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The fourth and concluding instalment of the history, life and times of the West Essex R.A. group entitled RAMBLING ON AND ON AND ON ..... by Eric Barker commences with the realisation of an ever expanding programme as the new Millennium approached.  That for April to July, 1999, for example, covered 17 pages, the last six single sheets being reserved for booking slips in respect of coach rambles, social events and two long-distance outings.  The latter embraced four further stages of the North Downs Way and a total of six legs for the walking of the whole of the Essex Way organised by the Redbridge Ramblers with whom the group had a close liaison as aforementioned.  The Essex Way had already featured in the West Essex programme six years earlier, a 21st year celebration of its opening in 1972, an 81 mile route from Epping station to Harwich.  (Members can observe a plaque at the entrance to the station.)  Fred Matthews, together with members of other groups, including the Long Distance Walkers Association, had been responsible for the inauguration of the County’s premier long-distance route.

The Open Day at Chingford, previously mentioned, was deemed an outstanding success.  About 60 Membership Application Forms had been handed out.  A morning walk on the following day had attracted an attendance of 75. After lunch, 45 people had congregated for a similar outing.  The Walk for the Blind was re-introduced in September led by Peter Spence and the North Downs Way was completed the following month.  In November, Jack Sargent accepted bookings for a week’s walking holiday in the Algarve, Portugal.  Six walks were available out of the eight days covered by the R.A.'s Festival of Winter Walking, from Sunday 26th December, 1999 to Sunday, 2nd January 2000, the period extended into the Millennium as previously noted.  John Francis led the final walk of the 1990’s, a six mile outing from Chingford station with a 20 minute stop for drinks only on 31/12. On New Year’s Day, 2000, Frank Holzman was in charge of a ramble of similar distance from the same meeting place, a “Meridian Line” outing to celebrate the Millennium.  An extensive notes section in the August to November, 1999 programme included a paragraph:-  “Shorter Walks to Supplement our Traditional Programme”. The group wished to develop a structured 4-6 mile walks programme to meet the needs of older members or those new to walking.  Current walk leaders were invited to contact John Francis.  There appeared much to anticipate as the decade of the “noughties” beckoned .....

Sadly, Phyllis Govey passed away early in January, 2000 having been taken ill during the Christmas period some two weeks before.  In a tribute, John Holness mentioned her work for the original Working Party, providing cakes for the helpers and cooking jacket potatoes when a bonfire was used.  She had been Membership Secretary for 11 years.  During the early times, the Walks Programme was produced on a hand-operated Gestetner machine from a skin typed by Len Alcott, distribution being organised by Phyllis together with husband, Bill.  Mike Whiteley became Membership Secretary.

Together with changes in personnel which had occurred at the Annual General Meeting a few weeks earlier, the Committee comprised the following ten members in 2000:-

Chairman:-   FRANK HOLZMAN                              Secretary:-  PETER SPENCE

Treasurer:-   HARRY EDLER                                   Rambles Secretary:- JOHN FRANCIS

Asst. Rambles Secretary:- ERIC BARKER                 Membership Secretary:-MIKE WHITELEY

Footpath Secretary:-  JOHN HOLNESS                     Publicity:-  LEN BANISTER

Social Secretary:-  JAKI ROWLANDS                       Committee Member:- FRED MATTHEWS

The Saxon Shore Way, a 160 mile linear route from Gravesend to Hastings was the long-distance path chosen for 2000 and 2001, seven stages being walked monthly from April to October during the former year.  This was led by Tony and Gay O’Sullivan, two guest organisers.  The response to a request for leaders to offer their services for shorter mid-week walks elicited an encouraging feedback:-  Eleven such outings appearing in the programme covering the last month of 1999 and the first three in 2000.

A new leader made his services available on Sunday, 19th March, an approximate nine mile ramble from Stock. An opportunity to take “stock” of the immense contribution by John Juchau and Pat in the ensuing ten plus years will be recorded in due course.

An Open Day took place at the Church Rooms, adjacent to St. John’s church, Epping at the end of April with the customary walk on the May Day Bank Holiday led by Frank Holzman.  This would prove to be the final one of its kind.  Fifteen members took part in a Millennium Walk from Benfleet station to the Kursaal, Southend in the middle of April organised by the same leader, this outing being part of a promotion by Essex Area to walk as much as possible of the County coastline between Tilbury and Harwich.

Six-figure grid references had featured in an inconsistent fashion for some years in the 1990s. These would appear regularly from the Millennium onwards with the addition of the relevant prefix of the Ordnance survey Landranger index number.

Alan and Val Weatherley followed the footsteps of John and Pat Juchau in further enhancing the versatility of the group’s activities.  Val agreed to take on the responsibility for obtaining members to lead the short mid-week walks.  The group continues to benefit from the availability of four outings each week to this day.  Arthur Thorne’s short rambles on the first Tuesday of the month would soon appear regularly.  Besides being listed under the heading of Committee and Officers as Mid Week Short Walks Secretary, Val would take on the role of Social Secretary after Jaki Rowlands relinquished the position in the early months of 2002.  At the same time in 2000, Alan became one of three new adopters, taking over the parish of Matching.  Together with Harold Markham (Stapleford Tawney) and Gerry Michails (Waltham Abbey), all 21 parishes were thus in the care of an adopter.  Alan and Val continue to assist each other in their respective roles and lead interesting combined rambles all-day, half-day and evenings.

At the beginning of September, an outing from the Travellers Friend, Epping Green, led by Peter Spence, was designated a Leader Training Walk for those who wished to develop leadership skills and at the end of October the now regular Map Reading Course took place organised by Peter and Frank Holzman.  The final 15 days of December included 10 listed walks with the Festival of Winter Walks, bringing the first year of the Millennium to a memorable conclusion.  It had been a time of further expansion.


Francis Staines led the Millennium walk, a half-day outing from the Nature Reserve Car Park, Chigwell.  Frank Holzman was in charge for the next two occasions from Epping Green.  John Juchau became the leader for the following four years, 2003-06, the venues being the Nature Reserve again, Vauxhall station, Ray Park Car Park, Snakes Lane, Woodford and Abridge, respectively.  These were well supported, between 30 and 40 walkers assembling on each occasion.  Frank returned to lead in 2007 (Bumbles Green) and 2008 (Chingford station). Ann Leddra rounded off the decade leading over new ground from the road bridge near Epping station to Tawney Common and return, with the opportunity to imbibe for a short while at the “Mole Trap”.

The Saxon Shore Way was due to be completed during 2001, six legs being walked on one Sunday each month from April to October, August excepted.  Seven provisional mid-week coach outing dates were advertised covering the same months.  Regular guest leader, Ron Lockhart, of the Greenway Group, invited members to contact him for details of the Green London Way, traversed on one outing each month from January to March. The above formed the preliminary notes in the programme for December 2000 – March 2001.  However, all careful planning fell into disarray with the onset of the sudden Foot and Mouth outbreak, the first for nearly 40 years. This caused havoc throughout the country with many restrictions imposed on roads, over fields and in forests.  

Outings for a total of five months were affected commencing with Ted Ellis’ Epping Society walk on Sunday, 25th February.  Eight out of 18 ramble dates were cancelled in March, the remaining locations being adjudged available at that time.  Among the casualties, one walk did take place, the route being slightly amended.  A member was able to lead a 70th birthday ramble in early May, an out and back walk from Hawkey Hall, Woodford Green, to the Foresters Arms, Loughton.  Members were invited to join the outing at certain times and locations in a similar way to the Centenary Walk.  During the morning coffee break at High Beach, the appointed back marked informed the leader 70 had attended!  A remarkable coincidence indicating the enthusiasm of the group to turn out whenever possible during a difficult situation.

The following programme forwarded in early July included a note from Frank Holzman dated 15th June with information that, acting on government advice, Essex county Council had announced the re-opening of all public rights of way in the county on 22nd June.  It was suggested a degree of caution should still be exercised.  This programme, August to November, 2001 was happily adhered to in its entirety.  The group, therefore, could consider itself extremely fortunate in comparison with many other areas of the country.  The coach rambles to Dunwich (August), Suffolk Sea Walls (September) and Wendover (24th October) went ahead as scheduled. Having led his initial walk 19 months previously, John Juchau, with Pat, was in charge for the first time for the latter outing.  They have continued to bring the mid-week coach walking season to a close consistently since. The Hanger Way, a 21 mile route over the Hampshire Downs was rescheduled from its original long weekend in May to the last two days of September with an overnight stay at Havant.  The difficulties surmounted showed the resilience of the group in the best possible way .....

