Remembering Alan Howard

After writing about the thirtieth anniversary of the Rail Ramblers in July, I realised that I had never published my tribute to Alan Howard, which I gave at his funeral in 2008.  This is it (with thanks to Tony Clarkson and Chris Hall,who wrote a Guardian Other Lives about him) with a few additions.  I am publishing it today, 1 December, which would have been Alan’s 97th birthday.

In days gone by it was not unusual to meet a group of ramblers, arriving at or leaving a railway station, led by one carrying an umbrella.  This would have been Alan leading one of his rail rambles.

Howard, Alan

Alan Howard

He firmly believed in the use of public transport for rambles, and at all times.  In 1975 he helped to start the Lancashire Rail Rambles programme, and he later organised a similar programme based on Shrewsbury and using the Cambrian, Central Wales, Marches and Chester-Shrewsbury lines—a programme which today is stronger than ever.

Church Stretton July 27th

Rail Ramblers at Church Stretton station on 27 July 2019

And he would lead town trails from railway stations: if you stayed to the end of the Settle-Carlisle line you might be rewarded by Alan’s fascinating tour of Carlisle.  Keen on urban walking, in 1975 he published a leaflet ‘A plea for urban footpaths’.

Graphic designer
Alan first became involved in the Ramblers in the 1960s when his work as a graphic designer took him to Preston.  He joined the Ramblers and attended his first meeting of the Preston and Fylde Group, only to find he had been elected chairman (a familiar story for many volunteers).  Thus began his long association with the Ramblers.

His skill in graphic design was a tremendous asset to the Ramblers.  He produced leaflets for the Ramblers’ Forbidden Britain campaigns for the Ribble Way rally of 1986 and the River Alt rally of 1988 when the Ramblers’ sent a dummy across the river on a rope to demonstrate the need for a footbridge.

In 1982, after a long campaign to persuade Lancashire County Council to adopt the Ribble Way as a recreational footpath, he defiantly led the launch of the Interim Ribble Way and it was, again, his artwork which became the leaflet for that event and, perhaps more importantly, the logo for the Ribble Way, a neat clear design. 


Ribble Way logo

Eventually, the County Council adopted the Ribble Way and the official opening was at Clitheroe in 1985. 

Alan went to his first national Ramblers’ AGM in 1976 where he delivered a witty speech in moving a motion calling on the government to ensure that path users were not endangered by bulls.  He was subsequently elected to the executive committee.  It was the first of many brilliant speeches which Alan was to make in that forum, often railing against motor vehicles.  He once likened motorbikes revving up on the hills to ‘a flatulent dinosaur’.

He was always ready with a clever quip.  When two members of Ramblers’ staff bumped into Alan in Penzance in August 1999 they asked if he had come to Cornwall, as they had, to witness the eclipse. ‘No’, he answered, ‘it’s here for me’.

In 1990 he became national vice-chairman and chairman of the footpath subcommittee.  With his great expertise in graphic design he should really have chaired the other subcommittee, publicity and development.  Instead he would ask me (who had the misfortune to be chairman of that subcommittee) about publicity material produced by the Ramblers—questions which I couldn’t really answer.

Rambling Today autumn 1993 cropped

Alan Howard being interviewed for Rambling Today, autumn 1993, photo: Linda Hart

In 1993 he was elected national chairman, but resigned in 1995, before completing his three-year term, in disgust that the Ramblers had fixed up a sponsorship deal with Vauxhall cars.  He was a strong advocate of public transport and thus abhorred this connivance with a car company, which he (and others) considered to be contrary to the association’s ethos.

Man of principle
This action was typical of this man of principle.  Compromise was not a word in his vocabulary.  He was strident in his criticism of those who stole paths and land from the public, and he set high standards for footpath volunteers in defending paths.  And he was prone to resigning on principle, indeed he said that he resigned from as many organisations as he joined.  But when he did so, he was careful not to publicise the fact, as he never wanted to damage the organisation with which he’d had the disagreement.

