A walk and talk with Alison Mitchell

  • Name: Alison Mitchell
  • Volunteer role: Convener and Chair of Grampian Area
  • Volunteering with the Ramblers since: 1983

Alison Volunteer Awards 2016 

For over 25 years Alison l has organised the Scottish Ramblers Gathering - a walking festival organised by members, for members. Gatherings took place across Scotland from 1987 until 2014 – 27 years! They are extremely successful events, enjoyed by many groups and members. 

Although the weekends have varied over the years, there’s always social elements, as well as the expected led walks. Traditionally there’s a ceilidh on Saturday evening and a talk, quiz or entertainment on Sunday evening.

Alison’s contribution to this event has been enormous, and we are very grateful for all her hard work.

Thinking about volunteering specifically…

Q1. What does a typical day of volunteering look like?

Varied! I volunteer a number of ways with the Ramblers and get to work with so many interesting and inspiring people. This means each day brings something different or a new challenge.

However I was recognised with a 2016 Ramblers GB volunteer award for organising the Gathering, a Scottish walking Festival for Ramblers members. I am really lucky, over a period of 27 years, that I have had so many dedicated volunteers to help run it. The event itself is not just about ensuring we have a varied and enjoyable programme of walks that appeal to everyone attending. It’s about connecting them with other people and the places they love to walk.

So one day I might be working with the walk leaders, middle markers and backmarkers to develop an appealing programme, followed by a discussion with transport coordinator or the raffle ticket sellers to make sure they have all the information they need.  Without all these varied roles, the Gathering just wouldn't be possible. It’s been a pleasure to volunteer alongside these people to run such an inspiring event.

Q2. What made you want to volunteer for the Ramblers?

From a young age I have had a love of the Scottish landscape as well as having an interest in the work of the Ramblers.  By organising the Gathering it I've been able to share my passion for the Scottish landscape and the Ramblers with so many more people than I would have done if I didn't volunteer.

Q3. What does volunteering for the Ramblers bring to your life? 

Organising the Gathering is a big challenge, as you can imagine, but it’s also great fun. You get a great sense of satisfaction when you see people meeting old friends or making new ones and discovering new places. 

More generally volunteering with the Ramblers brings a great sense of pride, a feeling of well-being and satisfaction. I like the Ramblers as an organisation to volunteer with and the way we create a supportive environment for everyone who wants to get involved.  I am proud to be able to volunteer with an organisation that you know would look after you if something were to happen.

Q4. How do you feel you make a difference? 

The Gathering is incredibly important event in getting people out to enjoy the beautiful Scottish landscape and enjoy walking with friends old and new. In 2010 we had over 150 people attend the Gathering in Dunoon.

My volunteering for the Ramblers is wider than just the Gathering.  I started as a walker, progressed over the years to become an active volunteer on my local committee, and now I am currently the Scottish convenor. As part of a wider team, I hope to create a Ramblers Scotland fit for the future that helps everyone to enjoy the benefits that come from being outside on foot.

Thinking about walking more generally…

Q5. When did you discover the joys of walking?

Walking has been a part of my life from at an early age.  My parents took me and my brother to the top of Cairn Gorm at the age of 6 or 7, in the days before the chair lift and ski road were open!  Looking out over the lochs, rivers and glens was absolutely magical and the sense of achievement on reaching the top was indescribable….that was the beginning of my lifelong walking adventures. 

Q6. Why do you love walking / how has walking changed your life?

I love walking for the inspirational views, quiet times and peaceful landscapes. It’s given me a sense of place, belonging and understanding.

Q7. How has the Ramblers helped you go walking?

The Ramblers has given me the confidence I needed to walk, allowed me to form many relationships and provided me with so many opportunities to explore places around Scotland, beyond my local community.

Q8. Describe your perfect walk (group walk, walking alone, where etc)

My perfect walk would be with a small group of people, going at a steady pace, admiring fine mountain views and learning all about the natural environment and landscapes as you tread through them.  It goes without saying that my perfect walk would finish off with well-earned refreshments! 

Q9. Why should other people take up walking?

There are so many reasons other people should take up walking, too many to list! But if I have to pick my top three then people should walk to meet new friends, to keep healthy and to enjoy the variety of our incredible land and seascapes in Scotland. What’s not to love?  

And finally…

Q10. If you could change one thing about walking, or the walking environment, what would that be?

don’t really enjoy trails, where everyone dashes on to get there first. I absolutely love the excitement of map reading, pouring over maps and plotting the route that appeals most to me.