A LOCAL rambling group has celebrated 50 years of caring for West Berkshire’s countryside.
The West Berkshire Ramblers held their inaugural meeting in Newbury in 1967 and the group has been meeting for walks across the district and further afield ever since.
The volunteers, known as the Ramblers Work Party, first began working with the council in 1999 when they were asked to help support an outdoor activity project for Mencap clients.
More recently, the group has been working with West Berkshire Council to help maintain paths and replace stiles with gates to improve the accessibility of footpaths.
The Ramblers installed their 250th gate last year and installed a commemorative gate on Snelsmore Common last Thursday.
The gate was unveiled by the group’s first chairman, Dr John Davies, with group members, the chairman of West Berkshire Council, Quentin Webb, and the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) director for Berkshire, Dr Kate Dent.
West Berkshire Ramblers secretary Graham Smith said the event had gone “very well” and that it was nice to see original members reunited.
He said: “Rambling, a lot of it is to do with the social side and it’s doing a bit for the community as well in the work we do of installing gates and maintaining footpaths, simply because it’s not something that ratepayers can’t afford the full cost for.”
The Ramblers, which has around 350 members, walk all 700 miles of public footpaths in West Berkshire, doing minor maintenance over a four-year period and report problems back to the council.
Any significant work is then carried out by the council’s countryside team.
The council provides the volunteers with equipment to help keep paths tidy to install gates.
The chairman of West Berkshire Council, QuentinWebb, said: “Congratulations to the West Berks Ramblers on reaching this milestone and for half a century of promoting the benefits of exercise, fresh air and friendship.
“I wish the group every success for the next 50 years and hope the ramblers and the council continue to enjoy a long and productive relationship.”
The Ramblers Work Party has also started supporting BBOWT.
West Berkshire’s executive member for community resilience, Marcus Franks (Con, Speen) said: “I want to say a huge thank you to the ramblers for the positive contribution they have made to our community.
“The work they do is over and above what the council can provide and is very much appreciated. They are a great example of the difference volunteers can make and the support that can be found from the council.”
To find out more about the West Berks Ramblers visit: http://www.wberksramblers.org.uk/