Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Let's walk and talk about mental health (28/9/11)

This afternoon, on the Ramblers behalf, I signed a pledge that we'll raise awareness and get people talking about mental health; support an end to mental health discrimination; and promote the mental health benefits of walking and green space.

I'm proud that the Ramblers is one of the first national charities to sign up to this 'Time for Change' pledge, run by two mental health charities, Mind and Rethink.

1 in 4 people will experience some form of mental illness at some point in their lives. Statistically, in Ramblers terms, that means about 30,000 members, about 5,000 volunteers, and about 20 members of staff. And yet, so often, mental health is not talked about - a taboo subject, in the way that cancer used to be a generation ago. At the Ramblers we can play a small role in changing that.

One of the things that has struck me when I join Ramblers groups on walks is how many people come up to me and say they joined the Ramblers when they were low - through bereavement, or depression, or loneliness, or stress. They tell me, time and again, that the Ramblers "changed my life". I believe that there are many other people who could benefit from the walking and talking that the Ramblers offers, and we shouldn't be shy about promoting this.

In a recent survey of some of the 75,000 people who have taken part in our Get Walking Keep Walking programme, 86% said that taking part improved their mental wellbeing, and over half found that it had improved their social wellbeing.

So what practical things could we do? Perhaps make contact with your local Mind to publicise your walks. Or put on some special nature-themed walks. Or emphasise the social and mental benefits of walking in your recruitment literature. Best of all, talk about and recognise mental health. Let's us at the Ramblers play our part in bringing mental health out of the shadows.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Work on forestry panel continues

Ill be leaving the job of Ramblers CEO at the end of the year to work for a charity called Think Global, but my work on the forestry panel will continue right up until the panels job is done The panel is due to issue an interim report this Autumn, and then is likely to complete its final report next spring.  Over the past months, it has been great to build up contacts with so many people and groups who use our forests the cyclists, the walkers, the horseriders, the dog-walkers, the climbers, and others and to get out and visit different types of forests too Im looking forward to the other visits which the panel is likely to make over the next few months, as we consider the future options for forestry.

Tom Franklin
Chief Executive
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The Ramblers’ Association is a registered charity (England & Wales no 1093577, Scotland no SC039799) and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England & Wales (no 4458492). Registered office: 2nd floor, Camelford House, 87-90 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TW.

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Moving on from the Ramblers (27/09/11)

After four years as Chief Exec here at the Ramblers, its about time for me to move on.  Ill be leaving at the end of 2011, to become Chief Exec at a charity called Think Global.  Think Global promotes education about global issues, such as poverty and climate change, to enable people to take action for a more just and sustainable world.  Im hugely excited about the move, but itll also be with some sadness that Ill be leaving the Ramblers.

Being Chief Exec of the Ramblers is not a straightforward role, because there are so many passionate people involved.  But it is a fantastic British institution, run primarily by voluntary effort, and achieving amazing things.  If the Ramblers wasnt there, Britains unique footpath network would begin to disintegrate, progress on access to coast, forest, and waterways would grind to a halt, and many thousands of people would need to fill in gap in their lives left from the led walks that would disappear.  Some of the work that weve done in recent years to encourage new people into walking, for their health and well-being, has been transforming lives. (Im due to sign the Ramblers up to Minds Time to Change campaign later this week another example of how walking helps to change peoples lives for the better.)  Its been a pleasure to work with so many lovely people, staff and volunteers, and I shall miss them a lot.

Ill still be keeping close contact with the Ramblers, and indeed with the wider access movement, as Ill be carrying on my role on the Independent Forestry Panel up until it completes its work (likely to be next Spring).  With another hat, Im also on the transition board for the new waterways charity, which is due to take over the running of many of Britains canals and rivers next year.

If youd like to know more about Think Global, have a look at its website here:

Theres a news release on the Ramblers website also, for more details:

Tom Franklin
Chief Executive
Follow my tweets at
Follow my blog for Ramblers volunteers at


The Ramblers’ Association is a registered charity (England & Wales no 1093577, Scotland no SC039799) and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England & Wales (no 4458492). Registered office: 2nd floor, Camelford House, 87-90 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TW.

