09 September 2013 by Benedict Southworth
A late train in London made the start of my journey to the Peak District rushed and left me worried that the connection from Sheffield would let me down. But once safely on the two-carriage train that takes you to the Hope Valley I was able to relax. As the outskirts of Sheffield gave way to the countryside it was great to settle down and be entertained by the view out of the window.
It was a lovely day in Edale, although the sun doesn’t have to shine for Edale to be beautiful. I had visited Edale earlier in the summer when we held a meeting for our great volunteers who work so hard to protect our footpath network and expand the places we love to go walking. It was inspiring to learn from their examples of new and traditional ways to advocate the benefits of walking.
So it was appropriate to be coming back to Edale to begin our big conversation to find out what people want from the outdoors. We want to talk to everyone who is passionate about the outdoors, so they can tell us what will help or hinder their ability to enjoy the outdoors in the future. We also want to know how they want to work with the Ramblers to make it happen.
I can make a passionate case for the Ramblers - and often do - but I want to invite as many people as possible to shape our future. At its most simple the Ramblers mission has always been about helping people enjoy the sense of freedom and wellbeing that comes from being outdoors on foot. Protecting paths, increasing access, looking after the countryside: those aims will never change, but the challenges we face as we strive to achieve these objectives will, along with the way we respond to them. That's why we want to hear from everyone about what they think those challenges are and how we should tackle them.
We invited journalists and bloggers to the launch in Edale to help us spread the word far and wide, to everyone who enjoys the outdoors. The Yorkshire Post produced a great video on the event and both CumbrianRambler and HeelWalker1 posted excellent blogs. We're also looking forward to Walks Around Britain's podcasts from the event.
But we want to hear from you. Our specially trained volunteers are in the great outdoors interviewing people, as you read this. Walkers are downloading group discussion kits, to gather for a post-walk chat in the pub or café. You can also share your views with us online. And if you know someone who doesn’t have access to a computer let us know and we’ll send them information by post.
We are the organisation that works for walkers, and with 9 million of you in England alone, we want to make sure we are representing your views, if the Ramblers is to steer the right course over the next few years. Experience tells us that we our mission will never be done. Our challenge is to work out how we will deliver our mission everywhere, forever. So go all out and help shape the future of the great outdoors.