Around the Groups

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How to maintain cohesion in the group when our fundamental activity is put on hold? 

That is the question. Thank goodness for the multiple forms of digital communications: lockdown would have been even bleaker without Facebook, Zoom, FaceTime, websites, and Flickr to augment the telephone! Pictures of walks, past holidays, jokes, film tips, book recommendations, recipes and more have helped to keep up the spirits normally stoked by walking together. South Devon Ramblers have also continued to support and engage with initiatives such as Don’t Use your Way, the Dartmoor Way Project and responded to consultations on The Local Cycling and Walking Improvement Project, the Bay Trails. There has been a surge of interest in the John Musgrave Heritage Trail, resulting no doubt from the emphasis on local walking and each time a booklet is sent out to a local resident, they are invited to walk with SDR as soon as permitted. Our committee and members continue to work together, and our heartfelt thanks go to everyone who keeps sprits flying, not least our Walks Coordinator, Nicky for her unfailing cheerfulness in the stop start scenario we have endured!


We are a small, friendly, and active group. All our walks, on Wednesdays and Sundays, take advantage of our fabulous position here in the South Hams with easy access to the countryside, the South West Coast Path and Dartmoor. Our extensive walks programme is designed to provide a choice between short (4-7 miles) and intermediate (8-10+ miles) walks. In ‘normal’ times we offer short walks every Wednesday and Sunday, an intermediate walk every Wednesday with an additional intermediate Sunday walk every month. This equates to over 13 walks a month to choose from. We send our members a comprehensive newsletter covering past, present and future activities 2 or 3 times a year and complement this with regular updates by email. We have a popular and wide-ranging social programme, organised by and for members, including holidays, short breaks, day trips and group meals. One of our aims is to keep local footpaths open and clear of obstructions/vegetation for the benefit of all users. We are also keen to improve and add to the footpath network locally, with several our group volunteering as part of the national ‘Don’t Lose Your Way’ project which is trying to restore ‘lost’ paths all over the country. As a group, we were fortunate to have been left a legacy by a former, long standing member, which is being used to set up and maintain local routes such as the Franklin Totnes Trail, the Dartmoor Way, stretches of the SW Coast Path, paths around the Dartington Estate and others. If you are thinking of joining us, please see the membership types and associated benefits on 

More information on our group and our current walks programme is at

You are more than welcome to join us on a few walks, get to know us and hopefully see that we offer friendly company, fun and rewarding days out walking. We look forward to seeing you!


The last few months have been an active time for our group despite the stop/start nature of the restrictions. Small independent walks of up to 6 started in June either as recces for future programmes or leading one which should have been in the programme. However, everyone was delighted when group walks restarted in late August & we have had a rolling programme since then, subject to Covid restrictions.   Unfortunately, not all our previous walk leaders volunteered to lead walks but those that did felt the written risk assessment, booking system & register were not as onerous as first feared. We started by allowing a maximum of 20 on walks though the walk leader could opt for fewer. When walks restarted after the November lockdown, we opted to have a maximum of 15. It was good to meet new members on these early walks as 12 members joined the group between March & October. Since November we have welcomed 30 more new members to our group & look forward to meeting them in person when group walks resume. Some of them have already joined our WhatsApp group where suggested walks, pictures & other information has been shared. Our Chair, Joan Long, was interviewed on BBC Radio Devon in late December to help promote walking in lockdown.  We have kept members up to date with 5 well designed newsletters aptly called “A sign of the times” which have been well received.  Three of these were both on-line and posted in hard copy to members not registered for email/able to access our website.  Roughly a third of our members still wish to receive ‘hard’ copies of our programmes.  How does this compare with other Devon groups?  Maggi has made an excellent job of keeping our Facebook page up to date with news & photos. Our followers have increased by over 85% since January 2020. The latest post is advertising a brand-new BBC 2 Competitive Walking Show which is looking for applicants.  Mike has ensured our website is up to date and attractive. After a few practise sessions, Zoom was successfully first used for our AGM in December where 2 new people were welcomed onto the committee. We were pleased to welcome Kate Ashbrook, the Ramblers Chair of the Board of Trustees, for part of our meeting. Our first committee meeting by Zoom was held in January with another planned for April. We are actively recruiting a new Chair, as Joan, our excellent current Chair, plans to stand down at the next AGM, also a new Treasurer and Website Editor. We are also busy thinking about how we might adapt our Walks Programme to make it more flexible. Hopefully, it will not be long before we can resume group walks & give a proper North Devon welcome to all our new members.


