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1970 - 2010



Part Three


The third instalment of the history, life and times of the West Essex R.A. group entitled RAMBLING ON AND ON AND ON ....  BY Eric Barker introduces many innovations as the decade of the 1990’s beckons and which continue to this day.  The group would become ever more versatile in its efforts to encourage active participation in the attraction of the countryside.


The above scheme was introduced for discussion at the Annual General Meeting in November, 1989, with the object of conducting a survey of all rights-of-way in 21 parishes, which contained a total of about 1000 paths representing approximately 400 miles in the West Essex area.  A meeting in May, 1990, revealed that Len Alcott had marked up every map for the relevant adopter.  The results were entered into a computer by Gordon Ayres. Seven complete parishes had been surveyed to date.

A sub-committee was set up under the Chairmanship of Leslie Law with John Holness as Secretary.  Alan Silwood, Harry Edler and Paul Crosland became members.  The scheme required individuals or small groups to walk the paths adopted and to record problems by completing a survey form for each path.  These forms were sent to the organiser of the group for onward transmission to the Parish Clerk of the District Councils Highways Department for action... A Rights-of-Way Act became a new law through an Act of Parliament during 1990.  The group, therefore was already fulfilling an obligation by contacting members of the above department with footpath problems.  Within six months of the setting up of the subcommittee, all 21 parishes had been adopted.

Inevitably, changes in personnel have taken place.  However, despite vacancies occurring from time to time in different parishes, the scheme continues to prosper and for over 20 years vigilant reports from individual adopters assist in bringing to attention problems encountered.

Frank Holzman took over the task of Coordinator after the sad and sudden passing away of John Holness in May, 2002.  Towards the end of the 1990's, Frank’s notes as Chairman included a report in detail of the group’s Working Party with the repairing and upgrading of footpaths.  The working party  met on the second Tuesday in every month in conjunction, until recently, with Epping Forest Country Care.  These reports have become the concluding notes with the introduction of the WEP in April, 2002 under the heading of “Finally Frank”.  Some Thursdays are given over to “small jobs” and many members have displayed their talents and energy in sometimes inclement weather conditions.  Those who are adopters and lead walks, occasionally use the opportunity to check their particular parish patch.

The programme for 1990 contained the usual mix of regular rambles with one of the notes section welcoming 4 new leaders:-  Brenda Oakey, Derek Davies, Dennis Douglas and Bill Caldow.  The latter’s initial outing took place in October from the Lee Valley Car Park, Waltham Abbey.  Each would lead regularly for many years following.  Paul Crosland was in charge for a Family Walks Day, a morning and afternoon outing from Budworth Hall Car Park, Ongar in June.  Derek Ford organised a 4-day Easter break in Derbyshire.  Two 3-day trips took place in May and August to Pulborough and Winchester respectively.  Ann Kidd was the organiser/leader on each occasion.

On the social scene, a 20th anniversary country dance/supper took place at Theydon Bois village Hall on Saturday, 7th April.  John Ingram was the M.C.  Exactly 5 months later, Derek and Brenda Ford organised a quiz evening/ploughman’s supper at the same venue.  Bill and Phyllis Govey provided the catering with assistance from other members.  86 attended the former function which was deemed an outstanding success.


When dad took early retirement in 1981 he said that all he wanted to do was walk and walk and walk, and so he did!!  He was one of the founder members of Brentwood Ramblers but he also led for four other groups, namely Chelmer and Blackwater, Chelmsford, Ilford and of course West Essex.

He would walk six days a week and he and mum went on walking holidays at least six times a year with all the various groups.

He kept meticulous diaries of every step he took and where he took it, keeping a running total of the mileage and in which district he was at the time, all in grid references and graphs.  He also encouraged others to keep a Boot diary which many still do to this day.

His most active year was 1990 when he logged 2569 miles and as if that wasn’t enough, in his spare time he was a Caller at various Barn dances and many a happy evening was spent at Theydon Bois Village Hall with Dad leading West Essex members a merry dance (so to speak!)

Sadly he died suddenly in 1996 whilst walking out a walk for one of his groups.  We always said he would die with his boots on but perhaps not that soon.

He is still sadly missed and his name is often brought up on many walk even now.

The above, a tribute from one of his daughters, Dianne, and included in a letter for the archives, is self-explanatory.  Ilford is the C.H.A. group of that area.  

Dianne is currently an active member and Co-Chairman of the Brentwood Ramblers.  She led walks for the West Essex group for some years from 1998 and very occasionally still attends outings.


