This year the Ramblers’ Farnham Group celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a number of events. These included a week of walks, adding up to 50 miles and each illustrating a campaign success for the group; the 50-mile circuit of Farnham; an anniversary booklet; a hog roast and a dinner.
I was pleased to be invited, in my capacity as Ramblers’ president, to the dinner on 11 August. It was at Waverley Abbey House, overlooking the lovely Waverley Abbey, the first Cistercian abbey in England (founded 1128).
Barry Smith treated us to an informative walk round the ruins before dinner: the church was obviously enormous, as big as any present-day cathedral.
Farnham Group has an impressive walks programme and seems to have no problem finding leaders: everyone is friendly and supportive which takes the worry out of the prospect of leading a walk. With over 100 leaders Farnham is an example to other Ramblers’ groups. And it has a working party which goes out regularly clearing paths, with the blessing of Surrey County Council.
It has had campaign successes too: in 1995 the footpath secretary, the late Vic Cole, was involved in a public inquiry which reinstated a footpath in the Bourne Valley near Farnham which had been incorporated into private gardens. More recently, in 2004, the group won an underpass to the new A3 at Thursley, to connect up the paths which were affected by the Hindhead Tunnel.
At the end of the dinner I said a few words. I congratulated the group on 50 years of endeavour and reminded members that were it not for the constant work of the Ramblers, in claiming paths for the definitive map (at about the time the group was formed), and campaigning for them ever since, along with the battle for access to open country, we would not be able to walk so freely. The Ramblers is so much more than a walking group!