Ramblers Work Party
The Rambler's Work Party are a group of volunteers who inspect public rights of way, perform minor maintenance such as cutting back vegetation and replacing waypoints and installing gates and stiles. It works closely with West Berkshire Council's Planning and Countryside Service and refers any issues requiring major work to the team.
A Volunteer Perspective
"If it stops someone missing a pub lunch then it's worth it!" says Fiona Walker, as she describes the work she does helping maintain public footpaths across West Berkshire.
Fiona was speaking about the work of the Rambler's Work Party installing waypoints on public rights of way to help walkers find their way. It's just part of the work they do helping to maintain footpaths by installing gates and stiles, waypoints as we as cutting back vegetation and litter-picking.
The Rambler's Work Party - around 12 enthusiastic walkers - meet twice a month to walk rights of way, make improvements and report issues to West Berkshire Council. "We do this for the camaraderie, because it's a good way to spend our time and a great excuse to have a pub lunch afterwards," says Fiona. "We work closely with the council and they provide us with information about the footpaths and give us the tools and materials we need to get the job done.
"We typically install two gates each month and it takes three men to a morning to complete the work. As well as helping improve the paths we walk each right of way on a parish-by-parish basis to check its condition and tell the council about any problems. It takes us around four years to cover the 700 miles of footpaths in West Berkshire - and when we're done we start again! We enjoy doing it and it means that the council has a reasonably up-to-date idea about the condition of the paths."
"When we meet it's always a happy time. We'll meet together somewhere, split up into smaller groups to check local paths and then meet up for lunch afterwards. As we love rambling anyway we're happy to walk 20 minutes down a path just to install a waypoint but it wouldn't be a good use of a ranger's time to do that. Even if it just stops someone losing their way and missing a pub lunch it's worth it!"
The Ramblers Work Party has also started supporting the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT).
West Berkshire Ramblers celebrated its 50th anniversary in March 2016 and marked the occasion by installing a commemorative gate on Snelsmore Common. A group created the Rambler's Work Party in 2003 and this dedicated group of walkers have been improving rights of way ever since - and in 2016 installed its 250th gate.
A West Berkshire Council Perspective
"These volunteers give up their time to look after stretches of public footpaths that we just wouldn't be able to get to otherwise," says Paul Hendry from West Berkshire Council's Countryside Team.
"They do the 'above and beyond' activities that we would love to do but which never get to the top of our to-do list. They do it in their own time, always with a smile on their face and sometimes having rearranged family and other personal commitments. We truly value their support not only helping us and our partners at BBOWT and for making paths more accessible for local residents."
This contribution of this merry band of volunteers is also recognised by Marcus Franks, who at the time was West Berkshire's Executive Member for Community Resilience. Speaking ahead of their 50th anniversary in March 2017 he said: "I want to say a huge thank you to the ramblers for the positive contribution they have made to our community. Some of them have been working with us to put in waypoints, clear vegetation and install new grates and we're very grateful for their efforts. The work they do is over and above what the council can provide and is very much appreciated. They are a great example of the difference volunteers can make and the support that can be found from the council."