This event took place for the first time in 1990 at the “Dukes Head”, Hatfield Broad Oak following a short morning ramble.  The “Crown”, Broxbourne and the “White Hart”, Abridge were the venues for the next 2 years. From 1993 and for 5 years thereafter the “Maltsters Arms”, Willingale, hosted some 80 members before closing its doors as a restaurant in 1999.  The group “went local” for the following 5 years at the County Hotel, Oak Hill, South Woodford (twice), the Roebuck Hotel in Buckhurst Hill and Gilwell Scout Centre also on two occasions. During the second visit to Gilwell, in 2003, a presentation took place for Fred Matthews whose 80th birthday had occurred earlier in the year.  The “Golden Fleece” Manor Park, opened its doors to the group in 2004.  This location was particularly familiar to participants gathering for the start of the annual Centenary Walk each September in Capel Road nearby.  The social room of Hornchurch Football Club provided the facilities in 2005 since when the Waltham Forest College in Walthamstow has acted as host.  Festive Fare has varied greatly over the years.  However, the college with its willing and professionally enthusiastic staff has genuinely welcomed the group in pleasant surroundings with the bar conveniently placed......

Group members with one exception have led the walks beforehand.  On the occasion of the visit to the football club at Hornchurch, actually located in nearby Upminster, Ron Lockhart was the person in charge.  An opportunity is thus provided to recognise the one leader who has “guested” for the group consistently.  Leading since 1997, Mill Green and Navestock Side in particular have featured in his list of walks on a regular basis.

Three members have attended every one of the 20 lunches to date:- Joan Edler, Yvonne Marshall and Joyce Norman.

Shortly before that first Christmas lunch the Annual General Meeting was held at the Hermon Hill Methodist Church, Wanstead.  Gerald Bateman succeeded Gladys Williams as Treasurer who wished to stand down.  Brenda Oakey became Minutes Secretary.


Chingford station continued to be the meeting place with Corinna Penny leading for the first four years.  In 1991 and 1993 over 40 people attended.  Paul Phipps and Jenny Rodwell organised a car pick-up at Theydon Bois station in 1994 for a meal at the “Black Bull”, Fyfield, after which an afternoon ramble commenced at 2 pm.  Paul was currently a diligent member of the Working Party.  Jenny still walks with the group from time to time. Corinna returned to lead in 1995 from Chingford station.  Originally advertised as the Ramblers’ Association Christmas Walks Week, a change of wording to Ramblers Festival of Winter Walks celebrated the 60th anniversary of that organisation.

Francis Staines led the final four years of the decade, an eight mile event each time from Loughton station.  In 1999, the Festival of Winter Walks was extended to include Millennium celebrations on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd January, 2000, dates which have remained since.

The notes section of an early programme in 1991 prepared by Frank Holzman included a heading:- Formation of a New Group.  A meeting of the Essex Area Committee indicated the suggestion of another group to be organised, based on the London Boroughs of Redbridge and Waltham Forest with an existing member of the West Essex group to act as Secretary to the new one.  Comments and applications were invited.  The current membership totalled 625 and increased to 680 by September.

Derek Ford organised an Easter trip to Hartington, Derbyshire and a month later Jeff Maitland led a weekend at Bakewell in the same county.  Ann Kidd was in charge for a coach outing to the Chilterns, Ivinghoe Beacon and the Grand Union canal, and was the leader and organiser for long weekends to Rogate in West Sussex and Sparsholt College in Hampshire in May and August, respectively.

Socially John Ingram was the caller again at a Barn Dance in April.  On Friday, 11th October, following a morning walk from Theydon Bois station led by Bill Govey at which 68 people were present, a lunch followed in celebration for three of the senior members of the group, Bill himself (80), and Arthur Glidden and Len Masters, a year younger.  Both events were held at the Village Hall in Theydon Bois.  (Eighteen years later, another trio would celebrate similarly at Upshire, albeit at the age of three score years and ten.....)

Five weeks earlier, Arthur had been one of 10 members who had completed the Essex “100”, the oldest on the walk.  Fred Matthews’ 1991 Annual Report noted quote:- “It shows that walking is good for you.”  Twenty eight members had been involved as adopters.  Harry Bitten’s Countryside report noted that plans had been submitted to build nearly 300 houses on the Royal Ordnance factory site at Waltham Abbey.  Len Alcott’s Rambles Secretary report indicated an average weekly attendance of 33 for the mid-week outings for the 12 months up to the end of September, 1991.



