Kate Ashbrook, chair
I am a campaigner who believes fervently that the Ramblers must publicise its excellent work and celebrate the achievements of its volunteers, while explaining to the public the battles we still face to enable everyone to enjoy walking. Previously a trustee for 30 years (1982-2012), twice chair, president for the last four years and now vice-president and vice-chair of the Ramblers. Locally I am the footpath secretary for Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and West Middlesex Area. I am general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, trustee of the Campaign for National Parks and patron of the Walkers are Welcome towns network. Read my blog at https://campaignerkate.wordpress.com/. Follow me on twitter @CampaignerKate
Michael Penny, honorary treasurer
Throughout my life I have enjoyed the outdoors and walking and climbing in the beautiful countryside in the UK. In a long and varied career I have lived in places where I have been able to continue my walking, initially as a family with our children and more recently with my wife and friends.
During my career I have worked for a variety of companies including Whitbread Time Warner and Wickes where providing good customer service is critical. Most recently I worked for Pinnacle Group who manage social housing in London and other areas. All of these involved multi-sites where I have ensured that the governance and financial controls have been appropriate to safeguard the company and empower local management to act to meet the local needs of the people they deal with. My experience has covered all aspects of finance including strategic review, improving and maintaining strong financial controls, treasury management and providing guidance and advice to the board and other management.
Chris Hodgson, chair Ramblers Cymru
I walk in all parts of the United Kingdom and try and cover more than 1,000 miles every year. I've developed a great interest in the condition of our paths, and in their improvement, and in encouraging other people to experience the joy of walking. I like leading adventurous walks along with grade 1 and 2 scrambles and like to see others feeling a sense of achievement. I am currently chair of the Welsh Council Executive Committee as well as chair and membership secretary of Ceredigion area. I feel there is still much to do and I believe the Ramblers can further enhance itself as an organisation working for walkers.
Alison Mitchell, convener - Ramblers Scotland
I joined the Ramblers in Scotland over 30 years ago and have been supporting my local group, Grampian area and Ramblers Scotland since then as a walks leader, secretary and chair. My involvement has included serving on the Scottish Council Executive Committee for 25 years with six years as convener and three years as vice convener. For many years I have headed up a team organising the Scottish Ramblers gathering which has successfully brought members together for an annual weekend of walks.
For ten years, from 2000, I was a Ramblers GB trustee and am currently treasurer of the European Ramblers Association. My working life was spent in BT and the NHS in HR, training and finance management roles. As a volunteer for WRVS I have also served my local community. My interests also include the National Trust for Scotland and the John Muir Trust.
As a member and volunteer in the Ramblers for over 10 years, I am passionate about growing membership and raising the Ramblers’ profile in order to attract a more diverse audience. I am group chair of Capital Walkers, London’s fastest growing Ramblers group, which I was instrumental in creating. I have also been active at an area level as area secretary in Inner London and at a national level at Ramblers head office helping organise general council and supporting local groups. At a professional level I have 25 years’ financial experience in a multinational organisation. This will bring financial experience to the organisation and help with partnership development with corporate organisations. I feel my skills and passion will help the Ramblers to develop and modernise in the future
I enjoy exploring Britain and the world through walking. I want to help people have the chance to discover Britain in the same way. My introduction to the wide variety of Ramblers work came through taking an active part in group and area activities having chaired group and area committees. I am passionate about increasing awareness of the Ramblers wide range of work in innovative ways and via our group walks. With a degree in business information systems, I have worked in business and technology service consultancies to deliver solutions, services and manage change to enable well-known companies provide their products and services. I hope to combine my love of walking with my business and technology expertise in my role as a trustee.
I keep myself busy with the Ramblers by embracing my new role as Norfolk Area Chair. During my first year, our membership numbers have increased, I’ve made the area meetings more group-centric, engaged the area with Don't Lose Your Way, we’ve started a new group offering longer walks and our path maintenance team has achieved a lot. I believe that anyone in a leadership position should always give out as much positivity as possible, and this has been my successful strategy in Norfolk.
I’m passionate about walking – enjoying both long country walks and walking as a way of getting from A-B in town. I first joined the Ramblers about eleven years ago. I met my husband on a Ramblers walk and we walk together both independently and with Ramblers groups across our local area. I find walking a great escape from my day job and a contrast to spending time at the desk. I really appreciate the role of the Ramblers in campaigning to ensure pathways and access are protected and to ensure the needs of the pedestrian are not overlooked.
