Our excellent leaders are at the heart of our holiday business at RWH. With their unmatched knowledge, experience, and that personal touch, they are what makes each and every tour a unique success. But by the very nature of their work, it’s almost impossible to get them all together in one place to share vision and experience. This year, we managed it, and last weekend, Robinson College, Cambridge hosted one of the best Leaders’ Conferences ever, as introduced by our Chairperson Annette Cotter ( pictured above).
Leader Eileen Lyons and official photographer Paul Chamberlain record their experiences of the day below.
The leader’s blog – Eileen Lyons
It’s Leader’s Conference time again. I arrive Friday afternoon, by train. Cambridge is busy, bustling, festive and lively as I walk across town. There are surprisingly few cycles and Great St Mary’s, Kings College and the Christmas Market are all bathed in the glow of the weak, winter sun. On through ‘The Backs’ I go, over the Cam where there is a forlorn looking group punting on the murky waters.
Here are three highlights from the conference….three is a magic number after all!
- 1) Socialising and networking
It’s been four years since the last conference. Rarely are so many of us in one place and this is a fabulous opportunity to meet up with staff, leaders and old friends. There are 190 leaders, 28 staff, seven directors, and about 30% of the leaders are new. At every opportunity, there is a deafening chatter, a cacophony of sound enough to raise the roof. With many tales to tell, worldwide travels to compare, questions to ask, information to share. Some of us continued to the early hours and all were still at it at breakfast next morning, before dispersing again to distant shores.
- 2) The programme
A well-judged, well thought-out and busy day, with an excellent range of speakers and varied presentation styles. We had an insight into future developments and the analysis underpinning that; First Aid; GPS; training issues; the art and the science of leadership; legal matters pertaining to travel providers; charitable donations via the staff-managed charity ‘Heart and Sole’, the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust and ‘The Walking Partnership’, and finally leaders’ perspectives with the able assistance of ‘Yodel Bear’ and his Arsenal buddy.
We acquired some smart new corporate kit … practical red tops and good quality black walking trousers but the caps are still there. Meanwhile, the Keela merchandise stand was there for us to sample as well.
Lastly came the Leaders’ Awards, followed by memories of three leaders, much respected and valued by colleagues and clients alike, who died this year: Elizabeth Savage, Gordon Fairgrieve and Roy Rae. Roy Rae, an outstanding mountaineer with an enviable ability to get along with people, posthumously, received an award for the longest serving Leader, having started in 1966. John Lade was not far behind, having started in 1972, so gaining an award too.
- 3) Robinson College
Again, a superb venue with welcoming and comfortable accommodation, very good catering, helpful porters, and an excellent auditorium and acoustics. The wood panelled dining room decorated for Christmas made a lovely setting for the lunch and formal dinner.
So fare thee well and off we all go. Leaders do lead interesting lives so there will be plenty more to talk about next time. Staff can go home, knowing it’s a job well done.
The photographer’s blog – Paul Chamberlain
I spent a very good Saturday at the Ramblers Leaders’ Conference. The weather was wet – very wet, but hey, we were inside what turned out to be a very comfortable and friendly venue. Going home late on Saturday night, the weather was atrocious! This blog are some of my memories of the day.
The empty auditorium was quiet and warm and inviting. Sitting at the back sorting out the camera you could feel an electricity of excitement, or was it just nerves about trying not to mess up the assignment?
Reception was set out and the wonderful Ramblers staff were ready to go, ready for the crush of leaders all wanting their attention!
Tony Maniscalco, the one on the right, has managed to get Keela to bring along some samples of their ‘triffic walking clothes. If you look really closely he is actually wearing a Keela jacket.
Filling up and the auditorium is no longer a quiet oasis. Deep concentration with the leaders really trying to listen, maybe reflectively. And make copious notes, very impressive.
Tony Lock tells us how it is regarding the finances. Kathy Cook tells us how it is regarding everything else. Lynn Scrivener talking about the way we market ourselves. Serious stuff and everyone listening.
A most welcome lunch break. I have been to many meetings and conferences over the years and the quality of the lunch is part of the memory of the day. Nice memories at this one.
After lunch, we wait for the auditorium to fill and settle down for the afternoon. And we start with action packed, or should I say bivvy bag packed 1st aid or maybe you call them survival bags? You can do a lot with them.
Lots of people find the law boring but Angus showed why it can be very important and also how even judges can apparently make perverse judgements. As a company, it is so easy to miss important details and we need to guard against this.
Break out groups where leaders solve all the company problems, opportunities and issues – maybe!
Barry Southwell reminds us that we give surplus company profits to our charitable trust, the Ramblers Worldwide Holidays Charitable Trust. Selina updated us on The Big Pathwatch, one of the beneficiaries. Our Heart and Sole initiative is run by RWH staff who choose to donate funds direct to charities across the world.
Prizes were given. Colleagues were remembered.
And finally, a message from our Ambassador, Julia Bradbury.
Well, I say finally, but then there was dinner, and the bar was open, but I didn’t take pictures of that! Dinner was lovely, though, and the bar was …. Sorry, can’t remember!