Membership numbers stood at 1060 at the end of 2001.  The role of Countryside Officer had remained unfilled for a short time.  Doreen Lodge became the incumbent a the Annual General Meeting.

Having produced a dummy copy to the committee, Len Banister, Publicity Officer at that time, supervised the first issue of the WEP., posted to members with the ‘April to July 2002 walks programme with John Francis as editor.  The production was continued by Len on his computer for the next three years since when Audrey Carson has taken over.  John remains the editor.  The WEP., now in its ninth year, has been the medium for the social side of the group and the focus for many varied articles.  Members have aired their views on many subjects as it continues to make interesting reading.

Most of the back page of issue number one was devoted to the West Essex Working Party under the heading of “.....and finally FRANK” as previously mentioned.  However, the first article on the front page “Frank’s Plea Answered” introduced two members who had agreed to serve on committee in addition to Fred Matthews.  John and Pat Juchau had put their names forward and attended their first meeting in March, 2002.  The seeds were thus sown for a vast and versatile contribution to the group’s benefit which would quickly emerge.  Ramble dates in May included two longer than usual walks led by Len Banister.  Both of 17 miles, the first started locally at Highams Park Lake, the second at Cobham, Kent.  A further outing of 19 miles from Rickling Green took place in June.  Len has continued with similar rambles since which have attracted a core of members who enjoy an extra challenge .....

The Saxon Shore Way took place during 2002, rescheduled from the previous year due to the Foot and Mouth outbreak, the 17th and final stage completing the route in mid-October.  Members were saddened and shocked by the sudden passing away of John Holness at the end of May.  

Further changes to the committee took place at the 2002 Annual General Meeting.  Len Banister relinquished the office of Publicity to create a new venture:- Outreach Officer.  John and Pat Juchau took over Len’s Publicity role. Jaki Rowland stood down as Social Secretary due to family reasons.

Len requested help in the fresh approach to the R.A.’s aims of highlighting the benefits of walking to include those with physical or learning difficulties.  In March 2003 and for the next 4 ½ years he organised approximately 50 walks for Asian women with attendance averaging 15 per outing.  One of the two coach trips financed by the group attracted 57 people.  The same month above marked the final “Walk of the Month”.  Len had commenced this three years earlier, featuring a leader with his or her walk each month.  A questionnaire forwarded invited each person to complete and return same with a background to their other interests and previous working life. Together with an appropriate photograph, these were sent to various local papers and served to draw attention to the group and its activities.  A total of 41 leaders were involved, a B2 walk led by Derek Davies from Galleywood Common, near Chelmsford on 2nd March 2000 being the initial one.  The final outing, a morning ramble on 27th March, 2003 from Jack’s Hill featured Alan Silwood.

The Greensand Ridge Walk, a 40 mile linear route bisecting the county of Bedfordshire, was the weekend coach ramble selected for 2003, walked during four summer Sundays.  Frank Holzman led a John Holness Memorial Walk along the David Livingstone Trail from Ongar at the end of April, those attending having first visited a memorial-created garden in Love Lane.  Len Banister’s long distance outing featured the whole of the 28 mile Stort Valley Way commencing at 9 a.m. from Epping Green at the end of July.  A near 12 hour hike was anticipated ..... During the same week, a “Juchau Summer Jaunt” was arranged for the monthly mid-week coach outing.  Great Saling, situated north-west of Rayne, was the venue for a morning walk, followed by a visit to the Hall Garden in the village.  Further coach rambles with a theme would become a regular part of the group’s outings in the future.

Unfortunately, after many years, a popular parking place became out of bounds for ramblers during 2003. Disturbances had occurred at Upshire Village Hall.  Walkers had not been involved, but in future bookings would only be accepted for specific events at the hall.  Hence, locations for this regular walking area have since changed with parking in a side road or near the grass verge adjacent to the Good Intent hostelry.

Two evening social events took place towards the end of the year.  Diminishing Whist in early November and a Jazz Band Ball (mid-December) with contrasting results.  The former, organised by the author with grateful help beforehand and on the day itself, was unfortunately not well supported.  A repeat at a different location in two of the three following years had a similar lack of response, although on all three occasions the event went ahead.  (One can but try.)  However, the Jazz Band Ball, a joint venture on that occasion with the Redbridge Ramblers, was particularly well received.  Val Weatherley, with a team, was responsible for a large turnout of members and friends who enjoyed an outstanding evening.  This popular event, attracting over 100 people at Theydon Bois has continued since and brings the curtain down on the social activities as Christmas and the New Year approach.  A few days before, a presentation was accorded to Fred Matthews at the Christmas lunch, held at Gilwell Park, Chingford, for his 80th birthday which had occurred some six months previously.

The 26th December 2003 to 1st January 2004 were the dates listed for the annual Ramblers’ Association’s Festival of Winter Walking.  An ordinary-looking outing on Saturday, 27/12 invited interested parties to meet at Vauxhall station, exit 6, for a  D3 bridges and buildings walk with historical commentary, finishing at Tower Hill station with a lunch break at the Festival Hall.  As well as being published in the R.A.'s Walk magazine, details appeared on the Internet for the first time and the Evening Standard picked up the information.  Result:- an overwhelming number of people attended and the back-marker of the day had to give up counting at 120 ..... Probably another 20 plus a dog were caught up in the procession crossing Vauxhall Bridge, quite an unforgettable start for the first walk led by Pat Juchau, a vivid contrast to that of John’s initial outing as leader in the quiet Essex countryside at Stock in the spring of 1990.  A letter for the archives from Pat lists over 30 such London walks since, with a limit of 20 attendees imposed for safety and control.  The above location was repeated 12 months on, since when evening ghost walks have provided the text each December, a few days before Christmas. Early booking has been essential with a waiting list quickly following. Much reading and library research takes place before each outing with similar conditions required for the popular Princess Diana Memorial Walk led by John on five occasions since 2001 which Pat has helped to research.

Another leader introduced walks with an historical theme, a few weeks after the winter walk described above. With his own enthusiastic style, often quoting dates and nearly always without recourse to notes, Denis Galvin it was who led the first of these for the group in early February, 2004, when a walk (in the footsteps of Marie Lloyd) drew a large contingent to Liverpool Street station.  Being well supported since, he leads regularly for other groups and societies.  Historical walks of all descriptions have been an ever increasing part of the walking programme, being particularly appreciated during the winter months as an alternative to sometimes heavy going over ploughed fields.

The December, 2003 publication featured a “Protest” heading for the first time, concern being raised in connection with the possible expansion of Stansted airport.  The Ramblers’ Association had joined two pressure groups campaigning for a less environmentally damaging aviation industry.  At local level, the group would be keeping a close watch on impending developments, with adopters of parishes likely to be affected being particularly vigilant.  Currently, plans appear to have been shelved, but no doubt an eye will be on the lookout for any potential changes in direction likely to interfere with the surrounding countryside.

While continuing to be involved with disadvantaged groups, Len Banister had stood down as Outreach Officer at the end of 2003.  At the same time, Roger Gibbs became Footpath Officer.  This important work had been unfilled following the sad passing away of John Holness eighteen months previously.  Roger would contribute a huge input for the next 6½ years, dedicating himself in the task of looking into many queries raised by adopters, leaders and other members contacting him with path problems.  Relinquishing the post in the middle of 2010, he continues to serve as a committee member, remaining available to impart much knowledge to his successor.

The Greensand Way, from Haslemere in Surrey to Hamstreet Kent was the long distance route selected for 2004 and 2005, 118 miles being traversed on seven Sundays and four Sundays each year, respectively.  A team of leaders organised different stages.  Frank Holzman was in charge for the walking of the Gloucestershire Way. This took place over two long weekends in May and September, 2004, staying at Lydney in the Forest of Dean.