I became passionate about walking and the benefits of accessing the countryside for health and recreation after I joined the Ramblers just over three years ago. I have helped the Ramblers deliver its mission and achieve its charitable objectives since April 2014 as a volunteer at Group and Area level. This has given me the opportunity to better understand the Ramblers, and experience first-hand its successes and frustrations. I am keen to ensure that we continue to provide real value to our members and the public, securing the Ramblers as the go-to charity for rights of way, access and walking.
Dr Peter Rookes
I have been an enthusiastic rambler, all of my life, including Scout hikes and rural health patrols during my eight years working in Papua New Guinea. I have been a member of my local Ramblers group since September 1995, regularly leading walks, participating in weekends away, overseas rambling weeks and social events. My life has been greatly enriched by the friendship of fellow ramblers. This was particularly important during the two and a half years my late wife, Jean, battled with cancer. Without doubt, she was strengthened by the physical, mental and emotional benefits of walking.
It is recognised that social isolation, particularly amongst older people, is a major health risk leading to loss of self-esteem and personal confidence resulting in physical and mental ill-health. Because of my professional health background I have a passion for encouraging people to gain the health benefits from rambling, and welcome the opportunity to have a closer involvement in the Walking for Health programme, both as a preventive and as a rehabilitative initiative, broadening its appeal to a wider range of participants.
I class myself as a countryman. Through my childhood and teens, I lived on a farm and worked on farms. For most of my working life, when I worked in IT in Manchester, I lived on the edge of the Peak District. Having retired, I now live in a small, very rural village on the Powys/Shropshire border. Through all of this I have gained a strong knowledge of the countryside and a passion for protecting it from unsympathetic development. But, we share the land, and I believe we must develop policies and strategies that enable this and avoids conflict with other users (including land owners).
Since 1935 the Ramblers has been actively campaigning to protect walkers’ rights. This role is just as important today with increasing pressures on green spaces, pathways and access as well as the environment in general. I have worked in marketing, membership and communication roles for over 20 years in a variety of companies from Coca-Cola and Orange to Saga and the AA across a range of countries and cultures. I am a keen traveller and walker and the more I walk abroad, the more I appreciate the access and beautiful countryside we have here at home. As a new trustee, I look forward to using my skills and energy in supporting the Ramblers in continuing this vital work.
I have been a member of the Lochaber and Lorn Ramblers’ Group for about 4 years since moving to the Oban area and walk with the Group 3-4 times a month leading some of the easier walks. I have served as the Group Treasurer for one year and have recently been re-elected to a second year as Chair of the Group Committee. I also serve on the Highlands and Islands Area Committee.
I retired 10 years ago as a Senior VP from a global business career with BP plc that took me to a number of different countries and grounded me in a broad discipline of business and leadership practices. I held a number of roles where I was responsible both for designing global business strategy and the subsequent implementation of the strategic plan. I have also been responsible for HR departments in marketing companies, delivering a large global IT project (on time and within budget) in a global convenience retailing business and liaised with national level politicians in different countries in pursuit of business development opportunities.
I joined Ramblers many years ago to support their aims and past achievements. In 2001 Central Office helped me to claim an obstructed footpath near my home, and shortly afterwards I volunteered to be Area Footpath Secretary for East Sussex. It was a rewarding job: campaigning for better paths, liaising with interested parties from farmers to councillors, attending public inquiries and administering to over 50 Local Footpath Secretaries. At the same time I continued to work as a plumber, and still found time for walking and being an active member of the Vintage Motorcycling Club.
During my term as AFPS the number of Local Footpath Secretaries in East Sussex increased from 27 to over 50. I helped organise training days for them, and some were adopted as path wardens by ESCC to help resolve path problems. I also provided on-site practical experience for Central Office staff members who were learning footpath work. I served on the Rights of Way Sounding Board at Central Office for two years, and in 2011 and 2014 presented motions to General Council relating to Ramblers’ diminishing resources for footpath work. Both motions were carried with strong support, and a primary motivation for my joining the Board is to continue supporting those efforts.
