Walking Class Hero: 100 not out
There’s a lot of talk about legacy these days. A lot of us walkers love our history. Mention the Ridgeway, for example, and more often than not you’ll be told that much of the 139 km / 87 miles National Trail follows an ancient chalk ridge route used by prehistoric man. (Their route ran 400 km / 250 miles from the Dorset coast to the Wash apparently.) We know this because archaeologists have found numerous remains supporting this amongst the long barrows that are found along the way. I mean, I like visiting a castle as much as the next person, but there is little sense that they’re still being used for their original purpose in the modern world. Whereas, except for some style considerations, people are still walking along the Ridgeway (or many other routes) exactly like their ancestors from over 5000 years ago.
Then there’s the more recent past. Many of us get misty-eyed at the mere mention of the Kinder Mass Trespass of 1932. Although I suspect the formation of the Ramblers’ Association 3 years later isn’t as likely to rouse such strong emotions. The Ramblers have their roots firmly in the 19th century with the 1820’s seeing the formation of societies for the preservation of ancient footpaths. The 1880’s saw several walking clubs spring up in and around London. The marvellously named Sunday Tramps is unfortunately no longer in existence but the Forest Ramblers (formed in 1884) and the Polytechnic Rambling Club (1885) are still going strong.
Linked to Morley College, the Morley Ramblers were formed 100 years ago (as the Morley College Scientific, Photographic and Rambling Club) on 24 April 1912, and this year, obviously, they’ve been celebrating their 100th birthday. And because they have excellent records they know their inaugural walk was held around Farthing Downs. In a nod to symmetry that I really like they have chosen to repeat part of this walk to mark the occasion and have been encouraging participants to dress up in walking gear through the ages. Sometime during the last 100 years the photographers went their own way and formed their own Morley College club that is still running. Wonder what happened to the scientists – perhaps they don’t go outdoors anymore?
A word about the college itself. These days its campus can be found on the Westminster Bridge Road in Waterloo but as with everything else it is also resides on the worldwide web and I am indebted to their website for the following information. In 1880, Emma Cons leased what is now known as the ‘Old Vic’ theatre, and created the Royal Victoria Coffee and Music Hall, offering morally-decent entertainment at affordable prices for the community. In 1882 the hall began to host weekly ‘penny lectures’, in which eminent scientists would address the public on a wide range of topics. The lectures were a huge success and quickly developed into evening classes which, in 1889, led to the establishment of Morley Memorial College for Working Men and Women. The name both recognised the generous support received from Samuel Morley, an eminent textile manufacturer and MP, and also proclaimed the College’s commitment to gender and class equality.
Emma Cons was born in St Pancras and joined the Ladies Co-operative Guild run by Caroline Hill (mother of housing reformer and National Trust founder Octavia Hill). Emma worked as a rent collector for Octavia, an illuminator for John Ruskin, formed the South London Dwellings Company and then Morley College. And, oh yeah, in 1889 became the first ever female alderman elected to the London County Council. Over the years the College has attracted staff with outstanding reputations. Renowned composer Gustav Holst was Director of Music at Morley from 1907 until 1924, a post that was later filled by Sir Michael Tippett in 1940. Other high profile figures associated with the College have included composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, writer Virginia Woolf and artist David Hockney.
In truth the celebratory walk was more a stroll and as much about the lunch, in The Fox at the head of Happy Valley, as anything else. The weather was marvellous, most of London seemed to be basking in the reflected glory of the successful Olympics opening ceremony and, all in all, it was a great day to be out and about meeting new people. Although I suspect that Aidan Burley MP, who had been publically critical on twitter of the Danny Boyle extravaganza the night before, would be horrified to know that London has been doing this ‘leftie multi-cultural crap’ for centuries.
Morley College say this about themselves – their vision is leading excellent, distinctive and inspiring adult education via their mission to nurture an ambitious programme of innovative, responsive and sustainable lifelong learning and skills opportunities. Their ramblers are affiliated to Inner London Ramblers and the relationship is mutually enriching. I urge you to check out the courses they offer as well as their walks programme. As the immediate post-Olympic era seems set to revive the debate about the Big Society, especially as the 17,000 volunteer Games Makers were such a resounding success, it seems self-evident to me that we can learn a lot from organisations like Morley College and the Ramblers. Both know a thing or two about legacy and have a proven record of supplying what people want, where they want it.
- Morley College
- The Ramblers
- Morley Ramblers
- The Ridgeway
- Kinder Trespass
- Sunday Tramps
- Forest Ramblers
- Polytechnic Rambling Club
- Farthing Downs & Happy Valley
- Emma Cons
- Octavia Hill
- John Ruskin
- Samuel Morley
- Aidan Burley
- Danny Boyle
- Games Makers
- Big Society
- Inner London Ramblers
DJ Q – 100 Not Out
The Ting Tings – We Walk
The Clientele – We Could Walk Together
Gustav Holst – I vow to thee, my country – vocal
Ralph Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending – Produced
Sir Michael Tippet – A Child of Our Time
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers – Century City