His fascination for languages, and his fluency in Welsh, led him to become deeply involved in the Ramblers in Wales, and he was ahead of his time in his enthusiasm to see devolution of the organisation in both Wales and Scotland.  It was Alan who led the renaming of ‘national council’ (the AGM) to ‘general council’ and ‘national office’ in London to ‘central office’, changes which are not easy to make in an organisation which was so set in its ways as the Ramblers.

In 1994 Derrick Anderton wrote a profile of Alan in Shropshire Life after taking a walk with him (by car, not public transport).  He ended: As we walk back (with slight feelings of guilt) to our mechanised transport, we straighten our shoulders and step out with a little more pride because of our chat with Alan Howard.  We have learned something from this witty and unassuming man who is at once artist, campaigner, trailblazer and friend of the foot traveller.

Shropshire Life cropped

Alan Howard in Shropshire Life

We all learned a great deal from Alan and we miss his intelligence, wit, outspokenness, stubborn determination, and lovely twinkle.

Alan Howard, 1 December 1922 – April 2008

Posted in Access, campaigns, Obituary, Public paths, Ramblers, walking | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Tramp around Tetsworth

This is the fourth and final year of the River Thame Conservation Trust (RTCT) bird survey.  I have been allotted the two-kilometre grid square SP60Q which is just to the west of Tetsworth village and the M40 in Oxfordshire.  It is not an area I know.

I have to walk for at least two hours in the grid square, taking in a range of habitats; I do this four times in all before 31 July 2020.  Unlike my other squares this one has few public paths and they are largely in the northern third of the square, making it difficult to plan a two-hour walk which is continuously within the square.  I record the results on the British Trust for Ornithology website.

Coaching village
I parked in Tetsworth just after 8am on 17 November.  It is a former coaching village on the A40.

1 Tetsworth

Tetsworth on the A40

I had to cross fields and the motorway to reach the start of my square.  This exercise is useful for finding path problems as well as birds.  When I turned off the track to Oxhouse Farm, to follow a bridleway across fields, there was no waymark.  I have reported it.

4 No SP on BW

No waymark

I followed the path to Manor Farm, over a field showing signs of ridge and furrow.  Redwings were chuntering in the hedgerow, to the backcloth of the motorway.

6 Manor Farm

Manor Farm

Manor Farm and Goldpits Farm are close together.  To get to them I had to climb a difficult stile—again, I have reported it.  This is at the dead end of a bridleway; the continuing footpaths need researching for historic or horse-user evidence (the latter 20 years back from the obstruction) to see if they should be recorded as bridleways (grid reference SP 677017).

8 Stile at Goldpits Farm

Obstructive stile with Goldpits Farm behind

Manor Farm and Goldpits Farm are potentially attractive buildings but clearly need some attention.  Perhaps the motorway has sterilised them.

9 Manor Farm

Manor Farm

10 Goldpits Farm

Goldpits Farm






Then I headed south-west across the field until I came to a long hedgerow, which gave me the best birding of the morning.  There were plenty of linnets and chaffinches, bouncing along in their flocks, always that much ahead of me and impossible to count or identify.  Among them were some yellowhammers and blue tits.

11 hedgerow with linnets

The long hedgerow, looking west

A solitary tree was full of birds, with a great spotted woodpecker at the top and chaffinches on other branches.

12 GS at top of tree

Great spotted woodpecker and chaffinches

A bit further along was the barn for Jointer’s Farm.

14 Joiners Farm barn

Jointer’s Farm barn

The view from here was wide, looking south-west towards Wittenham Clumps.  Overhead I could hear birds chattering and saw three seemingly communicating with each other, but I couldn’t identify them for sure and it was hard to judge their size against the grey sky.  Perhaps they were skylarks or redwings.

15 View from Joiners

The view south-west

I walked past Jointer’s Farm on a track which is not marked on my Ordnance Survey map.  I had not realised how many pleasing farm buildings there are in this area.

16 Joiners Farm

Jointer’s Farm

In order to take in some of the southern part of my square, I had to leave it for a spell and then re-enter it (stopping the clock), as the paths do not conveniently take me where I want to go.  I passed Latchford Farm and walked across a wet and muddy field, where the path had been marked by a tractor.  I came to a point where another dead-end bridleway joins the footpath (grid reference SP 658012).

