They may not be able to enjoy their group walks right now, but members of young Ramblers groups across the UK have wasted no time finding innovative ways to stay in touch during the coronavirus lockdown.
A virtual group of young Ramblers from Scotland to Cornwall are now meeting online instead of on footpaths to support each other and keep alive the connections that are the lifeblood of Ramblers groups, while they can’t enjoy their regular weekend rambles.
Virtual social events, chat channels and photo sharing are bringing together walkers who have never met before, as people adapt to new ways of keeping in touch and socialising.
The online group has been spearheaded by two Ramblers members who have never met in real life. Peter Cresswell and Beth Stark are both social secretaries for their local Ramblers groups – Hampshire 20s and 30s Walking Group and Chiltern Young Walkers respectively. Peter and Beth were already part of a young Ramblers Facebook group, but as the lockdown restrictions came into force, putting their beloved group walks on hold, someone suggested they might need a more interactive way to stay in touch.
Beth said: “Many members of the younger Ramblers groups across the country live on their own, and weekend group walks are often a large part of their social calendar. So when all our walks were cancelled, we knew we needed another way to keep people in touch.”
“Peter and I both work in business systems and we’re both social secretaries for our Ramblers groups, so I guess there’s a reason we both got involved in this!”
The pair quickly got into action and set up a server on free digital platform Discord, which was originally developed for gaming communities.
Peter said: “We wanted something that was open to everyone, so that people who are not already members of the Ramblers can join and see that we’re a supportive community - that it’s not only about walking.
“Once we were up and running, we came up with the idea of a quiz, so we decided to give it a go. People really enjoyed it and engaged with it - it worked much better than we expected, so much so that we’re now going to do it weekly! I think people were really glad of the distraction.”
The online group already has nearly 90 members from all over the UK, from Scotland to Cornwall. The teams for the inaugural quiz were picked at random, bringing together Ramblers members from different groups, who quickly started introducing themselves and working together in a bid to win. As well as the quiz, the group members are also chatting online and sharing photos of their daily exercise walks close to home.
Peter added: “We’re all missing walking of course - it was such a long, wet winter and everyone was looking forward to getting out on all the walks and trips we had planned in the coming weekends. But we are really behind the messaging to stay safe, so without our regular group walks, this is a new way of providing people with a distraction and a way to stay connected.”
Beth and Peter hope that as the group grows, other moderators will join their team to help run the group and plan activities. As well as the regular weekly quiz, they are also thinking about other ways they can socialise virtually and welcome ideas from other members of the group.
Ramblers members and non-members across the UK are welcome to join the Young Ramblers chatroom to get involved in the conversation and the quizzing fun, which takes place every Thursday evening.
Keep up to date with how to get involved in the Ramblers #RoamSweetHome campaign over the coming weeks.
We are reviewing our guidance daily in response to the latest government advice. Our priority is to protect the health of our members, volunteers and staff and help to suppress the spread of the COVID-19 virus. For updated guidance see our page on Coronavirus.