Thursday, 14 October 2010

Wales Special Meeting

I'm just on my way back from a special volunteers meeting in Cardiff,
with Rodney (our Chair) and myself. There were sixteen volunteers from
a range of groups including Mendip, Llanelli, Tiger Bay and Islwyn;
and the event was chaired by Helen Lloyd Jones, chair of Ramblers
Cymru. Rodney and I outlined the business plan's four priorities (more
members; more income; footpaths campaigning; and more efficiency), and
then we answered questions, alongside Rob Hanna from the Wales office.
One of the things that we highlighted was our priority to finish the
financial year with more members than we started. In Wales, this means
finishing next September with MORE THAN 6,382 members.
Issues that were raised tonight included:
- the need for Areas and Groups to have more certainty in budgeting.
For example, an earlier indication (perhaps in May/June) of the level
of funding likely to be available for the year starting in October.
- ways to become more efficient (one of our priorities) at Group level
- for example, by using electronic comms rather than paper.
- how some local authorities are cutting back on volunteer path
maintenance work (Mendip Group raised this in particular).
- whether we could provide a template for small plaques which Groups
can fix onto mended signs/styles, promoting the Ramblers
- provision of rights of way training for volunteers - the need for
'high level' as well as induction courses. We talked about cascade
training (volunteers being trained to train other volunteers) and
about using the expert volunteer knowledge that's around
- the differences there are between Wales and England - for example,
on funding for rights of ways (it is going up in some parts of Wales),
the Glastor scheme to encourage landowners to look after footpaths, etc.
- Rob explained about some of the exciting externally-funded projects
in Wales - for example, a research project being undertaken by Andrew
Morgan from West Glamorgan Ramblers into the benefits of the Coastal
walking route; the e-trails project to provide walking information on
smartphones; and plans to apply for match grant funding for staff
posts covering different parts of the country
- we heard from Tiger Bay Ramblers how they managed to recruit 30 new
members on Get Walking Day (more than any other group in the country)
by targeting people who had previously expressed an interest (warm
leads, in the jargon)
- we discussed the potential for setting up new groups (or virtual
groups, based on email) in Wales. The Wales Rail Ramblers is a GB
pilot for a virtual group, to see if thus will work. One of the
messages from people was that the bureaucracy in setting up groups can
put people off. We also discussed working more closely with affiliated
groups, to persuade their members to join the Ramblers, to support our
Finally, Rob reminded us that we have a special 75th anniversary
event, with two government ministers, at the Welsh Assembly Government
on 16th November. I look forward to coming back to Cardiff then, and
thanks to everyone who came to the meeting tonight.

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