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WALKS

As one would expect, the club organises walks over disused railway lines. These are split roughly 4:1 between walks over official railway paths and walks over old trackbeds which are privately owned. The reason for the privately owned trackbeds being in the minority will be obvious – we do not trespass on private land, and it is very time-consuming to arrange access with sometimes dozens of separate landowners. There is no national registry of who owns old railways and so our volunteers have to find out the hard way – by research, letters and visits to find out who owns what, followed up by personal requests which, of course, have to be handled with some skill. Railway Ramblers is very fortunate to have voluntary walk leaders who are prepared to undertake this work for the benefit of its members.

How are the Club's Walks Publicised? Our area groups publish periodic local newsletters which set out what is happening in each area. Practice varies from one area to another, with some producing a massive newsletter which covers an entire year in advance, while others issues newsletters more frequently. Most send out two newsletters per year. All of our railway walks are also published quarterly in advance in our magazine, 'Railway Ramblings'.

 

Above: This delightful study of Downton station on the former LSWR branch line from Salisbury to West Moors (for Wimborne, Poole and Bournemouth) was taken by member Tim Chant shortly after closure of the line, which took place on 4th May 1964. This is just the sort of place that Railway Ramblers re-visit in their explorations of Britian's lost railway heritage. Where stations are now privately owned, permission is always sought beforehand from the owners. (Tim Chant)

Who Can Join the Club's Walks? Our walks are open to all members from any area of the club. Additionally, our Civil Liability Insurance covers non-members participating in up to 3 walks as 'tasters', but they must have the intention of joining the club. This arrangement does not cover friends, family or other casual participants. Civil Liability insurance should not be confused with accident insurance: it does not cover members for accidents, but for things such as any damage that our visit might cause to private property, unlikely though that is. Theoretically, a group of 20 or so walkers passing over an old railway bridge might, just conceivably, weaken the structure, e.g. by dislodging some masonry or mortar from the arch below. You can see that this type of risk is remote, which is probably why CL insurance usually attracts such reasonable rates. However, in the past, having CL insurance has been an important factor in persuading some official bodies, such as the Army, to let us walk old trackbeds which they now own. (In the current political climate, with acts of terror seen as an ever-present danger, walks over military land are now virtually impossible to arrange for groups over 5 in number.)

If a non-member comes on three club walks and wants to participate in a fourth, they need to join and become a member in their own right. After all, if they've done three walks with us and want to come back for more, one can assume that they like railway rambling. The hobby does offer a unique mixture of exploration, lost views, and the pleasure of discovery – which might include some half forgotten relic from the past. The winter months are usually the best time of year for this, when the lack of vegetation often exposes old trackbed fittings and occasionally something larger. On one walk in Hampshire a few years ago, members of our Southern Area found an LMS signal arm buried in the leafless undergrowth. (Please don't write in if you think we have got the railway company wrong – this artefact really was stamped with the initials of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway!)

Above: Members visiting Powerstock station on 30th April 2011. In years gone by, intending passengers walked this way to catch the branch line train to either Bridport or Maiden Newton. Until goods services were withdrawn in the 1960s, the area to the left of the driveway was occupied by sidings. Powerstock station was not brilliantly situated for its village, which lies on the far side of a deep valley; the residents of smaller but nearer Nettlecombe were the ones who most benfited from the railway's presence here. Nowadays, the station is privately owned, so this visit was arranged specially by the walk leader. (Mike Rutter)

Does the Club Publish its Walk Programmes on the Internet? We will never do this. There are many reasons, the most important ones being as follows:

  • Under this country’s data protection legislation, each area organiser would require permission from every walk leader for their personal details to be published in this way. It is unlikely that all, or even most, walk leaders will ever consent to this.
  • Even if the walk programmes were encoded and protected by a username and password, the encrypted information could still be broken into by a determined hacker.
  • Publishing walk leaders’ personal details together with the dates when they will be away from their homes is extremely foolish in an age when an address can be obtained from something as simple as a telephone number. Even the publication of an email address is enough to end up on a spammer's mailing list, with potentially offensive spam messages the result.
  • Landowners grant access to their land to the club's walk leaders on the basis that the visit is private and not advertised to members of the public via an international medium such as the Internet.
  • No other national club, e.g. the Ramblers’ Association, publishes its programmes in this way.

The Club Publishes a Quarterly Magazine Containing Walks Details – Does it Publish the Magazine on the Internet? We will never do this, for the reasons set out above. Additionally, publishing the magazine online would remove one of the main reasons for people to join the club – namely, the receipt of a specialist quarterly magazine delivered to their door. (As an aside, we are investigating the potential of email as a distribution medium following the 38% price increase imposed in April 2012 by the Royal Mail on the price of a second class stamp: at a stroke, this increased our postal costs from 30% to 41% of our income.) On the plus side, the club will add at least one past magazine to this website, but any such editions will be 'sanitised' before publication so as to remove all personal data from their pages. They will be added to the Membership page, and will give intending members an example of what they can expect if they join.

Services for Walk Leaders. We have prepared a set of resources to help walk leaders design and plan railway walks ranging from straightforward events over official railway paths to walks which require negotiation with landowners. The latter are often the most interesting walks, but it takes a lot of time, effort and skill to arrange them. Even with a walk over an official route, there's a lot to consider, including lunchtime arrangements (you do not want to reach the pub after the kitchen has closed) and transport arrangements (you do not want to reach the end of the walk after the last bus has departed). We do not publish these resources on the Internet, but they are available to walk leaders from our Secretary, who can supply them on a CD. We are very grateful to those walk leaders who shared their expertise at a seminar in Newport in 2012, where these materials were collated.

We also offer a walks template in both Word and PDF format (see below), which has been designed to help walk leaders ensure that they do not miss out any essential details when planning and publishing their walks. It is surprisingly easy to do something daft, like missing out the meeting place or time, so these documents can help to prevent things like that happening.

  • The Walks Template. Click on the links to access the walks template in Word or PDF format. If you choose the former, you may be asked (by courtesy of Microsoft Word): 'Do you want to update this document with data from the linked files?' If this should happen, click the 'No' button.
  • How to Use the Walks Template. Click here for an example, in PDF format, of how to complete the template, just in case it isn't obvious!
  • Free Download for Adobe Reader. If you need to install Adobe Reader, the free program which allows you to read PDF files, please click here.