Ramblers vs Strollers

It can't have escaped your attention, but there's some bad blood starting to stir between the serious ramblers of this country and the heathen ranks of the causal strollers...
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It can't have escaped your attention, but there's some bad blood starting to stir between the serious ramblers of this country and the heathen ranks of the causal strollers...

Walk this way

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I grow old. Do I dare to join the Ramblers? You have to tread carefully if you want to join the Ramblers. There is a war going on about what makes a good Rambler.

Tom Franklin, the chief executive of the Ramblers Association, (technically the RA doesn’t exist any more – it has been rebranded ‘ramblers’ with a post-modern lower case r), is tired of the aged Ramblers who go on about rights of way and keeping footpaths open.

This lack of respect has not gone down well with Graham Rothery, who chairs the Staffordshire area Ramblers. What irks Rothery is that Franklin is encouraging people who want to go on a stroll ie not a proper brisk-paced ramble. And what’s more, these people are freeloading on walks led by seasoned ramblers.

The latest outrage from the Franklin mob is that anyone who goes to the Walk4Life web-site (nothing to do with the ramblers), can get information on shorter walks being led by Rambler groups.

Rothery, a leading light of the ‘concerned ramblers’ group, has used the web-site to rail against these ‘visitors’ who may be too old; too young or too infirm for the nature of the pace of the walk. Worst of all, “they may want not to go rambling but ‘strolling’ as central office and the chief executive are so fond of calling it.”

"The level of outrage from the ‘concerned’ can be calibrated by the attack on Clare Balding of dyke on a bike fame"

The rage from the bearded oldies is being targeted at the strollers, but their real objection is that Franklin has down-graded what used to be the central mission – keeping open to walkers stretches of beautiful landscape. The glory days were the 1930s with the mass trespass of Kinder Scout and new laws to preserve the right of walkers to walk the land.

The law can still be invoked – Jeremy Clarkson was recently forced by the courts to take down fencing round part of his holiday property on the Isle of Man because it blocked a coastal footpath.

The level of outrage from the ‘concerned’ can be calibrated by the attack on Clare Balding of dyke on a bike fame. Apparently, she told Walk, the Ramblers’ national magazine, that ‘walking across private land is a privilege, not a right, and shouldn’t be taken for granted.’

That is to get it all wrong. Chris Hall, a former chief executive of the Ramblers Association, in a rant on the ‘concerned’ web-site, says:“Surely not? Walking a public footpath and exercising the right to roam on access land are rights not privileges – or are you walking in a different country from the rest of us, Clare.”

Hall doesn’t blame Balding entirely. Protests, he says, should be directed at ‘ the ignorance and sloppiness of the editor (Dominic Bates) and his interviewer.”

The ‘concerned’ could be losing the battle. There is now a city strollers group in London and even a gay strollers group in Manchester. The ‘concerned’ may be raging against the light. Do I buy the boots?

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