During 2003, John Juchau had suggested to the committee the group might consider a short holiday abroad. With the idea given the go-ahead, a five-day visit to the Rhine Valley was organised., a walks programme with local sightseeing for the following summer.  A letter from John for the archives includes details of each succeeding descriptive visit with unforgettable vistas and different grades of walking, an annual event eagerly awaited by a regular band of enthusiastic members.  The popularity is proved by the filling of all vacancies within a few days of the booking form included at the end of the relevant walk programme many months beforehand.  These have to be posted; personal visits and handovers are not allowed and a strict order of receipt is maintained.  John and Pat’s outstanding work and attention is further indicated by the waiting list for vacancies created for each holiday.  Listed from the initial idea:-

June 2004  48 in the group to The Rhine Valley

November 2005 40 in the group to Malta and Gozo, 5 days on each island

September 2006 33 in the group to Northern Spain

May 2007  39 in the group to Croatia

May 2008  40 in the group to Crete

May 2009  50 in the group to Turkey

February 2010  40 in the group to Lanzarote

The final two sentences of the letter quote:- “someone in the group remarked ‘join West Essex and see the world’!  Well, possibly not quite, but, who knows where these trusty boots might travel in the years to come? Watch this space’ “A P.S. states John’s organisation of UK group holidays in the Mendips (June 2006) and Lake District (September 2009).  Apart from acting as a leader on some 190 occasions (and counting), since March, 2000, and Pat’s regular historical outings in London, already documented, they put in much time and thought as Publicity Officers.  Members on their mailing list are invited to distribute posters each month to a variety of shops, libraries etc. Each one highlighting four or five of the group’s walks.  The West Essex website is listed, for further information, together with John and Pat’s telephone number which combines to advertise the group’s aims – a busy pair for the benefit of the Ramblers’ Association in general and the West Essex group in particular.

The activities of the Working Party and Adopt-a-Parish scheme were rewarded in March, 2004 by the Ramblers’ Association with a Footpath Work Awards 2003 certificate.  The group had been encouraged to enter by the manager of the Epping Forest Countrycare.  It was chosen as one of the twenty successful groups throughout the country, a fitting tribute to the dedication of the adopters and working party members over many years.  Frank Holzman acknowledged each person involved with the statistics of waymark posts, finger posts, stiles, bridges and kissing gates created and path clearances completed.  The value of the work had been calculated at over £46,000.

During 2004, three sub-committees were set up for walks, footpath and countryside in order to widen the involvement of members.  A distinction between committee members, elected annually, and officers was set out. Val Weatherley took on the office of Mid-week Short Walks Secretary.  Four walks were now offered each week with additional evening outings arranged during the summer months.  Membership totalled just over 1000 towards the end of 2004.  This figure was around 100 fewer than at the beginning of the year.  Only one parish out of 26 within the group’s area had no adopter.  The group constitution was challenged with the aim of committee members required to stand down after three years in office.  Correspondence between two members featured in the WEP’s of the period, stating different views.

On the active front, Len Banister’s long distance venture in September took the group south of the River Thames for the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk of 27½ miles.  A party of five completed the route with little trouble.  The traversing of The Green London Way commenced in December 2004, a 92 mile circular outing through the London Boroughs.  Stages took place monthly during the winter with completion a year later.

The group gained further prestige for a walk led by John and Pat Juchau on New Year’s day 2005, being voted the Best Urban Walk by the Independent newspaper.  The seven mile route, from East Finchley station to Marble Arch incorporating the greener side of London, represented one of the outings of the Festival of Winter Walks and attracted an attendance of 37.  Over the next Bank Holiday weekend, a total of 160 walkers participated during the Easter period of four days, 69 being the attendance for an afternoon outing from Chigwell Row church. One of the many evening walks in the programme included a later than usual start at 19.45 hours.  John Francis leading the group from Bury Road Car Park, Chingford, to the “Owl”.  A midsummer day/evening outing, attendees were reminded to bring a torch for the return journey.

A long weekend took place at the beginning of July walking the Belmont 30, a circular route of that distance around the South Lincolnshire Wolds.  The group stayed at a Youth Hostel near the town of Louth, Joyce Whiteley being in charge of arrangements.  The Gloucestershire Way was completed in August and early the following month Len Banister’s long distance walk for 2005 involved a circular outing of 18 miles around Great Waltham, a cluster of pretty villages north of Chelmsford.  Earlier in the year, he had given up his work on the WEP publication, having taken on the office of Essex Area R.A. Secretary.

Hazel Davies led a C2 outing from Nursery Road Car Park, Loughton, on 21st December with a difference.  This first time walk took the group to the home of her daughter in Lippits Hill, for the lunchtime break.  There, mince pies and mulled wine were served by husband, George and family.  Those attending were invited to make a donation to the Woodland Trust in which the family were closely involved.  Just over £72 was collected on the day.  This popular walk has continued annually since, a few days before Christmas and is always well-supported. Weather conditions have naturally varied.  On at least one occasion it has been possible to sit outside, looking at an extensive garden.  Other days have seen attendees comfortably seated in front of a log fire, casting minds back to traditional Festive Season times of the past ..... Replete and satisfied, the p.m. return journey to the starting point takes on a different aspect.  Each year, total donations have increased.

Val Weatherley agreed to take over the position of Social Secretary during the year, having effectively organised such engagements for some time.  The 2005 Annual General Meeting towards the end of November resulted in more changes than usual to the committee and officers, notwithstanding the constitutional challenge regarding the maximum term of office having been rejected.  Mike Whiteley became Secretary after a vote, defeating a certain member decked out in the club colours of the football team of his support and choice ..... Mike replaced Peter Spence and continued in the role of Membership Secretary for a few months into 2006.  The author stood down after 7½ years as Assistant Rambles Secretary, having negotiated a smooth change over with Ray Latham, ably assisted by Jan.  Doreen Lodge retired after five years of dedicated work as Countryside Officer.  David Weekes replaced Doreen, wishing to put something back into the group having, with Pam, enjoyed regular walking for many years since retirement.  A new office was created, that of Web Site Officer:- Harry Hawkins would be instrumental in advancing the group’s “on-line” facilities.  Peter Spence had been Secretary for eight years, a regular walks leader and organiser of the annual walk for the Blind.  He currently continues to be active as a member of the Working Party and small jobs team.

During the year, a lady from New York State wrote a letter, thanking the West Essex group and Redbridge Ramblers for their company, leadership and car rides during a three month stay.  Mentioning places walked, she appreciated a few hours of enjoyment which helped, quote:- “maintain my equilibrium during a rather difficult time”, while visiting an aging Mother in Chigwell.  This tribute emphasised the way in which walking groups could be of assistance, enabling someone to reap the benefit of a different outdoor pursuit for a few hours.

For 2006, eight Sundays from April to November were allocated to walk the High Weald Landscape Trail, a 90 mile route from Horsham to Rye.  A team of leaders organised each stage.  The latter town was approached from a different direction, being the finishing place for the 1066 Country Walk, this being a joint venture with the Redbridge Ramblers, 31 miles traversed from Pevensey Castle on two summer Saturdays.  The Green London Way continued during the winter months.

The April to July, 2006 programme included the West Essex website which had gone live in December, 2005. Harry Hawkins explained the benefits in an article.  Val Weatherley composed a column in the WEP inviting members to complete an application form to join the Stop Stansted Expansion.  The detriment to the countryside, covered by the building of a second runway at the airport, was set out.  A Ramblers “Use Your Paths Week” was highlighted by two walks in the summer drawing attention to the poor responsibility of Essex county Council in their attitude to rights of way.

Two walks within eight days in April provided members with an appreciation of local railway history, flora and fauna.  John Francis was joined by Prof. Edgar Brown in a detailed examination of a proposed extension to the railway line from Chingford to High Beach in 1878.  “Day Return to High Beach.” Brian Ecott was invited by John Juchau to impart knowledge of plants and animals in a “Nature Walk.”  The latter guest would feature in future programmes.

Keith Wenden replaced Mike Whiteley as Membership Secretary during the summer leaving the latter able to concentrate fully on the affairs of group Secretary.  The former, with Cynthia, expressed interest in introducing Family Walks to the varied programme and to that end led the first outing towards the end of September, 2006, an approximate four mile circular walk at a leisurely pace from Chingford station.  This proved worthwhile, 41 being present including 13 children of different ages.  The walks have been repeated since with varied numbers.

During the same month, the traversing of the London Loop commenced, a 140 mile route completely within the M25 Motorway.  The length of each stage would be about 11 miles, programmed for the last Saturday in the month embracing the next year.

