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The following information is taken from our archives and from personal recollections of current members. Our earliest records go back to 1936, and we have fairly continuous records of meetings since then.
The club was founded in 1919 by a Swiss named Mr Steinman, and at first the club had connections in Geneva (the Anglo-Swiss Rambling club) and Brussels
(Club de Jeunesse, and Cretienne Mixte); nothing more is now known about either Mr Steinman or continental links.
During the 1930s the club was extremely active. There was a social evening every Tuesday at the Manor Road Presbyterian Church, N16, an annual dinner/dance, boating at Regents Park Lake, a theatre group, music group and a youth hostel group – who regularly had weekends away.
This was all in addition to rambles every Saturday afternoon and numerous visits to places of interest in and around London. These included the Tower, the Old Bailey, Mansion House and Big Ben.
On 9th May 1936 a coach trip was organised to Whipsnade Zoo for which members paid five shillings (25p) all inclusive. There was also a charitable side to the club, as they regularly arranged to take parties of less-advantaged children from the Kings Cross area for trips out to the country or to pantomimes or shows.
In 1937 a child could be taken into the country for a day including tea and entertainment for a cost of 1s 4d (6p) per child and 2s 3d (11p) for adults – including fares. In 1935, membership was 120 and pantomimes or shows, 76 fixtures were arranged, and the subscription was 4s (20p) per annum.
All night and moon-light rambles were popular and the most popular of 1937 was from Chingford to Copt Hall Farm near Epping, where they had tea and obtained colourful Chinese lanterns with which they made their way back through Epping Forest in the September dusk, no doubt singing as they went along.
In January 1936, the ‘social evening (with buns) …was postponed owning to the death of King George. It is understood that the buns are still good and the programme will be repeated tonight’ (3rd March – no worries about ‘sell by’ dates in those days!).
In 1943, club activities were suspended because of the Second World War and members were called up for war service. One became a pilot and was awarded the DFC; he was later reported missing and does not seem to have returned.
Interest in the Club was maintained throughout the War and on 24 August 1946 a ramble was arranged from Chingford during which it was agreed to recommence activities and a committee of 10 was appointed. Thereafter it seems to have flourished – after three months, the membership stood at 90. In November 1946 the club visited St Paul’s Cathedral, still standing among the bomb damaged ruins.
Many former club activities were not renewed, probably due to the rising cost of fares, refreshments and theatre tickets. During the late 1940s the pattern of regular weekly rambles plus an occasional interest visit was set.
Throughout the whole of this period the club was blessed with a group of very efficient and enthusiastic officers and committee members, and looking back one feels that one knows the club members at that time. There are notes of engagements, marriages, births and deaths among them. The newsletters and reports were well written and contain similar sentiments which still apply today, for instance, wear suitable shoes, and bring a mac. In 1949, membership was up to 110, and the average number of walkers out was 15.
For several years, the Saturday of the third week in September was designated as a members’ reunion. They caught the 2.49 pm train from Liverpool St station to Chingford – a cheap day ticket fare in 1949 was 1s 10d (9p) – and walked through Epping Forest for tea at ‘Ivy Retreat’. This is one walk which will not have altered much over the years and it is believed that the refreshment place where they stopped is a tea hut at High Beach.
In the 1960s and 70s, meetings were held in the Leysian Mission in City Road, EC1, and in the 1990s at Christchurch Highbury, N5. At present meetings are held in Southgate Methodist Church.
At one ramble in 1975, one member, Pamela Mackintosh, was left behind in a shop in Sarratt. The walk leader was so sorry that he wrote to her to apologise, particularly because they had been walking for 30 minutes before realising that Pam was not with them.
Desiree remembers that during the 1980s, several members of the club went on Thursday nights to Cecil Sharp House near Regents Park. Folk from London and parts of the south-east gathered there for country dancing and square dancing. There were many musicians in the band, good callers and lots of dancers on the floor. One club couple who met there later married. They were very happy and relaxing evenings after returning from work (contributed by Desiree Lukomona).
A record is kept of the number of rambles, and the miles walked by members (the top 30 or so women, and the top 20 or so men). In 1993 there was the remarkable coincidence of two women (Desiree and Joan Flanagan) walking exactly the same mileage – 417 miles. As Desiree had walked on more rambles than Joan, she was listed first. Betty Budd won the women’s record for many years from 1995, and Ken Pignon won the men’s record for many years from 1991. The highest ever mileage was by Ron Harper – 704 miles in 1987.
The club continues the tradition of regular weekly Saturday walks, always with a starting point reached by public transport, and the occasional mid-week walk. For many years there has also been a club holiday, usually for a week at a suitable walking centre; these have proved very popular.
Walks are held regardless of weather conditions – blizzards are an occupational hazard! – and even the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2000 did not curtail activities, but the footpath restrictions meant that many of the walks were within urban areas.
Ken Pignon has the programme of walks, stretching back to 1974, and an extract from December 1989 is illustrated below Many thanks to Ken for having preserved these programmes for so many years.
Earliest Record of Club Officers
President: Sir Lawrence Chubb
Hon Secretary: H.J. Smith
Hon Treasurer: F.E. Baker
Assistant Secretary: R.G. Foyle
Club Officers since the 1970s: (NB please note that this list is incomplete, and will be updated on our website as information becomes available)
1974-1979 Tony Atkinson
1979-1984 Sidney Billson
1989 Marion Friend
1994 Mary Bradford
1999 Margo Jackson
2004 Betty Budd
2016 Josie Robinson
1974-1979 Lydia Collins
1989 Marilyn Nash
1994 John Dove
1999 Desiree Lukomona
2004 Denis Bowyer
2012 Atif Saweries
2015 Poppy Pickard
1984 Bill Adlington
1994 Peter Harding
2010 Tim Wright
2012 Stephen Ross
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