17 Signs

End of recorded bridleway


18 BW which is a dead end

The bridleway looking south-west

This needs investigating, for historic evidence, or for use by riders going back 20 years from the date when the sign was posted, to see if the bridlepath continues.

I came back into my square with another long hedgerow, heading south-east.  There were not many birds but it was a pleasant walk.

19 long walk south

Looking south-east towards Cornwell Copse

Some woodland gave variety.

21 just before Cornwell Copse

I had to retrace my steps, stopping the clock again, and then took a bridleway which ran parallel to the footpath I had walked earlier.

22 BW east of Lachford

Bridleway looking east

A pleasant copse provided lots of blue tits, great tits, dunnocks and wrens.

23 BW E of Lachford


Disconcertingly I heard a great tit doing its springtime ‘teacher’ call.

I followed the bridleway towards the end of my grid square and then turned north-east towards Oxhouse Farm, a modern building which had been prominent on the hillside for most of my walk; it was unlike the other farm buildings I had encountered which fitted into the landscape.

24 Oxhouse Farm

Oxhouse Farm

In order to follow the path over the fields I had to climb a stile which was practically impossible: it leant away from me and the step was far too short.

25 Stile SW of Oxhouse Farm

Another obstructive stile

At the top of the hill there was yet another difficult stile, with sheep netting so I had nowhere to put my feet.  I have reported them both.

26 Stile near Oxhouse Farm

And another

Then I went back across the motorway to Tetsworth.  I had recorded 20 bird species (excluding the mystery birds mentioned earlier) and three roe deer.

27 M40 on way home

Looking south-east along the M40, Tetsworth church spire on the left

Posted in Birds, British Trust for Ornithology, Obstructed path, Public paths, walking | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A casual appointment

Nowadays, when you apply for a role on a public body (such as the board of Natural England or a national park authority), there is a long and bureaucratic process with the steps set out at the start.  You submit an application, there is a shortlisting process and you may be called for an interview on neutral territory.  The interview panel consists of people who know the details of the role, and at least one independent person who knows about public service.  It is testing, and transparent.

Forty years ago it was very different.  I was keen to become a Secretary of State’s appointee to the Dartmoor National Park Committee, which I and my fellow Dartmoor campaigners considered was not doing a good job.

5 Challacombe

The Challacombe valley on Dartmoor

The Council (now Campaign) for National Parks had compiled a register of candidates for park committees from members of the council and the voluntary national park societies.  It had sent this to the Countryside Commission and the Department of the Environment.  I was on that list.  I cannot recall whether, in addition, I submitted a formal application for the park committee, but I think not.

On 14 November 1979, at 8.45 am, I had a telephone call from the Countryside Commission to say that I was on the shortlist for Dartmoor, and that Robin Herbert (then vice-chairman of the commission) would visit me on Friday 16 November.  He would put a recommendation to the Secretary of State for the Environment who made the appointments.

Bypass inquiry
At that time the Okehampton bypass inquiry was on (it started in May 1979).  When the inquiry reconvened in Okehampton on 16 November we learned from the inspector that, against our expectations, Sylvia Sayer might be called to give her evidence that afternoon.  Her husband Guy had said he must be there to hear it, but he was still at home, at Cator near Widecombe-in-the Moor.  In the lunchbreak I drove to Cator (25 miles each way on twisty roads) and collected Guy.  We were back in time.  But this meant that by the evening of 16 November, despite my youth, I was quite tired.

View from Okey castle, 3 Jun 78

Okehampton Park from Okehampton Castle, June 1978 before the bypass was built

Robin Herbert arrived at my lodgings in Exeter (the rather Bohemian Jillery, mentioned here) at 8.45 in the evening—not the best of times for an interview.  I have no recollection of our conversation except that it was friendly and that Robin was sympathetic to the many Dartmoor battles in which I was engaged.  My diary records that his visit lasted an hour.  After that I heard nothing.