DAY 1     Thames Barrier to Vauxhall   13 miles

DAY 2     Putney to Kingston              13 miles

DAY 3     Kingston to Chertsey           11 miles

DAY 4     Chertsey to Windsor            11 miles

DAY 5     Windsor to Marlow              13.5 miles

DAY 6     Marlow to Shiplake              12 miles

DAY 7     Shiplake to Goring              15.5 miles

DAY 8     Goring to Dorchester           12 miles

DAY 9     Dorchester to Oxford           18 miles

DAY 10   Oxford to Newbridge            13 miles

DAY 11   Newbridge to Lechlade         15 miles

DAY 12   Lechlade to Cricklade           10 miles

DAY 13   Cricklade to Source              12 miles

     Total -                                     169 miles

NB (1) We are not walking the section from Vauxhall to Putney (5.5 miles) since this departs from the river for a considerable length.  Purists may wish to walk it themselves!

(2) Convenient bus/train transport to London up to Goring.  Thereafter, transport to be organised and dependent on numbers.

(3) Day 2 – 8.2.1992


With the virtual completion of the Thames Walk as a new “National Trail”, members were invited to gather at the Thames Barrier for the commencement of an historic journey of some 175 miles finishing at the Thames Head Spring in the foothills of the Cotswolds.  This first leg, which attracted an attendance of 46 and walked on Sunday, 8th December, 1991, was the first of 11 stages during the next 18 months with the final approximate distance of 30 miles being completed at the end of October, 1993 with a weekend away.  The indicated stages distributed by Brenda Oakey, the organiser and leader together with Frank Holzman, would eventually differ slightly from Dorchester onwards.

Over 13 years later, the route was repeated in 13 stages from 11th March, 2007 plus a long weekend away again, based on that occasion at Swindon from 10th to 12th October 2008, to complete the walk.  On this latter occasion, leading each stage was undertaken by various members.  A committed task, with long journeys involved, leaders surveyed and walked the route in different ways, one member sleeping in his car overnight and completing the particular mileage the following day.....!

Other members went to extraordinary lengths to complete the whole route, unable to participate on the particular day allocated.  Using the two-car trick, hazards were encountered on one occasion due to flooded fields but, undeterred, admirable determination was shown.  Ken and Brenda Chadwick walked every stage on each occasion nearly 17 years apart..... and have supplied the route for the archives.

The 1991 Annual General Meeting resulted in further significant changes to the committee.  Harry Edler became a dedicated Treasurer and, serving for the next 15 years, would prepare and present the groups’ accounts in a concise way at meetings.  John Holness joined the long-serving Harold Lawrence as a committee member. Already much involved with the Adopt-a-Parish Scheme, John’s immense contribution to the group would include that of Footpath Secretary in due course.

In 1992, a one-off five-monthly programme covering March to July was posted to accommodate the distribution of the Essex Rambler.  The pattern of three four-monthly programmes, each year, August to November, December to March and April to July became finally established.

A small party of seven walked a 23 mile south/north route through Thetford Forest from an area near Lackford organised by Harry Bitten at the end of April.  A month later 93 attended and enjoyed a Barn Dance at Theydon Bois Village Hall.  With membership of nearly 800, capitation received from Area totalled £567.40 for 1992.  A repeat map reading and compass course took place in the autumn after a successful venture in a private house 12 months earlier.  Frank Holzman and Ann Kidd instructed a full attendance in two theoretical evenings followed by a Sunday outing for practical work.  Peter Spence replaced Ann in due course and the event remained popular for many years resulting in some members eventually becoming leaders.  As an experiment, the Annual General Meeting was held in Theydon Bois on a Saturday afternoon at the end of November preceded by a morning walk, a system that was adopted for some time afterwards.

The year became significant for the setting up of a new group in the area, the geographical boundaries of the Boroughs of Redbridge and Waltham Forest forming the Redbridge group.  A public meeting was held in August, 14 people attended an inaugural walk and, with the assistance of some current West Essex group members who seconded themselves to the new group, the Redbridge Ramblers gradually became established.  A close liaison remains to this day as current programmes show.

Copped Hall Estate finally became acquired by the City of London Corporation being therefore totally open for public access, Len Alcott formally welcomed four new leaders at the beginning of 1993:- Cyril Scanes, Fred Banks, Joan Edler and Harold Markham.  The remarkable consistent leadership of the first named over many years will be enlarged upon in due course.  The latter had taken over the office of Coach Rambles Organiser, Ann Kidd having transferred her energies to the newly-formed Redbridge Ramblers.  Indeed she organised a coach ramble combining the two groups over the August Bank Holiday, a three-day event based in the county of Dorset.  (This was the first of similar outings which have taken place regularly since, different members of each group being responsible for setting up locations, far and wide.)  Joan’s role would include within a few years, leading (with others), what would at that time be known as “ambles”, the forerunner of the regular short mid-week walks enjoyed at present.