Harry Edler had expressed a wish to stand down as Treasurer earlier in 2006 and was thanked wholeheartedly at the November Annual General Meeting for 15 years service which had also been preceded by two years as Auditor.  He would serve for three more years as a committee member, a total of 20 years in three different capacities ..... David Goodwin was elected in the Treasurer’s role.  A new system of coach journey refunds was immediately put in place, consequential to David’s appointment.  These would be forwarded in November each year in future.  At the same time, Frank Holzman gave 12 months notice that 2007 would be his final year as Chairman.

The aforementioned Thames Path became the linear long distance route on Sundays during 2007, the first leg starting on 11/3.  The final walk in the April to July 2007 programme featured Len Banister’s longest invitation to date:- a linear outing along the New River from Hertford East station to Finsbury (nearest station the Angel), distance:- 30 miles, length of journey:- 10½ hours approximately.  Attendees were reminded to carry adequate refreshments.

Three outings, each with a different theme or purpose, were included in the following programme:-  Audrey Carson and Jenny Knox were the joint leaders in the month of August from the car park opposite the “Camelot”, Lambourne End, for a half-day ramble after which a picnic took place in Hainault Forest nearby.  Pimms became the speciality on the drinks menu, helping down a variety of sandwiches, cake and fruit salad prepared well beforehand by many willing assistants.  An annual event since, about the same date, the last three years have included a rounders match with many members showing outstanding and unexpected prowess and agility, both with the bat and in the (bumpy) outfield.  A tent has added a professional air to the proceedings .....

By complete contrast, a Runway Ramble was organised at Hatfield Forest a month later, with the group joining the National Trust and Stop Stansted Expansion campaign, drawing attention to the severe impact the building of a second runway at the airport would have on the forest.  Val and Alan Weatherley were the leaders responsible for the group’s involvement.  A route for the five mile walk from the National Trust was available on the day, being well marshalled for the benefit of the large number who attended.

This was immediately followed by six walks during Public Transport Walks’ Week, each group outing commencing from a different tube station, B.R. station or the DLR network.  These were well supported, the first, a Sunday afternoon outing from Chingford attracted 36 people.  The last, on the following Saturday was a joint venture with the Redbridge Ramblers, commencing at 11 a.m. with one fewer meeting at the Bank of England outside the Royal Exchange.

The 2007 Annual General Meeting held in its usual month of November, marked the retirement of Frank Holzman after 19 years in the role of Chairman.  The relevant available WEP which had accompanied the December 2007 to March 2008 walks programme featured a front-page tribute by John Francis.  In addition to “Finally Frank,” detailing footpath and other work carried out on seven days from the end of May to the end of September.  “A letter from Frank” described his original suggestion of the Adopt-a-Parish scheme 18 years previously and its subsequent development.  In a further paragraph Frank included the early happenings of the Working Party ie:- quote, “Bill (Govey) would for example build a stile in his workshop which I believe was in his cellar.  He would then take it to pieces so that it could be transported in someone’s car to wherever it was needed.  At the work site it would be re-assembled and set in place, while Phyllis (Govey) and others would be roasting potatoes in a fire.”  His article concluded with his intention to carry on with the work as above.

Richard Iles was elected Chairman.  He and Judy had been members and leaders for many years, with the latter a member of the newly-formed Social sub-committee.  Their joint roles would be of essential value in the coming months.

Thanks were accorded to Yvonne Marshall for the production of the Walks Programme on her word processor for over ten years.  Lesley Gillard had volunteered her services, the programme overlapping 2007 into 2008 being her initial one on a different format.

The business of the Annual General Meeting during the evening included a surprise accolade for a quartet of members, an award of a Certificate of Achievement for lasting contribution.  This was presented and signed by Kate Ashbrook, an executive at the Ramblers’ Association Head Office and the invited guest speaker.  Frank Holzman, who had vacated the Chair about an hour earlier and Harry Edler, 12 months after stepping down as long-serving Treasurer, were the first two recipients.  Fred Matthews, co-founder of the group with 27 years outstanding service as the initial Secretary was awarded the certificate in his absence.  (the author was an astounded recipient of the fourth one!)

The 2008 walks programme included an initial series of summer Sunday afternoons organised and led by Alison Moore, visiting churches of renown and the windmill at Aythorpe Roding.  Following the conclusion of each, homemade tea and cakes were available, the one stipulation being the requirement of a telephone call to Alison the evening before, confirming attendance.  These were joint ventures with the Redbridge Ramblers.  General notes in the programme also included the availability of the above facilities for members on an individual basis.

Walk codes were revised during the year, five separate categories being introduced.  These ranged from Easy Access (EA) TO Strenuous (S).


A Saturday a.m. ramble on 14th June commenced from the “Royal Oak”, Stapleford Abbotts, “Morning walk in fields, woods and parks” led by Cyril Scanes.  Organised to finish before 1 p.m. around 20 people gathered on a slight rise nearby to witness the traditional fly-past at the conclusion of the Trooping of the Colour a few miles away.  “You must lay this on again” someone suggested before those attending dispersed for the rest of the day. Alas, a few hours later, tragedy struck:- Cyril collapsed and passed away, having spent part of the afternoon in his garden.  He had been a leader for 15 years.  Soon after his initial one, his name had become a permanent fixture on the second Saturday in the even months, ie:- February, April, etc.  This made it an easier task for a succession of Rambles Secretaries and assistants attempting to fill 17 or 18 days in each four-monthly programme.  However, to the consternation of the author (and himself no less), Cyril telephoned on one occasion to cancel his June date:- one of his daughters was getting married .....  With a slight adjustment to the list, he led on the third Saturday instead!!  A hard-working clearer of paths as an adopter for Stapleford Abbotts, he is still missed to this day.

The Forest Festival took place on Sunday, 7th September in 2008 with a difference.  This had been held annually for many years in September, taking place on Chingford Plain with the exception of 2005 when the west side of Centre Road, Wanstead Flats was the venue.  This provided the opportunity for the general public to meet group members face to face.  Peter Spence was originally in charge, but soon after their appointment as Publicity and Recruitment Officers, John and Pat Juchau spent long hours at the West Essex Ramblers’ Association group stand.  It was necessary to undertake much preliminary planning to advertise the group’s aims, with many pamphlets available for distribution with the ultimate object of encouraging an increase in membership.  On this occasion, in addition to the pre-Festival walk through the immediate area, three further outings were arranged in connection with the Festival introduction to Rambling series.  These were led on 12th, 14th and 20th September by John Francis, Mike Whiteley and Cynthia/Keith Wenden, respectively.

A further initial date appeared on the walking calendar in 2008, a “Christmas Morning Meander”, a four mile outing from the Roding Valley Nature Reserve car park, Chigwell.  A 10 a.m. start, the leader, John Juchau, assured those interested “You’ll be back around Noon.”  Eight attended with John and Pat.

During the year, David Weekes in his role as Countryside Officer drew members attention to the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign.  A meeting was held at the United Reform Church, Chingford, on 3rd October to raise awareness of the outcome of a recent public enquiry with an explanation of future action, should the plan to expand the airport succeed.  The well-attended gathering of group members added to the numbers of other kindred bodies to hear the report by the Chairman of the campaign Team.

David also reported the rejection by Epping Forest District Council to an application to build over 100 homes to the north of Grange Farm, Chigwell.  The Planning Inspectorate had appealed, however.

Ken Hoy, Chairman of the Friends of Epping Forest, was the guest speaker at the 2008 Annual General Meeting and during the proceedings presented Yvonne Marshall with a Certificate of Achievement.  Yvonne was recognised for her typing of the walks programme, the role from which she had recently retired.


The year 2009 opened on a sad note with the passing away of Fred Matthews on New Year’s Day, in hospital after a short illness.  He was 85 years old.  His funeral service, two weeks later, took place at Lambourne Church and he was laid to rest beside his wife, in the churchyard.  Many West Essex group members were present, together with colleagues and friends from other R.A. walking groups in the county, after which a reception took place at Abridge Village Hall.

A two page tribute to his immense contribution, with others, in the creation of footpaths in Essex appeared in a subsequent WEP. Written by John Francis.  Moving to Abridge in 1953 upon his marriage to Kathleen, they both walked on their own for many years.  In 1970, Fred joined an afternoon walk from Buckhurst Hill to Abridge in connection with a National Footpath Week organised by the R.A.  This was abandoned before the finish due to the state of the footpaths, hence his eventual response to the letter from Ken Knowles in April of that year to assist in the public meeting and subsequent formation of the West Essex group.

