Sheffield ramblers reach end of the road

Access campaigner GHB Ward, founder of Sheffield Clarion Rambling club, with fellow ramblers
Access campaigner GHB Ward, founder of Sheffield Clarion Rambling club, with fellow ramblers

A walking group which helped lead the campaign for ordinary people to access the Peak District moors is disbanding after 115 years.

The Sheffield Clarion Ramblers was set up in 1900, and at its height had around 200 members - but on Sunday, the society will set off on its last-ever trek.

Nigel Robb, the group’s secretary, said the decision to end the group had been taken as its active membership had dwindled.

“Society has changed so much,” he said. “Young people are disinclined to join clubs. They take a certain amount of organising to run. Clarion is just one of a number of groups which is suffering the same experience.”

The group was founded by George Herbert Bridges Ward, a former steelworker who was a Labour politician and activist for walkers’ rights.

The club - named after The Clarion socialist newspaper - was recognised as the first working-class rambling group.

In 1907, Ward participated in an illegal mass trespass of Bleaklow, which was a forerunner of the historic 1932 mass trespass of Kinder Scout.

“For people who had very limited financial means it was a form of recreation away from the grime and dust of a heavy industrial town,” said Nigel.

Ward died in 1957, but the group - which produced popular handbooks for walkers - continued its weekly rambles.

Graham Baxby, who at 81 is one of the Clarion’s longest-standing members, said the group hit its peak from the 1940s to the 1960s.

“Just after the war there were more than 200 members,” said Graham, from Woodseats, who joined 70 years ago, following in his parents’ footsteps.

He met his wife Barbara, who died 12 years ago aged 60, through the club.

“Quite a number of people met their partners in the Clarion. It’s been one of the main things in my life,” said Graham.

“I feel sad about the club folding, but you can’t run it without members.

“On the last few walks only about eight people turned out.”

Sunday’s walk starts at 10.15am at the car park close to Hope Church, in Hope, following a 10-mile route. It will be led by Martin Boler, a member for over 35 years.

It is hoped the remaining active ramblers will continue walking on an informal basis.