West Berks Ramblers

Working for Walkers

50th Anniversary

The Group celebrated its 50th Birthday on Thursday 2nd March 2017 and a newly installed gate marking the occasion was unveiled on Snelsmore Common by the Group's first chairman, Dr John Davies. John also cut the birthday cake which was shared round the 55 members and guests in attendance.

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The 50th Birthday Gate is on the footpath inside the south edge of Snelsmore Common that passes through Cromwell's Glen (Shaw-cum-Donnington FP12 at grid reference SU462703). As a 50th Anniversary Year project the Group also installed other gates in the West Berkshire area to replace stiles and improve access, both for West Berks Council and for Berks Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust.

Also as part of the year's celebrations:

  • We held a "50 Questions for 50 Years" quiz with a fish & chip supper on Friday 10th March.
  • Members were invited to participate in walking "50 Miles for 50 Years" on Group walks between 2nd March and the end of June. At the end there was a social event including a hot buffet on the evening of 29th June at the Diamond Tap in Newbury.
  • The Group's AGM on 17th November and its Christmas Social on 15th December included reviews of the year.
  • Two seats similar to the one provided by West Berkshire Council for the Lambourn Valley Way 25th Anniversary (see below) were donated for installation on Snelsmore Common. These were presented 'in memory of the founding members of West Berks Ramblers who are no longer with us' and were installed in early 2018 on the circuit that was followed when the 50th Birthday Gate was unveiled.

The Group also celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the inauguration of the Lambourn Valley Way which took place on 11th July 1992 (the Newbury Weekly News published an article about the inauguration on its website on 13th July). We didn't quite manage to hit the anniversary date but about 30 members and guests were present when a celebratory bench was unveiled on the route between Eastbury and East Garston on 9th August by Dr John Davies.

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John has written a short history of the route which can be found under the Information menu tab on this website.


50 Years of West Berks Ramblers - a Time Line

This listing of significant dates is a corrected / updated version of the one published in the Group’s January to May 2017 programme. That in turn was based on ones originally published in 1987 and 1992.

