P&NF Signpost S511

Early in 2017 (on a cold, wet and windy day – as evidenced below) Halcyon Rambling Club celebrated its 90th birthday with a Buck’s Fizz starter, a walk in the White Peak followed by afternoon tea and cakes to bring the day to a close.

Our anniversary was marked with a simple plaque added to one of the many Peak & Northern Footpaths attractive and unique signposts. This particular post (S511) is located within the Wiseman Hey Clough Plantation on the west bank of Ladybower Reservoir.

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‘Bucks Fizz’ starter to the 90th anniversary ramble

We don’t know whether it was a cold, wet and windy day 94 years ago when, on 11th February 1927, the Yorkshire Telegraph and Star published a letter by Messrs Buckley and Eyre requesting that anyone interested in forming a rambling club should contact the letter writers directly. The first meeting of the fledgling club was held only two weeks later. By the second meeting in March, many decisions had been taken: officials (President, Secretary, Treasurer and a committee) were appointed, the name would be Halcyon Rambling Club with affiliation to the Ramblers Federation (later to become the Ramblers Association), a minimum age of 17 for membership was agreed, club objectives and rules were drafted and membership charges were set.

For some reason the original membership was limited to fifty: 30 gentlemen and 20 ladies.  Obtaining membership required that

‘Each candidate for admission to the club shall be nominated by two members in writing; the name and address being notified to the Secretary.  The election shall be by ballot of the Committee.’

Also of interest is Rule 14 of the original club rules. It required that

‘The rambles shall be undertaken whether wet or dry, a leader having been previously appointed by the committee.’ The rule went on to state ‘The leader shall follow the ramble set out, and be able to point out any place of interest, stopping only at such times as he or she think necessary. All arrangements for the accommodation of the party shall be left in his or her hands.’

It’s surprising that there were any ramble leaders given these onerous requirements. Also, somewhat less than democratic ? – the committee decided on the rambles and designated the leader who was required to be familiar with the route, arrange the lunch and tea locations etc. 

A’Rat Pack’ 1936 Treasure Hunt.
Photo kindly supplied by Mathew Abbott

Variety has always been a feature of our activities. Even from the 1920s the scheduled events included occasional visits to caves, boat trips, treasure hunts, one or two weekends away per year and a summer ‘midnight ramble’ which, the President noted, ‘may include women but only the hardiest should turn up: 1 mile of midnight ramble equals 2 miles of ordinary ramble.’

Initially, members subscriptions were set at 1 shilling entrance fee plus 2 old pence per week (converted to 2021 values the 1927 annual membership fee equates to about £30 / year). Any member owing subs of 2s 6d (about £8 at 2021 values) was sent a reminder by the Treasurer but if the debt rose to 4s (about £12.90) the member would be struck

off the register.The 1927 subs were much higher than our current rate of £5 per year. However, subsidies were frequently given to members to help with local bus fares, coach fares on weekends away and for the annual club dinner. All these financial complications must have been a nightmare for Hon Treasurer – I wonder if our current Treasurer would relish the task of annual and weekly collections of subs as well as arranging several rounds of subsidies over the year.

Complicated subscriptions and subsidies were not the only workload for the various Treasurers: From the mid 1930s and for many years thereafter (up until the 1990s) the club regularly donated or subscribed to the Ramblers Association, the Youth Hostel Association, CPRE and the Society for the Preservation of Footpaths (and its successor), although both the list of recipients and amounts donated varied somewhat from year to year. There were also ‘one off’ payments to the National Trust, the Longshaw Fund, the Yorkshire Cancer Research Society and many wedding present gifts to members. The introduction of a single annual membership subscription in 1942 must have been well received by the Treasurer.

Despite a united start, disagreements and the occasional problem soon appeared: at a committee meeting in August 1927 the Treasurer and Secretary fell out, although after some diplomatic intervention the Secretary was finally persuaded to withdraw his resignation. Whether related or not, just over a year later the Secretary was in trouble again and at an Extraordinary General Meeting was expelled from the club for ‘misconduct in the club’s business, including financial irregularities’. Neither details nor evidence of the alleged misconduct are in the records and posterity has no way of judging whether Hon Sec was really guilty or not: it remains an intriguing mystery.

Apart from the Secretary’s alleged misdemeanours there were other matters which clearly did not meet with the then President’s approval: he requested the committee’s support in maintaining order at General Meetings, four members having recently resigned after being censured for playing cards during the meeting. At a committee meeting in August 1930 it is recorded that

‘steps would have to be taken to keep down the practice of over-indulgence in strong liquor, otherwise beer, by club members’.

and in one of the committee meetings of the following year the President noted that

‘he had no objection to football at rest and meal times but it was to be discouraged whilst walking.’

On a lighter note, in his report to the 1937 Annual General Meeting, the President mentioned that

‘A new species of bird had been spotted on the moors of late, the Halcyon bird, now that the mating season appeared to be to hand’.

He expressed the hope that

‘members would not allow courtship to cut them adrift from the club’.

Almost from the outset one of the Secretary’s duties was to provide details of the next ramble to the Star newspaper for publication. However, in the early days the Secretary was to use discretion in providing route details if it was a ‘trespass ramble’. No point in alerting the gamekeepers and land owners (the opposition at that time) in advance. This policy obviously had some success: at the 1934 Annual General Meeting the President stated that

‘Rambles on Froggat, Derwent and other Edges had been successful and ramblers had not often been turned off by the landowners.’

