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Ramblers in London get up to lots of activities. Check out the individual groups' sites to see what they are up to.

You can see some of what we're up to on Twitter on the side of this page and the articles, below give a bit more detail about what's been going on or is planned in Inner London Area.

It's taken 13 years but there is, literally, now light at both ends of the Brydges Place tunnel.

This long-running saga started when in 2002 a local businessman was alarmed to see work to gate (or in this case door) the north/south spur of Brydges Place.

Reputedly the narrowest footpath in London (15 inches at its narrowest point) Brydges Place near Charing Cross runs between Bedfordbury and St Martins Lane and down to Chandos Place. In 2000, a local resident living next to the path obtained planning permission from Westminster City Council to `door' the passageway to Chandos Place, claimed it as private property, and started using it as a parking garage.

This narrow public right of way runs east/west between Chandos Place and St Martins Lane adjacent to the London Coliseum, just up from Charing Cross. It's been in existence, under various names, since early in the 19th century, and whilst it had not necessarily been the most attractive short cut it did serve a number of homes and businesses, as well as an emergency exit route for the Coliseum.

Westminster City Council policy is generally against gating, and previous applications to door this passageway had been refused on the grounds that it was part of the highway and public right of way.

Brydges Place signageHow this application was granted is unclear, but it soon became obvious when Dominc Pinto, one of Inner London Ramblers' campaigners, first got involved in the spring of 2009 that there were some singular features.  Key papers, including the details of previous applications were missing.  Dominic was able to supply copies of those from the local community association files.  That, together with searches of the St Martins Vestry minute book in the archives, backing from the community association, and advice from the Open Spaces Society, got his work on the way. The collection and submission of local residents statements as to the open nature of the alley and passageway, and uninterrupted use going back to at least the 1950s, and the City Council's own highways department also asserting the passageway as highway going back at least 60 years, were all material in getting the matter looked at in detail.

With local councillors involved, and endorsement by the Inner London Area Council to pursue the campaign, Dominic and the local businessman kept the pressure up, working in parallel and co-operation. This culminated, eventually, in a lengthy meeting with the cabinet member and lawyers, and a further review.  Finally, in 2013, the City Council decided to assert that Brydges Place was public highway and gave notice that unless the obstructing doors were removed by the property owner they would take action to remove them.  Early in 2014 the doors came down.

We then pressed for street name signage, that had existed prior to 2002, should be restored, and the private property signs removed. It has taken a further almost 18 months and in June those signs went up.

The proposed Garden Bridge across the Thames between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges was initially supposed to be a pleasant park and additional way of crossing the river, paid for from private funds.

In spite of the on-going public sector austerity that continues to reduce funding for existing parks and public spaces and prevents the development of new pedestrian and cycling bridges where they are actually needed for Londoners, such as between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf, more than £60MM has been promised by TfL and the Treasury.  In spite of this level of taxpayer support, the bridge will be a private space, closed at night and for at least eight weekends a year.

Further, the bridge and, particularly, its access points, will narrow an already crowded part of the Thames Path National Trail and will block the existing views of St Pauls and the City that open up as walkers emerge from under Waterloo Bridge (image from Thames Central Open Spaces).

Downstream view from the South Bank 

As the Observer editorial (24th May 2015) says "It requires much trust to think that the proposed Thames garden bridge will be an asset for Britain. You have to believe that within a confined area it can simultaneously be a haven of peace, useful transport infrastructure and an attraction with more visitors than Disneyland, that it will not push the overcrowding on London’s South Bank, already bad, beyond endurance and safety, and that the failure to provide lavatories will have no unfortunate consequences."

As reported in this further Observer article, the Ramblers in Inner London oppose the building of bridge.  We support Thames Central Open Spaces in their campaign to prevent it.  For more details, check out their web site at www.tcos.org.uk.

Find out how to stop the bridge at our campaign page.

"David Sharp—designer, illustrator, writer, campaigner, organiser, walker, vice-president of the Ramblers and much else—has died aged 89.  He was a great man in many respects—and all the greater for his self-effacing modesty." - Kate Ashbrook, President of the Ramblers.

