THE HISTORY, LIFE AND TIMES OF
THE WEST ESSEX GROUP OF THE RAMBLERS
In recognition of Eric Barker’s great achievement in compiling this History, the West Essex Ramblers Group Committee wish to record their gratitude:
Richard Iles -
David Goodwin -
John Francis -
David Weekes -
Pat and John Juchau -
Peter Cozens -
RAMBLING ON AND ON AND ON…….
Part 1 -
Observe the title which may be interpreted in two different ways:-
This being composed in three instalments, the second and concluding sections will accompany the programme and WEP, for the months of August to November, 2010 and December 2010 to March 2011, respectively. Acknowledgements will be listed at the end of the narrative.
On the basis that although what follows cannot possibly satisfy everyone all the time, hopefully it will please the majority of members some of the time.......
40 YEARS AGO
1970, the commencement of a new decade following the “Swinging Sixties”, year of a General Election. The Conservative Party regained power, Edward Heath became Prime Minister and “The Common Market” was a political phrase. Elsewhere, the Glastonbury Festival started, John Mills secured an Oscar award for his part in the film “Ryan’s Daughter”. Dana won the Eurovision Song Contest for Ireland singing “All Kinds of Everything” when that event was eagerly awaited on a colour television set still somewhat grainy. In sport, Henry Cooper remained undisputed British Heavyweight Boxing champion, while Tony Jacklin won the United States Open Golf Championship. Unfortunately, England failed to retain the football World Cup in Mexico and the apartheid situation prevented the South African cricket team from travelling to England to pit their considerable skills in the Test Match arena.
However, another eye-
IN THE BEGINNING
One wonders whether any of those events concerned one Ken Knowles in a letter typed
to Fred Matthews on 9th March, 1970 from an address in Woodford Green, bidding Fred
in no uncertain terms, quote:-
Who was Ken Knowles? Under what circumstances did he know Fred? A visit to his
house, a turning off the High Road opposite the Horse and Well public house in February,
2009 proved fruitless:-
Whatever the circumstances, the public meeting took place on the said date, although
one current member who was present noted in his diary that it was held at the South
Woodford library opposite the church. (He also mentioned the weather as being unsettled.)
Thank you, Roger! The meeting was chaired by William Addison in his capacity of
Friends of Epping Forest. V. Moorcroft and C. Hall attended as representatives of
the Ramblers’ Association R.A. South. Those present were invited to record their
name, address and telephone number on sheets of A4 ruled paper, with an indication
in the end column of current R.A. membership or otherwise. The 114 present were
almost equally divided between each category. Current active members Roger Gibbs,
Joan Hampton, John and Pat Juchau and Ann Sansom were listed together with Vic Warren,
now an honorary member. Eric Cropper and Harold Lawrence also attended and became
So it came to pass that on 16th September, 1970, the Southern Area of the Ramblers’ Association prepared an agenda for a meeting at the Buckhurst Hill Community Association on Wednesday, 14th October, 1970 for the inaugural setting up of the group to be called “West Essex”. A news letter prepared by Freddie Matthews accompanied the above. Each are reproduced. Note the minimum subscription of 4 shillings per annum, 20p in new money! The telephone number beside the details in the news letter is that of Ken Knowles. The group was already active, survey rambles and footpath clearances having been implemented since the public meeting. It appears evident that use was made of the Central Line between Epping and Ongar.
Barclays Bank Limited were appointed bankers on the same day, 14th October 1970. A document shows K. R. Knowles, Chairman, H. F. Matthews, Secretary and Mary Kathleen Thorne, Treasurer, as appointed officers with each of their signatures appended.
Eric Cropper, Harold Lawrence and Mr. J. Redshaw became committee members with Mr. P. Gould as auditor.
All appointments were made on a caretaker basis until the first Annual General Meeting to be held in the spring of 1971.
The West Essex group was up and running..........
THE RAMBLERS’ ASSOCIATION
Proposed WEST ESSEX GROUP
The INAUGURAL MEETING will be held at 8 p.m. on WEDNESDAY, 14th October, 1970, at Buckhurst Hill Community Association, Bedford House, Westbury Road, Buckhurst Hill, Essex.
