Where do Areas Fit in The Ramblers?
Nottinghamshire Area is one of about 50 such Areas of The Ramblers across Great Britain. We have 14 Groups, 12 based around a geographic area and 2 age related. There are also a growing number of members choosing not to belong to a Group.
There is sometimes confusion about the function of the Area and its relationship with the Groups. The Ramblers is a registered charity and a campaigning organisation; it is not just a network of walking groups. Indeed many members join to support the charity and not to walk with the Groups.
The first tier of The Ramblers is the Board of Trustees, who are elected at General Council, the governing body of Ramblers. The Board “shall be responsible for the management and control of the Association”.
Areas are the second tier, established to carry out the objectives of Ramblers within their prescribed areas. Areas are accountable to the national Board and have to submit annual returns of Area and Group finances. Groups are the third tier and are also there to carry out The Ramblers’ objectives. Each local Group is responsible to, and represented on, the Area’s governing body - the Area Council.
Whilst adhering to The Ramblers constitution, Areas tend to function differently. For example, some are responsible for the walks programme within their Area but in others there is a programme of Area mid-week walks. Groups are responsible for organising their own programme of walks. Other work carried out by local Groups should be in liaison with the Area. Although Areas have a certain amount of freedom, they must nevertheless act within the rules laid down by the Board and act within the charitable objectives.
Area Councils comprise local members, many of whom are also on Group committees, elected to carry out the tasks required of it by members of the Area and Groups. There are also Area Officers charged with working in specialist fields such as Rights of Way (RoW), Finance, Administration etc.
There is no doubt that The Ramblers has to be a campaigning organisation to achieve its objectives and to enable us to enjoy a walk in the countryside. To keep paths open and walkable is a campaign which will, no doubt, never cease. Without The Ramblers and the tireless work of its volunteers, we would not have a fraction of the footpath network we have today; occasionally it may mean confrontation with landowners and Highway Authorities but that is a fact of life. The Ramblers continues to seek greater access to the countryside continuing our proud tradition after the mass trespass on Kinder Scout in 1935.
Area Council Members
The current Area Officers have set out the key parts of their roles below. These fall into 2 main types: the essential internal roles that actually keep the Area Council operating (e.g. Chair, Secretary) and those more focused on protecting our rights of way and countryside (e.g. Rights of Way Officer). Members are encouraged to put themselves forward for all Area roles at the AGM. There are also Council members without portfolio who can work on specific projects.
For Nottinghamshire members who don’t want a formal role or to attend committees, there are always projects or rights of way work that need help and support. For example, the website needs people to add photos, write articles, add new pages; we are also looking for members to attend publicity events to promote Ramblers.
1 Chair – Martin Gawith
At its simplest the Area Chair is elected to provide consistent chairing of the quarterly Area Council Meetings and help develop Council as a team working together. In the Nottinghamshire Area, the Area Chair also conducts the Management Meetings that are held two weeks before Area Council.
The Management Meetings are a chance for Area Officers to meet as a team and to understand the work of their fellow Officers and recent events. It helps to iron out minor matters, thus saving Area Council’s time for more important issues. The Management Meeting has no decision-making powers, which are reserved to Area Council.
2. Vice-Chair - Jim Norris
A simple role until something happens to the Chair and when it becomes essential! So Jim needs to keep up to date on national and Area issues by close liaison with Area Secretary, Chair and Treasurer and is ready to take over or stand in at meetings.
3. Area Secretary – Judith Anson and Steve Parkhouse
This is the key role on Area Council and can be compared to Company Secretary in a business. Areas of responsibility are governance and management; making sure that business is carried out as per the Ramblers Aims & Objectives/Memorandums and Articles of Association. Area Secretary manages all the admin for the Area (e.g. room bookings, agendas, minutes, receiving and circulating papers, keeping the records). Area Secretary is the first point of contact for Group queries, for Ramblers Central Office and for the public. The Area Secretary attends the annual Ramblers General Council. There is also a “political” element to this as it is a role that requires considerable experience of Ramblers.
4. Treasurer – Jack Proust
The Treasurer oversees the finances of the Area and Groups. Jack also completes the annual budgeting process and carries out ongoing accounting, feeding in to the Area AGM and the annual return to Ramblers Central Office.
