The Godalming Ramblers Group was formed in February 1974. George Hyde was the first Chairman, Denis Holmes was the Secretary and John Bryant was the Treasurer. All the committee members were in the 30 to 50 age group with George Hyde the oldest at 58 and there were about 75 members. Two years later in March 1976 the group was merged with the smaller Haslemere Ramblers Group to become the Godalming and Haslemere Ramblers Group, boosting the total to about 100 members.
There were two walks a month—only on Sundays—an all day walk of 8 to 10 miles alternating with a half day of 5 to 6 miles. John Ford was the Footpath Secretary in 1974 but handed this role over to George Hyde in 1975 who was responsible for 13 parishes in West Surrey. He was followed by Michael Cross and then by Denis Holmes in 1995. By 2013 three Footpath Secretaries were appointed to cover these parishes—currently David Hutton, Ian Wilks and Jean Harker. Footpath maintenance started with working parties in 1977 in co-operation with Surrey CC Rights of Way Officers organised by George using our own tools. The first clearance was at Fisher Lane in Chiddingfold near the county boundary. Then regular maintenance teams were started with Peter Adolph as team leader, later led by the current leaders Jim Chipchase and David Hutton.
In those days no footpaths or bridleways were waymarked in Surrey but after negotiating with Surrey CC ROW the first waymarking exercise was carried out in Chiddingfold in April 1977. Waymark signs were painted on the posts using stencils cut from lino tiles but later Surrey supplied us with blue and yellow plastic arrows. In 1983 eighteen fingerposts were delivered by Surrey CC to Denis’s house for our team to erect for which they gave us £50 for the job. Nowadays waymark posts with clear printed round signs are a common feature.
The Group has a fine record of publishing walks books and cards. George Hyde first published a set of 12 cards in the 1970s that were later converted into two books Ten mile walks in South West Surrey and Five mile Walks in South West Surrey. These were followed by a card set of the Greensand Way in Surrey.
A series of books has followed over the years selling many thousands of copies with all the profits going to the Ramblers and bringing the pleasure of walking to the public:
1995 Twenty-one Favourite Walks in Surrey and Sussex edited by Rosemary Bryant
1999 Twenty-five Favourite Walks in West Surrey and Sussex edited by Rosemary Bryant
2003 Twenty-five Favourite Walks revised by Denis and Susan Holmes
2010 Twenty-five Favourite Walks revised by Cynthia Chard
2008 Another 25 Favourite Walks in Surrey Sussex & Hampshire edited by Monica Long
2000 Four Stations Way route card published after research by Denis Holmes, Brian Gray, Damian Wheeler and Peter Horlock
In 1989 The Group helped to sign the first complete route of the Greensand Way across Surrey and Kent. In 2011 we sponsored the re-launch of the Greensand Way in collaboration with Surrey CC and Surrey Area Ramblers carrying out much of the survey and waymarking with new signs.
In the early 1980s Whitsun weekend holiday breaks were started by Roger and Jill Billett from Friday to Monday using HF guest houses and small hotels. No recces were carried out as the walks were led on the spot from the OS maps and local guide books. Over the years this has expanded into longer holidays in the UK and abroad with invited leaders or Group leaders carrying out research into walk routes in advance.
Social activities have always been a part of the extensive walks programme that now caters for walks of all lengths and on almost all days of the week. This programme has continued to grow to meet the demand of an increasing membership that reached the impressive total of 401 in January 2014.
Compiled by Denis and Susan Holmes, Rosemary Bryant and Richard Evans