Surrey has long provided much of the most popular walking country in the South East. As a regional division of the national Ramblers' Association, we were formed in July 1984, when a vastly bigger Area was devolved into county-sized units, capable of being run more effectively by spare-time volunteers. Surrey Area does, in fact, cover not only the county but also five London Boroughs - Croydon, Kingston-upon-Thames, Merton, Richmond and Sutton. On that day of formation, Surrey area membership was 2579, while today it is around 7000 – some measure of successful growth. Surrey membership is the highest of any Area in the country.
The work of Surrey Area falls under two headings. Firstly, of course, the protection of this much-loved countryside and its rights of way for future generations to enjoy. The Area has a major involvement in countryside planning issues, from road schemes and eco-village developments to polytunnel farming. For example, the mighty Hindhead Bypass project makes far better provision for walkers, thanks to our efforts. Over 2,000 miles of rights of way in the county are watched over by 20 Ramblers footpath secretaries, each responsible for several parishes, ready to take up problems, even fight legal cases as they arise. We work closely with county rights of way officers, and with current cutbacks in highway authority budgets, our volunteer working parties will be putting in even more work, clearing paths and rebuilding stiles and gates.
Then, to encourage greater enjoyment of our countryside, 16 Ramblers local groups in Surrey organise over 2,000 walks in a typical year, all free and led by dedicated volunteers. In this way, we take thousands of town-dwellers out to explore the Surrey hills and heathlands, and beyond. When Surrey Area was formed back in 1984 there were just six local groups providing this service – another impressive measure of how the Area has grown.