5. Area Rights of Way Officer – Chris Thompson
Ramblers throughout Britain work tirelessly to protect and enhance the rights of way network. This is also the case in Nottinghamshire. Firstly we have a team of District Coordinators (DCs) who link with Ramblers Groups in their patch. Secondly, Groups aim to have a footpath secretary (DCs are listed in the rights of way section of this website and Group details can be found on each Group website).
The Area Rights of Way Officer has a strategic role, linking with DCs and Groups to advise and assist on all rights of way issues. He also links with Highway Authorities (Notts County Council and Nottingham City Council), Ramblers Central Office and other partners.
Chris is also involved with Stephen Parkhouse, (DC for Bassetlaw) in claiming definitive map modification claims (i.e. paths that have not been claimed as definitive rights of way). Chris and Steve are available to discuss how to claim these paths and welcome assistance of members in our work.
Chris is available to discuss carrying out Notts rights of way surveys with any Group or member. It is important that all rights of way are fully available and open and we need members to help with this work. Maps and paperwork will be provided to carry out surveys.
6. Area Countryside Officer – Jim Norris
The best way of defining the role of Countryside Officer is to note that in general we walk on footpaths and in general we walk through countryside. So in this role I need to be aware of what is happening that might spoil the beauty of and access to the places we like to visit. Many attempts are made to despoil our countryside including: building on the Green Belt; queries and gravel pits; new roads; changes in regulations about flood plains and planning etc; open cast coal mines; grubbing up hedges and chopping down trees. I need to read all the Council planning applications and where appropriate lodge objections. On occasions there are major developments in the countryside which may interfere with our interests as Ramblers. At present the two most notable are Fracking and HS2.
7. Groups Officer – James Mcgill
All Ramblers members in Nottinghamshire can join the 14 Groups, 12 geographically based (e.g. Newark, Rushcliffe) and 2 age-based (e.g. One-Step Walkers). Groups are important for individual members, providing an opportunity for regular walking and a ready-made focus for social activities.
The post had been vacant for some years when James took it over in 2013. James then visited all Groups. The result was a written report “Talks and Walks with Nottinghamshire Ramblers”. In recent months James has started another round of visits to Groups which are interested in “sharpening” up their presence on the web or by using Facebook. Members appreciate the interest shown in their problems and James hopes it will help to reduce the feeling of isolation sometimes felt by “movers and shakers” in Groups.
James is also interested in helping Groups develop their recruitment strategies and this may involve setting up new Groups with a focus on attracting younger members.
8. Area Membership Secretary – Judith Anson
Judith keeps track of membership figures and reports trends for Area, based on information received from Ramblers. Groups each have their own Membership Secretaries and Judith provides any support they need including intervening with Ramblers Central Office on their behalf if necessary. There are a growing number of members who choose not to belong to Group and become Area only members. The workload of the role has reduced considerably since all information now goes direct to Groups.
9. Area Publicity Officer – Vacant
Ramblers sets out a formal job description but this can be adapted to local circumstances.
Part of the remit also includes “producing an attractive display to publicise the Ramblers” and this we do with gusto at various outdoor events. For instance the Gedling Show and the Southwell Ploughing Match and Show where a team of volunteers now have the facilities to promote the Ramblers. It is also pleasing to note that having encouraged our Groups to use these facilities for their own events, the number doing so is on the increase. Ramblers Central Office has a Marketing Team able to provide materials and support for Areas and Groups.
10. Area Webmaster – Steve Holland
The Webmaster develops and maintains the new website launched in Novemeber 2015.
The Area also operates two Sub-Committees.
11.1 Communications Group
The Communications Group, chaired by Judith Anson, is responsible for the website, Notts Area Walker (our email communication), the development of a recruitment strategy, the enhancement of communications and raising the profile of Ramblers.
11.2 District Co-ordinators
Chaired by David Hunt, the Sub-Committee deals with all matters affecting rights of way and is attended by the Area Rights of Way Officer, the Countryside Officer, the District Co-ordinators and Group Footpath Officers.