A walk and talk with Geoff James

  • Name: Geoff James
  • Volunteer role: Walk leader and programme secretary
  • Volunteering with the Ramblers since: 1994

Volunteer - Geoff James

Geoff has been a Ramblers member for well over 20 years and, until his retirement from the Brighton & Hove Group committee two months ago, was its programme secretary for 13 years.  During this time he coordinated the walks programme, as well as leading walks himself.   On top of that he established an annual tradition of leading walks in London and on the Isle of Wight, and even the Alps.  Geoff has also organised long weekend trips for his group to various parts of the country. He has been a major contributor to many of the activities of the Brighton & Hove group over many years, and his selfless efforts deserve this well-earned recognition.

Thinking about volunteering specifically…

What does a typical day of volunteering look like?

For many years I did two roles for the Ramblers. As walk leader I led walks about six times a year. You have to recce the walk to check the route and find a place to have lunch or a picnic. On the day you need to make sure there’s someone at the back of the group to make sure no one gets lost and I had to watch out for the group. When I retired, I started running Thursday morning walks for retirees - we always have a pub stop at the end of the walks! I also organise a canal or river walk in London each year and a day trip to the Isle of Wight – that’s always very popular. Since 2000, I’ve even led annual walks in the Alps.

As programme secretary, well, the role changed a lot over the years. Back when I started there was no website and many of the walk leaders didn’t have email. Walk leaders submitted their walks to me and I compiled them into a walks programme three times a year. That was quite bit of work, making sure people got the date they wanted.  We then sent the programme through the post to over 250 members – I had to proof read it very carefully before I printed it! It was a lot of work to get it ready on time.

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

I’ve always been a walker. In 1992 I was made redundant and while I was looking for a job I saw the Ramblers were walking the South Downs Way, so I joined up to do that. I had a friend in London who was a walks organiser, she twisted my arm to lead a walk in Sussex for the Kensington and Chelsea Ramblers. It gave me a real buzz! Soon after that I offered to lead walks for the Brighton and Hove group.

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

I started volunteering when I was unemployed and did more when I retired. It gave me that sense of commitment you get from doing a job. Meeting people too, I’ve met a lot of people through the Ramblers. It keeps me healthy as well; it’s the only exercise I do now.

Thinking about walking more generally…

Q5. When did you discover the joys of walking?

When I was 16 I went youth hostelling in the Lake District, on a geography field trip. That was when I discovered I liked walking – particularly hill walking. I loved the scenery, the fresh air and the exercise - and above all the huge sense of achievement when you get to the top of a hill or mountain.

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

I’ve made a lot of friends - some lasting for many years. Walking has been good for my health too, there’s nothing quite like getting out into the fresh air. I’ve lived in urban areas all my life and I worked in the city – so it was really important for me to escape city life and get out into the countryside.

Q7. How has the Ramblers helped you go walking?

Our group runs three walks a week, sometimes more. I used to walk alone, but when I’m walking locally I like walking in a group, in the company of like-minded people. It’s good exercise and a chance to make lifelong friends.

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

My absolute favourite places to walk are in the Lakes District and the Alps. When I was younger I used to lead very hilly walks - like the Seven Sisters on the south east coast. Now my perfect walk is involves sunny weather, no mud, no stiles, great views and varied scenery, with a group of no more than 20.

Q9. Why should other people take up walking?

It’s cheap and easy exercise with less chance of injury than other sports. It’s ideal because you can walk up to a very old age - just keep going.

And finally…

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

Replace all the stiles with gates!