Rochdale CHA Rambling Club



The Reverend T. Arthur Leonard, minister of a Congregational Church in Colne, Lancashire took a party walking on 13th June 1891. Arising from this beginning, in 1897 he founded the Co-operative Holidays Association - subsequently retitled the Countrywide Holidays Association (CHA) - with the objective of "bringing people together to enjoy walks in the countryside and to participate in related social activitives"

Following an early CHA holiday reunion of local people it was suggested that...."the healthy outdoor exercise combined with the good fellowship and happy comradeship associated with the CHA might well be extended by the formation of a CHA club in Rochdale".

As a result, the Rochdale Rambling Club was founded in 1904 and the first recorded walk was to Brown Wardle on the 23rd January 1904.  One hundred years later Rochdale CHA Rambling Club carried out the same walk led by the then President Peter Millray. Some even dressed in period costume.

The syllabuses here gives information on the first programme of walks in 1904 and those taking place in 1985. Note the increased social programme!



Wendy's Wanderings - a diary entry on the Club's 85th Anniversary Walk, January 1989

Midday on the day of the walk approached and I arrived home from church to see Mike cleaning his work boots. A fungus had unfortunately appeared on these boots and he decided that by the end of the walk he’d either have created a quarter of mushrooms, or the acidity would have killed every wild orchid on Brown Wardle. It was the 85th Anniversary of the Rochdale CHA Rambling Club and this was being commemorated by the climb of Brown Wardle, the same walk made in 1904. I thought perhaps I should be wearing a hobble skirt circa 1904 and frilly petties but I was glad of the thermals of today. I’d organised, courtesy of the Pro’s shop’s lost property, wet suit and leggings for Mike. As I was now on the Weight Watching Quick Start (WWQS) programme, the haversack was checked for hidden carbohydrates. 

This was our first walk with the Club and Dennis, the Rambles Secretary, was to meet us on Rochdale Parish Church steps at 1 o’clock. I wasn’t sure whether I should wear a red carnation so I’d be recognised. Then I thought the layering of thermals and woolly hat, over yesterday’s hairdo, would be a good giveaway for a novice rambler.

Cars started to arrive and I jumped off the steps to welcome everyone; no, no, no – they welcomed me! Mike by this time was feeling sorry for himself as he’d forgotten to set the video to record Ski Sunday and had to be encouraged to get out of the car and be introduced.

Everyone was very friendly, Meda with her little dog, Audrey who enjoyed gardening and had a greenhouse, Bernard and Barbara, who were new members too (hurrah) and this only their second week of walking.  Bernard had walked the Pennine Way and had completed the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme with his daughter.  Barbara mentioned replacing trainers for walking boots in the January sales. I felt there could be some late night shopping with this new friend at Millets, Army & Navy or Blacks Camping Equipment store. Then Dennis arrived and we set off for the start of the walk.

We whizzed up to Whitworth to sortie with the remainder of ramblers and I recognized some familiar faces - Dan-Dan the Magic Man, a member of NMGC, and was he good at juggling with a stick, an orange and a tennis racquet! Eva was there too and made us both very welcome. There were farewells to those remaining behind at Lord’s Banqueting Hall, where we were all to rendezvous after the walk for potato pie. I made a quick mental note of WWQS and sister Julie’s instructions on pushing crust around plate.

As we made the upward climb above Whitworth, I chatted to fellow newcomers Bernard and Barbara; lots to talk of; children, marriage, hearing of friends separating. Mike quickly lit-up a Hamlet from a box of England’s Glory, which put a spurt into his pace! Audrey talked to Mike about dahlias and mentioned only giving her greenhouse a lick and a promise during the winter. Meanwhile, my legs were feeling like india rubber as I listened to one of the other walkers saying she swam thirty lengths each week and walked everywhere.  

There was plenty of chivalry as gentlemen opened gates for the ladies. Dennis was still in front, Dan and Meda bringing up the rear as they chatted to Hon Treasurer, Frank, an octogenarian and a wonderful raconteur. You could see your face in his boots. 

Once on top of Brown Wardle we had wonderful panoramic view. There were hang gliding distractions for Mike and remote control aeroplanes to watch. Both more attractive than the descent of the hill. I was still talking to Barbara about sharing new interests with workaholic husbands - would they still fall asleep in their chair?  

Dennis then called a ‘break for lunch’ and everyone sat on the hummocks. Oh dear, Bernard slipped and hurt his wrist!! I’d thought this was a man with experience, would it be my turn next week!!  Bernard had actually broken his wrist so two volunteer members were sent to the nearest farm where they secured a car to take both Bernard and Barbara to Rochdale Infirmary. There was much murmuring amongst trouper members, “Twenty years since that has happened.” “He can still walk can’t he?”


Secretly, I thought some were wishing the walk was over as we had another hour and a half of rough terrain. Oh, Simon, Simon (my nephew, a Falklands veteran) was your stomp every like this I thought. Conversation came as a great distraction. Dan renewed his acquaintance with me and remembered stealing a kiss in exchange for golf club subs cheque some three years previously!  

We were now all striding out through Healey Dell where there was much water and sludge. Mike and I were going strong now at the front and nearly up to border collie Jess and some doggy friends. Will we be tackling the harder ‘A’ route next week? 

Arriving at Lord’s there was steam rising from the roof. The potato pie must nearly be ready. We poured in, mist rising from our cagoules and it wasn’t long before the loos were full and all the lady ramblers seemed to find lipstick in their pockets. I had a red nose, a ruined wash and blow and emerged to find Mike at the bar with his fifth Hamlet, a pint and for me, a slimline tonic.  

We joined Joan and Ken, whose daughter lived in California. Mike made a visit to the bar  – another pint, a half for Ken, SG&T for sssssh. Then the tata pie was ready. Mike had two lots and I didn’t push much pastry around the plate but felt smug at refusing cream on my apple pie! Is this the kind of binge Weight Watchers mention in their Quick Start programme? 

Dance tickets were then circulated and get well cards signed with kind words for ill members. A speech was given by President Peter and then there was lively entertainment with Dennis playing the accordion. It was all very much in the happy spirit of the club, and of Rochdale, with everyone singing along to the old favourite ‘On the Isle of Capri’.

Newspaper articles on the 90th anniversary of the club in 1994

          Rochdale Observer

Manchester Evening News 


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