26 Wonford Road

The former Jillery, 26 Wonford Road (with palm tree)

On 24 March 1980 I wrote to Robin to ask if he knew the decision.  A secretary of state appointee, Wendy Wills, was retiring in a week’s time so surely an appointment had been made?  He replied on 9 April to say that Mr Pope from Plymouth had been appointed.  However, the minister had not told him formally and, presumably, all the unsuccessful candidates only heard by chance, or long after the event.

Robin Herbert letter 9 April 1980

Robin’s letter of 9 April.   The handwritten words are: ‘I believe it is now public knowledge that Mr Pope from Plymouth has been appointed.’

It cannot have surprised me that I was not appointed.  I was frequently criticising the  Dartmoor committee members for their failure to uphold national park values.  In fact, I had recently signed a letter, with others, to one wayward member calling on him to resign; this was copied to the chairman of the Countryside Commission, Lord Winstanley.  Despite the justification for this I expect it did not endear me to anyone.

Twenty years later I was appointed to the board of the Countryside Agency with oversight of the Peak District National Park.  Many times I chaired the interview panel for the appointment of secretary of state members to the authority—a fascinating and rigorous process, and very different from the casual arrangements of 1979.

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For want of a footbridge

Ramble 21 in Dave Ramm’s excellent book Rambling for Pleasure along the Thames is a lovely six-and-a-half-mile circuit from Henley.  You walk anti-clockwise, through Remenham Wood to Aston, then Hambleden Lock, Mill End and back along the Thames to Henley.  A perfect walk at any time of year. 

9 Dave's book

Dave Ramm’s book

But for more than a year the walk has been impossible because of the missing footbridge on Fawley footpath 12 across a side-stream at Fawley Court in Buckinghamshire. The path is barricaded one meadow to the south of this and there is a traffic regulation order (made under section 14 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984) closing the route.  I wrote about it last September.  There is no safe alternative to this path; instead walkers have to use the dangerous A4155 Henley-Marlow road.

10 map

The ramble in Dave’s book, I have marked where the missing bridge is, and the barrier preventing people from walking the path.

Understandably, local people are frustrated and angry at the lack of action.  The Ramblers, Chiltern Society, Open Spaces Society and Henley Walkers Are Welcome, organised a protest walk on 16 November.   None of us expected such a magnificent turn-out—more than 150 people from Henley and beyond.

We gathered at the southern end of the footpath, opposite the rugby ground.

1 at the start

Gathering at the start of the walk

It was reassuring to have police protection: two community support officers joined our walk.  We set off on the path down to the river.

2 Setting off

Heading for the river

Then we turned left and followed the Thames in a long line

4 by the river

The long line of walkers along the Thames

When we reached the barricade, at the start of the section which had been temporarily stopped up by the traffic regulation order, we were forced to halt.

8 obstruction

The barricade

I noticed that this barrier had been reinforced since my visit in September.  One walker said that this had been done in the last 24 hours presumably in anticipation of our event, though of course we had no intention of proceeding further.

5 at the obstruction

The barricade is at the far end of the bridge

I stood on the bridge leading to the barricade and told the gathering the little I know of what was happening–which consists mostly of prevarication and obfuscation.

6 crowd 1

Buckinghamshire County Council as highway authority has a duty to replace the bridge, but there are evidently problems and the council is saying little, beyond that it is now in the hands of lawyers. 

Lousy law
The council’s traffic regulation order to close part of the route runs until 16 December 2019 (having been renewed last June).  The order can continue to be renewed every six months by the Secretary of State for Transport (whoever that may be) provided he or she agrees, and there is no opportunity for public objection or involvement.  It is a lousy piece of legislation and we should campaign for it to be reformed.

7 crowd 2

There seems to be an impasse but no one is telling us exactly what the problem is.  I suggested that we might offer to initiate a round-table meeting with the county council and the landowner to try to reach a resolution.  Meanwhile, on behalf of the Open Spaces Society and Henley and Goring Ramblers, I have written to Aida Dellal at Fawley Court to ask if she would consider providing an alternative route so that people did not have to risk the dangerous road.  I have received no reply.

I sincerely hope that this show of solidarity from so many local people will spur the county council into action, as it is vital that this footbridge is replaced forthwith.

