Minutes of the UFRC Annual General Meeting held at the Downshire Arms Hotel on Saturday 18th October 2014.
Members present – see attached list.
Matthew Bushby, Mourne Heritage Trust, David Flinn UFRC, Spartan Red Sox, Reg Magowan, UFRC, Derek Evans, Dungannon Rambling Club, Derek Clements, UFRC, May Walker, Dungannon Rambling Club.
Meeting Opened at 10:15am
The chairman Alan McFarland opened the meeting by welcoming all members and gave thanks for their attendance at the AGM. Alan also thanked the Kilbroney Rambling Club for hosting this year’s AGM and for organising two walks which would take place after lunch in the Mournes. Alan McFarland also welcomed Richard Gawith of Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (who will be discussing the share funding bid regarding the Active Clubs programme) and Peter O’Rourke of the Kilbroney Rambling Club (who will be showing slides on the Camino Santiago walk).
Pat McBride of the Kilbroney Rambling Club welcomed guests and members to the Downshire Arms Hotel. Pat spoke about the progression of the Kilbroney Rambling Club highlighting some of their graded walks and their experiences throughout the year. Pat thanked the members on behalf of the Kilbroney Rambling Club and indicated that they had two walks planned for after lunch from Leitrim Lodge and hoped all members could attend.
Eileen Carson proposed that the minutes of the previous meeting held at the Corick House Hotel on Saturday 19th October 2013 be passed; Pat McBride seconded this proposal.
George Acheson thanked the guest speakers and members for attending the AGM and explained that the UFRC continue to work diligently on behalf of its affiliated clubs.
George said that the executive committee met on 5 occasions and the number of clubs under the umbrella of the UFRC continues to remain steady. This year there are 37 affiliated clubs with collectively 1928 walkers. The UFRC are pleased to welcome the Lumper Tain Trekkers and most recently the Divis Walkers. George explained that our membership is quite varied and ranges from those who enjoy a gentle afternoon stroll in the hills to those who prefer challenging multi-day walks in the higher mountain ranges. Throughout the year the committee has endeavoured to work thoroughly and effectively on behalf of its affiliated clubs and to keep clubs informed of its activities via the UFRC website and through email contact with club secretaries.
The main items of business were:
The UFRC has a small dedicated team who ensure clubs have access to suitable insurance cover at a competitive price. We have worked closely with our current brokers (Dickson and Co) to clarify issues and get answers to questions posed by clubs. There was a slight increase in the premium last year which left us no time to seek additional quotes. This year these will be sought in advance.
In the early part of the year all clubs were contacted and asked if they, or their members, had specific training needs. Based on feedback 2 courses (Mountain Navigation and Group Management in the Hills) were organised with Tollymore National Outdoor Centre and held on 4th October 2014. Thirty two walkers from seven clubs attended – comments written on feedback forms indicate that both courses proved to be worthwhile and enjoyable. The courses were partially subsidised by the UFRC. Thanks to Tollymore NOC for their advice and overall help in designing and implementing the courses.
Access and Conservation Matters
Such matters are always on the agenda at each meeting. Often the URFC is approached by concerned local people or clubs, and as far as possible a pro-active approach is taken with committee members attending meetings and speaking with those concerned. The following list provides a taste of the “ground” covered in the last 12 months:
- North coast path near Dunseverick
- Bessy Bell area near Omagh
- Necarne Castle area in Co.Fermanagh
- Portavo Reservoir area in Co.Down
- Ringhaddy at Strangford Lough.
There have been success stories like the King Johns walk in Holywood and ongoing submissions and lobbying to planning offices and Government, this will always be a challenging area.
The UFRC continues to represent its members by being an active part in a range of conservation/walking bodies; these include:
- The Causeway Coast and the Glens of Antrim Forum
- The Sperrins Outdoor Recreation Forum
- The International Appalachian Trail Group
This list is not exhaustive and another example of the practical work undertaken by such groups is the Strategic Path Review which will begin shortly under the leadership of the Mourne Outdoor Recreational Forum.
