Following a meeting in 1976 at the "Friends Meeting House", initiated by Joan and Arthur Truby, Dudley Ramblers was founded. Arthur became the first Chairman with Joan as Secretary/Treasurer and Brian Kitching taking on the role of Publicity Officer.
A subsequent meeting decided on a series of walks to take place on Sundays with occasional indoor meetings at the Friends Meeting House.
The first walk, led by Arthur, started from Trimpley near Bewdley and took place on March 6th 1977. With 35-40 people taking part the new club was off to a good start.
For the first few years the club was run without a committee with frequent but irregular walks. Much of the area to the west of Dudley was visited with occasional visits as far as North Wales and the Peak District.
However, numbers began to decrease with some attendances being in single figures and at least one walk cancelled altogether. By 1980 this led to talk of winding up the club .
At The January 1980 AGM Arthur indicated the desire to step down as Chairman to make way for someone else. Les Cook agreed to act as Chairman for a trial period of twelve months, at the end of which, if things hadn't improved, consideration would again be given to winding up.
A committee was formed with Joan and Arthur becoming joint Presidents and Brian Kitching staying as Publicity Officer. The new committee arranged a programme of walks on alternate Sundays for the year to the next AGM. The first of these walks, on 27th January 1980 was a repeat of the first ever walk at Trimpley and attracted 20 people, the following walk at Malvern had an attendance of 34.
A successful year followed and at the next AGM no mention was made of disbanding. It was decided that the club Officers would, in future, be elected for a term of two years, the outgoing Officers and Committee (with one or two changes on the Committee) were re-elected.
With a growing active membership the first Coach Ramble was held on 3rd. May 1981. A fully booked 53 seat coach took members to Llyn Crafnant in North Wales with a small party going on to the mountains in the Ogwen area. This first Coach walk was led by Roy Guest of Wolverhampton Rambling Club. In all, six Coach walks took place during 1981/82 all with fully subscribed 53 seater coaches a further sign of the club's continuing revival.
On Monday 4th. May1981 the first Dudley Borough Trail took place. The club had been invited to assist in the organisation of the event and this involvement is still ongoing in 2006. For many years liasion was ably carried out first by Harold Yates and then by Derek Holmwood until he recently handed over to Dennis Guest.
With increasing levels of enthusiasm (and fitness) some members fancied a challenge and in 1981 29 of them took part in the annual Severn Valley Way challenge walk. (This covers the 32 miles from Stourport to Ironbridge following the river). All but three completed the course. The following year another twenty or so members joined the event and this time all but one finished the course. In 1985 there was some talk of the upper reaches of the Severn being dammed causing the loss of the Severn Valley Way so a large group entered and completed the marathon. The damming never took place.
With the success of a planned programme of walks the same treatment was applied to the indoor meetings which had so far been a failure. So, in 1980, a regular fortnightly programme of indoor meetings was arranged consisting of a mix of slideshows and talks etc. by both club members and guest speakers. The move was successful to the extent that larger premises were needed and in 1981 the venue was changed first to the Central library and then in 1982 to "The Bull's Head" in Lower Gornal. It was later necessary to leave this venue and meetings moved to "The Fiddler's Arms" also in Lower Gornal until a more lucrative booking for the landlord forced to move once more. I 2006 we relocated to Pensnett Liberal Club.
About this time the club "adopted" a small youth hostel at Corris in North Wales and a number of members spent working weekends helping refurbish the hostel. This association had ended by the time I joined the club in 1983.
In May 1984 12 walkers with a backup crew of 7 attempted and completed the 42 mile challenge of the "Lyke Wake Walk" a full traverse of the North Yorkshire Moors and crossing the five ranges of the Cleveland Hills. This was repeated in May 1987 by another group of 10 walkers with 5 backup. At 17 hours 55 minutes this group were 5 minutes quicker than the first. In 1988 a group completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge walk (26 miles ascending Pen-Y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough - the three highest peaks in the county)
By 1984 the club was running 6 coach trips a year so it was decided to do the Staffs Way a section at a time using some of these coaches. Having completed The Staffs Way The Cotswold way was completed in the same way. The Worcestershire Way and the Wychavon Way were tackled by using cars and an elaborate ferrying of vehicles and drivers from one end to the other.
By the late 1980's the club had 10 coach trips a year and at one time it was essential to book on the first one as bookings for the next coach were usually all sold out on the preceding trip. There were occasions of overspill when some members used their cars and followed the coach to the start of the walk. Eventually numbers declined and it was necessary to introduce two categories of walk and the number of coaches dropped to three and now is regularly one During this period some members carried out a couple of "midnight" walks both taking place on the Malverns and starting at about 11.00 pm Saturday and ending at sun-up.
A number of different designs of badges have been produced for the club since the early '80s, sweatshirts and tee shirts were also purchased and for two years there was a Dudley Ramblers diary available.
There have been a few accidents over the years (with your present writer being the main statistic) with a few twisted ankles, a couple of broken arms a broken ankle and fractured shoulder. On one walk we were attacked by bees and on another a young lad was the victim of a sheep tick, and we have had one fatal heart attack. But, considering the amount of walking done and the varieties of terrain we have visited over the last 30 years the accident statistics are quite low.
