West Berks Ramblers

Working for Walkers

Words of Praise

Colin’s new seat (2013)

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The ever resourceful Colin Honeybone leader of our gate installation team has been at work again - in his spare time!! He has created a seat constructed using solely mortice and tenon joints without the use of any screws or nails. The wood used to construct the seat has been harvested by Colin from stiles which he and his team has dismantled to be replaced by a new gate. The seat itself is incised with the words "recycled stiles". He has located the seat overlooking Hungerford, with a lovely view, with the help of two other members of the gate installation team, John Smith and David Thorpe. A small plaque has been fixed to the seat detailing those who installed it. The seat is on footpath Hungerford 44/1 which is the path from the Chilton Foliat Road over to the A4 at Strong Grove Hill, location SU3280 6934.


West Berks 150th gate

(an article written by Denise Buchan and published in the March 2012 issue of South East Walker, the Ramblers' regional newsletter with minor corrections)

The 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year wasn't only a good and auspicious date for millions of Chinese people, it was pretty good for the West Berks Ramblers too. We installed our 150th gate!

Our Ramblers working party has two aims: path clearing and gate building. We also have ROAR (Rangers' Official Active Response) which is comprised of ramblers and people with learning difficulties who give their time to litter picking and tidying paths too (more about this in a future article). Most volunteers help on path clearing to keep accessible rights of way which the local council has pointed up as needing attention but there is a much smaller bunch of gallant workers within the team, led by the inimitable Colin Honeybone, who bend their mighty muscles, and expertise, to repairing, replacing and installing new gates.

Most of these gates are installed to replace stiles and, occasionally, old broken gates. The gate-building group and path clearers usually all labour on the same fortnightly Friday morning but don't often meet up because they are working to a different programme. We made an exception in November though when we all came together to celebrate the monmentus occasion of our century and a half.

The weather was glorious, bright sunshine and not a cloud in the sky as we took a lovely walk through the countryside to meet up with the gate installers just as they were finishing their work at midday, stopping along the way for the minute's silence at 11. This annual momentary quiet is always poignant but to stand in silent commemoration of all the people who have given so much for us to stand safely and happily in such beautiful, serene surroundings, was really moving.

Everything went according to plan and we met up just as the last hammer blows were being struck. Members of the local authority's rights of way team came out to meet us too and after loads of photos were taken we all wandered down to a local pub for a well deserved lunch. Complete, naturally, with a celebration cake which Fiona Walker, the Ramblers working party leader, had ordered for us. It seemed a shame to spoil the decoration but we soon mastered our concern about that and demolished the lot!

Our first gate was installed in July 2004 so we're averaging over 20 a year. If we keep up this pace we should complete our 200th in 2014!

Note: The 200th gate was installed on 14th February 2014 and the team is on course to complete its 250th installation in 2016 or early 2017.


A Big Thank You to Colin and the Gate Building Team (2011)

A member of the public has sent Sallie Jennings a rather nice letter about the three gates which Colin and the team have put in on the footpath from Wash Common to Skinners Green.  They are gates 133,134 and 135 with a motor cycle inhibitor to go in when it arrives.   

The letter reads:

"Please pass this message on to the relevant people.  I wanted to say thank you to the partnership of the West Berks Ramblers Association and West Berks Council.The circular walk that goes through Wash Common, Enborne and beyond is under going some slow but steady improvement. In the form of kissing gates.I am fortunate to live in Enbore (sic). My smallholding has a small part of the footpath running along side it. Slowly as the old stiles break, they are being replaced by Kissing gates. This is improving assess to the countryside to many.

For me personally it enables me to push the buggy with my grandchildren in and my disabled father who suffered a stroke 5 years ago. He can no longer climb over a stile, but now he can get out and walk in the countryside, he so loves.

Please pass on my thanks to the people who are making this all so much more assessable (sic) to us. It gives us so much pleasure.

Yours with gratitude"

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This is the middle of the three gates mentioned in the letter. As you will see the area is a trifle muddy so whilst the team were there installing the gate they released some of the water causing the muddy patches to help the area dry out. So all in all a job well done.


Fiona Walker wins Civic Award (April 2009)

West Berks Rambler, Fiona Walker, has this year won a Civic Award from Newbury Town Council for her community work to improve the condition and access to West Berkshire’s footpaths. As a long-standing member of the West Berks Ramblers she has organised volunteers to clear footpaths, encouraged more people to enjoy the countryside and continues to co-ordinate the production and research of walking guides. Nothing new in that you might add, but what has made her work so special is that much of her voluntary work has been aimed at helping and encouraging disadvantaged people to be more active and to get out into the countryside.

Originally working with the mental health charity MENCAP, Fiona subsequently became a member of the Rangers Official Active Response (ROAR) group which offers services to volunteers from the Phoenix Centre in Newbury. The Phoenix Centre supports adults with learning disabilities. Volunteering her services for 12 hours each week for a number of years she has encouraged members of the group to volunteer 1500 hours each year to help clear footpaths on a parish by parish basis throughout West Berkshire.

It is this community spirit which led to Fiona winning this year’s Newbury’s Civic Award. Presented by the mayor, Phil Barnett, Fiona’s response was to say that she was so surprised adding "I feel there are other people who do so much more for the community. It’s a hobby. It’s a social occasion. We have a lovely team and I just feel that you should not get an award for having so much fun." We don’t agree! Few have done as much as Fiona to help others and especially those with disabilities to be more active and getting out to enjoy the countryside. All at West Berks Ramblers congratulate Fiona for all her work.

Greg McGill
Countryside Officer
West Berks Ramblers

Friday, November 24, 2017