The creation/location of wind farms continues to be a topic of consideration, and, sometimes concern. Earlier in the year UFRC representatives met with RPS consultant’s re: wind farm developments on the Ulster Way near Agnews Hill, Antrim Plateau. One result of this was that we reviewed our Wind Farm Policy which was further considered, discussed and ratified at our Spring Meeting. We continue to communicate with Minister Durkan’s office on a strategic central policy on ANOB’s and places of high scenic value and submit observations to the planning service.
The spring meeting took place on 12th April 2014 and was attended by 23 people from 12 clubs. The main matters included:
George Acheson explained that the UFRC worked closely with road services, courts and district councils to endeavour to secure access where Public Rights of Ways have been wrongly denied or blocked.
Mike McClure of Sport NI spoke about the Outdoor Recreation Plan 2014 for Northern Ireland and outlined the key findings from research into the economic benefits of outdoor recreation. Niall McAleenan from NIEA added comments to the discussion from the floor. Mike also spoke about the Active Clubs Programme which is a new multi-investment programme developed and administered by Sport NI supported by the National Lottery.
UFRC Wind Energy Policy
It was stressed that the UFRC supports renewable energy as an important resource and as a means to reduce carbon emissions. The UFRC are generally supportive of wind, tidal, solar, hydro and geothermal energy – however, as wind farms in certain locations may have a detrimental impact on the landscape it does not favour wind farm applications in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. As a result the UFRC treats each planning application on its own merits – considering its individual and cumulative impact. A useful discussion ensued and questionnaires were completed by attendees to help guide UFRC policy.
Get Outdoors Weekend
This event took place on 20th/21st September 2014 and has become a regular feature on the walking calendar. As in previous years the UFRC organised and led a “Historical Guided Walk” in the Crawfordsburn area. An information tent was erected beside the Information Centre in Crawfordsburn Country Park. A mix up on the events website resulted in a number of disappointed applicants being wrongly informed that places were filled subsequently this lead to a smaller number of participants attending. Thanks to Crawfordsburn CP for its help and support.
As in previous years, discount arrangements have been agreed with a large number of “outdoor” shops in the north of Ireland. We are pleased to work with all the retailers, and are especially grateful to Cotswold Outdoor for their sponsorship of our membership cards and their “special discount nights”. We are presently trying to draw up a list of walking friendly accommodation in the south of Ireland. We recommend using Walk NI for accommodation in Northern Ireland, but are more than happy to approach any B & B, guest house or hotel that clubs would recommend and that are not on their list.
Funding Bid Sport NI
Various meetings have taken place with Outdoor Recreation NI regarding a shared funding application. Funding has now been secured, however due to current budgetary problems facing the NI Executive the funding cover will initially be for a period up to the end of March 2016; this will be put at the UFRC’s disposal. The aim of the Active Programme is “to support and enable accessible and sustainable participation opportunities throughout sports clubs”.
A member of the UFRC also sits on the Mountain Training NI Board. Recently MTNI instigated a consultation process to which the URFC submitted a response.
The UFRC looks back on a busy and productive year and would like to thank all the present committee and its administration officer for their dedication and hard work. The committee is always keen to get new members on board to help spread the work load, to effectively deal with all the matters referred to above and to take on the inevitable new challenges that will face walkers in the north of Ireland. We could do so much more if we had a bigger team and we appeal to our walking/rambling club secretaries to encourage their club members to become involved in our work.
Treasurer’s Presentation of the UFRC Accounts
David Sloan read out the Treasurer’s presentation report. He gave a breakdown of the financial report which was made available to all members present, and said that the UFRC financial accounts had been checked and audited by Irene Younge and Sheila Hammond. He thanked them for their assistance and support throughout the year. Furthermore, he asked the members if they were satisfied; all were in agreement.
Appointment of Auditors/Independent Examiners
Alan McFarland proposed to retain Irene Younge and Arthur Rogers as independent examiner’s for 2015 Margaret Murray seconded this proposal.
