on “Politics and Walking”, addressed by Mike Bates (Brighton and Hove Ramblers) and David Rutley MP (Conservative, Macclesfield).  The Ramblers have an on-going ambition to invite every MP, and some PPCs, for a walk in their constituency before the 2015 general election.  The session covered the support we can get from Central Office, the experience of a group that has hosted walks with all three of their MPs and an MP talking about what will engage other MPs.  There are 26 constituencies in the Inner London Area, so there’s a lot to do.  If you want to ‘Walk with MPs’ and can help to organise something in your constituency, do contact the Area organisers on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Dinner was another opportunity to get to meet other Ramblers.  Maria Eagle MP (Labour, Garston and Halewood) spoke after dinner on the importance of active travel.  She was followed by the volunteer awards, recognising the work of volunteers and groups around the country.  And then, inevitably, the bar and a Beatles themed disco - which reflected  the age profile of the Ramblers outside London rather better than it does our Area.

First thing on Sunday morning (having lost an hour’s sleep to the change to daylight savings), we had a couple of informal consultation sessions on the future operation and governance of the Ramblers, and our “Vision” for the future.  The Vision session was another fascinating opportunity to understand the concerns of the non-home counties representatives.

Elections to the Board of Trustees and Agenda Committee on Sunday morning were unopposed, although hustings were held anyway, allowing Council to hear from two of the three new Trustees.

General Council ended on Sunday lunchtime, leaving me (fittingly) with just enough time for a visit to the Walker Art Gallery before catching the train home, head full of thoughts about how we can do what we do in London better, defending our access to land and enabling people to access it for health and leisure.

To find out more about what went on, check out the Ramblers web site at http://www.ramblers.org.uk/what-we-do/news/2014/march/talking-walking-at-general-council.aspx.

(Phil Marson, April 2014)