Polegate Ramblers Archives – Introduction

2024 marks the 65th anniversary of the Polegate Rambling Club, which started life as ‘The Polegate Field Paths Preservation Society’ in 1969, with the purpose ‘To preserve the field paths, bridleways and rights of way in Polegate, to arrange rambles for members and co-operate with other societies for a common purpose.’

In pre-social media days, the club was diligent in keeping scrapbooks of walks, trips, meetings, events and working parties, all recorded in nine big photo albums. A project has recently taken place to scan all the scrapbook pages and make them available on the club website.  The exercise was an eye-opener to the ways in which the club has changed, and how it’s remained the same.

Back in the day, The Heavy Gang went out to clear footpaths and rebuild stiles with materials provided by the council. Not a hint of health and safety, the volunteers were able to undertake the jobs using their own skills and common sense.

Once established, as well as walking locally, members went on many coach trips for walking and sight-seeing, including several visits to Dieppe. They ran stalls at fetes, raised money for charity, attended slideshows, and illustrated talks, had quizzes, coffee mornings and socials. From time to time the club welcomed blind ramblers who they accompanied on suitable walks.

The walks were organised in a much more informal fashion than today; there are photos of the Walks Secretary enlisting future walk leaders at a coffee stop during a ramble, and noting them in his little black book! Initially walks were just a few miles usually in the afternoon, but at some point, the 3 walk options were adopted, all starting in the morning. There seemed to be a lot more pub-lunching than there is now, although still plenty of picnicking.

Many scenes are virtually unchanged – the downs, pubs and villages, but some of the photographic evidence shows the march of time – there were several more yards of cliff at Birling Gap than there are now, and one particular photo shows ramblers crossing a muddy scar across the landscape – soon to become the A27 Polegate bypass.

The people in the older photos would be over 100 now. I wonder if the Polegate Ramblers of 2089 will look back fondly on our memories on the Facebook page, and marvel at the similarities and differences of now and then.

For the 50th anniversary tea-party, Club Secretary (2013-2022) John Riley trawled through over 200 sets of minutes to produce a potted history of the society. A marathon effort. In scanning the 360 pages of photos and text in the scrapbooks, Club Secretary (2022- ) Lindsey Gwynne resurrected the members of those earlier days and using John’s history as a starting point, produced the history on this website which accompanies the photos.

The original photo albums are now lodged at The Keep, East Sussex Records Office’s archive at Falmer where they can be viewed without charge by anyone wishing to do so.

By Lindsey Gwynne – Secretary Feb 2024