In response to members’ requests, a system of walk codes was introduced in the programme for April to July, 1993, ie:-

A – 12 to 14 miles.   B – 10 to 12 miles.

C – 8 to 10 miles.     D – 6 to 8 miles

E – 4 to 6 miles.

1 – brisk pace.  2 – medium pace. 3 – leisurely pace.

4 – slow pace.

The above would remain in force for many years, the descriptions becoming more detailed in recent programmes.

Fred’s Annual Report for 1993 noted membership had exceeded 800.

Early the following year, much of the notes section paid tribute to the sad passing away of Bill Govey in August 1993.  A detailed history of his life reflected the working party team under his direction.  In due course, a plaque appeared alongside that of John Standon at the Ladder stile and later a seat was constructed in his memory near Warren Wood.  Meeting and marrying Phyllis during wartime service in the 1940’s, they originally walked the countryside on their own, joining the West Essex group during the second year of its formation.  An annual “Bill Govey Walk” took place for a few years thereafter and members crossing a good stile or bridge would be heard to comment:- “Bill Govey’s been here!”

The above thus ended a 20 year association, an influential person carrying out many varied tasks.  Meanwhile, within a few months another member would equally impress in time with organising standards conducted in a style of his own.  The last ramble listed in the December 1993 to March 1994 programme took place on Thursday, 31st of the latter month, a B 2 outing meeting at the car park at Coggeshall.  In charge:- John Francis.  Apart from leading on innumerable occasions since, his arranging ability of regular coach rambles would take the groups’ activities to new levels.  A précis of the holidays organised by John in distant parts of England will be recorded as the narrative develops.

Following the successful conclusion of the Thames Walk, the Ridgeway Long Distance Walk was organised by Brenda Oakey, an approximate 85 mile route walked in 7 stages commencing in April, 1994.  A long weekend away nearly 12 months later completed the exercise.  The 21st outing with the Hassocks Field Society took place in July, Harold Markham being the coach organiser on this occasion.  Ann Kidd took charge of a joint Redbridge Ramblers/West Essex group 3-day coach ramble to Dorset.  An attendance of nearly 50 accompanied Frank Fuller, as he led a morning walk on 3rd August from Theydon Bois, after which a “full house” celebrated his 80th birthday at the Village Hall.  Jack Sargent, a regular active member then, led a coach ramble to Dunwich in Suffolk in September, a popular venue to which the group has returned many times since.

The Chairman’s message later in the year brought notice of the formation of a new group in the Harlow area which was officially launched early in the following year.  Named the Stort Valley group it became the thirteenth of its type in Essex and the three hundred and eighty first in the country at that time.  Membership of the West Essex group totalled 930.  Frank Holzman and Ann Kidd were the tutors for a Map and Compass course in October.  Applications were over subscribed, 25 being the limit due to lack of space at the meeting place ...... During the year, Gordon Ayres had wondered if there would be a demand for short (3 to 4 mile) ambles.  The response was good.  Fred Matthews led the first, from the “Blue Boar”, Abridge on 5th December, with Len Alcott and John Holness following similarly from different meeting places before the end of the year.  These were coded F4 in the programme.  By good fortune, an extension  of accommodation at the “Maltster's Arms” at Willingale enabled 80 members the opportunity to book for the Christmas lunch.  1994 thus became an ever-increasing versatile year.

Unfortunately, the single-line rail link from Epping to Ongar finally closed on 30th September of that year. Parking facilities were available in the narrow lane off the main road leading to the former station at North Weald for a few years subsequently.  It was even possible to park in what remained of the station car park for a short time.  The area was eventually locked and barred, while the lane became used for commercial purposes. Thus one of the direct routes through Ongar Park Wood to Colliers Hatch and the “Mole Trap” disappeared from a popular walking area, well travelled by the group since its early days.  However, with the recent restoration of the signal box at the station, the local Preservation Society are hoping to re-open the line in due course as a visitor attraction.  Perhaps as the group enters its fifth decade in 2011, it will be possible at some time to use the line in a new approach for access once more .....

1995 marked the 25th year of the formation of the group together with the 60th anniversary of the Ramblers’ Association.  The occasion was celebrated with an Open Day at Chingford as shown.

A short introductory walk took place locally, led by Harry Bitten on the following day.

The first booking slip prepared by John Francis appeared.  He had agreed to organise three stages on selected summer Sundays, with a weekend away in the autumn, staying at Seaford in Sussex, to complete a five day walk of the Vanguard Way, an approximate 62 mile route.  £8 covered the cost of the coach for each daily stage, £40 being the estimated charge for the weekend.  Pick-up points were scheduled for Gateways, Wanstead and Chingford station.

