In researching the history of Bolton Ramblers, I have been struck by how much was done by how few. There appear to have been, and continue to be, a few people whose extraordinary energy and drive have kept the organisation thriving and made walking such an enjoyable and accessible activity for all in Bolton. It feels unfair to pick out one or two names but perhaps mention can be made of Peter Sleightholm, Lawrence Hubbard (who devised walks such as the Douglas Way and Hubbard's Hike), Harold Lamb (legendary walker who climbed Ben Nevis on his 81st birthday) and Bill Haslam who, among other contributions, created the group badge which can be found on the front of this Programme.

The first record of the Accounts of Bolton Ramblers in September 1969 noted only £5 received from the Manchester Area Ramblers and 2 years later, the main expenditure was £3 on maps and 40p on room hire! Initially, work was more to do with talk than action, with discussions of footpaths and Rights of Access and arranging lectures etc. In the late 70s, there was a mini-rebellion in the committee with some members suggesting more walking than talking and Lawrence Hubbard and Peter Sleightholm were tasked with "getting on with it." They arranged to walk the first leg of the Cumbrian Way from Ulverston to Coniston in September 1981 and to everyone's astonishment, about 100 people turned up and 2 coaches were required. Unfortunately, many who attended were unsuitably dressed for such a demanding walk and wore flimsy shoes and carried plastic bags and, not surprisingly, walkers dropped out right, left and centre and had to be picked up by the coach along the route.

It was quickly realised that more organisation and preparation were required but at least Bolton Ramblers had left the Committee Room. It appears to have been another year before further coach rambles took place and even then there were problems, with walkers meandering down the middle of narrow country lanes and walking side by side across fields with crops. Eventually, from 1995 a "Countryside Code" was included in every Walks Programme. Happily, this is no longer felt to be necessary.

Meanwhile, shorter local rambles thrived with a range of Summer Evening Walks, Winter Walks, Moorsrail Rambles, starting from Railway Stations and run by the West Pennine Organisation but led by Ramblers Association members, Car Rambles and "leisurely" 3-mile Thursday walks. Only the dreadful Foot & Mouth outbreak of 2001 put a stop to the free roaming over the countryside.

From the very start of Bolton Ramblers, the maintenance and accessibility of local footpaths was a huge issue and continues to be. In 1984, the first meeting of the Footpath Liaison Group was held, involving Bolton Ramblers and representatives from Bolton Council with the aim of achieving "a better understanding...(of) problems each face in respect of public footpaths." They continue to meet, scrutinising all relevant planning applications and investigating complaints and queries regarding footpaths in general.

For many years, largely due to the efforts and enthusiasm of Doreen Wilcox, Doris Shiels and Sue Stephenson, Bolton Ramblers had an active social life over and beyond the walking, with regular slide shows and, from the early 1990s, a yearly "Bit of a Do" involving food and entertainment. It seems fitting, therefore, that this October, we will be marking the 50th Anniversary with another "Bit of a Do" which we hope will be a fitting celebration of the pleasure that Bolton Ramblers has brought to so many walkers over the years.

BOLTON RAMBLERS is part of The Walking Partnership.

This partnership, supported by Ramblers Worldwide Holidays, provides direct financial contributions to local walking groups to help with organising group walks, encouraging people to get out walking, helping to clear and improve footpaths, providing equipment to help walkers etc. Now our group can benefit directly. Ramblers Worldwide Holidays operate group walking holidays in the UK and all around the world. Holidays are graded in terms of difficulty, and there is a full range from sightseeing right up to hut-to-hut mountain treks. Take a look at their website on www.ramblersholidays.co.uk or give them a call on 01707 331133 for more details or to order a brochure. Remember when you book to quote the name of our group, and we will then receive a contribution of £10 per person on UK holidays, £20 per person on short haul holidays, and £30 per person on long haul holidays. This extra funding could really make a difference to us! For more details, visit The Walking Partnership website at www.thewalkingpartnership.org.uk.