Vanessa Griffiths, chief executive
Vanessa was previously Assistant Director, National Trust Wales. She was responsible for leading the Trust’s North Wales team of staff and volunteers who collectively look after Bodnant Garden, Chirk Castle, Erddig House and Parkland, Penrhyn Castle, Plas Newydd and parts of Snowdonia, Llyn and the Great Orme. The Trust is a charity, supported by over 4 million members, and its role is to care for these places so that they remain special and accessible, forever, for everyone. Before joining the National Trust, Vanessa was a Director at Groundwork, a social enterprise which works with disadvantaged individuals and communities to help them to improve their own lives - through the creation of green spaces, green jobs and green energy. Vanessa is a Fellow of Royal Society and a business leader of the Marketing Society of Great Britain. She is married, with two children, and is a passionate walker.
Rachael Bayley, director of delivery & development
Rachael joined the Ramblers in April 2018. Rachael is passionate about volunteering and involving volunteers to achieve more together. Prior to Ramblers Rachael developed volunteering programmes and supported leadership volunteers to involve many thousands of volunteers. As Director of Volunteer Engagement at The Children’s Society and at Save the Children Rachael created new ways for volunteers and staff to work together.
Rachael is a specialist in volunteering leadership/management, communications and engagement, and is experienced in developing organisations to be fantastic at volunteer involvement. Previously she was the lead for volunteering at The Alzheimer’s Society, Samaritans, Volunteering Matters and Beanstalk. She is also a Director of the Association of Volunteer Managers, the professional body for those who manage volunteers. Rachael loves walking by the sea and is enthusiastic about making sure that walking in nature is something that is open to all.
Beatrice St Matthew-Daniel, interim director of services
Beatrice joined the Ramblers in February 2018. She is a certified management accountant responsible for the finance, HR and Facilities and ICT departments for the organisation. She has worked across the private and NFP/Charities sector and has over 25 years’ worth of knowledge and experience of private and NFP organisations. Beatrice loves all forms of exercise, including walking if there is a good pub at the end of the walk. Her two main passions are Liverpool Football club and anything Elvis!
Nicky Philpott, director of advocacy & engagement
Nicky joined the Ramblers in September 2011. For the previous 12 years she worked at the NSPCC leading the campaigns team. She has also held campaign and policy positions at Age Concern, RNID, Scope, and Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE). Nicky is committed to working with staff and volunteers to develop campaigns which preserve and increase access for walking. Nicky grew up in Somerset and her favourite walks are in the south west as near to water as possible as she likes to incorporate walking with a swim when she can.
Jess Dolan, director of Scotland
Jess joins Ramblers Scotland following eight years with Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), working in various roles to support local groups, engage supporters and developing engagement strategies for national campaigns. She also worked for RSPB in Scotland, managing a multi-million pound partnership project involving local authorities, statutory bodies and third sector organisations. Jess in a firm believer in the power of walking in green spaces to increase wellbeing and support better mental health. Favourite walks include the Yorkshire Three Peaks, the Great Glen Way and she will always have a soft spot for beautiful Arthur’s Seat in the heart of Edinburgh.
Sarah Marfleet, director of membership & fundraising
Sarah joined the Ramblers in September 2017 to lead a dedicated new membership and fundraising team to help the Ramblers grow our incredible community of members and supporters. Prior to joining the Ramblers, Sarah developed membership schemes to increase supporter engagement, loyalty and income for two of the UK’s most-loved charities: the Royal Horticultural Society and Natural History Museum.
Sarah loves exploring the great outdoors, from weekend runs around her local country park in West Kent, to thigh-burning ascents of the UK’s finest summits. Her most memorable walk was an 11-day trek through the Nepalese Himalayas to the breath-taking panorama of the Annapurna Sanctuary. She’s passionate about connecting more of the UK’s 9 million walkers to help everyone everywhere enjoy walking and securing the funds that the Ramblers need to protect the spaces we all love to walk.
Angela Charlton, director Wales
Angela joined Ramblers Cymru in 2008, coming from her previous role as chief officer with a council for voluntary services. She has over 20 years experience in the voluntary sector, working across Wales, Shropshire and Gloucestershire. She has experience in community engagement in both the rural and urban environment context. Her previous roles cover environmental education, fundraising, project development and management, countryside management and walk leading. Angela is from South Wales and has a real passion to see the people of Wales have every opportunity to flourish in a sustainable way whilst meeting the needs of the people and the environment.