Walking out of lockdown – Ramblers next steps

A YouGov poll, conducted in June 2020 showed that 74% of Britons took up exercise during lockdown, with walking proving to be the most popular activity. Subsequent polls have reaffirmed peoples’ commitments to positive lifestyle changes, and it is hoped that those who have discovered the joy of walking might consider joining the Ramblers in future months.

Like all charities, the lockdown had a negative impact on Ramblers membership numbers, but Central Office are doing what they can to bounce back from this fall. In early July they launched a new campaign to celebrate the joy of walking; this focused on recruitment primarily though digital channels (Facebook/Instagram/Google adverts) which has previously worked well and is quite effective in the recruitment of people aged over 50. This campaign is focused more on independent walking and material has been provided to groups to use on the social media channels.

Ramblers also intend to make a concerted effort to contact lapsed members, either through email, phone or post, to encourage them to reconsider joining.

There is talk of providing “taster walks” for groups of small sizes to run alongside the main group lead walks. Clearly, as with all activity, it will need to take place ensuring full adherence to government guidelines, which as we know appear almost constantly to change! Certainly all steps to reintroduce group activities will be limited by external factors and an ever-changing climate, however, the main message appears to be that Ramblers Central Office are not resting on their laurels, and in fact are doing what they can to curb the decline in membership, and to draw attention to the work of the organisation.

Later this summer, Ramblers intend to trial membership information stands at selected locations across England. Staffed by membership recruiters, they hope to speak directly to members of the public, and sign them up on the spot should they be interested in joining. If there are to be any sites chosen in the West Riding, our Area volunteers and leaders will be informed, so that we too can play an active role.

If circumstances allow, they intend to run the Festival of Winter Walks this year as usual, albeit with all necessary modifications. Again, if this does take place, we can access support and assets from Central Office to publicise our activity as part of the festival.

Reflecting our own intentions to run many more shorter walks throughout the winter season, Central Office have shown that these ‘taster walks’ – up to five miles – are a great way to introduce newcomers to our lead walks and encourage new members to join.

They are still working to decide on their brand and how Ramblers can become more relevant to a wider walking audience. We should receive updates on progress in due course.

Caroline Spalding