1937 Kinder Ramble.
Photo kindly supplied by Mathew Abbott
1937 Kinder Ramble.
Photo kindly supplied by Mathew Abbott

During the war many rambling clubs disbanded, but not the Halcyon. Although at times, due to travel restrictions, we were forced to reduce the programme to six rambles per quarter we continued to operate throughout those difficult years. Nor were club members serving in the forces forgotten. Club funds were used to provide gifts or postal orders which were sent to all serving members who also retained their membership without having to pay any subscriptions. Serving members were asked to write an open letter to the club which could then be copied and circulated to other serving members to help ‘keep in touch’.

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Halcyon’s 21st birthday party gathering in 1948.
Photo kindly supplied by Mathew Abbott

For about ten years up to the mid 1960s the Halcyon assisted Longshaw Estates, the Peak Park Planning Board (as was) and the Peak District and Northern Footpaths Society by providing volunteer wardens on an occasional basis. Longshaw, Kinder and Bleaklow were the chosen locations.

Halcyon’s 70th anniversary (1997) was marked with a plaque placed on the Slippery Stones footbridge at the northern end of Howden Reservoir (photo courtesy of Simon Wright, retired former National Trust head ranger). This coincided with repairs to the wooden bridge which were partly funded by a contribution from the club. Much more recently a major rebuild of the bridge was completed and it is pleasing to note that all the commemorative plaques (including Halcyon’s) have been reinstated.

Happy faces and our 85th anniversary plaque

A further plaque to mark our 85th birthday in 2012 was added to the Peak & Northern Footpaths Society signpost S347 in the village of Litton, Derbyshire.

Considerable changes have occurred since the club was formed. For many years members met in Sheffield city centre and travelled by bus to the start point of the ramble. At the end of the ramble members had tea at a pre-arranged location and then got the bus back to town. By the mid 1970s it was appreciated that, at least for distant rambles, coach travel was becoming expensive. That, combined with increasing private car ownership, prompted acceptance of using members’ cars to travel to the start. However, the committee did rule that when car sharing, members would divide the cost on the basis of 25 mpg for fuel used. Nowadays we simply ‘car share’ on an ad hoc basis but still occasionally manage to use local buses or trains when the scheduled services allow us to do so. 

One thing that appears not to have changed over the last few decades is how some of our members choose to relax at lunch times, weather permitting. From the early days participants soon became christened ‘The Halcyon Horizontals’  and most would claim that they weren’t actually asleep – just resting their bodies and eyes.

The so called ‘lunch out’ rambles were introduced in 1992 when it became unacceptable to take one’s own packed lunch to eat in a pub: we now regularly try to find a cosy en-route spot for lunch, sheltered from the prevailing wind (and rain or snow if it’s that sort of day).

One of the biggest changes in recent times is that of documentation. From 1992 we included mileages on the ramble programme, adding National Grid references for the meeting place in the following year.  Grades 1 to 4, indicating the difficulty of rambles, was introduced in 1998 and within two years we had drafted and issued ‘Recommendations and Guidelines for Leaders and Members’ and our ‘Accident/Incident Record’.  The latter was reviewed, updated and re-issued in 2007 with a further update October 2020.

Our basic documentation suite was completed with the issue in early 2011 of ‘Halcyon Requirements/Guidelines for Members/Guests with Dogs (with brief notes on Rights of Way and Access Land)’.  We reviewed and updated our Constitution during 2014 which was then formally accepted at the 2015 Annual General Meeting. In 2018 we detailed our Privacy Policy and addressed the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulations.

The lockdown periods of the 2020 COVID pandemic required the club’s programme of rambles and social events to be abandoned, although many members continued to walk the hills and valleys either on their own or with a support bubble colleague. As 2021 progressed the easing of restrictions was welcomed by all as it allowed the club to offer members a limited programme of rambles run under our COVID Protocol (necessarily updated as the restrictions were amended and now presented on this website as our COVID Advice). The last of the UK government’s restrictions affecting Halcyon’s activities were finally lifted mid 2021 and that has enabled the welcome resumption of both our ramble and social programmes, together with re-opening to guests.

Considering our long history it’s perhaps something of a surprise that we have only had nine different Presidents, including the author. That is due in no small way to the popularity of Frank Turton who was re-elected to the post of President for many years (1931 to 1979).  Frank was very active throughout his life not only with the Halcyon and the Sheffield & District Ramblers Federation but in many other aspects.  He was a keen photographer and explorer.  Well on into his 60s he joined (by invitation) a Norwegian Mountaineering Association expedition to Lapland to explore virtually unknown territory encompassing the Dead Valley.  The previous year he had undertaken a 3000 mile trek through Lapland.  In his late 70s Frank was still regularly walking 18 miles a day.

Pictured above left is the original plaque commemorating Frank Turton and his long association with Halcyon. Sadly, some time ago the original plaque was stolen but we are very grateful to the Peak & Northern Footpaths Society for arranging a replacement (above right).

Over our first 94 years the club has undergone both ups and downs but it has had an unbroken record of rambling – neither war (WW2) nor the pandemic has stopped us enjoying one of the most scenic and beautiful areas of the country.  Halcyon’s continuity is a reflection of the dedication of generations of members and it is hoped this will be the case for many years into the future.

Updated August 2021