Taking early retirement from the Civil Service in 1972, he commenced writing and publication.  His first book “Walking with West Essex”, describing countryside around Epping, Ongar and the Roding Valley cost 25p.  This was soon followed by “More Walks with the West Essex” at a price of 45p and included sketch maps by Harry Bitten.  Seven similarly titled publications with Harry, catered for the growing number of car users.  Further books included “The Three Forests Way”, a 60 mile route linking the forests of Epping, Hainault and Hatfield, the Epping Forest Centenary Walk (1978), the “Essex Way” (1972) from Epping to Harwich, 82 miles (extended from Dedham), the “Harcamlow Way”, Harlow to Cambridge and return via Saffron Walden (1980) and “St. Peter’s Way”, a 45 mile walk from Ongar to the Chapel at Bradwell.

In 1986, the “Essex 100” commenced, an annual 100 mile linear Area event over nine consecutive days which criss-crossed the County countryside for the next 21 years.  Many paths had to be checked beforehand with Fred co-ordinating a committee consisting of members of other groups until his health declined towards the end of the 1990’s.

Fred was involved with Frank Holzman and Len Alcott in the establishment of the Adopt-a-Parish scheme in 1990 and assisted the local Working Parties in footpath clearances etc.  Chairing a Roads Working Party, a great achievement resulted in the building of extra pedestrian bridges over the A120 and A130 roads after a campaign at County Hall.  The article concluded with a paragraph about his work in the Colonial Office.  Apparently due to accompany the Queen on a tour to an African Colony, he was moved to a new department, missed the experience and the “gong” that would have gone with the job .....

Would it be correct to call Fred the “Wainwright” of Essex?”  In parallel circumstances with “AW”, he wrote books. However, whereas the latter investigated routes completely on his own, Fred opened up many paths accompanied by fellow enthusiasts.  Their outlook on the Great Outdoors, though, appeared similar.  Both spent working lives in the public sector, Fred a civil servant, A.W. Borough Treasurer at Kendal Town Hall, Cumbria, but while the latter retired at 60, and spent his weekends and holidays travelling and photographing for his books, Fred took early retirement.  Despite differences in some respects, the principle still applies.  A final comparison:- although not appearing on Desert Island Discs, Fred used Essex Radio to good effect .....

Colin and Freddy

This photograph, dated 5th August, 2001, was taken outside Canuden Village Hall after the conclusion of the Essex “100” of that year.  Fred is pictured with Colin Jacob of the Brentwood Group.  Some one (Colin himself?) would have collected him from Abridge so that he could join in the celebrations and witness the distribution of certificates to those who had completed all nine days of the event.  Until he was unable to drive, Fred supported each day’s walk, parking his car at strategic points and walk towards the oncoming participants, over 100 on each weekend at its peak popularity, and pass on words of encouragement.


The Capital Ring was the local circular route on the agenda for 2009.  Commencing at Beckton on 28th February, Reg Clarke became the sole leader during eight sections walked on Saturdays, a total distance of 75 miles.  The 65 mile Oxfordshire Way was the long distance path chosen for six Sundays from May until October.  A different leader took charge for each stage.

The Forest Festival on 6th September with the pre-Festival walk was again followed by 2 further outings entitled “Welcome to Walking”, designed to encourage new recruits to join the group.  First-time members joining the Ramblers’ Association were offered a 20% reduction on the normal annual subscription.  These rambles took place on 9th and 12th September led by Val/Alan Weatherley and Mike Whiteley, respectively.

Essex Area was formed in 1984, with county groups organising 25th year celebrations.  The West Essex hosted a weekend of walks on 19th/20th September which were also dedicated to the memory of Fred.  The afternoon outing on the first day was led by John Francis, with Mike Whiteley in charge of the annual Centenary Walk on 20/9.

Three “Old Boys” each celebrated his 70th birthday by leading a five mile morning ramble from the “Good Intent”, Upshire on 19th November and, with their respective wives, hosted a party for around 50 members at the hostelry afterwards.  In order of seniority, Alan Weatherley, George Davies and Len Banister made a speech and then “cut the cake” with due ceremony.

John Juchau’s second venture, leading on 25/12 entitled “Christmas Morning around Abridge” attracted 10 plus John and Pat.  Due to weather conditions, one couple could not pass their car drive so a round dozen around Abridge failed to materialise.  A portent of falling temperature which would arrive during the next few days, as a new decade and the group’s 40th anniversary beckoned .....

Congratulations were accorded to Len Banister on his election to the R.A. Board of Trustees, the first West Essex group member and County member to have achieved that distinction.  He was currently serving as Essex Area Council Secretary.

Frank Holzman accepted the honour of President during the November 2009 Annual General Meeting.  This Friday evening occasion was enlivened by the guest speaker, Tom Franklin, Chief Executive of the Ramblers’ Association.  He had those attending up and down from their seats like yo-yos, answering questions about their reasons for walking and what made them join the R.A.  He was obviously impressed with the aims and work carried out by the group, as both the Chairman and Secretary received complimentary words of congratulations by email in due course.


Despite The prevailing cold spell, an attendance of nearly 50 gathered outside Loughton station for the traditional afternoon amble on New Year’s Day, part of the Festival of Winter Walks.  However, three outings involving lengthy journeys by car into the countryside were cancelled almost immediately afterwards due to heavy falls of snow.  In the middle of the month, 10 hardy souls braved the elements for the first historical ramble of the year round Leyton, walking with extreme care on icy pavements, a route which included passing Leyton Orient Football Club.  A fortnight later, the annual outing to Cheshunt and return took place from Waltham Abbey, the landlord of the hostelry driving to the meeting area beforehand to take orders for meals, a custom going back well before the Millennium.  It happened to be this veteran leader’s birthday on this occasion with the usual rendering of “H.B.2.U. (Abbrev.!) being sung during the afternoon tea break.

The popular historical Princess of Wales Memorial Walk and the Lea Valley bird-watching amble the day following during February, featured three leaders who had attended the public meeting in April, 1970 to discuss the formation of the group.  The last week of the month saw the group venturing abroad for the 7th consecutive year, Lanzarote being the destination at an earlier time of year than usual.  Meanwhile, an option for those staying at home included another historical walk from Liverpool Street station, a change from prevalent muddy conditions underfoot.

Parts of three “Ways” were walked during March, the Green London, Harcamlow and Flitch, the second and third necessitating longer county journeys to Newport and Little Dunmow respectively.  A new outing featured the Waltham Forest Boundary Walk, a 24 mile circular route from Chingford station via Walthamstow, Leytonstone and Leyton over varied terrain.  The walk, in two equal parts, took place on consecutive Saturdays.

Easter occurred in such a way that the programme provided walks on 11 out of the first 14 days in April.  A varied choice offered outings as diverse as the easy first Tuesday of the month ramble, to a 12 mile Thames walk from Kew to Hampton Court on Easter Saturday.  A small party of eight met on a dull day at Kelvedon Hatch on Good Friday following old Pilgrims routes.  Easter Sunday’s annual Primrose Walk and the traditional Easter Monday coach ramble to Sussex, on this occasion from Beachy Head to Wilmington, were well supported.  The walk on 14/4 linked London Art Galleries.  Limited to 20 places, it was led by one of the year’s new leaders.  An outing from Mile End station encouraged a large attendance featuring a visit to the recently opened cafe overlooking the 2012 Olympic Park.  The last day of the April programme became the first of seven mid-week coach rambles taking place each month until the end of October.  A popular and regular part of the walking calendar, each is carefully surveyed beforehand by a team of leaders organised many months previously in conjunction with the coach company.  Many members base their other interest and holiday arrangements on the dates arranged.

The second Sunday in May provided members with a choice of two outings.  The Suffolk Coast and Heaths Path was the long-distance coach route chosen for 2010 with the first stage taking place on 9/5.  Seven members led these in June, July and August with the final leg completing the walk at Lowestoft on 3rd October.  A tribute in the WEP shortly after thanked those involved for the completion of another successful journey.  An alternative walk introduced another summer of tea and cake rambles.  Repeated on Sunday afternoons in June, (twice), August and September, these circular outings were well supported and enjoyed, although the second June date clashed with one of the Football World Cup matches.  A week later, a large party spent a long weekend walking the Avon Trail, 23 miles from Bristol to Bath, with accommodation near the first-named city.  The Chelmsford Centenary Circle over a similar distance was traversed towards the end of the month, six people attending on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year to date ..... Two days later, the “highest peak in Essex” featured another new leader, a circular outing from Arkesden.