3 Alie

Alie Hagedoorn from Henley and Goring Ramblers and Henley Walkers Are Welcome

Posted in Access, AONB, Bucks, campaigns, Chilterns, Henley-on-Thames, Open Spaces Society, Public paths, Ramblers, Walkers Are Welcome Towns, walking | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Herts teachers “do not like modern art”‘

‘Herts teachers “do not like modern art”‘ was the headline in the Hertfordshire Advertiser of 17 July 1953.  The statement was made by the then county education officer, the progressive John Newsom.  He was addressing 21 overseas teachers who were touring Britain to see how art was taught in British education, and they had spent the day looking over St Albans’ post-war schools.

John Newsom told them how schoolchildren outside the big cities never saw an original work of art.  He argued that they should be able to look at art in repose, which was why Hertfordshire had commissioned modern artists such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, as well as beginners, to execute paintings and sculptures for the county schools.

Herts adv headline

Herts Advertiser, 17 July 1953

However, this had not had the desired effect, Mr Newsom told his audience.  ‘In the first place, the general standard of interest and appreciation of our teachers is not high, and many of them are indifferent, if not hostile, to contemporary paintings.’

This was evident from the sort of pictures they chose for themselves—the ‘sugary, goody-goody chocolate-box cover type of pictures in a light gold frame’ that one saw in headmistress’s rooms.

Even so, he considered that the education authority’s policy had been worthwhile.  It had given children the chance to see works of art in the original, instead of in reproduction; and it had provided opportunities for many young artists straight from art school which they might not otherwise have had.

St Albans

St Albans museum and gallery

An exhibition in the beautifully refurbished St Albans museum earlier this year, Barbara Hepworth, artist in society 1948-53, illustrated this.  Hepworth was commissioned to make two major sculptures for the Festival of Britain, one of which, Turning Forms, came to St Albans at the end of the festival.  It joined Eocene which the education authority had bought from Hepworth in 1950 at a price which reflected her sympathy for the schools project.



Hepworth with Eocene

Hepworth with Eocene

In 1951 Hepworth was commissioned to carve Vertical Forms for the façade of the new Hatfield Technical College (now the University of Hertfordshire).  Hepworth is reported as telling a journalist that she ‘tried to express a quality of aspiration to learning’.

Vertical forms

Vertical Forms

In the exhibition guide, Sophie Bowness (Hepworth’s granddaughter) writes that Hepworth ‘chose her titles with great care.  She enjoyed finding the right words and would consult dictionaries to help her. …In the second half of the 1940s she used Greek titles, such as Eocene, Dyad and Perianth.  Many of her titles in the period of the exhibition describe dualities, for example Bicentric Form, Dyad, Bimorphic Form and Two Heads (Janus)’.



Bicentric form

Bicentric Form














Sophie tells us that Hepworth’s sculpture tends to fall into distinct periods of work on specific themes.  After the war she was at last able to work on a large scale, and Group III (Evocation), for example, anticipates the many multi-part sculptures of her later years.

Group III

Group III (Evocation)

There is also a series of drawings from operating theatres.  In 1947 a surgeon friend, Norman Capener, invited Hepworth to observe an operation.  For the following two years she visited hospitals, seeing a parallel between her practice as a sculptor and that of the surgeon.


Drawing from an operating theatre

As I wrote previously, it was a cruel irony that, as the St Albans exhibition opened, Hertfordshire County Council was flogging off many of the artworks it acquired through the schools project, including one of Hepworth’s theatre nurse sketches.  The council sold 450 works and raised £469,282.  Instead of celebrating the foresight of John Newsom and the brilliance of the schools project, it has kicked them in the teeth.


From Punch, 24 March 1954







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Circuit of Canvey Island

Essex has the longest coastline of any English county.  Essex Ramblers, frustrated at the lack of open country in the county, have long campaigned for access to the county’s sea walls.  

In 2004, Essex Ramblers proposed a motion to the Ramblers’ AGM (general council), which was carried: This general council calls on the government to take such action as is necessary under section 3 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to amend the definition of ‘open country’ contained in section 1 (2) of the act to include a reference to coastal land as defined in section 3 (3); and calls on staff to prepare and implement a campaign with this action as its desired outcome.