Secretary to ad hoc Committee
16th September 1970.
A G E N D A
1. To Agree the Constitution.
2. To appoint Officers, Committee and Auditor.
3. Treasurer’s Report.
4. Programme for 1971.
5. Any other business.
Westbury Road crosses Palmerston Road which runs from opposite St. John’s Church, High Road, to Buckhurst Hill Underground Station.
WEST ESSEX GROUP RAMBLERS’ ASSOCIATION
This is to welcome members who have joined the Group, particularly those who have
included donations with their subscriptions and to announce our programme for the
remainder of the year. Also to give details of our activities to prospective members
and advise them that our minimum subscription is 4/-
We have so far carried out clearances on the second Sunday of the month in the Lambourne/Abridge
area. We now propose in addition, to carry out a survey/ramble on the third Sunday.
The details are:-
Sunday 20th September. Survey/Ramble – Abridge/Passingford bridge.
Meet Blue Boar, Abridge, 10.30 a.m.
Sunday 11TH October. Footpath Clearance. For details ring
Sunday 18th October. Survey/Ramble – Abridge/Stapleford.
Meet Blue Boar, Abridge 10.30 a.m.
(Bus from Debden L.T. dep. 10.12 a.m.)
Return from Ongar Station.
Sunday 8th November. Footpath Clearance.
Sunday 15th November. Survey/Ramble – Epping/Ongar
Meet Epping Station 10.30 a.m.
Sunday 13th December. Footpath Clearance.
A meeting to inaugurate our West Essex Group is to be held on Wednesday, 14th October, 1970, at 8 p.m. at Buckhurst Hill Community Association, Bedford House, Westbury Road, Buckhurst Hill, Essex.
Nominations for Officers and Committee are required and should be seconded.
We hope you will be able to attend some of the above events and also the Inaugural Meeting at which we would welcome your comments and any suggestions for the 1971 programme.
Secretary to ad hoc Committee
16th September 1970
Fred issued the group’s first newsletter in January, 1971, summing up the impressive enthusiasm of those involved during eight days of footpath clearance work in the countryside on the second Sunday of each month since April, 1970. The goodwill of the landowners concerned had been appreciated. Similar programmes for the first half of 1971 would again be under the direction of Ken Knowles. Surveys and rambles would take place on the third and fourth Sundays respectively. Each survey/ramble would cover approximately 12 miles quote:’ “10.30 a.m. – 5 p.m., packed lunch, stout shoes etc.” Grange Hill, Epping, North Weald and Ongar were the destinations for the surveys, Abridge to Ongar, Nazeing to Theydon Bois and Epping to Ongar would be the routes for the rambles led in turn by H. F. Matthews, J. Redshaw and J. Stuart.
The first Annual General Meeting of the group took place on Wednesday, 17th March, 1971 at Bedford House, Buckhurst Hill. Fred’s report as secretary acknowledged chairman Ken Knowles’ footpath clearance work with his volunteers, Feathered Lane in the parish of Lambourne was noted as a prime example of improvement. Membership totalled just over 60. The aforementioned Vic Moorcroft, R.A. Southern Area Secretary, addressed the meeting.
Twelve months later, an undated report from Fred began quote:-
It was regretted at the A.G.M. that Mrs. Thorne had to stand down as Treasurer after only a very short time in office. However, the group was fortunate that John Standon had taken over.
A group footpath week took place in September, 1972. Fred subsequently typed some
notes with the information that about 40 ramblers had attended on the route of the
forthcoming M11 Motorway (he felt sad regarding the ultimate loss of a walking area).
A similar number had rambled on the following afternoon. The Wednesday evening
slide show was well supported. On Saturday, 16/9, a footpath clearance day had taken
place in the vicinity of Ongar. 80 people had arrived for the Ongar Walks Day, the
longest distance proving the most popular. (this event would be staged annually
for many years.) Fred drew attention to quote:-
Len Alcott’s leadership on the first day became an early indication of the versatility of a member who would serve the group in so many areas for the next 23 years.