Looking to the year ahead – Outlines, Resolutions and Discussion.
Alan McFarland informed the meeting that the UFRC are recognised by Sport NI as the governing body for hill walking and rambling in Northern Ireland. Alan also said that David Oldfield and Graham Seymour had worked with Outdoor Recreation on an excellent process funding application which has now been successfully granted by Sport NI. Active Clubs is a new multi-year investment programme developed and administered by Sport NI with funding from the National Lottery Fund. The investment programme seeks to employ a network of Active Clubs coordinators to work with identified sports clubs in order to assist them with the development of new and innovative interventions aimed at increasing their club membership.
Richard Gawith of Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland gave a presentation talk and explained the fundamentals behind Active Clubs and what it entails.
Ulster Farmers Union
Graham Seymour said to the meeting that the UFRC had approached the UFU with a view to promoting an understanding of each other’s aims and fostering good working relationships for the good of both memberships. Over a year, a document was drawn up by the UFRC in conjunction with the UFU and recently presented to the legislative committee of the UFU. Unfortunately this initiative was rejected by the legislative committee and the UFRC wonders if this represents the UFU position as a whole? Things are at an early stage and, no doubt, challenges lie ahead – the UFRC considers the development of constructive links with the UFU as having much of value for both farmers and walkers in Northern Ireland, building on the experiences and links on the ground between our club members and farmers and other land owners.
Alan McFarland gave a short tribute to Wilfred Capper and history of the Ulster Way, outlining current fears for its future with some potential intervention ideas for thought by members, on regaining strategic priority for the Ulster Way within government. He highlighted to the meeting that the advisory committee for the Ulster Way no longer meet and posed the question, should the UFRC and its members take some form of a’ responsibility role’? Alan asked the membership present for their Executive to prioritise the Ulster Way for 2014-15 and on the floors approval, agreed an UFRC update and future discussion on strategy on the Ulster Way to be an agenda topic at the next spring meeting.
- Cahal King of the Down Danderers rambling club proposed that each walking club should write a letter to the countryside officer of their district council asking them to stipulate all rights of way in the district; this was seconded by Frank McRory of the Wee Binnians walking club.
- Louis Edmondson of the Northern Ireland Young Walkers proposed that a guideline policy should be created for child protection for walking clubs; this was seconded by David Miller of the Northern Ireland Young Walkers.
- Ronnie Irvine of UFRC/The Mid Ulster Walking Club proposed that each club when out walking any sections of the Ulster Way should report back to the UFRC with any issues or point of interest; this was seconded by Pat McBride of the Kilbroney Rambling Club.
- Louis Edmondson of the Northern Ireland Young Walkers proposed that access issue information should be displayed on the UFRC website for members to view; this was seconded by Sandra McCarroll of the Maine Rambling Club.
Elections of Officers
- Simon Reardon proposed Alan McFarland as Chairman, seconded by David Oldfield.
- David Sloan proposed George Acheson as Secretary, seconded by Ronnie Irvine.
- Eilleen Carson proposed David Oldfield, seconded by Fionnuale Carragher.
- David Sloan proposed Eileen Carson, seconded by Simon Reardon.
- David Miller proposed Ronnie Irvine, seconded by Cahal King.
- Alan McFarland proposed Derek Clements, seconded by Joan Hughes.
- Irene Younge proposed David Flinn, seconded by David Sloan.
- Ronnie Irvine proposed Graham Seymour, seconded by David Oldfield.
- Eileen Carson proposed David Sloan, seconded by Frank McRory
Peter O’Rourke of the Kilbroney Rambling Club gave a presentation slide show talk on the Camino walk. This was followed by a working lunch where members got the opportunity to speak to and ask the UFRC executive team any questions they may have.
After lunch the Kilbroney Rambling Club lead two graded walks in the Mournes to finish off the afternoon.
Meeting Closed 5pm
A big thanks to Kolbroney Ramblers for being great hosts…