Ramblers' Association

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The Ramblers' Association is the largest organisation in the British Isles to look after the interests of walkers (or ramblers) in Britain. It is a registered charity with 139,000 members.

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What the Association does

Its special concerns are the protection of public footpaths in England, Scotland and Wales, and the advocacy for establishing public access and the right of way to the countryside.

There are 450 Ramblers' groups in about 50 areas, and around 350 other affiliated bodies, such as societies especially interested in the heritage of the countryside, the Footpath Society, and local councils. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act, granting the so-called freedom to roam in the open countryside, was passed in the year 2000.

A recent campaign (summer 2003) has been conducted 'to work for safer road crossing points for users of public rights of way' in order to make the authorities and the public at large aware of the attendant dangers of crossing some extremely busy roads while walking.

Long-distance footpaths, some of them ancient, have been maintained in conjunction with local authorities and their use has been encouraged and promoted by the Association. It is in this way that walking on the Pennine Way, the Pilgrim Way, the Saxon Shore Way and many others, as well as innumerable shorter paths has become very popular over the years.

How the groups work

Locally, walks vary in lengths of short distances of three to four miles; a medium range of five to six miles, or seven to nine miles; or for the more experienced ramblers, ten to fifteen miles. Consideration is given to the difficulty of the course and the terrain, whether stiles, steep hills, and busy roads are to be crossed, and the number of members who may be expected to take part.

Ramblers take their turn in volunteering in advance for the list of leaders of the walks. Leaders walk out the designated route in order to reconnoitre it, bearing in mind that certain features of the route may change before the actual day of the walk. Crops in fields growing or harvested, foliage on trees changing, footpaths overgrowing, all will make a difference to what walkers will encounter.

History

In 1931, the National Council of Ramblers' Federations was formed because walkers felt that a national body to represent their interests was needed. In 1934 it was decided to change the Council's name, and so on 1 January 1935, the Ramblers' Association was officially created.

From 1948 onwards its secretary was Tom Stephenson, who was a leading campaigner for open-country access and for the first British long-distance footpath, the Pennine Way.

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