Janet and Roger have been the cornerstone of the Ramblers in the Cambridge area for more than 30 years. Without their passion and dedication to all things walking, the footpath network across Cambridgeshire would be greatly reduced. They’ve achieved this through going out and making a practical difference and working with the County Council to ensure people can enjoy walking. Major successes have included coordinating the surveying of 1,300 paths and taking a leading role in making sure the Council is able to keep the footpath network open for everyone to enjoy.
Q1. What does a typical day of volunteering look like?
A typical week volunteering would probably mean going out several times to inspect paths and any issues we’ve been told about. This used to mean going out with secateurs to cut back any minor blockages we found. We also meet with the local authority officers to highlight any issues about problems and work out a way to get things fixed.
Q2. What made you want to volunteer for the Ramblers?
We joined the Ramblers family in the 1970s when we were both 30.We’d been married for eight years and walking was our passion. But when we moved to Cambridgeshire we quickly realised that the footpath network was in a terrible state. Something had to be done!
We went along to our first local Ramblers AGM, and when we returned the following year Roger was asked if he would volunteer – and he explained we come as a pair! So we both signed up. The group wanted to understand the state of the footpath network across Cambridgeshire. Having experienced first-hand how bad it was, we were happy to coordinate a footpath survey. This was back in 1980 and involved 80 volunteers walking all 1,300 paths across the county. The end result showed just how dire things were. This survey was the turning point and provided hard evidence for the changes we needed. Following the survey we saw huge improvements so more people in Cambridgeshire could enjoy walking.
Q3. What does volunteering for the Ramblers bring to your life?
Volunteering with the Ramblers has brought many good things to our lives, including the satisfaction of getting things done, and ultimately getting more people walking in Cambridgeshire. We’re very proud of our success in getting the local authority to be more active in managing the footpath network.
It’s not just about the feel good factor though. There are health benefits too. Without the Ramblers we wouldn't be nearly as active as we are! We’d probably be sat at home with a blanket over our legs watching the telly, rather than being out and about checking path problems and getting all the benefits of walking.
Q4. How do you feel you make a difference?
During our 30 years volunteering with the Ramblers we’ve had lots of successes in developing the network in and around Cambridge, including two long distance paths. But the one thing we think has been most important is our work improving the path network in Cambridgeshire.
The first survey we coordinated in 1980 showed just how bad the network was. This led to action being taken and a dedicated resource being made available to manage rights off way in Cambridgeshire – a huge success. It was a proud moment to see the impact our work had made when we conducted another survey in 2000 and were able to see just how far our path network has come.
All our successes have led to one thing. We’ve enjoyed seeing more and more people getting out and about and going for a walk. Walking has become more popular than ever in Cambridge.
Q5. When did you discover the joys of walking?
We both experienced the joys of walking at a young age. It wasn’t just a way of traveling, it was a way of seeing, discovering and building relationships.
Roger: “My father was an entomologist, which meant we’d look out for lots of different wildlife while we were walking and enjoying our surroundings.”
Janet: “My favourite uncle would take us to the end of the trolley bus and we’d go walking. He showed us how to use an OS map and we would walk for 10 miles or more. Walking was a cheap way of keeping active, we’d walk as far as our feet would carry us. I was also a keen cyclist, but I found cycling a poor substitute for walking!”
Q6. Why do you love walking / how has walking changed your life?
It’s about the things you see along the way; the wildlife, the plants and scenery. It’s about being able to not only see things, but be part of where you are walking. We used to walk on Saturday and Sunday up to 20 miles a day and then walk in to work exhausted! Despite our health not being as good these days, we can still walk up to 5 miles in and around Cambridge. The health benefits of just being able to get out and go for a walk cannot be undervalued.
Q7. How has the Ramblers helped you go walking?
The Ramblers runs a hugely varied programme, both in terms of days you can walk and the length of walks. The Cambridge group runs walks on different days, which has helped us and many others go walking. However, it’s not just the programme of walks. There are many routes written by Ramblers groups. Of course, this programme of walks and routes is only possible because the Ramblers is out there protecting the places everyone loves to walk.
In recent years the internet has also helped, with a variety of routes that are now published by the Ramblers. This means people can find amazing routes that they can walk at their leisure. This was hugely helpful when we walked from Cambridge to Minehead.
Q8. Why should other people take up walking?
Why should other people take up walking? Everyone has the ability to go for a walk, whether that's a short hour-long walk around a small park in the city, or a long 20 mile walk through rolling countryside, over mountains, or somewhere in between. You will always see things that you would never imagine and there's something for everyone, whatever kind of walk you go on.
Q9. If you could change one thing about walking, or the walking environment, what would that be?
Obtain legal changes that would oblige county councils to spend enough money to get more people walking. This might just be a small percentage of the highways budget, but it would make a huge difference! However, it's not just about the people who go walking now; it’s also about the next generation of walkers and the path network that they will inherit.
During volunteer week we’ll be publishing interviews with our volunteer award winners, like Geoff, and you’ll be able to read them on our volunteers' week webpage.