Meet Lucy Robinson, our chair of trustees

25 April 2024

From her experience working in transport and environment for local government to her love of the remote and wild Essex coast, find out more about the Ramblers new chair.


I joined the Ramblers in 2016…

When I moved out of London to the countryside in north Essex, I thought it would be nice to go on some group walks, so I joined the Ramblers. I didn’t end up going along to a group walk at that point. Instead, I became a parish path adopter with Essex Ramblers and walking locally myself.

I have enjoyed being a parish path adopter and still do some of that work. It’s incredibly satisfying when you report a broken stile or a broken bridge, and then you get the message that it’s being looked at and programmed in, and then you see that it’s been done. That’s really nice. We do a lot of that in the Ramblers, and it's fantastic.


At the same time as lockdown in 2020, the Ramblers put out a call for trustees…

During lockdown, I was living in the countryside, working at home, with lots of time to go walking. So, I walked all the footpaths in my parish and then, later that year, the call came out for people who might be interested in being a trustee. It was something I'd been thinking about for a while, so I applied. The local Ramblers supported me, which was lovely, and I’ve now been a trustee for three years. I’ve been very proud to be Rebecca Dawson’s vice chair – and I’d like to pay tribute to her and the excellent work she’s done as chair over the past few years.


It’s amazing work that Ramblers volunteers do…

There are people that lead walks and they're brilliant. Those who give their time to committees, whether as chairs, or secretaries or treasures. Our DLYW volunteers doing historical work protecting lost paths…

And the work that our path volunteers do can be very involved – in Essex, there was a lot of work when Network Rail was trying to close over 50 paths over level crossings. It was really technical work, involved appearing at a public inquiry – a really long-drawn-out process. It’s amazing work that people do.


I think my skills are in how organisations work and how you get things done…

I've worked in the public sector all my life. I joined the civil service after university and did 20 years in the Department of Environment and Transport. After maternity leave, I moved into local government and worked at Suffolk County Council. I was Director of Highways and Transport there, which included environmental policy and looking after the rights of way network. I was also chief executive of the county council for a while and then deputy chief executive.

So, transport and the environment is my area of professional expertise, but actually I think the most important skill I bring to this role is understanding how teams and organisations work and how you can work together to get things done.

lucy robinson

What excites me is the potential we have to really improve people’s lives...

I feel privileged to have had so much enjoyment out of walking in my life.  But I am conscious that all around me, right here in inner London, are people who face barriers which mean they aren’t able to walk in nature and so are missing out on those benefits.   So what excites me is using the power of the Ramblers to break down those barriers, reach into different communities, and find the right tools and techniques to empower everyone to access the outdoors.

I think there's a lot of discovery and hard work and learning to do over the next few years. And we'll need lots of help from others - working with partners will be really important.


In this role, you need to keep your ears and eyes open…

Getting out there is important. I find it very useful to go to Area AGMs, where often the meeting is preceded by a walk or followed by a walk. You get to meet people and find out what's going on in their area, what their concerns are. It’s very useful.

Obviously, you can’t be everywhere, so it’s also about talking and sharing with other members of the Board and hearing from their networks. You need to keep your ears and eyes open and pick things up from other people.


What’s not to like about walking, it covers all the bases...

Walking is a very natural form of exercise. It's very undemanding on the body, which means most people are able to enjoy it. It doesn't ruin your joints, it’s very accessible and it has lots of benefits.

It's good for you physically, it's good for you mentally and it can be very sociable. And just being out in the daylight is good for you. It sort of covers all the bases, doesn’t it?

Since I moved back to London a couple of years ago, I’ve been walking with my local group and have made some great new friends that way.

Not everybody walks with other people, but if you do, it's a very easy way of socialising because while you're walking alongside somebody, you can talk or not talk. It’s very undemanding. You can combine being sociable and getting that interaction with physical exercise.

But getting to that point is all about taking that first step and getting out there, it’s about knowing where you can walk and being able to get there. Which I think we can take for granted. So I’m looking forward to the Ramblers working with a wider range of communities – those who face the biggest barriers - to find out what would make it possible for them go walking in the countryside.


It’s hard to single out a favourite walk…

There are so many lovely places to walk in Britain – iconic places like the Lake District, challenging long distance paths, and beautiful lowland landscapes with historic churches to explore… 

But you know, I think my favourite place for walking is the Essex coast. It's one of the longest coastlines of any county.  It's often very remote and wild, with big skies, and vast areas of marsh and mudflats. And for bird lovers, there are usually migrating birds to see. I've spent many happy days walking out there at the margins of land and sea.


I’m very positive about the next three years…

I was involved in recruiting Ross, and I was really pleased about that because one of the most important things a board does is get the right chief executive. Having somebody with Ross’ energy and commitment is brilliant.

Developing the new strategy has been a great process because it's been so consultative. It’s an excellent strategy, which combines carrying on doing what we already do really well with what we need to do differently. In particular, thinking about people who aren't walking and aren’t able to access the countryside. So, I'm very, very happy with the strategy.

And I think policy makers at all levels are now much more aware of the benefits to public health and wellbeing of walking in nature and are ready to listen to us.

So the Ramblers is in a good position now.  I'm very positive about the next three years.

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