22 Sea wall

Walking the sea wall, soon to become the England Coast Path

Ramblers’ staff did indeed campaign for access to be extended to the coast, resulting in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and the England Coast Path and adjoining ‘spreading room’.  Thus, in the next year or so, the England Coast Path will give people the right to walk around every bit of Essex’s coast, with freedom to roam on some land alongside it.

9 Across Hole Haven

The view across Holehaven, on the south-west side of Canvey Island

I sampled some of the emerging route last week on a walk around Canvey Island in the Thames estuary, led by Simon Swanson of the Ramblers’ South-East Essex Group.  This was part of the Essex Ramblers’ walking festival, which ran from 26 October to 2 November, to encourage its 4,000 members, and the public, to enjoy some walking in Essex.  They put on 34 walks, all with a water theme.

Ten of us met at Benfleet Station, a busy commuter hub.  I arrived early and had time to walk up the hill to South Benfleet twelfth-century church (locked) and wander around the churchyard.

1 Benfleet church

South Benfleet church

We set off along the causeway and, once we reached the island, turned off to the right, to walk anti-clockwise.

2 Canvey Island sign

Sign marks the entrance to the Island.

Around us were marshes, the only high point being the hill behind Benfleet and the Hadleigh country park.

3 marshes and Benfleet

Benfleet Downs

Once we had gone under the A130 road it all became much quieter, and very flat, the marshes are below sea level.  West Canvey Marshes are an RSPB reserve.  I caught a glimpse of a cattle egret flying across.

4 W Canvey RSPB reserve

West Canvey Marshes RSPB reserve; the pools were made to attract waders

We stopped for coffee at the moveable flood barrier at the juncion of East Haven Creek (which we had been following) and Holehaven Creek, and here we turned south-east to follow the latter.  Now the land was muddy and good for waders: lapwing, black-tailed godwit, curlew, redshank and shelduck.

5 looking across the creek

The view across Holehaven Creek to the container port, under construction

It is very much an industrial landscape, and it was pleasing to see the waders there.

8 Black-tailed godwits

Black-tailed godwit


7 Hole Haven

Holehaven Creek with the Kent coast beyond

To our left was the Canvey Wick reserve, with lovely autumn colours, the only brownfield site managed by Buglife and a home of the rare Shrill Carder Bee, a species of bumblebee.

6 Canvey Wick nature reserve

Canvey Wick

We rounded the corner of the island and came to the Lobster Smack pub, a lovely clapboard building just south of Canvey village.

10 Lunch

The Lobster Smack

11 Pub info

Some information about the pub

After an excellent lunch we continued along the sea wall on the south side of the island, looking across the Thames to north Kent.

12 sea wall

Walking the sea wall on the south side of Canvey Island

Ahead of us was Southend pier, at 1.3 miles the longest pleasure-pier in the world (Essex is good at ‘longests’—although Southend is now a unitary authority and not officially Essex).

13 Southend pier

Southend pier

There is a lot of new development taking place on the south side of the island.  We came to Thorney Beach, which has been renovated by local volunteers and now looks splendid, with benches and murals.

14 Thorney Bay

Thorney Bay

The new development just behind is called Sandy Bay rather than Thorney Bay, presumably to make it sound more attractive.

15 Sunny Bay housing estate

Sandy Bay estate

For nearly two miles the sea wall continues with a blue wall on the landward side, much of which is covered in murals.  There is a series which tell the story of Canvey Island (which was originally five islands before the Dutch came and built sea walls and reclaimed the land).  In 1953 there was a devastating flood and many lives were lost.  People climbed onto the roofs.

18 Mural

19 Mural


20 Mural


There are murals of local features, and of birds.

16 Mural

21 Mural







We passed the elegant Labworth café and restaurant, a grade II listed building which resembles the Queen Mary; made of reinforced concrete it was opened in 1933 and is the only building to be solely designed by Ove Arup.

17 Labworth

Labworth café and restaurant

We rounded another corner of the island and came to a park, where we posed for a goup shot.

23 Canvey Island walkers

Our group

We were next to the memorial to the tragic collision between two American planes in the Thames estuary on 19 June 1944: there was only one survivor.

