Last December George Cranstone announced his decision to cease the monthly Sunday rambles which he had begun in 1977. He cited dwindling numbers of walkers, from 50 in 1977 to only three to five, including the leader, in recent times. George also made clear his intention to continue with the annual Weekend Rambles which he also organises.
George looks back in this article at the 40 years of Sunday rambles, with some personal recollections. Perhaps it will encourage others with their own memories to contribute those too.
Back in January 1977 whilst out walking during a Sunday afternoon on Blackdown Hill on the Surrey/West Sussex border with my wife and three young boys in tow it suddenly occurred to us “Why don’t we look at the possibility of organising a monthly ramble for St Pius and St Mary’s church members?”
Within the space of one month the regular monthly walks which continued for the next 40 years began, on the 27th February 1977.
Our first ramble started from St Pius at 12 midday with a 4 mile planned route from the car park behind Wotton Hatch hotel to encompass Friday Street, the Hammer Ponds and Broadmoor. An amazing number of 49 walkers were in our party, causing quite a cavalcade of motor cars all descending upon the then small car park. Unfortunately, a record of those walking at that time was not kept; however Monica and Frank Comerford, Peter and Audrey Reid with their son John were participating.
From that first year a more suitable set off time of 2.30pm was instigated, the distances varying accordingly from 4-6 miles with long All Day walks with a pub lunch stop for some of the Bank Holidays. The walk leader was the decision maker.
In 1980 Bishop Cormac Murphy O’Connor (later Cardinal) started the Bishop’s Walk for the younger generation of Arundel and Brighton which later became known as “Youth Gather”. Between 1980 and 1991 the September walks, where enthusiasm prevailed, joined the Youth Gather walk.
Some notable memories from that time include the Great Storm of 1987 when on the 25th October one week after the event Laurie Cleall-Harding led 22 of us on a 5-mile ramble which took some considerable time clambering over and through fallen trees and debris.
We also had some notable characters. One such person instead of using walking boots walked in patent leather shoes which at the end of the walk, although we had been through water and mud could have gone directly to the dance floor.
Another was a lady always walking with us carrying a handbag. (Not Mrs T!)
I recall a time when the only place we could cross the River Mole was over and along a very large pipe. However, we made it safely across.
During a pre-arranged visit to Cosford Mill the group was invited by the owner to Sunday Afternoon Tea.
Here I would like to pay my thanks to all the leaders of the walks during this 40 year period with my apologies should I or my notes have missed a valuable leader.
A footnote to remark that in 2002 it was decided to start a Weekend Parish Ramble running from a Friday to Sunday afternoon with our first being at the Rising Sun Hotel, North of Cheltenham.
We have now spent weekends in many locations from Dorset to Canterbury and from the Chilterns to the New Forest. This coming June we will be in the Cotswolds. An open invitation awaits you.*
* See more details here.