John Ingram was again the caller for a Barn Dance in March, Harold Markham took charge of a three day walking event at Bognor Regis and six nights/five days for a similar trip to the Lake District in May and September, respectively.  Following the interest of members with the Map and Compass Course in October, 1994 a similar evening took place in the autumn of 1995.  Gordon Ayres was Frank Holzman’s fellow tutor with assistance from Peter Spence and Bill Linnell.  The last named became a member, with others as previously mentioned, who seconded themselves to the Redbridge Ramblers on their formation.  Already a West Essex group leader, he continued to carry on in that capacity for both groups for  many years, in addition to being a one-time auditor for the West Essex group accounts.  As with some other senior members, Bill has concentrated on the shorter walks in recent times and, meeting the author on one such occasion, passed the following article for the archives which appears below:-

My best ever walk with the Ramblers

It was during one of the winters around 1990 when Frank Fuller was in the West Essex programme to lead a walk from Albury in Hertfordshire.  There had been a heavy fall of snow several days before the day of the walk, but on the day, roads were reported to be clear, so I set off hoping not to be disappointed.

When I arrived at Albury, or more precisely Clapgate, Frank was there and waiting to see who turned up.  At 10.30 there were six of us, including Frank and he told us the kind of walk we could have in the wintry conditions.  All fields, footpaths and bridleways were covered with snow, it was bitterly cold and everywhere looked grey.  It was the kind of day that Charles Dickens would have considered suitable to cast his heroine out of the house into the merciless world.

Frank said that if we did a walk he would aim to be back by 2 p.m. in case the weather closed down, so the pace would be brisk which should keep us warm.

I remember the gentle ascent from the valley bottom on a snow covered footpath with a hedge to our right, then moving up through tall trees.  The pace was not fast enough to make us breathless, but it left no time to follow our progress on a pathfinder map, so I am unable to recall where we went.  During the whole walk we saw no one else, no birds, no animals, wild or domestic, we seemed alone in a grey and white world.

Frank changed the general direction of the walk with a turn to the left shortly before stopping for a fifteen minute break so the walk must have been anti-clockwise.  We ate our sandwiches sheltered by a red brick wall, presumably stables or another kind of outhouse, all thoroughly enjoying the experience, but ready to start again before we became cold.  Exactly where we stopped I don’t know and have never been able to locate it.

After our short break we resumed our walk at the same brisk pace but easier as it was mainly downhill back to the River Ash, where we arrived at 1.50 p.m.

Frank Fuller was a quiet, slightly built man and a brilliant walk leader.  It was only at his funeral that we found out that during the war he had served as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, sailing in minesweepers.  No wonder he was such a brilliant navigator.

Bill has not been able to provide an accurate date from his records.  A research of Len Alcott’s diaries has revealed an outing dated Wednesday, 22nd March, 1995, a walk graded C2.  The interest in Frank’s leadership is evident from the above.  His walks were always well supported.

Further to the response for ambles, more history was made with the inclusion of evening F grade outings, the first three of which took place in the summer of 1995 as listed:-

Monday, 7th August. 1900 hours. The “Owl”, High Beech,

                                              Walk with pub supper.  Don and Irene Poynter

Friday, 18th August. 1900 hours. The “White Hart”, Moreton,

                                              Walk with pub supper.  Don and Irene Poynter

Monday, 21st August 1930 hours. The “Royal Oak”, Stapleford Abbotts,

                                               Evening walk, Cyril Scanes

Although similar walks were not organised on a regular basis for some years, the seeds were sown for future reference, with a gradual increase of events during the summer months since the coming of the new Millennium. Current programmes indicate this.

The 1995 Annual General Meeting, held at the Methodist Church, Hermon Hill, Wanstead, on the afternoon of 18th November, after a morning walk led by Harry Bitten, resulted in significant changes.  Len Alcott wished to stand down from the position of Rambles Secretary after 17 years in office.  Len Duffin succeeded him.  John Francis became Assistant Rambles Secretary with Len Alcott and these headings appeared in the December 1995 to March, 1996 programme which had been prepared some weeks before.  In a tribute, Frank Holzman’s Chairman’s message concluded thus:-  “Len will continue to lead walks and attend Committee meetings where his work of experience about paths is invaluable.”  Under the heading of “Bill Govey’s Seat”, Frank then indicated that a seat in his honour had been installed at the corner of Griffin Wood near the Ladderstile.  A donation to the group from Paul Crosland, a one-time committee member, was used for its purchase.  A memorial walk had taken place from Willingale at the end of August.