24 Aircraft collision

Memorial to the aircraft collision in June 1944

We passed Smallgains Creek which was full of boats though it all seemed very quiet.

25 Smallgains Creek

Smallgains Creek

Simon pointed out the football pitch on the south side of the track which had been reclaimed from the creek by building a sea wall.

25 Football pitch

Football pitch

We then rounded Canvey Heights country park, a former landfill site which is now a wood.

26 Canvey Heights ex rubbish dump

Canvey Heights is the woodland behind

Our last, long, stretch was along the sea wall on the north side of the island, beside Hadleigh Ray with views across to Leigh-on-Sea and Southend.

27 To leigh

View across Hadleigh Ray

There were houses on the south side, some of it behind locked gates to which residents had keys.  From humble beginnings, Canvey Island has become quite upmarket, although it still has an aura of gritty industrialism.

28 sea wall

Sea Wall beside Hadleigh Ray

We returned to the station as it was getting dark, seven hours after we started and having walked 14.65 miles.  It was an interesting and varied walk, made even better by Simon’s local knowledge and stories.





Posted in Access, Birds, campaigns, Coastal access, Natural history, Ramblers, walking | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Memorial to Maurice

I was heading for Round Spinney, not the well-signposted industrial estate north east of Northampton, but the wood after which it is presumably named.  This is a quiet spot, on the opposite side of the A43 road to the industrial estate, a mile south-east of Moulton.

My reason for going there was to unveil the plaque on a gate dedicated to the late Maurice Tebbutt, the long-standing, tireless and much-loved worker for Northamptonshire Ramblers.

About 40 of us gathered on the service road off the A43: Ramblers members from throughout the county as well as ‘expats’ from the Isle of Wight, John and Jenny Hague.

1 gathering

The gathering

We walked alongside the headland

2 to Round Spinney

The headland route, the gate is round the corner of the wood

and soon came to the gate on the edge of Round Spinney (grid reference SP 787654).

3 heading for gate

Arriving at the gate: I am walking with 90-year-old Bob Coles, the Area president

David Craddock, former chairman of Northamptonshire Ramblers, introduced us.  I spoke of Maurice’s immense contribution, to the Area and to Northampton Group, both of which he founded.  Will Lovell, the area footpath secretary, had found evidence of Maurice’s early work in claiming paths for the Northamptonshire definitive map in the 1950s; it is thanks to Maurice and others that we have 3,000 kilometres of public paths on the current definitive map.  I recalled the many battles for paths and access in the county with which he was involved (you can read my obituary of Maurice here).

I then had the honour of unveiling the plaque on the gate.

3A unveiling plaque

Unveiling the plaque

The gate had been installed by Nick Wedgbrow, Northamptonshire rights-of-way officer, and the plaque was donated by Northampton Group.  The area has launched its ‘donate a gate’ scheme in honour of Maurice, following in the footsteps of the Isle of Wight Ramblers.  This initiative will be particularly welcome in Northamptonshire where the council is so strapped for cash.

4 gate

The gate


5 plaque

and the plaque

Bob Entwistle, chairman of Northampton Group, talked about Maurice’s work for the group, and Peter Storey, lay preacher from Moulton church, spoke about Maurice’s immense contribution to the community.

We gathered for a photo at the gate.  It is on a popular route, close to houses, and will be used and enjoyed by walkers from near and far.

6 open gate

The event had been coordinated by Roger Tyler, a long-time friend of Maurice and the Ramblers’ local footpath secretary for Moulton parish.

We went to the church hall at Moulton for a delicious tea provided by Pam Tyler.

Maurice had discovered the Ramblers in 1958 through his membership of the Northampton Youth Hostels Association Rambling and Social Club.  We enjoyed a display of YHA memorabilia, as well as a collection of photographs from Maurice’s involvement in both YHA and Ramblers, all put together by Roger.

7 YHA memorabilia

YHA badges, booklets and other memorabilia

Maurice will be remembered in Northamptonshire long after we have gone, and the gate will secure that memory.

Maurice Tebbutt

Maurice at my house in 2012

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