A wet spell of weather in early June restricted numbers to four plus the leader on the first Tuesday of the month. Unusually, the following Tuesday also featured a walk, a coach outing to visit Rockingham Castle situated on the border of the counties of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.  A wet morning walk beforehand greeted the group again.  Dry and warmer conditions then prevailed for the rest of the month which included two of the outings cancelled in January due to the dangerous driving situation.  Two more “Ways”, a long walk from Collier’s Hatch incorporating parts of the Essex and Three Forests took place.  Using these long-distance routes provides ideal opportunities for survey and check for blocked parts.

During the first days of July eight group members spent a weekend walking in Sussex, a self-catering venture starting at the Youth Hostel at Alfriston and again the WEP was the medium for thanks to the leader for excellent organisation.  A Friday evening outing, “Walk to High Beach and Return by Train” featured a repeat historical account by a leader relating to a planned rail route from Chingford to High Beach in 1883.  Walks around this time, (early July, not 1883 ...!) coincided with the hottest temperatures during 2010, just over 30 degrees centigrade contrasting exactly six months after the coldest January for 20 years, with the thermometer registering under 30 degrees Fahrenheit.  A morning ramble towards the end of the month from the car park opposite the Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge involved the third member of four, leading for the first time.  The next day, the long walk of that week along another part of the Harcamlow Way was that originally featured on the programme in January again called off due to the heavy snowfalls.

A mid-week short walk in Mid-August from the Roding Valley Nature Reserve led by the fourth new name on the leaders’ list gave no initial indication of an interesting route through an area which, during the 1940’s, was the site of a Royal Air Force base.  A note typed in 2003 headed “Looking Back – RAF. Chigwell” read out by one of the 40+ attending, described the last three months of a veteran group member when he was stationed there before demobilisation in the summer of 1949.  A copy of this note, kindly forwarded to the author by request, is one of many items which will be carefully retained in the archives.  (Coincidentally, but sadly, this member who finished his military service so close to home over 60 years ago passed away earlier in the summer.)  The added highlight of this outing occurred on return to Buckhurst Hill where food was available at the Tavern near the station.  Twelve of the party were well catered for in pleasant surroundings away from the main bar – an outstanding day with a difference.  Seven days later, the annual Walk and Picnic outing was held in the Lambourne End area of Hainault Forest.  Many members put much thought and diligent effort beforehand and on the day, into satisfying an attendance of around 40 with delicacies and a large range of drinks.  An energetic game of rounders rounded (!) off another varied day ..... The Bank Holiday Monday linear outing from the stations at Debden to Theydon Bois attracted a large number, 65.  The hostelry at Abridge, scene of the lunch break, became somewhat crowded; unfortunately the cafe nearby was closed.

Just over 30 attended the morning walk before the annual Forest Festival got into full flow on the first Sunday in September.  Business was brisk at the West Essex Group R.A. stall on Chingford Plain with the Publicity and Recruitment Officers assisted by other members.  A few days later, the ever popular outing from Hadleigh to Leigh involving the climb to Hadleigh Castle took place with the opportunity to sample fresh seafood for lunch at Old Leigh before the return journey.  This is another day at the seaside which has appeared annually for many years.  The Centenary Walk, described earlier in the narrative, took place on the third Sunday of the month, attracting the usual large numbers arriving and departing at different times during a long day.  A week later a “Full House” of ramblers arrived at Sandown, the base for a five-day break on the Isle of Wight.  Spending a few days there beforehand checking details, one person organised the entire holiday, from individual bookings to transport and hotel arrangements and finally leading the walks.  With sunnier conditions than experienced on the mainland, a guest in a subsequent article described it as “a holiday to remember” in an appreciation.

Two walks for the West Essex 40th Anniversary commenced the walks programme for the month of October, Saturday, 2nd.  These took place from the Avenue of Trees, Theydon Bois, a six mile medium paced walk and one of a shorter distance of about four miles, led by two founder members of the group.  Those who attended on an historic occasion (nearly 60), were almost equally divided between each ramble.  Although muddy underfoot, the weather remained kind for these pre-celebration outings with a cross-section of veteran walkers mingling with those who had joined the group more recently.  One senior member, although pleased to have taken part, confided to the author a decision to finally retire from active participation ..... Many regular ramblers stayed behind to prepare the local church hall for the proceedings to follow described under the Social Scene part of the history.  Some members were up and about before sunrise the next day, making their way to the various coach pick-up points en route for the final leg of the Suffolk Coast Path.  Two days later, a smaller than usual party assembled at the Avenue of Trees, Theydon Bois, for what may prove to be the final first Tuesday of the Month walk.  To the delight of those present, the regular leader resumed his place at the head of the group with his wife back-marking after an absence of several months.  A tribute appeared in the subsequent edition of the WEP written by a regular supporter, outlining their contribution to the group endorsed by the Chairman.  (The couple had also attended the short walk and celebration lunch.)  A linear London outing on the tenth day of the tenth month of the tenth year (!), a warm day, attracted 35 walkers, a combined ramble with the Epping Forest HF Group.  While a close liaison has remained constant with the Redbridge Ramblers since the latter’s formation, joint outings with the HF Group have been irregular in recent times.  (A peruse through notebooks and programmes for the 1980’s and 1990’s reveal a close association with this kindred group, together with other County R.A. groups.)  Ten days later, the final coach ramble of the year took the group to the usual area of the Chilterns.  Six members had organised these ever popular outings to varied locations many months previously, some designed to accommodate those members not wishing to walk the whole length of the route.  The leader of the last Wednesday of the October programme was surprised to be in charge of a party of 22 for a third walk from Theydon Bois of the month, a distance of around 5 ½ miles.  During the coffee and comfort stop, it was noticed that the ladies outnumbered the gentlemen by 2 to 1.  While not commented upon at the time, the heading for the walk did read:- “The Theydon Bois Walk (girls also welcome!)  Conversation during that interval also revealed the combined ages of 3 of the 7 men totalled just over 240, with little between their years of birth.  One, a current Wednesday, winter walker only has been a member for 32 years and regaled the party for a short time about Fred Matthews who he knew well and walked with on many occasions.

The initial outing in the November programme invited members to walk the first stage of the Chelmsford Centenary Circle with a linear route of about 10 miles from Galleywood to Broomfield, returning to the start by bus.  This was for the benefit of those who did not wish to traverse the whole circle as half a dozen had earlier in the year.  A circular leg of the Harcamlow Way took place on Thursday 11th November from Roydon station on an overcast day, during which the small group attending observed a Two Minutes Silence, remembering lives lost in conflicts throughout the world.  A particular request from a member in 1998 before an all-day walk from Ongar is recalled, since when this mark of respect has been noted whenever the group’s outings have coincided with 11/11 ..... During the last week of the month a further coincidence occurred.  Both the Wednesday short ramble and the longer outing on the following day commenced at Matching Tye from the Village Hall and local hostelry, respectively.  Although possibly unprecedented(?), a combined total of around 40 attended.  The morning walk from Nursery Road Car Park, Loughton before the afternoon Annual General Meeting at Chingford, together with the circular outing from Epping station, joint with the Epping Society, took place with weather conditions gradually deteriorating.