Sadly, Len Alcott passed away in hospital three days after the Annual General Meeting.  Thus John Francis “carried the baton” as Len Duffin’s assistant immediately.  They had inherited a difficult situation regarding leaders, particularly on Saturdays.  (Page 4 of the WEP issue of August 2010, refers.)  Len Duffin had been a regular walker with the group since the late 1980’s, John’s tenure was just commencing.  Twenty five years after its formation, the group faced a challenge in 1996 .......

An Open Day took place on Saturday, 16th March, 1996 at Budworth Hall, Ongar with again an exhibition featuring the many activities of the group.  A computer displayed pictures and photographs, members having been invited to contact Ted Ward (Publicity) or John Holness (Adopt-a-Parish Officer) beforehand with items of interest.  Phyllis Govey organised tea and cakes for visitors.  This became an annual event in the calendar for the rest of the decade, drawing attention to the benefits and rewards of organised walking in the Essex countryside.  One person visited the venue during the day with subsequent results .......


I was finishing work at the end of April 1996 and wondering what I was going to be doing with my days.  In March of that year there was an advertisement in the local paper for an Open Day for West Essex Ramblers. This was to be held in Budworth Hall, Ongar.

Being a keen walker, I went along to see what was on offer.  I was impressed at the organisation of the day, the extremely friendly people who explained how the group worked, so I joined West Essex there and then.

As soon as my employment ended I went on my first walk on 9th May, 1996.  This was a 12 mile walk led by Rodney Sell, starting from High Ongar Bridge.  I thoroughly enjoyed this day.  Everyone was very welcoming. From this day, I have walked most weeks and been on several holidays with the group.

In a handwritten note for the archives reproduced above, Audrey Carson was that person.  Although not becoming a committee member or officer at any time, she has been a regular supporter of the walks, a versatile leader, using her computer skills on the WEP and assisting, like many others, in the catering side of the social events.  The last few words relate to holidays.  Audrey has travelled far and wide, home and away and is one of half-a-dozen or so members who keep a diary of their mileage....... How many others are there who have joined, with advantage, at an Open Day?

Rodney Sell was a regular leader at that time before eventually emigrating to New Zealand.  He became remembered by walkers of a certain era with his knowledge of the service tree, one of which is located adjacent to the cul-de-sac road off Fairmead Bottom..

Harold Markham repeated a three day booking at Bognor Regis for the May Bank Holiday weekend.  Under his direction, six days were spent at Patterdale in the Lake District at the end of July and a long weekend took place in Bournemouth in mid-October.  Jack Sargent also arranged a coach ramble to Bournemouth and the New Forest for the Spring Bank Holiday weekend.  Brenda Oakey organised the Peddars Way and North Norfolk Coast Path. This event was walked in three stages in 1996 and completed with a weekend away in May, 1997.

Peter Spence was elected Assistant Secretary to Fred Matthews at the 1996 Annual General Meeting, Administration was increasing.  The December 96 to March 97 programme included particular events for 1997 as listed.  This enabled members to make diary notes in advance.  Booking slips were included where applicable, to be posted to John Francis or Harry Edler as appropriate:-




1. Saturday 15th February     Quiz Evening

2. Saturday 15th March     Open Day

3. Easter, 28th March – 31st March    Youth Hostelling with Derek Ford in The Peak District

4. Saturday 5th April     Barn Dance

5. Sunday 20th April     1st Leg South Downs Way

6.  Saturday 3rd May – Monday 5th May   Bognor Weekend

7. Saturday 10th May – Monday 12th May  Completion of North Norfolk Coastal Path Walk

8. Sunday 18th May     National Footpaths’ Day

9. Saturday 7th June & Sunday 8th June   South Downs Way Weekend Stages 2 and 3

10. Saturday 21st June/Sunday 22nd June  Midsummer Day Night Walk

11. Sunday 13th July     Annual South Downs Coach Outing

12. Saturday 13th September and   South Downs Way Weekend    

    Sunday 14th September    Stages 4 and 5

13. Saturday 11th October and    South Downs Way Weekend

    Sunday 12th October     Final stages

14. Monday 27th October to Sunday 2nd November Lake District Holiday. Led by Harold Markham.

Mike and Joyce Whiteley took over the mantle of the quiz evening with a ploughman’s supper organised by Phyllis Govey.  The former couple would become very active in the group after their respective retirements.  Mike as Membership Secretary and latterly general Secretary.  Each has led, and continues to lead walks of different types with distinction and enthusiasm.  Their regular annual quiz evenings reveal a Mastermind touch and have greatly added to the social scene.

