Formation of the Ramblers' Association
The London Area (and the Association) dates from from the 16th March 1905 when at a meeting held in the office of the Commons, Open Spaces and Footpath Preservation Society in Victoria Street, London representatives of about a dozen London rambling clubs (including the Forest Ramblers, Polytechnic Rambling Club and Morley College Rambling Club) established the Federation of Rambling Clubs.
During the 1920s and 30s other Federations were formed and the geographical coverage of the original Federation expanded to include the whole of Southern England.
When the National Council of Ramblers' Federations was formed in September 1931, the original Federation based in London became known as the Southern Federation.
In 1932 the train rambles were instigated. When the title of the Council of Ramblers' Federations changed to The Ramblers' Association on the 1st January 1935, the various Federations continued in existence but in 1948, following a fundamental restructuring of the RA when subscriptions became payable to the central organisation instead of the local ones, the Federations became Areas.
The most serious problem facing the Southern Area was its size, both territorially and numerically, and Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight were 'hived off' in 1962. It was not until 1974 that the next new Area (Norfolk) was formed. Cambridgeshire followed in 1975, Sussex in 1976 and Oxfordshire in 1977, but then the momentum ran out and there was a hiatus until the Area AGM in 1982, which stimulated fresh interest in breaking-up the still-unwieldy rump of the Area.
By the 1st October 1984, when the Southern Area was replaced by eight new Areas (Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Bucks and West Middlesex, Essex, Hertfordshire and North Middlesex ,Kent, London, and Surrey), it had formed 36 Groups, the oldest of which was Croydon and the second-oldest North West London. These Groups were allocated to the Areas in accordance with their geographical locations and as there was no existing Groups within the London Area's territory the Blackheath and Hampstead Groups were also established in 1984.
Inner London Area formed
The old southern area ceased to exists in September 1984 and Inner London Area, along with others, came into being on the 1st of October of that year. Hampstead and Blackheath Ramblers groups were then formed in the Inner London Area.
South-west London was the third Inner London Group formed and North-East London the fourth. When Hammersmith, Fulham and Wandsworth (HFW) was subsequently formed, South-west London - which covered Lambeth and Wandsworth - lost Wandsworth to the new group but gained Southwark from Blackheath. As the focus of the group had shifted eastwards it was renamed South Bank Group.
Kensington, Chelsea & Westminster was formed at end of 1990, with its first walk on 24th March 1991. HFW was formed at the same time, due to other groups getting too large.
In 2001 a new group, the Metropolitan Walkers, was started - aimed at people in their 20s and 30s. The Metropolitan Walkers grew rapidly, on average around 100 members a year, to become the largest group in the Inner London Area and the largest young persons group in the country.
In 2010 two further groups were formed; the Capital Walkers, aimed at people in their 40s and 50s, and the London Strollers, a short walk group putting on mostly urban walks of around 5 and 6 miles in London.
By 2012 the Inner London Area of the Ramblers (as the Ramblers' Association had become) had nine walking groups and were one of the few areas in the country to grow in membership. To find out more about what the groups are doing today, follow this link.
It is interesting that despite all the aforementioned changes, the London Area still retains three links with its early existence as the Federation of Rambling Clubs - the Forest Ramblers, Polytechnic Rambling Club and Morley College Rambling Club.