LEWES FOOTPATHS GROUP
ANNUAL REPORT for 2014
Graham Heap (Chair, Acting Walks Organiser & Footpaths Secretary) Sally Major (Treasurer) Janet Goodall (Secretary & Membership Secretary) Jeannette Swayne (Publicity & Group Meetings) Vivien Yule, Margaret Sweatman (Minutes Secretary)
The highlights of the year were undoubtedly the Great Anniversary Walk into Lewes and the Anniversary Dinner at Pelham House. All but one of the planned ten walks into Lewes attracted walkers and more than 50 members arrived, amazingly, more or less on time at the Town Hall to be greeted by the Mayor and Mayoress, Mike and Ann Turner, who provided a copious supply of tea and a mountain of mouth-watering buns. Also there to greet the weary walkers were our President, John Vokins, and his wife, Jane.
John and Jane were also on hand to welcome the guests at the Anniversary Dinner. We were pleased to have as our guests the Deputy Mayor and Deputy Mayoress, Councillor Sam Li and his wife Jenny. Robert Cheesman gave us a very entertaining account of the history of the walking group and the evening was rounded off with great panache by Miles Jenner, in fine singing voice, expertly accompanied on piano by Susan Bain.
It is a pleasure to give a big “Thank You” to everybody who contributed to the success of these events, not least the walks leaders who got everybody back on time, and all those who helped with organising the dinner. The pictures for the “Trip Down Memory Lane” slide show were provided by Derek Lamport and Gordon Bull.
Robert Cheesman organised a very enjoyable coach trip to Polesden Lacy but the other planned coach trips had to be cancelled because of insufficient support. It does appear that there is diminishing interest in coach trips just for walking and no more will be organised for the time being. However, it has been agreed to continue to offer one coach trip a year to a place of interest for as long as members support these outings.
Some of us took part in the Battle of Lewes celebrations. In particular we organised a re-enactment of King Henry III’s march into Lewes on the 10th May. The King and his army had marched from Herstmonceux, we just managed the last bit from Glynde but we were in authentic 13th century garb. As we were only ten in number and his army was estimated at ten thousand, each one of us represented a thousand men, which was quite a responsibility. Miles Jenner as King Henry III was greeted at Cliffe Bridge by the Mayor of Lewes and various other dignitaries in a ceremony organised by Southover Bonfire Society. The whole day was great fun.
This is my last report as chair of the group. My time has been made easy by the continuing support of the other committee members who have put in so much hard work over the year. Gill Chambers stepped down as Social Secretary at the beginning of the year. We are all grateful to her for sorting out Pelham House for the dinner and for many memorable social events during her time on the committee. Jeannette Swayne is relinquishing her role as Publicity Officer and Meetings Organiser. Jeannette’s contributions to the group are too numerous to give in detail here. She was secretary for 10 years, started both the holidays and the coach trips and has led many, many walks. Jeannette appears to know every “speaker” in the area. The range of topics we have enjoyed hearing about at our meetings is entirely as the result of her many contacts. Jeannette has offered to stay on the committee as a member “without portfolio”, for which we are most grateful.
The group continues to have a healthy balance in the bank. The group’s holidays and New Year’s lunch showed a small surplus overall of £18. The first planned coach trip was cancelled due to lack of support and so we lost our deposit of £50 to the coach company but the outing to Polesden Lacey went ahead and yielded a surplus of £95. The overall surplus for coach outings therefore was £45.
It was agreed at the AGM last year to subsidise the Anniversary Dinner to a maximum of £800, the final amount of the subsidy was £718.
The difference between income from subscriptions and expenditure on basic group activities such as postage and printing, insurance and affiliation fees and the hire of the hall for meetings this year is a deficit of £374. Despite this, the committee believes that the balance of funds is adequate and that no increase in annual subscriptions is required for the time being. However a proposal to increase the Life Membership fee will be put to members at the AGM.
Discussion ensued both at last year’s AGM and at committee level as to whether a donation should be given to the Monday Group. A decision was taken in committee to put a proposal to members at the AGM.
Membership Secretary’s Report
Our numbers have increased slightly this year as we have welcomed 20 new members while 18 members have not renewed their subscriptions. New members come to us via the web site and also through friends already walking with us. We would urge new members to consider leading a walk (help is available) and also to join the committee where we welcome fresh views and input.
Walks Organiser’s Report
Unsurprisingly, in view of the long period of hot, sunny weather, the walks last summer attracted a good number of walkers. The walks at the beginning and end of the year were less popular, an explanation being the rain and mud noted in many of the walk reports, which only serves to emphasise the intrepid nature of those who did put in an appearance.