The group returned to Budworth Hall for the Open Day after the successful location of the previous year.  Tickets were available from Phyllis Govey for the Barn Dance at the usual venue of Theydon Bois Village Hall.  John Francis assisted Harold Markham with the South Downs Way and the Bognor weekend.  Derek Ford led the Midsummer Day Night Walk, meeting at Epping station with cars for Fiddlers Hamlet for a 22.45 hours start. There was a reminder to bring a torch, warm clothing and food and drink.  This was a joint B2 outing with the Redbridge group.  A lift home was guaranteed .....


The programme for the first Saturday of 1997, January 4th, included an interesting initial outing, quote “10.30. Theydon Bois (on green by Avenue of Trees).  Joint with Friends of Wansfell College.  Arthur Thorne.  F3.”  The walk was repeated on the same day in June and November.  In October, Arthur led on the first Tuesday. Perusing future programmes, the fixed date of “the first Tuesday of the Month” will be recorded as the history progresses. Walkers who attended the June 2009 ramble were invited to accompany Arthur and his wife, Joyce, to one of the local hostelries for a celebration drink on the completion of 20 years of leading from the same place each month, a remarkable record, parallel to that of Ted Ellis’ “last Sunday of the month.”  However, by contrast, those who attended formed a category who wished to walk at a slower, social pace for a variety of reasons.  Joyce has been a careful backmarker.  Sadly, neither Arthur nor Joyce has enjoyed good health during this celebration year, but the date has been honoured each month up to and including October with the exception of September to complete 21 years, the abbreviated location being defined in recent times as Theydon Bois AoT.

Len Duffin and John Francis became concerned at the lack of leaders for Saturday rambles, at least one date in each month from August, 1997 until the end of the year bearing a “No Leader” sign.  Unfortunately, this trend continued for the first half of 1998.

The Annual General Meeting in November 1997 marked the retirement of Fred Matthews as Secretary having served in that capacity since the meeting to form the group in October 1970.  He was welcomed back to the committee after an absence due to his suffering a mild stroke earlier in the year.  Peter Spence had acted as Secretary and was proposed and seconded as Fred’s successor.  Fred spoke about the countryside improvement since the group’s formation and thanked those who had assisted.  Brenda Oakey also stood down as Minutes Secretary.

Phyllis Govey’s report noted that there were 1006 members.  Jaki Rowlands became social Secretary.  She would serve into the new Millennium.  After two or three abortive attempts, one of the highlights during her tenure was a visit to the Tower of London to witness the daily Ceremony of the Keys, after which the coach load of members were lavishly entertained with food and drink in the Yeoman's “Mess!”

It became apparent early in 1998 that Len Duffin wished to start a new life, moving to an entirely different area and remarrying in the summer of that year.  (page 3 of the August, 2010 edition of the WEP, refers.)  John Francis became Rambles Secretary with sole responsibility for the organisation of leaders for mid-week rambles and on Bank Holidays.  The author was invited to become Assistant Rambles Secretary with the similar brief for Saturdays and Sundays.

Meanwhile the Open Day took place in March at a different venue, many members convening at Christ Church, Wanstead, setting out the usual display of the group’s activities.  On Easter Monday 13th April, Dianne Ingram led a memorial walk, a figure-of-eight ramble from the North Country Park Visitors Centre at Thorndon in a tribute to her father, John.


With a settled situation in place relating to obtaining leaders for three days each week, it creates an ideal opportunity to record the huge work load undertaken by the above over many years.  Taking over the responsibility in the same year, 1998, for the organisation of UK holidays, John has forwarded details thus:-

He had first attended the visit to Bognor in 1994, a 2-night stay during the early May Bank Holiday weekend organised by Harold Markham.  In September, 1995, he took charge of his first holiday for the group staying at Seaford to complete the final two stages of the Vanguard Way.  Assisting Harold in 1996 and 1997, he took control of the three weekends away, walking the South Downs Way in the latter year.  The first two were based at Seaford, the third at Bournemouth.

During 1999, 2000 and 2001, John arranged breaks on the Isle of Wight based at Shanklin and 2002 saw him combining with Frank Holzman and Frank’s friend, Lionel, in the organisation of the Leland Trail in Somerset.  He took responsibility for transport, accommodation and bookings while Frank covered the walking side.  He was similarly responsible in the same year when members walked the Hangar Way led by Len Banister, staying at Havant.  In September, 2003 arrangements were the same for a holiday on Dartmoor, Len in charge of the walking, John the accommodation etc.

