Des Garrahan, chair
Most of what I know of Britain I learnt through my feet – its heritage and culture, its dynamic urbanscapes and majestic countryside.
The Ramblers is a charity whose mission is enacted by its volunteers, supported by its members, enabled by its staff and governed by its trustees. The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.
I have been a Ramblers member for 18 years, a volunteer for 17 years, I was on the staff for 10 years, I was elected a trustee at Ramblers general council 2012 and have the honour to be chair of the board since standing unopposed in 2015.
The character of this changing world where we strive to carry out our mission is indifferent to tradition, unforgiving of frailty, no respecter of past reputations and yet I believe it is full of opportunities to those swift to adapt, accepting of compromise, open, willing and able to change.
I need little reminding that I can walk the many miles of England & Wales’ footpaths and roam across acres of land in no small part because of the hard-won successes by the Ramblers. It is a tradition I am proud to build upon. I will continue to strive and do my utmost to ensure that in the 21st century the Ramblers remain:
The guardians of the footpath networks
The advocates of the right to roam
The protectors of the countryside
The champions of walking
I am often reminded of the John Schaar quote: “The future is not some place we are going to, but one that we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and destination.”
To find out more about me read my walking class hero blog or follow me on twitter @walkngclasshero or @ramblerdes
Alex Mannings, honorary treasurer
The Ramblers is vital to the protection of walking and I am proud to help them as the honorary treasurer of the Ramblers. I have worked in finance for 20 years including roles in both the public and private sectors and currently as indirect tax manager in a multi-national company. I have held various volunteer posts in the Ramblers prior to taking on my current role including chair of the Inner London area and of the London Strollers. With walking still the most popular hobby in the UK, I want to ensure that the Ramblers is the organisation that all walkers want to join. As honorary treasurer I will work hard to make sure that the Ramblers continues to thrive and has sound finances to carry out and increase it's important work. You can follow what I am doing with the Ramblers on twitter @LondonRamblers .
Kate Ashbrook, vice 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
I joined the Ramblers in 2000 and shortly after became countryside secretary for my local group North Kirklees. In 2004 I was elected area countryside secretary for West Riding Ramblers, for which I am now also area chair. Alongside my work in finance for a multinational home shopping group, I also organise Ramblers promotional stands at agricultural shows in North and West Yorkshire and am a trustee of CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) West Yorkshire branch.
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).
Walking for me has always been about exploring and through it I have got to know Britain and myself a whole lot better. Although I am relatively new the Ramblers, I have been a keen walker for the last 15 years and love nothing better than exploring the national trails across our little island. For the last twelve years I have worked in the charity sector with the last seven of these as a senior manager within the youth sector. I hope to bring this wide ranging experience to the Board as well as the voices of young people - the Ramblers of the future.
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.
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.
Simon Barnett, director of delivery & development
Simon joined the senior management team in 2010. He oversees the Ramblers work to help more people go walking more often. This includes responsibility for Ramblers volunteers who lead walks, who develop and check walking routes and who make practical improvements to the path network. Simon has strategic responsibility for Walking for Health in England and for volunteering across the Ramblers - ensuring that all volunteers have a quality experience and enjoy their volunteering. Before starting at the Ramblers, Simon worked for Living Streets and prior to that was a local scheme coordinator for Walking for Health. Favourite places to walk include Dartmoor near where he grew up, the Chilterns which he now calls home, and the Lake District where he also fell races.
Christine Grant, director of services
Christine joined the Ramblers in August 2013. Following training as a chartered accountant, she has worked in finance and operational roles for almost 30 years. Her sector experience has been achieved within the accountancy profession, membership organisations, property, and education. Prior to joining Ramblers, she has worked at senior level in a number of trade unions, most recently at the Public and Commercial Services Union.
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.