THE RAMBLERS’ ASSOCIATION
WEST ESSEX FOOTPATH WEEK – 9TH – 17TH SEPTEMBER 1972
We invite YOU to join in the following:-
SATURDAY Last chance to view the route of the M11 in peace. An afternoon walk with the
9th SEPTEMBER Holiday Fellowship Eastern Section, from the entrance to Ashton Playing Fields, High Road, Woodford Bridge to Abridge. 2.30 p.m. Leader Len Alcott.
SUNDAY Afternoon walk round Abridge. Meet outside the Blue Boar 2.15 p.m.
10th SEPTEMBER. Leader Fred Matthews, distance 7 miles.
WEDNESDAY WEST ESSEX FOOTPATH EVENING
13th SEPTEMBER. For anyone who likes a country walk, film slides on local and other footpaths. Also a talk on general footpath matters plus discussions etc. Speakers include David Sharp of the Ramblers’ Association.
8 p.m. at the Hall, Bedford House, Westbury Road, (Off Palmerston Road, Buckhurst Hill, 5 minutes from the L.T. station.)
SUNDAY WEST ESSEX DAY – THE ONGAR WALKS DAY
17th SEPTEMBER. The day for all walkers and friends to visit Ongar. We have recently published a footpath guide ‘Walking with the West Essex’ and five of these are round walks from Ongar. The distances of these walks are 6 ½ ,10 ½, 12, 12 and 14 ½ miles and we will be providing leaders to accompany you on the walks from Budworth Hall Car Park, Ongar, Starting at 10.30 a.m. for the longer walks and 2 p.m. for the 6 ½ mile walk. If you would like further details of these walks, copies of the guide are available at branches of Smiths and other local bookshops at 25p. On completion of the walks we hope to have a short get together around 5 p.m.
THE WALKING EVENT OF THE YEAR
Looking forward to seeing you during West Essex Footpath Week.
Something for everyone who walks, be it a stroll after lunch or an all day country outing.
Fred Matthews -
The second year of accounts were meticulously hand-
A newsletter from Fred dated 8th March, 1973 mentioned a “Welcome to Spring in West Essex” day, arranged for Sunday, 29th April, 73 on similar lines to that of the previous September. The afternoon would finish for all groups at Budworth Hall, Ongar for tea.
A separate earlier sheet lists dates from end January to end May, 73, a mixture of surveys and rambles at weekends. In addition, on Easter Monday, 23rd April, Gerald Zierler would lead a walk from Theydon Bois station and Thursday, 2nd May, the “Blue Boar”, Abridge was the starting point for an evening ramble with Fred in charge.
A Footpath and Countryside week took place in September, 73 to encourage members
of the public to participate in local walks on 9 consecutive days. This was entitled
“At Home in West Essex”. Two walks were available on day 1, Saturday, 8th:-
However, during 1974 significant changes took place in administration and organisation.
Ken Knowles desired to stand down as Chairman, Len Alcott became a member of the
committee and in November of that year a 4-
The report included many different aspects of the group:-
Peter Harding’s work as Publicity Officer involved his contacting local libraries. Together with a visit on a ramble by Tony Parker, footpath secretary of the R.A. Southern Area and Les Wilson of the Evening News, the comments of the former and an article in the paper had resulted in the group becoming more widely known.
R.A. subscriptions had to be raised to £2 single and £2.50 joint. Film shows of the South Downs Way and Pennine Way had been enjoyed and footpath clearances and bridge building continued. The entire walk from Pepper’s Green was now open, together with the green lane from Coleman’s farm near Toothill.
Map reading rambles had proved popular and a number of exhibitions had been held. Len Alcott was thanked for his poster work in that connection, as were members who took part on the assembling and manning on the day. Parish walks were becoming a feature of the area, with either parish councils or local amenity societies. These covered Lambourne, Theydon Bois, Epping and Stapleford Abbotts.
Fred felt it had been an excellent year .......
Val Weatherley contacted the author regarding an item which had appeared in the Essex Area Update. Ann McLaren, a member of the Chelmer and Blackwater group, was requesting information relating to the early years of Area. He was able to forward some programmes detailing the different routes traversed during the Essex “100”, an annual 100 mile event, comprising 9 consecutive days of linear walking across that county’s countryside. Could Ann reciprocate by providing the author with recollections of her walking experiences with the West Essex group? The following article records an interesting description of a particular year.
