2015 is the 80th anniversary of the Ramblers Association (now the Ramblers) and General Council (the Ramblers AGM) this year was dedicated to ensuring we can carry our traditions into the 21st century.  Inner London Area is the third biggest area within the Ramblers and we take a large part in the national operations of the Ramblers, so loads of us went off to Robinson College, Cambridge, for the weekend of 28th-29th March 2015 to join a couple of hundred Ramblers from around the country for the conference.

'Our' trustees (Des Garrahan, Alex Mannings and Moira Fraser), Clare Wadd (Agenda Committee) and about half a dozen volunteers from the Capital Walkers (www.capitalwalkers.org.uk) formed the advance guard on Friday night.  The volunteers provided tellers and other front of house support throughout the meeting, supporting a massive effort from Central Office staff.  They were joined on Saturday lunchtime by the delegates elected at the Area AGM in February, Jeanette Grose, Dominic Pinto and me, Phil Marson, and our area visitor, Elspeth Cox.

The Ramblers has recently adopted a new vision, to take us into the next decade, and is in the middle of changing its organisational structure to deliver this vision effectively. Much of the weekend was taken up with discussions around these topics.  General Council 2015 was a vintage year for enthusiasts for pedantry and procedure, but running a national charity with over 100,000 members and 25,000 volunteers, putting on hundreds of events a month, necessarily sometimes requires some formality.

2015 General Council meeting

Saturday

On Saturday afternoon, we elected a new Chair (Des Garrahan of the Metropolitan Walkers) and Treasurer (Alex Manning of the Capital Walkers), along with other usual AGM business like receiving the Chief Executive's report and the financial statement.

Later in the afternoon, we split into small groups to discuss what future consultations on the organisational structure should look like; which was more interesting than it sounds.  One of the joys of General Council is the chance to meet with activists from other areas and hear about their concerns and the ways they organise themselves.

The formal business of the day ended with a conversation between our President, Kate Ashbrook, and the Master of Emmanuel College and former Director General of the National Trust, Dame Fiona Reynolds, talking about campaigning, the importance of the Ramblers' vision and the rewards of activisim.  Inspirational stuff, as it proved.

After dinner, there was a series of fringe meetings about future campaigning activities, such as the Big Pathwatch, volunteer recruitment, and other issues about extending the reach of the organisation.  There was also the chance to catch up with old friends and colleagues, to organise for the following day, and to have an early night in preparation for the change to BST and a hard day's organising.  I did some, but not all of these.

Sunday

Sunday morning kicked off before 9am with hustings for the five vacancies on the Board of Trustees.  Moira Fraser (Chair, Capital Walkers) was re-elected to the board in the first round.  In the second round, Teri Moore (Capital Walkers) was elected to the Board, too.

The major discussion of the day was over the proposal to move to One Member One Vote (OMOV) for future elections to the Board of Trustees.  A large number of concerns were raised over this, around whether it would deliver the suggested benefits, over the relative benefits of direct and representational democracy, and over the costs and practical concerns of organising the vote.  The board's proposal was withdrawn without a vote but will, undoubtedly be re-presented next year with more detail.

General Council concluded early afternoon (for me; the successfully elected had further meetings to attend).  The frequent heavy showers forced a number of us to take refuge in a very good real ale pub for more informal discussions on the way to the station.

Conclusion

This was a more internally focussed General Council than usual.  Given the amount of change proposed for the Ramblers in the next few years, this is essential, if not fun.  Inner London Area continues to 'punch above its weight' in the national organisation.

Thanks are due to the volunteers from the Capital Walkers who helped run the Council.

Congratulations are due to our members who volunteer at national level.  It's a time-consuming, but valuable role, so thank you to Des Garrahan, Alex Manning, Moira Fraser, Clare Wadd and Teri Moore. 

Inner London is the third largest area in the Ramblers, the fastest growing area in England, and home to some of the most interesting groups in the country.  It's great to have so much representation at the national level.  Now, we need to turn this into an effective campaigning organisation here.