21 walks were scheduled to take place during December but heavy falls of snow and freezing temperatures resulted in the first Saturday and following Wednesday outings to be called off.  A brief thaw enabled the annual Mulled Wine and Mince Pies walk to take place, albeit in muddy conditions underfoot.  Some 60 members gathered for the reception (and welcome log fire) by the leader’s husband and daughter at the latter’s abode once more, most having gathered at Nursery Road Car Park, Loughton for the 10 am start.  The pot was filled to overflowing for the benefit of the Woodland Trust after which murky visibility and a persistent drizzle greeted the group for the return to Loughton with the temperature falling rapidly.  The joint walk with the Epping Society became a casualty of the second fall of snow.  Held on the third Sunday of the month on this occasion, it was unfortunate that this senior and most regular of events of around 35 years should have been cancelled.  True to the rule of those in charge, the leader of the day (one of a pool of seven during the other 11 outings of the year), made his way to the meeting place near Epping station, but no one had attempted the journey by the appointed hour.  Members had a choice of an outing on every day of the Festival of Winter Walks from 25th December to 3rd January, 2011 with 10 leaders sharing responsibility from Christmas Day to New Year’s Eve. Although not laying crisp and deep and even, and not falling during the period, remnants of snow continued to cause hazardous conditions with icy patches not always visible.  On 25/12, a quartet, including the leaders, met at Abridge, with 11 joining the leader on Boxing Day, a morning outing again from Coopersale.  The final three days of the year were well supported with numbers attending in the 20’s.  A celebration drink, Bailey’s and sherry, were enjoyed before the commencement of the New Year’s Eve outing at Tawney Common, kindly provided by the joint leaders and much appreciated by the party of 25.  A slight accident occurred during the morning, one member failing to negotiate an icy patch, with more damage to wet clothing than physical self. (The author wishes to state that it was not a question of being under the alcofluence of incohol .....!! but took the opportunity of a kind gesture of the loan of a pair of gloves .....)  Following the finish of the walk, more than 20 of the group repaired to the “Mole Trap” consuming a variety of food and drink served by friendly and accommodating staff.  This social gathering brought to a conclusion the final event of over 230 walks held during the memorable 40th anniversary year of 2010 .....

A deliberate decision not to mention names in respect of leaders of the above cross-section walks has avoided repetition.  Each will recognise his/her/joint individual outing in charge.  Similarly, members will be aware of particular walks attended.

A breakdown of the 61 leaders during the year reveals an interesting spread of longevity, broken down into decades.  The four outings led by newcomers to the leaders’ list during 2010 have been mentioned above. Fourteen commenced their year in charge in the 1990’s, one in the 1980’s and one first led in 1978!  (No records exist prior to that year but that particular person’s recollection may go back further .....)  The balance have commenced their leadership days since the Millennium.  All approximately 280 names on the leaders’ list have been located with their initial year.  The author is willing to supply information upon request – the meeting place might take a little longer .....

The social scene commenced in mid February with the annual quiz night, questions being distributed on this occasion by John Francis as M.C. Aided by John and Pat Juchau, adjudicators/scorers, the usual close contest for prizes ensued.  Thanks were accorded to the above, together with Val Weatherley for pre-evening organisation which included the provision of a choice of fish, fowl or vegetarian meals during the interval.

On return to Theydon Bois from the two walks, members who had pre-booked a place at the second of October Celebration Lunch made their way for a reception, joining those who had been busy during the morning preparing tables and cooking the hot lunch of their choice.  Given an opportunity to display their culinary skills, the latter instituted a rota to maximise the smooth operation of the event.  Second helpings were readily available.  In addition, a variety of drinks were on hand, served with aplomb and aplenty by other members.  Two informal toasts were proposed during the proceedings:- Len Banister took the floor in his capacity as a Trustee of the Ramblers’ Association.  He referred to the 75th anniversary of that organisation and drew a parallel between its formation after the original trespass in the Peak District and the similar foundation of the West Essex group inspired by Fred Matthews and Ken Knowles 35 years later.  Glasses were raised in response.  As Chairman of the West Essex R.A. group, Richard Iles carried forward the theme from Len in believing that the above founder members would have been satisfied by the progress made by the group and referred to the presence of six original members on an historic day.  As an example of the continued success of the group, attention was drawn to the current efforts of the Working Party who had recently been given a “Volunteer of the Year” award from Essex County Council.  His final pleasant duty was to thank his wife, Judy, for the outstanding success of the occasion together with her willing team.  Again glasses were raised with alacrity.  A list of the 90 attending revealed a pleasant cross-section of the membership from the aforementioned half-a-dozen from 40 years ago, some senior who were not currently so active, to more recent arrivals.  During the day, in a small room beyond, a display of the group’s history created much interest, set up in the morning by a further set of volunteers under the direction of Sue Coulbeck.  This consisted of photographs in various forms including newspaper and video with a large section on leaders past and present, together with programmes and other archive material received.

Five weeks later, a group of nearly 30 attended the first-ever concert performance of “Singing in the Rain” at the Royal Festival Hall.  A social event with a difference, John Juchau was the organiser of an appreciative party.

Within a week in mid-December, three events drew the year’s social activities to a close.  On 10/12 the annual Jazz Band Christmas Ball was voted an outstanding success with over 100 members and friends insuring a reasonable profit for the group.  Once again preliminary efforts by Val Weatherley and her committee had reaped the rewards of another enjoyable evening.

Two days after, a short walk in the forest preceded an attendance of over 50 people to the U.R.C. church, Chingford for carol singing followed by mince pies.  Organised by Mike and Joyce Whiteley with John Rippin as accompanist, it was suggested during a short speech of welcome by the Chairman at the Christmas lunch a few days later, that a West Essex choir had added another chapter to its versatility.

The Waltham Forest College welcomed the group for the fifth successive year on the occasion of the 21st annual Christmas lunch on 16th December.  Again the attendance of around 90 included a senior veterans table, with a cross-section of members, together with some who had booked for the first time.  Unfortunately, due to a clash of dates, the former long-serving treasurer, Harry Edler and his wife Joan were unable to be present.  Together with the absence of Joyce Norman, Yvonne Marshall became the one member to have attended all 21 lunches! This enjoyable function concluded another outstanding year of social events with the particular emphasis on the 40th anniversary celebrations.  With many of the group attending both lunches during 2010 and others booking either event in October and December, around 130 members enjoyed these two landmark occasions.

Tricia Moxey of the Essex Wildlife Trust was an interesting guest speaker at the 40th Annual General Meeting at the end of November.  The larger than usual attendance of over 60 perhaps reflected the opportunity to view the photography and archive material displayed again, adjacent to the venue of the church hall in Chingford. Changes to the committee involved Peter Cozens replacing Roger Gibbs in the office of Epping Forest District Footpaths Secretary, effective from 1st July.  Roger was thanked for his significant work and output in dealing with Rights of Way problems over a period of nearly seven years and agreed to serve as a committee member. Sue Coulbeck had become a like officer during the year with an immediate brief for part of the organisation of the 40th anniversary year.  Attention was drawn to the financial situation, with the lower capitation figures for the current approximate number of 880 members as at 30th September, 10.  The cost of programme and WEP printing had risen dramatically during the past three years.  As a sign of the availability of the Internet, a motion was proposed and seconded asking quote:- “the committee to consider a policy which actively encouraged members to use it.”


A lengthy and extensive research using the three notebooks kept by Len Alcott during his tenure as Rambles Secretary (from November 1979 to November 1995), together with every walks programme available from November, 1989 to date, has revealed the extent by which the group’s activity has grown decade by decade since its formation.

                   YEAR                      NO. OF WALKING DAYS                   NO. OF LEADERS

                   1980                                   165                                          40

                   1990                                   156                                          36

                   2000                                   203                                          61

                   2010                                   239                                          61

                   2009                                   238                                          66

                   2008                                   246                                          61

The 1980 and 1990 walking days are consistent with the Saturday and Sunday outings and alternate weeks of Wednesday and Thursday rambles.  Fred was a prominent leader in 1980 with 45 walks and 10 years later still led on 27 occasions.  Members responded to a request for extra leaders from John Francis during 1999 for the possible addition of a short mid-week walk and the result is reflected in the increase in both columns for the year 2000.

By 2010 the numbers would seem to have peaked in respect of walking days and leaders, with a comparison of the two previous years listed.  Extra days organised during the Festival of Winter Walks and increase of mid-week and evening outings account for the higher number of walking days since the Millennium.  However, the recent plea again from the Rambles Secretary for more leaders is borne out by that of just over 60 being the same number as 10 years ago.

A further analysis of leaders, conducted again by reference to the same sources as above, provides the following:-

1980 to 1995  Just over 160 leaders

1996 to date  Nearly 120 new leaders

The first line represents the era of Len Alcott, the second being the result of efforts made by John Francis, Len Duffin and subsequently two Assistant Rambles Secretaries and the short walk organiser.  Other members would have led in the 1970’s, e.g. Ken Knowles, but few papers exist for that period.