During my membership I can count up to eight couples who have met and eventually married through the club, I will stand correcting on this figure.
June 1983 saw the appearance of the club's newsletter written and produced entirely by Les Cook. Issue number two contained member's contributions and by issue three it had acquired the name of "Footprints". Les continued as editor up to and including issue nine in March 1986. I took over as editor and producer and continued until the end of 1993. I was succeeded by Pam Peeler and then Maureen Bell. It then seems to have died as Footprints but an untitled version edited by Marie Devonport appeared at irregular intervals for a while. This has now been superceded by an occasional short issue from the Chairman which is also published on the web site.
In 1987 I organised the first weekend away at Sticklebarn in Great Langdale, this was followed by others in Yorkshire, The Lakes and North Wales. These were co-organised by Bill Walker and myself. With this type of group accommodation being difficult to get (there were waiting lists of up to 2 years) we switched to YHA hostels. Bill organised the bulk of these with first my and then Keith Walters' assistance. This practice ceased with Bill's death and the club went upmarket with coaches to 3-star hotels. The club moved back to YHA with the occasional visit to a Holiday Fellowship venue but is now going back to hotels once more.
1989 saw the formation of Dudley Senior Ramblers which was a group for Senior Citizens organised by Bert Morris and Len Horton. This is a separate club affiliated to Dudley Ramblers. Bert has the distinction of being the first honorary member of the club after reaching the age of 80 and still being active. This accolade now applies to any other member attaining octagenerian status. The Senior Ramblers continue to thrive and is a fitting memorial to Len&Bert.
Another sub group is worthy of mention and this was initiated by Bob Cole and Bill Walker for early retirees too young to make Len and Bert's group. This is the Wednesday group which meets on alternate weeks and starts from Sedgley. This group has no official DR status or affiliation but all participants are members of Dudley Ramblers.
After Les Cook was forced to give up walking and the chairmanship due to ill health the position was taken up by Steve Bowen who had long served the club in the office of treasurer. Les was a hard act to follow, he made Dudley Ramblers and I had the privilege to do a lot of walking with him, Steve and Hughie Philips either "sussing" club walks or just for our own benefit.
Steve also eventually resigned and was replaced by Mike Ball.
Mike had originally been a Friend of the Committee and was then voted on as a full committee member. While on the committee he was responsible for the Thursday evening indoor meetings at the "Bull's Head" and arranged for a wide range of guest speakers in addition to conducting his own annual Quiz Night. After his election as Chairman he continued with this task until dwindling numbers attending, combined with the high cost to club funds caused a cessation of such events. Mike was particularly proud to have been the chairman during the 20th and 21st anniversary of the club. Following Mike the club elected its first Chairwoman in Janet Harrison. Janet steered the club through it's 25th anniversary and the installation of a memorial bench in Himley Park. With her experience and contacts in the hotel business she was responsible for the upmarket move for weekends away. She also organised a lot of the non-walking social events. After an acrimonious resignation halfway through a term of office the chairmanship was temporarily taken over at short notice by then secretary, Terry Webb. At the next AGM Terry was confirmed as the new chairman with an almost new committee.
At the AGM of 2009, having served the two terms of office allowed in the rules, Terry stood down from the chairmanship as did a number of long serving committee members. With only one nomination for the vacant office Phil Lowry was duly voted in as the new chairman along with new committee members.
After serving as Chairman for his initial two year term of office Phil Lowry declined to serve a further term mainly due to business commitments. A number of committee members also stood down and at the AGM of 2011 a new Chairman was required.
Stephen Edwards, a regular walker and former committee member was proposed and elected unopposed.
As with the previous chairman, Stephen stood down at the 2013 AGM after serving his two years along with other committee members and officers. A new chairman was again required and up stepped Phil Mitchell to fill the post. Like Stephen before him, Phil has been a long serving committee member and a regular walker. He is also a regular contributor of photographs to the web site photo album. After his two years in office Phil was reelected for a further two year term at the AGM of 2015. The AGM of 2017 was held on a Sunday morning with a good turnout. As this was the occasion of the club’s 40th anniversary sandwiches and birthday cake were supplied and the event toasted with champers. New officers and committee members were appointed and regular walker and retiring Treasurer, Graham Smith was elected as new chairman in place of Phil whose 4 year term was concluded
Praise must be given to the various officers and committee members over the years and also the people without whom the club could not function - The Walk Leaders.
Some five years ago I set up an unofficial club web site, as this was fairly successful I approached the committee in 2005 with a view to purchasing our own domain name and making the site official. The fact that you are reading this shows that this approach was successful. The popularity of the site can be judged from the hit-counter on the Home Page. In 2015 the programme I was using for the web site had it’s support withdrawn by Microsoft and subsequently our service provider. It was necessary to rebuild the site from scratch the result being what you see now. Thanks must go to Phil and the committee for sanctioning the purchase of the new software.
There was a period in the recent history when the club seemed to be drifting into being more of a social club, this tendency has now been reversed but, despite a good core of regular active walkers, membership numbers are declining. This in part is due to an ageing membership and lack of younger members joining.
The above is taken partly from accounts of club history recorded in the archives and two old newsletters and written by Les Cook and Harold Yates. Additional material is my work from material I have and from personal memories from 30+ years membership. I stand to be contradicted on any point.