Visit our website at:


Friday, 23 September 2011

Let's all Walk 4 Life this Sunday (21/9/11)

If you're not doing much this Sunday, why not come and join us for a Walk 4 Life?

Walking is like a wonder drug. It can make us happier, healthier, and longer lasting. What's more, it's available to just about all of us - and it's FREE! The trouble is, not enough people take this drug often enough - hence the modern health problems people face.

This Sunday, the Ramblers is supporting Walk 4 Life Day as part of the Department of Health’s Change4Life campaign to encourage families and adults to eat well, move more and live longer, by making small lifestyle changes that add up to big health benefits - like taking a walk. (You've probably seen the Change4Life TV adverts.)

There are free televised events (with special guests, but you'll need to come to find out who) in Birmingham, Cardiff, Durham, London, Manchester, Sheffield and Swindon (details here). As an example of the kind of thing being planned, in London there will be a special 3-mile televised walk in Bushy Park - a lovely tranquil woodland walk, a short rally with special guests, and a picnic to finish (see here for more info).

People can search for local walks by postcode on Walk4Life's website and our own Walks Finder

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Just 3 days to go...

This Sunday, a team of Ramblers will be running, to raise money for the charity's work to protect footpaths, promote walking, and improve access. We're running a half marathon heading off from the Millennium Dome, and for almost all of the team it'll be the furthest we've ever run. Individually and together we've raised just under £1,500 so far, but it would be great to get this up to £2,000 by Sunday.

If you're able to give a donation, big or small, to help us on our way, here's the link:

Thanks for your support.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

3000 walking Facebook fans, and growing (21/9)

Great news, we have reached the 3000 mark on Facebook! Thanks to everyone who contributes. It's becoming a great place for people to engage with the Ramblers and share walking news. It’s really grown as a community since the launch in July with lots of very enthusiastic contributors.

If you're a Facebook user and haven't yet joined the Ramblers page, here's the link:

And if you're not a member already, why not join Britain's walking charity?

Monday, 19 September 2011

New devolution agreements for Ramblers Scotland and Ramblers Cymru signed (19/9/11)

The best access legislation in the world. That's what we have in Scotland, and what we saw when the Ramblers Board of Trustees, together with the senior management team, spent the past weekend at Glenmore Lodge near Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park. It was our annual away weekend, where we step back to think about the future direction of the Ramblers. The fantastic right to access that exists in Scotland was brought home to me when talking over the weekend to a South African, who said that he found it amazing that we had such freedom to roam whereas in South Africa there is virtually no access at all to any private land.

I understand that it is the first time in the 76-year history of the Ramblers that the trustees have met in Scotland (historians amongst you might be able to correct me). Denis Canavan, the Convenor of Ramblers Scotland, hosted a dinner for us on the Friday evening along with other members of the Scottish Executive; and on the Saturday, after the work, many of us managed to get out into the national park for some walking (thanks to Dave Morris and Helen Todd from Ramblers Scotland for leading one of the walks).

It was a fitting occasion in which to sign the new devolution agreements for Ramblers Cymru and Ramblers Scotland, which give greater autonomy over policy and decision making in the two countries, as well as greater financial certainty. It's now over a decade since political devolution, and many issues regarding walking, rights of way, and access are decided by the respective governments in these countries. It therefore makes sense for Ramblers Scotland and Ramblers Cymru to have greater autonomy too. For the foreseeable future, we'll still be one organisation. But we'll need to keep this under review - it may be that a time comes when it makes more sense to have totally separate organisations in each country. Whatever happens, we'll still need to work closely together as a Ramblers 'family'.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Forest matters (16/9/11)

I enjoyed meeting lots of people passionate about their forests, in Kent yesterday evening, as part of the Independent Forestry Panel visits. The meeting was organised by the Forestry Commission South East and the Weald AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), at the very magnificent Woodland Enterprise Centre (a building made almost entirely of local wood), just outside Tunbridge Wells.