1967 2 Mar Inaugural meeting at the Baptist Church Hall, Cheap Street (see advert reproduced below this listing) – Newbury and District Group of the Ramblers’ Association (RA) formed under the supervision of its Southern Area committee, and steering group set up which elected Mr David Roberts as its chairman. About 50 people register their interest.
27 Mar Easter Monday, first walk (to Greenham Common).
2 Apr First regular Sunday walk. Initially walks were twice monthly, one in the afternoon and one all day. Attendance is recorded as up to 15 for afternoon walks, less for all day ones.
13 Oct First AGM – constitution adopted and committee elected under the chairmanship of Dr John Davies.
8 Dec First social evening.
Late Walking suspended due to outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease (resumed Feb 1968).
1968 Surveying of route of M4 for its effect on footpaths. Objections and counter-proposals made to Ministry of Transport plans. Several additional crossings and realignments were subsequently obtained.
28 Mar First walk publicised in Newbury Weekly News in article written under the acronym ANANDDR (A Newbury AND District Rambler). Nearly 50 people came on the walk on 31 Mar from Donnington Castle.
4 Aug First coach walk (to Avebury area).
1969 Consultations take place over designation of North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Winter Footpath clearance including work at Bagnor and East Garston for first Berkshire County Council (BCC) footpath competition. Group wins 2nd prize.
1971 Autumn “PULV” (Path Users Upper Lambourn Valley) set up. Well supported for a few years but proves too small a unit to be viable in the longer term.
22 Dec M4 opens between Maidenhead and Tormarton (Bath).
1972 Designation of North Wessex Downs AONB.
1973 Mr Michael Weideli becomes chairman and Dr John Davies president (a role which he retains until 1991).
Ridgeway National Trail opens (designated in 1972).
1974 Mr Frank Bradshaw becomes chairman.
1 Apr County boundaries change – Berkshire north of The Ridgeway becomes part of Oxfordshire. Newbury District Council formed to succeed Newbury Borough Council and Newbury, Hungerford, Bradfield and Wantage Rural District Councils. The parts of the Wantage RDC area remaining in Berkshire included parishes as far south and east as Chaddleworth, Hampstead Norreys and Aldworth.
1975 20 Jun A34 Donnington Link (Robin Hood Roundabout to M4) opens. The A4 Western Avenue had been built in the late 1950s, and the Robin Hood Roundabout and the initial section of the A34 ring road taking the trunk route away from Northbrook Street had opened in 1965. The Robin Hood Roundabout had traffic lights added and was converted into the gyratory system we know today in about 1990.
1978 Autumn Publication of walks in the Newbury Weekly News resumes, this time including sketch maps.
1979 Mr Alan Gardner becomes chairman.
A34 Sandleford Link opens.
Summer Evidence on value of AONB given to Countryside Commission.
1980 Jun Greenham Common announced as base for cruise missiles.
Jun On Foot in West Berks with Newbury Ramblers published (re-published in 1983 and again in 1989 as On Foot in West Berks Vol. I).
1981 Spring “Project Safeguard” aims to prevent the proposed change in the law which would allow bulls to be kept in fields crossed by paths and also to stop final say on footpath changes being given to local authorities. The RA fails to win on bulls issue, but wins on issue of footpath changes.
Sep Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp set up. It remained for 19 years, being dismantled following the opening up of the Common to the public in 2000.
1982 Autumn Newbury bypass proposals considered. The Group objected to the Western route on the grounds of its destruction to the environment and maintained its position throughout the government’s deliberations.
Sep On Foot in West Berks Vol. II published.
1983 Nov Cruise missiles arrive at Greenham Common.
1984 Mr Bob Withers becomes chairman.
Winter Ramblers’ Association restructured – former Southern Area subdivided and Berkshire Area formed.
1985 Spring Group changes its name from “Newbury and District” to “West Berks”.
Autumn Footpath Gazetteer published.
1988 Sep On Foot in West Berks Vol. III published.
1989 Jan Survey for BCC to check status of signposting of footpaths from metalled roads.
Public Inquiry held to determine the route of the A34 Newbury bypass.
1990 Mrs Jane Kiely becomes chairman.
Inspector for the A34 Newbury bypass inquiry decides on the Western route.
Start of Group’s first long distance walk, the Thames Walk (completed the following year).
New West Berks Ramblers logo created and T-shirts produced.
8 Aug Kennet & Avon Canal reopened. Concern expressed at the prospect of the towpath being officially opened to cyclists, in particular regarding its suitability and the impact on its character of any changes needed. A swing bridge west of Hungerford had been removed during the restoration, severing Hungerford footpath 36 and prompting a long campaign by the Group – a replacement footbridge was eventually opened in 1998.
1991 Assisted BCC with a general survey of all footpaths in the area.
“Adopt-a-Path” pilot scheme started in the West Berks area.
Sep West Berks Ramblers badges produced.
1992 11 Jul Official opening of the Lambourn Valley Way recreational route by Sir Michael Horden. (The Newbury Weekly News re-published details of the opening in its 20th July 2017 issue and on its newburytoday website.)
1992 Aug First A34/M4 interchange improvement Inquiry.
Sep Forbidden Britain Day walk aims to help win Greenham Common back as common land.
1995 New Ramblers groups set up in Berkshire and boundaries changed – West Berks Ramblers loses parishes east of Thatcham to Pang Valley and Mid Berks groups.
Aug Clearance work for the construction of the A34 Newbury bypass starts.
1996 24 Jul Official opening of Thames Path National Trail.
1998 1 Apr Berkshire County Council abolished and powers transferred to unitary authorities including West Berkshire Council (the renamed Newbury District Council).
Nov A34 Newbury bypass opens and the A34’s old route is renumbered the A339. The pedestrianisation of Northbrook Street follows.
2000 8 Apr Greenham Common formally reopened to the public following the departure of the cruise missiles in 1991 and the decommissioning of the airbase in 1993. Conversion of the built-up area to a business park had started in 1994 and the site had been bought from the Ministry of Defence by Greenham Common Trust in Mar 1997 as the first stage of the reopening process. The open areas were transferred to Newbury District Council and public access to parts became possible when removal of the fence started in Sep 1997. The cruise missile bunker area was retained by the MoD until 2001 – the District Council did not take up its option to buy the site for a nominal sum then because of the potential ongoing costs involved and it was sold into private ownership.
May 21 Walks for the 21st Century published.
Sep Second A34/M4 interchange improvement Inquiry (continues in 2001).
2001 Feb Countryside paths closed due to national outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease.
2003 Regular fortnightly work parties start, inspecting paths and doing minor maintenance on behalf of West Berkshire Council (WBC).
Nov The Chairman’s Walk around the perimeter of West Berkshire published.
2004 30 Jul 1st gate installed on behalf of WBC near Hungerford, starting a project to improve accessibility by replacing stiles.
Sep A34/M4 Interchange improvement scheme (underpass taking A34 through traffic away from the roundabout) completed. Included upgrading of Bussock Wood M4 footbridge to a bridleway and construction of new bridleway bridge across A34 linking Chalky Lane and Green Lane south of the interchange.
2005 Dec West Berks Ramblers named ‘Group of the Year’ in the RA’s Use Your Paths Footpath Work Awards.
2007 Jul Major local flash flooding. 40th Anniversary celebration picnic planned for 22 July postponed to September.
2008 Nov Mr Graham Smith becomes chairman.
2009 The Ramblers’ Association is rebranded as The Ramblers.
24 Jul 100th gate installed on behalf of WBC at Boxford Common.
2010 Mar Walks in the Kennet Valley and Beyond published.
2014 Jan Management of main West Berkshire countryside sites transferred to Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT).
Feb Major local flooding disrupts walking and damages a significant number of paths.
2016 1 Jul 250th gate installed on behalf of WBC at Rushall Farm, Bradfield.
Nov Mr Stephen Ormrod becomes chairman.
2017 2 Mar 50th Birthday Gate, installed on behalf of WBC and BBOWT, unveiled on Snelsmore Common by the Group’s first chairman, Dr John Davies.

This is the advert that appeared in the Newbury Weekly News on 23rd February 1967:
NWN advert 23Feb1967

Wednesday, December 19, 2018