Our group sustained a full programme of walks from July through October 2020. Members were required to book their place, and both the Sunday and weekday walks were well attended. Fortunately, our away weekend in Bourton-on-the-Water at the end of October was completed just before the second lockdown began in early November. The 46 members attending enjoyed an excellent schedule of long, medium, and short walks through the Cotswolds in glorious autumn colour. It was also possible to hold our socially distanced AGM during the weekend. We enjoyed sole occupancy of Harrington House, a fine country house belonging to Holiday Fellowship. Our away weekend in mid-October 2021 will be sole occupancy of Chy Morvah, the HF country house in St. Ives, Cornwall: so far, 46 members have arranged to attend. Looking forward to October 2022, we have secured sole occupancy of the HF house in Selworthy, Exmoor. Our committee decided to stay in touch with group members more frequently than in normal circumstances by distributing a monthly Newsletter from April through November 2020, and the next one will be sent out in March 2021. We are currently preparing a walk programme for April 2021 and will implement this as soon as the pandemic restrictions permit. Over the last year or so, a sub-group has been preparing a book of walks in and around Exeter, to be called “Walking Around Exeter”. The book is aimed primarily at people relatively new to rambling. It will contain 16 walks varying from about 5 to 10 miles in length and will be illustrated with associated sketch maps of the routes. £500 has been allocated by Devon Area Ramblers towards production of the book, and Exeter City Council has also donated £500 from its programme to stimulate physical activity in the community. Printing will commence in March 2021.


Before the most recent Lockdown, the Teignmouth & Dawlish Ramblers had restarted walks, following the national guidelines.  As we are a small group, the committee unanimously agreed not to limit numbers attending, other than the maximum of 30.  We were able to provide short walks on most Sundays and did have up to 23 members attending, including some of our 14 new members. Our revised walks book ‘25 Walks around Teignmouth & Dawlish’ has been reprinted and released to local groups, liaising with a local environmental group to promote sustainable tourism locally as well as promoting the book to potential resellers ready for when they reopen. A small Lost Ways team are analyzing the results of the national project. We have continued to keep the public up to date on our Facebook page and are steadily gaining ‘likes’ during lockdown. We have also noted that local paths are being well used with some deterioration during wet weather. Our Social Group have emailed members offering to link them with walk buddies and have also organised fortnightly Zoom catch - up meetings. We are also preparing a DRAFT Walks programme for six Sundays after Easter so that we can adapt and issue it to our members, and update the website, as soon as we know the latest government guidelines.


Tavistock Ramblers are looking forward to the time when the restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic are lifted sufficiently so that we can restart our group walks and other group activities again, meanwhile we must content ourselves with meeting up with one other and walking close to home. There are several who “buddy” with a fellow Tavistock Ramblers member for their walks. Keeping in touch with our members is of course more difficult when we cannot meet up in person as a group, but hopefully our quarterly Newsletter, group emailed messages using Mail Chimp, Facebook and a few phone calls and mailed letters enables us to keep the majority up to date with our activities.  While out on their walks group members keep an eye on the state of the rights of way in our area, problems being reported to our Footpath Officer. We are also involved with the maintenance of our local stretch of the Dartmoor Way, volunteering with the Ramblers Don’t Lose Your Way Campaign, and the national Slow Ways Initiative in our Tavistock Locality.


Unsurprisingly, not a lot has been going on since the last Devon Area Council meeting.  East Devon Group held our AGM by Zoom on 22nd November and we attracted about 35 participants, just over half our usual AGM attendance.  Our walks programmes continued until Group walks were suspended after our last walks on 3rd January.   We have continued to prepare and publish walks programmes of 2 months' duration for January/February, March/April and are currently preparing one for May/June.  If we can resume group walking on 12 April, as anticipated in recent communications from Ramblers CO, we will probably initially set a maximum of 12 people (subject to CO advice/instruction) on a Group walk which is the limit our Committee set last September and continued through to January.

Watch this space as more Groups add detail in the coming days and weeks of things going on where they live in Devon.