Group members who participated in the above event over the years will recall Ann,
married to Norman skinner before his sad passing, as a then active member. The “100”
became a prominent feature in the summer programme of all groups from 1986 until
2007, together with a mini half-
My memories of West Essex from 1975
I have been asked to put down in writing what I can remember about West Essex from
1975 when I was a member. In those far off days I was a young mum living in Doddinghurst.
1975 was a long forgotten age before the computer had come into every day use and
Ramblers Association members who joined under the Rucksack Logo paid their money
and got a membership card. This enabled them to walk free of charge with any group
they chose and become a full member of as many groups as they saw fit. Because of
my free time and other work-
West Essex in those days held a midweek walk every week but alternated the days between Wednesdays and Thursdays week and week about. This enabled people to attend on the days when they were free. How I enjoyed my walks, most of the time over very rough fields, through broken stiles and round rotten bridges. A footpath sign was in many places unheard of and yellow arrows a symbol quite alien to Essex Countryside. If you were leading you had a job as you had no confirmation of where the path left the road and there were no previously walked smooth paths as were beginning to come in, in nearby Kent. My most favourite leader was Len Alcott. He never minded a challenge and the old 2 ½ inch blue maps were certainly that. If we ended up on the wrong side of the brook or river because of their failings he would laugh and then encourage us to either wade through or climb along and over hastily constructed home made bridges that no health and safety officer would give field room to today. Laughter was common as was the need for plasters. But we had fun!
Walking then was a challenge, blocked footpaths and getting lost often meant I was late collecting my girls after school from their long suffering Grandparent. But it was great. I am sorry computers later limited members to full membership of just one Group. Progress comes with a price so they say. However the good thing is Ramblers exists two Logos later in a very highly polished form but I do not think today’s ramblers could have more fun and more of a challenge than we achieved in the mid 1970s.
The minutes of a committee meeting held at the beginning of March, 1976, indicated
that 63 walks from 23 starting places in Essex under the guidance of 20 leaders had
taken place. Twentytwo short walks had been organised in addition. The period covered
was unclear but even over 12 months the figures were impressive. Also noted:-
At the Annual General Meeting 12 months later, it was suggested that car rambles would start from Epping station due to the poor rail service which terminated at Ongar, with the idea that passengers offer a sum of 1p per mile as a contribution towards the cost of petrol. During the summer of that year, Patricia Norris led a group walk for the partially sighted. Nine had attended. In just over a year membership had increased dramatically from 239 to 361.
A NEW ERA.
1978 heralded a year of significant activity and change within the group. Connie Dewey had produced the programmes using a stencil and duplicator. Although Phyllis Govey had made enquiries at a school to become involved in the latter task, this had proved unsuccessful. She therefore took on the duty herself. Some programmes were then delivered by hand to help defray the cost of postage.
At the Annual General Meeting, Gerald Zierler resigned as Chairman and Rambles Secretary.
Brian Anderson became acting-
A protest meeting took place in connection with the construction of the M25 Motorway. Jean Jefcote of the West London R.A. group invited West Essex members to attend. Five of the group lent their support and a rally raised £200.
1978 marked the establishment of the Centenary Walk, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Epping Forest Act of 1878. Promoted by the Corporation of London, the Act restored lost lands to the public and secured its future as a public open space. Together with the Friends of Epping Forest, a large number of group members have supported the event, walked annually since 1985. Always held on the third or fourth Sunday in September, the route of approximately 15 miles extends from Capel Road, near Manor Park station (the southern extremity of the forest) to Epping. Open to all interested in the preservation of the area, verderers of the forest accompany those attending explaining the features along the way. Accessible points and times for joining and leaving are listed for the benefit of one’s fitness and interest.
Harry Bitten led the walk from 1985 until 2005. His wife, Peggy, would attempt to record numbers (over 100 during the day on some occasions). Harry was another member who carried out much work for many years, as Countryside Officer until the Millennium. Mike Whiteley, Group Secretary, took over the role as leader in 2006. The event has been supported on occasions by the local Members of Parliament and very regularly until his demise in 2004, by Lord Murray of Epping Forest. Perhaps better knows as Len Murray, General Secretary of the T.U.C., he completed the whole distance many times.