As always, the success of the walk programme is down to those members who lead walks and my thanks go to all of you. And as always I have to report that we are still short of leaders which resulted in quite a few gaps in the programme. Those gaps were largely concealed by Bert’s strolls which have proved to be so popular that, having only planned to have them during the summer programme, they have also been included in the winter programme. Anybody considering becoming a walk leader will find it much less scary than you might think and you will receive plenty of support whilst you are finding your feet. So, please step forward, the future of the group depends on you, the members.
This summer we had a stall in the shopping precinct as part of the Lewes Hike and Bike Festival and much interest was shown in our activities and publications. Most weeks we have our own report in the Town News section of the Sussex Express. This describes our last walk and advertises the next one. Our programmes are kept topped up at the Tourist Information Office and the Outdoor Shop and provide publicity for us. Posters advertise our Group Meetings and they are mentioned in Lewes News as well.
This year, as usual, we have enjoyed three Group Meetings at Cliffe Church Hall. The first, in February, was our AGM and this was followed by an illustrated and very interesting talk on the Greenwich Meridian Trail by Graham and Hilda Heap who pioneered this long distance path.
In April we welcomed Carole and Paul Nicholson for the first time, who spoke on their travels in the Galapagos Islands and also of their visits to Africa to photograph the wildlife there. Their presentation and photos were breath taking.
At our September meeting we had another new speaker. This was Ian Everest. His illustrated talk was “A Sussex Farm in the 1950’s” which was captured on an original 16mm cine film. It brought back memories to many of us and resulted in a lively question time at the end of the talk.
Social Secretary’s Report
The New Year lunch took place at Stanmer House for the second time and proved to be a well-attended and very enjoyable event. Members enjoyed the opportunity to meet socially as they do every year.
Improving communications by email
Vivien and Margaret have put in a great deal of work to increase the communication with members by email (to improve efficiency, speed and flexibility of communication, to cut costs and save paper). This involved contacting all members for whom we did not have an email address, initially by phone and subsequently by letter to those whom we were unable to reach by phone. We now have email addresses for approximately 80% of members (compared with 37% when the project was started). The vast majority of members contacted are agreeable to this means of communication in future. Those who do not use email or have requested hard copies of documents will continue to receive information as in the past. This activity has also had the benefit of updating information on our Life Member List by identifying those who are no longer interested in receiving information or are deceased.
Nineteen of us enjoyed a Spring Weekend at Lulworth Cove. Most of the group travelled by train at a very reasonable cost. We stayed at West Lulworth House which is owned by HF Holidays who organised our stay for us. The area is one of outstanding natural beauty and a much sought after location. We had a choice of three different grades of walk to choose from each day and they provided quite a challenge with most of us resorting to the “Easy” walks as we hadn’t realised how steep some of the hills could be! We learnt much about the geology that created this famous landscape from our well informed leaders. The food was excellent and we wished we could have stayed a little longer in this beautiful area.
Based at Lancaster, fourteen members enjoyed a week of fine walking in fine weather along and around the Vale of Lune, organised by Ramblers Holidays. We were fortunate to be led on our walks by Simon, an experienced walk leader who also happened to live locally. His knowledge of the local countryside greatly added to the enjoyment of the walks. Two of the walks were along the valley of the River Lune where flocks of sand martins and oyster catchers were seen in abundance. A walk along the coast of Morecombe Bay ended at Carnforth railway station where some scenes in the film Brief Encounter were filmed. The final day’s walk was across some limestone pavements with deep cracks called “grikes.” The path led us through a very narrow cleft in a limestone cliff, some twenty five feet high, where one gets to the top by way of the “Fairy Steps”. Legend has it that those who manage to get to the top without touching the sides will see the fairies. None of our group was so blessed. A good time was had by all.
The final 2014 holiday was based at the Webbington Hotel in Loxton in the Mendip Hills. We stopped off at delightful Lytes Cary Manor on the way down to visit the medieval house and Arts & Crafts gardens. Our Saturday walk started from Wells and took us alongside the Bishops Moat to Tor Hill then across the golf course to the villages of Croscombe and Dinder. There was time at the end of the day to visit Wells cathedral and the bustling market .On Sunday we walked from the hotel to Compton Bishop and the village of Cross and on to Wavering Down. Then we climbed Crook Peak before descending to our hotel where we enjoyed the luxurious swimming pool and spa. On Monday we drove to Glastonbury and enjoyed a circular walk on the Somerset levels before tackling the 520ft Glastonbury Tor with its wonderful rewarding views. The walks were led by the experienced couple from local Bath & West Country Walks. Nineteen of us came on the holiday and basked in unseasonably warm weather throughout.