Ann Key

Ann was a staunch member of Ramblers for many years.  She joined the Northern Area committee, working alongside Joe Rosenberg, from about 1990.  When Tyneside Group was set up as distinct from Northern Area, she then served on both committees.  At first, her role was Publicity and Information Secretary, though this title later changed to be Publicity and Literature.  From 1997, she also undertook to be Vice-Chair of the Area Committee, which at first continued under the name of Northern Area but later changed to Northumbria Area in 2004. 

As Publicity Officer, she regularly visited all the Outdoor Clothing shops, libraries and other public spaces in Newcastle, giving out publicity materials and spare copies of the Walks Programme so that news of Ramblers was as widespread as possible.  She attended Country Fairs with stalls advertising Ramblers and lost no opportunity to spread the word about walking.  The Literature aspect of her role seems to have originated in her having adopted a collection of walking books and maps which were available for any member to borrow.  Many of these books and maps had been inherited from Joe Rosenberg who had done so much to facilitate walking in this Area.  Also, from around 1990-1998, she was the Editor of the Area Newsletter.

Ann was the person who made it possible for the routine administration of Ramblers’ business to happen.  For years, she undertook the job of sending out the printed Walks Programmes.  This involved vast numbers of boxes containing the booklets plus the Area Newsletters being delivered to her house.  On a designated evening, twenty or so members would arrive and everyone would work frantically to fold the newsletters, put them and the booklets into envelopes, seal the envelopes, stick on address labels, add stamps and place everything in sacks ready to be collected by the Post Office.  It was an exhausting task, but in order to achieve it, Ann embraced the chaos in her house with unfailing composure.  In addition, she had ordered the envelopes, address labels and stamps as well as arranging the Post Office collection.  Ann’s house was also the scene of many committee meetings and no meeting of any sort ever finished without the appearance of homemade cake.

Ann’s great strength was to be given a task upon which she could focus and work with determination to see through.  It was Ann who got Joe’s Wood set up and brought to a successful conclusion and who then pestered Ordnance Survey to include the name, ‘Joe’s Wood’  in future editions of maps of the area.  Also, following requests from Ramblers’ members, Ann undertook to the administration of a series of Training Courses, a task which she did for a number of years right up until her death.

Ann was involved in many other activities; Children’s Literature, her allotment, local politics, and her work as a Northumberland National Park Ranger to name a few. It was her passion for walking that led to her dedication to the work that the Ramblers’ organisation did to keep footpaths open and to campaign for access rights.  She was critical of members who would do nothing to help in Ramblers’ work if it interfered with their own walking arrangements.  She loved going to General Council to keep up with developments and was well-known to senior figures in Central Office.  After her death, Kate Ashbrook, who has been a life-long campaigner on behalf of Ramblers, wrote to Tyneside Group saying ‘…I know she was a stalwart of [Tyneside] group and of Northumbria Area, ever willing to help out and so capable, efficient and devoted to our cause….  Above all, she was a delightful person, ever cheerful with a wonderful sense of humour.’

A seat in Ann’s memory has been erected, looking down onto Joe’s Wood, nestling under the Simonside Hills.  The plaque on the seat reads quite simply, ‘Ann Key. Rambler. 1937-2014.’ 

Photographs of the seat dedication event can be found here