A short walk to Epping station takes one to the start of the Essex Way, an 81 mile route across the county to Harwich. Thus a route of nearly 100 miles extends from London E12 to the coast ready for a crossing by sea for the commencement of a continental adventure .......
At the turn of 1979 the group’s walks were mentioned on Radio London. A donation
was sent and acknowledged by the R.A. for an appeal relating to the Swanley section
of the M25 Motorway in Kent. (Was this an objection to the route, or for the safe-
Chairman: JOHN STANDON. Secretary: FRED MATTHEWS
Treasurer: ALAN BRUNSDEN Rambles Secretary: LEN ALCOTT
Membership Secretary: JOHN STANDON Countryside: PATRICIA NORRIS
Publicity: PETER HARDING
Committee: BILL GOVEY (Programme and printing)
HAROLD LAWRENCE (Coach Outings), HENRY PRITCHETT (Projects)
RICHARD BENWELL (Auditor) STEVE BASON (Entertainments) and PAUL CROSLAND
A social took place during the year. The Standons and the Goveys provided the refreshments assisted by the committee. Ida Webster was the caller for the dancing. A profit of £17 had resulted.
At a further meeting the subject of a third London airport had been noted, Willingale
being the site in mind! The R.A. held a meeting on the August Bank Holiday Saturday
regarding this. Patricia Norris contacted the Association passing on the view of
general opposition. She was requested to make a formal objection to the proposal
of the construction of a 9-
The first committee meeting in the new decade set the cost for the annual coach ramble to Sussex later in the year at £3 per member. This event would take place in the Pulborough area. The Annual General Meeting in March, 1980 resulted in the committee remaining unchanged. Phyllis Govey became an additional member. There had been a surplus of £15 from the coach outing during the previous year. At 380, membership had decreased slightly.
Later meetings revealed a waiting list for the forthcoming coach ramble. Over 120 tickets had been sold for a social evening held at Theydon Bois Village Hall resulting in a profit of just over £37. This event, on Saturday 12th April celebrated the 10th anniversary of the month in which the public meeting had been held to form an R.A. group. During the summer, a donation of £5 was forwarded to assist the campaign against the development of Stansted Airport and a letter of protest sent regarding the proposed closure of the Epping to Ongar rail line. (A reprieve was subsequently granted a few months later, but Blake Hall station closed in the autumn of 1981.)
A rummage through some torn papers stuck together at the end of an exercise book
containing Fred’s hand-
Some observations are nevertheless interesting with an eclectic mix of destinations and leaders. A meeting in June of that year agreed the length of walks to be between 10 and 12 miles unless otherwise stated.
10 Sun 10.00 Epping Stn with cars to HERTFORD HEATH Fred Matthews
10.20 Ongar Stn with cars to BEAUCHAMP RODING CHURCH Paul Crosland
Lunch at White Roding
13 Wed 11.0 TILLINGHAM CHURCH for Blackwater Estuary walk Richard Benwell
With afternoon bathing
16 Sat 10.30 CHINGFORD STN Len Alcott
17 Sun 9.45 Epping Stn with cars to SAFFRON WALDEN Peter Harding
A 14 mile walk via Radwinter
10.37 BRENTWOOD STN Jack Chadwick