A solid basis of a group surely depends on the substance of a committee and officers, leaders and members in general.  Perhaps an analogy can be drawn with that of a theatre production:-

Elected and appointed throughout the years, the COMMITTEE and OFFICERS are the DIRECTORS taking ultimate responsibility in deciding the many aspects and destinations required.  If some of the offices appear glamorous and hit the headlines, others are no less important, each one being essential for the provision of a varied and balanced walks programme.

Opening the envelope three times a year, initial concentration centres on the walks, the LEADERS representing the MAIN PLAYERS.  The versatility of the outings provided are the result of much time, energy, thought, travel and general dedication behind the scenes.  These can take place up to 8 months before the date itself, much more when coach rambles, long-distance paths and holidays in the UK and abroad are involved.

If the narrative has concentrated on the two sections above, the group could not survive without the remainder of MEMBERS, a huge SUPPORTING CAST.  A large proportion consist of those who, though not active, are sympathetic with the aims and ideals of the Ramblers’ Association.  Many simply attend the social events, assisting before and during functions and serving on sub-committees.  Others keep in touch by reading the walks programme and WEP and include a senior section, no longer active.  Some are part of a joint membership, wives of husbands who walk and vice versa.  Capitation received depends on numbers based annually.  All are vital for a thriving and expanding group.  Those who are active attend outings for a variety of different reasons, social, health, reviving former friendships and acquaintances and forming new ones.  For the more challenging aspect, a few fix an annual goal of mileage walked (one member was aiming for 1800 in 2010 .....)  Many more are satisfied with a modest return after hip or knee replacements.  At least one extended an active life a few years ago with the aid of a pacemaker.  Then there are those who look forward for the chance to escape the burden of a private problem for a few hours, refreshed on return after the companionship offered in an open air environment.  There is room for all ..…


Challenges to keep a committee busy many years hence will undoubtedly arise.  These were met successfully, for example, during the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001.  In retrospect, the group was fortunate in its geographical location bordering Outer London and Essex.  Rambling was curtailed for a greater length of time in more agricultural areas.  Similarly, the coldest start to a year for a quarter of a century in January, 2010, followed by the heaviest fall of snow in early December 11 months later since records began, could have interrupted travelling to and from the social activities prepared for the 40th anniversary.  Cancellation of walks were minimal compared with many areas, even in adjacent counties which were badly inconvenienced.  The group enters its fifth decade in 2011 with the longstanding mix of a long distance footpath challenge, mid-week coach outings, a late spring holiday abroad, an early autumn break in the Peak District, together with the anticipation of mid-week and weekend rambles near and far.

2012 will be viewed with interest as the London Olympic Games take place on the group’s doorstep.  An early challenge may subsequently result to ensure paths closed and diverted are restored to their former alignment.

11th Dec – 17th Dec

2010 Walk Programme... Week 50


11 Sat


Meet Fishers Green car park, Stubbins Hall Lane

TL 378032

Audrey and


Lee Valley walk, Hopefully mud free.



5.5 miles


Joint walk with Redbridge


12 Sun


Meet at Chingford URC, Buxton Road, E4 A 10 min

TQ 388 946

Walk from Chingford Station

L166 L177


Epping Forest, Carol singing and Mince Pies.


Joyce and Mike

3.5 miles

Following a short walk in the forest, we will return to the Church at 4 pm for Christmas carols, accompanied by John Rippin, then we'll finish with mince pies.


15 Wed


Meet Nursery Road car park, Loughton

TQ 417 963


Hazel's "Woodland's Trust" Xmas Walk a circular



9 miles

Forest walk.


Lunch stop. "Owl" PH. More Information in Printed Programme


16 Thu


Meet near gates of Waltham Forest College, Forest

TQ 379899


Road, E17


John F

4.5 miles

Christmas Lunch Walk around Walthamstow


Historic amble around Walthamstow. You may attend the walk even if not having Christmas Lunch

For Lunch see "Social Events" in index at top of this page.

What lies in store for the years following?  How will the shape, design and distribution of the walks programme change by, say 2020, with the arrival of a Golden anniversary?  With a growing proportion of computer-literate members, will it be available at the touch of a button?  Already members of other groups can “surf the Internet”, locate the West Essex walks and make their way to the start point and become guests for the day as shown above.  What will be the size of the committee, half as large again at present compared with 10 years ago? “Early retirement” may be two obsolete words in the future, the economic situation demanding a longer working life.  Obesity is apparently increasing and a detriment to health, but conversely, latest information suggests a larger proportion of the population will reach 100!!

The group is 40 years old and in another forty the half-way stage of the Twenty First Century will have arrived. For those able to retire and still be active in mind, body and spirit, the hope is of enough space for exercise and sufficient leaders to carry on the current standard of rambling.  Will members be able to lead outings for school children, Asian women, blind people and other minority associations, serving local communities and the like, enhancing mental and physical well-being if health and safety becomes a bigger issue?

Whatever problematic situations develop in the years to come, it is surely the sincere wish that, with a strong and resilient committee, backed up by an enthusiastic membership, the West Essex group of the Ramblers’ Association will continue to keep RAMBLING ON AND ON AND ON ..........


A Judgement has been necessary in deciding what items of memorabilia should be included in the narrative with the interest of the group’s history a deciding factor.  Additionally, some papers were unsuitable for reproduction. Sincere thanks are hereby recorded to those members who responded to the request for anecdotes, memories and information received by letter, telephone calls, or during conversation on group outings.  All have been acknowledged by similar methods.  Much has been reproduced as written, some articles have been edited.  Using the same principle as that adopted for the description of the walks during 2010, a summary of some items received is deemed more appropriate rather than listing a long column of names without comment.  (There will be one exception.)

At the 2008 Christmas lunch, an appeal was put to those attending, via the Chairman, for the location of the first lunch 18 years previously.  During the same evening, a telephone call received from a senior member gave details taken from that person’s 1990 diary!  This information completed the list of venues as related previously. Another member enclosed a five-page A4 account, a copy headed “City of London Ramble,” commencing at the Royal Exchange on Sunday, 1st December 1974, with a detailed description of every street covered during the 8½ mile journey.  A copy was no doubt distributed before the commencement of the outing.  This document is the earliest of its kind.

Access to Fred’s hand-written minutes covering committee meetings and Annual General Meetings from the beginning up to March, 1987 contained in two exercise books totalling 300 pages provided compelling attention. Other memorabilia received with the three notebooks included the earliest walks programme, August to November, 1978.  A senior member handed over similar programmes for the three years November, 1989 – November, 1992.  The author has personally retained every programme since his first, December, 1992 – March, 1993. The above items, therefore, constitute an almost unbroken 40 years history record.

For easy future reference, a Photostat copy has been taken for the archives of the walks produced by the Secretary and Assistant of the time, which were hastily organised during the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001. An explanatory letter from the Chairman has also been copied.  Similar copies exist in respect of full-page tributes paid to certain members on their sad passing away.

The leader of the short ramble preceding the 40th Anniversary lunch used part of a route “More Walks with the West Essex”, a second guide written by Fred and published in September, 1973, cost 45p.  Some copies were distributed to those attending, one is retained in the archives.  An enthusiastic member has forwarded a news sheet for retention (and advisedly to relevant committee officers) entitled “Hands Off Wanstead Flats!”  This details plans for the Metropolitan Police to site its Olympic operational centre on Wanstead Flats for about three months in 2012. (A head and shoulders view of the above person was seen by the author, captured on local television at a meeting at Forest Gate in early October, 2010.)

The above is just a description of a cross-section of documents received.  These will be labelled in due course, to be available, if required, for any subsequent social occasion that may be arranged.

Apologies are offered in advance for any misinterpretation of events, glaring inaccuracies and outstanding omissions.  Care, concern, commitment and consideration have been at the forefront in an attempt to chronicle the group’s history, decade by decade.

Many paths have been cleared, renovated, re-opened, walked and checked since that letter, dated 9th March 1970, was posted to Fred, quote:- “Would you please come here at about 8 p.m. on Monday next, 16th March, 1970? .....

Finally, a lasting personal tribute is reserved for Audrey Carson, interpreting the typing of four instalments on four different machines (Two electric, two portable!), used by the author from September, 2009 onwards.  With patience and understanding expressed by both parties, the transfer to a word processor has created a neat result, pleasing to the eye .....




1970 - 2010



Part Four