Rambling on: Walking club marks centenary with Cally waymark
PUBLISHED: 13:20 19 September 2019 | UPDATED: 13:20 19 September 2019
An independent walking club marked its centenary this week by unveiling a waymark in Caledonian Park in a nod to the area’s cattle market heritage.
The North London Rambling Club was founded in 1919 and these days has a membership of more than 100 walking enthusiasts.
It was founded by a "Swiss Christian" walker Mr Steinmen (who's first name has been lost to time) in 1919, and endured the Second World War to become one of the oldest independent rambling groups in the UK.
Many of these ramblers live in Islington and wander its streets and canals during weekly walks, which sometimes venture as far as the home counties .
But this week they took a short stroll to Caledonian Park to see their commemorative centenary signpost for the first time.
Club chair Stephen Ross said: "We were looking for somewhere we could put a permanent thing that can stand the test of time. We were looking for a safe space where it would be looked after.
"A waymark relates to the travel to cattle market, so it's a bit of a hook to the history of Caledonian Market. We're always looking for new members. To keep going for 100 years is quite something for an independent organisation, so we hope this is the start of the next 100 years."
The 67-year-old said the event "was great fun and "went very well", as 35 members turned up and walked from Manor House through Finsbury Park, Gillespie Park and Paradise Park before arriving in the Cally.
He said some members from north London had never been to Gillespie Park.
The group typically attracts walkers between the ages of 50 to 80, and it runs rambles every Saturday of the year "rain or sun or snow".
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A ramble is typically six to 12 miles long, though it can stretch as far as 15 miles in the summer.
The club used to take "parties of deprived children" from the King's Cross area to pantomimes and on countryside walks for cheap rates in the 1930s, but has since ceased all charitable activities.
Asked why people should join the club, Stephen added: "Firstly, it's great exercise, far better than being in a gym - walking is an incredible form of exercise.
"You see scenery and places you'd never see unless you get up and walk. It's an extremely positive activity both physically and mentally.
"A good day's walk and your mind is clear; you've thought things through. We think we know London but actually you know very little until you get up and start walking." One former club member was a pilot in the Second World War, where he earned the Victorian Flying Cross before he was later reported missing and is not thought to have returned, while another north London rambler was held at a prisoner of war camp in Italy before being freed and returning to London, where he renewed his membership at the club. The club has passed down their stories but lost their names.
Stephen has worked in social housing all his career and became a rambler when he retired. He has a personal connection to Caledonian Park as he was Southern Housing's lead director for redevelopment on the Marquess Estate from 2003 to 2012. He believes these works paved the way for the "wonderful period of renaissance" the park is currently experiencing.
He said: "Had it not been for the regeneration project improvements to the park wouldn't have happened, nor would, improvements to the clock tower - it sparked regeneration."
In June, the "fascinating heritage" of Caledonian Park Clock Tower was celebrated when the restored structure was reopened following a three
In June, the Caledonian Park Clock Tower was reopened following a three year renovation project, supported by a grant of nearly £2million from The National Lottery Fund.
This money helped to fully restore the 164-year-old Grade II* listed clock tower, built by James Bunnings in 1885.
The North London Rambling Club took take a tour up the tour on Tuesday, where Stephen also volunteers part time, on Wednesday to savour the "fantastic" view. Reflecting on Southern Housing's work at the Marquees estate, Stephen added: "As part of our project we did a lot of work to improve the park and a all the tenants were rehoused in new social housing.
"We kept the community together, so nobody was shipped away. Before then, the Caledonian Park was very rough and people wouldn't go in there at night."