20 Wed 10.00 Epping Stn with cars to DANE END Fred Matthews
23 Sat 10.00 EPPING STN Joan Hampton
24 Sun 10.30 HERTFORD NORTH STN. A 12 mile walk via Woodall Arthur Jacobs
Park and Socombe Park. Dry lunch
25 Mon 10.00 Theydon Bois Stn with cars to ONGAR BHCP Fred Matthews
28 Thu 10.00 Epping Stn with cars to SPELLBROOK area. Joint HF. Les Wincott
30 Sat 9.45 Epping Stn with cars to BUNTINGFORD Steve Boson
31 Sun 10.30 ONGAR WALKS DAY BHCP 4 Full Day & 2½ Day Walks
3 Wed 10.30 EPPING BLCP. Joint with HF Bill Govey
6 Sat 10.00 Epping Stn with cars to SAWBRIDGEWORTH Town Car Pk Don Goodwin
7 Sun 10.20 Ongar Stn with cars to BIRD’S GREEN. Lunch at Paul Crosland
The Star, Good Easter
11.00 TOWER HILL STN. A walk along London’s river Gerald Zierler
11 Thu 10.15 Epping Stn with cars to BEAUCHAMP RODING Frank Fuller
13 Sat 10.30 ROXWELL, Car Park George Farmer
14 Sun 10.15 THEYDON BOIS STN. A 15½ mile walk with lunch Robert Calder
2.30 ABRIDGE Blue Boar Richard Benwell
17 Wed 10.00 Epping Stn with Cars to RICKLING GREEN Fred Matthews
Lunch at Manuden
20 Sat 2.30 STAPLEFORD ABBOTTS, Post Office Fred Matthews
YHA WEEKEND AT ALFRISTON (see notes)
21 Sun 10.30 EPPING STN. Lunch at Bumbles Green Dick Mountford
10.35 CHORLEY WOOD (10.03 from Baker St Stn) Rosemary Thwaites
25 Thu 10.30 LEYTON LT STN for a River Lea walk, finishing Harry Pritchett
At Chingford. Joint with HF
27 Sat 10.30 EPPING STN Dry Lunch Bill Govey
28 Sun 10.15 NORTH WEALD STN. Lunch at Moreton Dennis Lloyd
10.30 EPPING STN for CLEARANCE PARTY
1 Wed 10.30 Theydon Bois Stn with cars to PASSINGFORD BRIDGE John Phipps
4 Sat 10.30 EPPING BLCP. Dry Lunch Bill Govey
5 Sun 10.30 Epping Stn with cars to WIDFORD CHURCH Fred Matthews
2.30 ABRIDGE, Blue Boar Dick Mountford
9 Thu 10.30 CHINGFORD, Royal Forest Hotel. 5 ponds & 5 hills Fred Matthews
8.00 BEDFORD HOUSE Audio/Visual Evening
Abbreviations must have been listed somewhere:-
With these 8 weeks of a typical walks programme for members to reflect, most routes of which still feature with a particular emphasis on the “last Sunday of the month between 10 and 2”, it would seem an appropriate moment to close the first part of the group’s affairs ....….…..
|Grid Ref. & OS Map|
|Etiquette & Rules|
|Family Walk 1|
|Family Walk 2|
|Mile End & Olympics|
|Shakespeare's Way - Leg 1|
|Shakespeare's Way - Leg 2|
|Shakespeare's Way- Leg 3|
|Shakespeare's Way - Leg 4|
|Shakespeare's Way - Leg 5|
|Shakespeare's Way- Leg 6|
|Shakespeare's Way - Leg 7|
|Shakespeare's Way- Leg 8|
|Shakespeare's Way - 10, 11|
|Shakespeare's Way 12,13,14|
|London Loop - Leg 1|
|London Loop - Leg 2|
|London Loop - Leg 3|
|London Loop - Leg 4|
|London Loop -Leg 5|
|London Loop - Leg 6|
|London Loop - Leg 7|
|London Loop - Leg 8|
|London Loop - Leg 9|
|London Loop - Leg 10|
|London Loop - Leg 11|
|London Loop - Leg 12|
|London Loop - Leg 13|
|London Loop - Leg 14|
|London Loop - Leg 15|
|Norfolk Coastal Path|
|Brecon Beacons - Ross's View|
|Isle of Wight - September 2010|
|Weymouth - Ross's View|
|Crete Page 1 of 3 by JJ|
|Crete Page 2 of 3 by JJ|
|Crete Page 3 of 3 by JJ|
|Crete Mosaic Photos|
|Evia - Map|
|Evia - Ferry Trip|
|Evia - Karystos|
|Evia - Day 1|
|Evia - Day 2|
|Evia - Day 3|
|Evia - Day 4|
|Evia - Day 5|
|Evia - Day 6|
|Santo Domingo de Silos|
|History Part 1|
|History Part 2|
|History Part 3|
|History Part 4|