Amongst a great many other things, David Sharp designed and wrote the first and the official guides to the Thames Path - the national trail that runs through our city and includes, according to the Lonely Planet, the second greatest city hike in the world.  Not many people can leave a mark on our city like that.

Read Kate Ashbrook's fuller appreciation of him here.

Ramblers walking to the meeting
Ramblers walking to the meeting

Inner London Area held its AGM on the first Saturday in February at the Pirate Castle on Camden Lock again this year.  The meeting was attended by around 50 members, many of whom had arrived via the two walks provided in the morning.

This year the Area has substantially redesigned its Annual Report to provide a much shorter web-friendly document which we hope will reach a wider readership amongst our 4,500 members via http://www.innerlondonramblers.org.uk/

We launched our promotional film, which was extremely well received by the meeting.  Made by Francesa Piazza, the film is the result of a project started a year ago and features people many will know, including longstanding Area volunteer, John Archer.  It’s available to view on our website and we will be sharing it as widely as possible via social media, as it is a great advert for walking in London.

Alex Mannings stood down as Area Chair after five years, having taken on the role of Ramblers Trustee in 2013; he has been an innovative and technologically savvy Chair, encouraging all of our groups to include their walks on walksfinder, introducing meet-up, a weekly online newspaper and a yahoo group for Area communications; he stays on the committee as Membership Secretary.  Elspeth Cox continues as Treasurer, Helen Abbott as Secretary and Dominic Pinto as Vice Chair; I am writing in my new guise of Publicity Officer.  Phil Marson, inaugural Chair of our two hugely successful age-related groups, Metropolitan and Capital Walkers and a former Area Chair, will chair us again for the next year.

Our meeting was perhaps unusual in featuring the excitement of a contested election for our three General Council delegates this year; Phil Marson, Jeanette Grose and Dominic Pinto were elected to represent the Area at the meeting in March and will report back to the Area.

We hosted a short talk from a member of Cotswold staff, and we encourage those groups who have not linked up with their nominated local store to do so, as Cotswold will offer in-store recruitment drives followed by walks starting from the store, meeting spaces, and technical training on GPS, map reading etc. – as well as the 15% members' discount – and the groups already taking advantages of this are reaping huge benefits and seeing membership growth as a result.  We were also pleased to have some representatives of Living Streets, with whom we will be working more closely in the coming year, at the meeting.

Benedict Southworth at IL AGM
Benedict Southworth addressing the meeting

Benedict Southworth, our Chief Executive for the last three years was our guest speaker.  After offering his heartfelt thanks to us as volunteers for the work we do, he brought the meeting up to date with Ramblers successes over the past year - including the Coastal path, which will now be supported by more staff and more funding from Natural England - and on the proposed new vision for Ramblers and changes to our governance.  The Chief Executive explained his role, employed by and reporting to the Board, who set the direction of travel whilst he “drives the car”.  He talked about our achievements in this, our 80th anniversary year and the work that continues at the centre, particularly the meetings with civil servants and politicians that will move us towards being a walking country.  Asked about the role of London, he said that whilst people want to go walking, that doesn’t currently translate into political clout, and we need to be able to say to people “join us and add your voice to the community of walkers”.  Through our new promotional film, working with organisations like Living Streets and Campaign for a Liveable London, who spoke at our AGM last year, we will aim to achieve this, with next year’s mayoral elections in particular in mind.

(Clare Wadd, Publicity Officer @innerlondonramb)

The Movement for Liveable London aims to broaden the debate about how changing the way we travel and design our public realm can help create a more liveable city.  Their Chair, Bruce McVean, spoke at the Inner London Area AGM in 2014.

Their hope is to play a part in engaging and inspiring ‘citizen champions’ who will demand that campaigners, policy makers and politicians be more ambitious in their approach to sustainable movement and the design and management of London’s public realm, helping to secure a better future for London.

They bring together campaigners for active travel from across London - Living Streets and cycle campaigns are linked to them - and they've kindly published an article about the Ramblers in London by our Chair, Alex - http://movementforliveablelondon.com/2014/03/31/an-introduction-to-the-ramblers-in-london/

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South East Walker newspaper is produced quarterly by a small team of volunteers.  It's distributed to Ramblers members across the South East with the glossy Walk magazine and contains more local news and updates about what volunteers and groups are doing across the region.