Kent's forestry is different from other areas we've visited. About 10% is wooded, and of this 40,000 hectares about 70% is Ancient Woodland. In 1947, coppice systems accounted for two thirds of all woodland and although this is now down to around 20% it is still by far the highest of any county. (I met some very passionate coppicers last night. It is often a family business, and there are apparently some families with at least eight generations of coppicers.). Kent's woodlands are also smaller. There are about 2000 individual woodlands over 2 hectares (5 acres) and 75% of them are under 10 hectares in size.

What came across again was the passion and emotion that people feel for their forests. At the beginning of October, the Ramblers is organising a Walk in the Woods Week with 100+ forest walks (should be lovely Autumn colours by then). It's also organising three forest rallies in different parts of the country:

o    2nd Oct – Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood themed

o    8th Oct – Friston Forest, Sussex

o    9th Oct – Rendlesham Forest Suffolk.

Further info on Walk in the Woods Week can be found:

Tom Franklin
Sent from my iPhone


The Ramblers' Association is a registered charity (England & Wales no 1093577, Scotland no SC039799) and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England & Wales (no 4458492). Registered office: 2nd floor, Camelford House, 87-90 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TW.

Visit our website at:


Monday, 12 September 2011

Getting ready for walk4life day

Walk 4 Life Day, with ITV, is taking place on Sunday 25th September, and the Ramblers is helping out in places all over the country. Watch this clip from ITV Calendar News in Yorkshire and the North East, featuring Helen and Maureen from the Ramblers.

Some things are easy to forget, don't let the Ramblers be one of them...

Can you imagine a Britain without your favourite charity? Gifts in wills are the cornerstone of many good causes, creating nearly £2 billion each year, the equivalent of twenty Comic Reliefs. You might not realise it, but at the Ramblers, legacies are vital to our work in protecting footpaths, promoting walking, and campaigning for access - like the amazing Fairy Dale in the Yorkshire Wolds which I visited a few weeks ago, and is now accessible for future generations because of the Ramblers campaigning work. We'd struggle to do that work if it weren't for the generosity of members who have remembered us in their wills.

So this year, we've joined forces with Remember a Charity, and we're taking part in Remember a Charity Week from 12-18 September to help raise awareness of legacy giving.

Of course, we don't expect you to write or update your will right now. We just ask that you give a thought to your favourite charity and when the time is right, after taking care of your loved ones, you'll remember us in your will.

You can find out more about how you can help to ensure that walking and the places you love to walk are protected for future generations at, and read more about how legacies help the work live on at

Thursday, 8 September 2011

"What are your favourite English Coastal walking routes?"

That's the question we've asked our members and supporters in an online poll. Believe me, Ramblers members are discerning walkers - so if you want good tips for walking routes, they're the ones to ask.

Topping the league is the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, from Kimmeridge to Durdle Door. But I have to say that my personal favourite is the walking route that comes fourth in the league table: the route from Saltburn-by-the-Sea to Saithes in North Yorkshire. Part of the Cleveland Way, I did this route in reverse a few years ago...stayed in a B&B at Saithes and then walked the cliff top route. The high cliff faces are almost jet black, and you've got the north sea out beyond - it's rough and wild and exhilarating. At the end of the walk, you descend down into the small Victorian town of Saltburn, which has quite a bohemian feel to it. A restored pier, working cliff cars, lots of surfers, and good fish and chips.

The Ramblers dream is for continuous coastal walking routes around the entire English coast. Some might think this far-fetched - our predecessors had the same reaction when they dreamed up the Pennine Way! - but actually there's now a law in place to create this. It'll open up the entire coastline to walkers. But the problem is, the Government seems to be dragging it's feet. The planning and design of the route is being delayed and there seems to be a distinct lack of commitment from the powers that be.

We've launched an appeal to keep the English Coastal path on track. If you would like to donate, please visit our website: or call 020 7339 8500.