BLOG: A short history of Doncaster Ramblers

Posted: Thu, 2 May 2024 11:38

BLOG: A short history of Doncaster Ramblers

Written by David Gadd, Chair, Doncaster Ramblers.

Doncaster Ramblers is one of about 500 groups in the UK, part of the national organisation The Ramblers. We were established in 1970, although there are no records from those early years. The aim of the group then was to provide a series of regular walks, as well as to look after the countryside.

Those remain the fundamental aims today, although I am sure we are carrying them out far more effectively now than we were in those early days. Looking after the countryside means looking after footpaths and taking the appropriate action if there's a problem. These days I sometimes see a historic problem and wonder why the Ramblers members at the time did nothing about it. Probably the system whereby we are automatically consulted on any changes to the footpath network, such as when a new housing estate is being planned, was not in place then.

In July 2007 our first website was launched, updated the following year by our current version. This enables our walks to be published online. This led to discussions regarding the need for our printed programme. The printed programme had developed over the years, from a black and white version with no photos, to a highly professional version, with plenty of colour photos, of which we were justifiably proud. COVID helped us make the decision to stop producing a printed programme and to promote our walks only on our website.

We have delivered walks of about 10 miles on Tuesdays and Saturdays from the early days, with a biannual printed programme. Twice-monthly shorter Thursday walks were introduced in 2005. In more recent times these have changed to weekly walks, which are all local and are an excellent introduction to rambling.

Since 2009 about 20 members have monitored the state of the paths by checking each path every year. We also have a maintenance team of about 20 who actually assist the council in clearing vegetation and repairing or replacing stiles, etc. At the first maintenance session, at Askern, volunteers fitted our first two waymark posts. Many more have been fitted since then, with something approaching 140 sessions over the years involving a substantial number of man hours.

The Heron Way, a 30-mile walk around Doncaster linking the Park and Rides at Rossington South (Parrot's Corner) and at the Doncaster North Park and Ride, was introduced in 2009, with Caroline Flint MP formally opening the route. A total of 1,000 booklets of the route sold. In 2011, we published a series of nine circular walks from each of the staging posts on the Heron Way. The opening event for this was attended by Ed Miliband MP. All these walks are now available on our website.

2017 we did our first sponsored ramble for BBC's Countryfile, to raise money for Children In Need. We have done several sponsored rambles since then, raising nearly £2000.

In 2018 we started providing walks for Doncaster Carers. These are a group of dedicated people, caring for a loved one, who often need the opportunity to get away from their responsibilities. A walk, and the chance to socialise, provides a perfect opportunity. A walking programme was introduced, and it continues to this day, with six monthly short walks provided in the warmer months.

In May-June 2018 we organised a walking festival. We were delighted to be able to offer 27 walks in a nine-day period over a school holiday in the hope that families may also be attracted to what was on offer. Volunteer leaders were numerous and enthusiastic about the event and came up with some really interesting walks – some with a specific theme. Themes included bees, tree recognition, map-reading and several history walks.

We tried to cover as many areas of the town as possible and included local nature reserves who welcomed us at no charge. Whilst most walks were significantly shorter than our normal walks we did preserve our normal programme with three longer walks in the 9-day period.

The Doncaster Group of the Ramblers has continued to develop and meet the needs of its members and to attract new members to the joys of walking in our beautiful countryside, and we will continue to do so.

Tags: News, Partners, Residents