Two years later, Sudbury, between Uttoxeter and Burton upon Trent, was the venue for an active holiday in Derbyshire, John and Joan Edler assisting Len on this occasion with the walking.  2006 found the group at Weymouth, Len the leader, John booking the hotel, transport etc.  Swindon became the venue for his organisation of a long weekend which completed the Thames Path in October 2008.

John’s details describe incidences relating to some of the above:- a coach breakdown, a member being rescued from a swimming pool, a coach driver escaping through a window to evade the amorous advances of another member, walkers experiencing a wonderful moon on a particularly long day a further member losing his umbrella in the wind and rain and sitting at the back of the coach in his underwear .....!!! (The anonymity of all those involved is protected ....)

His further responsibilities have included the booking of monthly mid-week coach rambles from April to October each year with coach companies.  This is undertaken during the preceding autumn and winter months, while liaising with prospective leaders to form a balanced and attractive programme.  Leading some of these himself, John also organises and leads combined weekend outings with the Redbridge Ramblers and, as each programme reveals, is in charge for other country and London walks, some with an historical aspect.

The final collating of the walks programme together with items for the WEP, is a further essential, three times each year following the last day deadline.  Taking over from Len Alcott, he completes 15 years in office during the anniversary year, a long serving pivotal stalwart of the group .....

Brenda Oakey took charge of the organisation of the Cotswold Way, the first half being completed with a three night stay at Winchcombe at the end of September, 1998.  Interested parties would provide their own transport to Gloucestershire and return.  Frank Holzman and Lionel led the walk.  Two members led their initial walk on the last Saturday of the August to November 1998 programme.  Hatfield Broad Oak was the meeting place for an all day ramble with a pub stop, 28/11 the date, Val and Alan Weatherley the leaders.  By an amazing uncontrived coincidence, they were in charge from the same area almost exactly 10 years later, Thursday, 27th November, 2008, a half-day ramble on that occasion.  The additional programme information invited those attending the “opportunity to purchase Hatfield Broad Oak sausages.”  Regular imaginative leaders during the ensuing 12 years, each progressed into the new Millennium by putting much time and energy into many areas for the benefit of the group.

At the 1998 Annual General Meeting, Ted Ward relinquished the position of Publicity after nine successful years in office.  With his wife, Jose, he had also assisted Phyllis Govey with the programme “stuffing” every four months for much of that time.  Len Banister replaced Ted and would put into effect immediate individual ideas to that office.  Tributes were paid at the meeting for the sad passing away of Harold Lawrence and Frank Fuller by Fred Matthews and John Francis, respectively.  With an extensive knowledge of the docklands, canals and rivers of the East End of London, Harold once arrived at a blocked path and saw a notice “Slow men working”.  He remarked “Now we know why it is two months behind schedule.”  He had served as a committee member for 15 years.  Frank led group walks for 20 years, from 1975 to 1995.  Often attracting larger than usual numbers, his walks always served a purpose.  Mention was made of his popularity reiterating members’ thoughts recorded on previous pages, together with his war service.

The Cotswold Way was concluded with a five day walking break in April, 1999 and a few days later the Open Day returned to Chingford, on this occasion at the Methodist Church Hall, facilities which would be available for the group’s Annual General Meetings in future years.  Jaki Rowlands organised a Barn Dance with a fish and chips supper at Theydon Bois Village Hall in May.  The penultimate outing in July featured a linear walk to the Tower of London from Mile End station which included a visit to the Ragged School Museum.  This was led by Stan Barratt, another member who took charge of many similar outings with his extensive knowledge of London. Coach rambles took place each month from May until October.  That for August, Wednesday 11th, from Radwinter near the Essex/Cambridgeshire border, would focus on an extraordinary phenomenon not witnessed for a very long time:- A total eclipse of the sun experienced about 11.15 with a chilly feeling in the air as the sky darkened for a short while .....

The above occurrence forms the ideal opportunity to bring this instalment to a close, the fourth and final one of which will bring the group’s history etc. Up to date.  The new Millennium would immediately herald sudden and unexpected changes to the committee.  Ingenuity would soon be required to deal with the Foot and Mouth outbreak.  The bar would be raised to its highest level with the provision of a second mid week ramble. Eventually, the group would set foot (literally) in Europe ..... The WEP would offer a new social dimension for the West Essex.

(Note:- The author is pleased to acknowledge the correct spelling of one of the joint leaders for the Boxing Day ramble in 1986, page 18 refers.  A conversation with a senior member on an outing and a subsequent letter from Joy Watson, the other leader on the day, reveals the name:- LEN QUARRESS.  Now in his mid 80’s, he lives in Dorset and enjoys strolls by the sea).