It’s the Ramblers’ AGM season again, and I am due to visit five Ramblers’ areas before mid February, to hear what our volunteers are doing, communicate any concerns to our central office and talk about what the Ramblers are achieving in the three nations.
My first was Dorset Area’s AGM: the area covers the county of Dorset (which is about to go unitary), Bournemouth and Poole. We met at St George’s church in Fordington, on the north-east side of Dorchester, for a walk and then a meeting in the church hall.
Of the church Pevsner writes: ‘What confidence even the Edwardian decade still had in the virtue of church-building. Here is a church far more than doubled in size in 1906-27. It is a venerable church, but in the Middle Ages it was a small one.’ The south door has a fine tympanum.
Eight of us set off in light drizzle, led by Steve Ryder, chair of South Dorset Group. We walked for five miles, through pleasant, quiet countryside. We left Dorchester over Grey’s Bridge and walked alongside the River Frome, and then north-east to Charminster. We spotted a fallen signpost which I have reported to Dorset County Council.
Then we followed the River Cerne north of Charminster.
We stopped for coffee at the picnic tables in the photo, and I had a quick look at nearby Prince’s Plot, a small nature reserve which was given to the parish council in 1997. According to a full explanation on a notice-board, the council aims to restore it to chalk grassland, without grazing it. The plot is named after Prince, an old shire horse who used to graze there.
A bit further on, along the footpath to Wanchard Lane, we encountered three difficult stiles, which I have reported to the council. They do not conform with British Standard 5709.
We then walked through the village of Charminster, alongside the River Cerne once more.
There is lovely church here too, St Mary’s. To quote Pevsner again: ‘The W tower arrests attention at once.’
My attention was arrested at the bridge over the Cerne, by this notice.
A far cry from today’s penalty, a section 56 notice under the Highways Act 1980.
On the way back we had a view of Poundbury on the horizon, the mist and rain reducing its jarring impact.
We gathered at the hall for the meeting at 2 pm and I was pleased by the turnout: at over 30 it was double last year’s. The area is looking for volunteers for various posts but it is in good heart and its footpath committee is thriving. Moreover two people at the meeting volunteered to join the area council. I know how hard they work on protecting paths and promoting access, and they have been much involved in determining the route of the England coast path and adjoining access land. Indeed, Dorset was where it all started in 2012 with the first stretch opened from Rufus Castle to Lulworth.
There was an encouraging response to my talk, with questions, comments and suggestions of how we can all work together. And we ended in true Ramblers’ tradition with a sumptuous tea.