Published: 14:58, 10 November 2020
| Updated: 15:14, 10 November 2020
Two long serving members of the White Cliffs Ramblers have received awards for ‘outstanding contributions to walking’.
The awards for Graham Smith and Les Preston were made by national Ramblers’ chairwoman Kate Ashbrook, and announced at the group’s annual general meeting, held via Zoom.
Mr Smith, who lives in St Richard’s Road, Deal, and is in the process of relocating to Tain, in the north of Scotland, with his wife, Sarah, was Mercury editor for 18 years until he retired in 2016.
He joined the White Cliffs Ramblers when the group was founded in 1989, and has been publicity officer all that time.
He has also served as media officer for Kent Ramblers, was one of the founders and organisers of the White Cliffs Walking Festival, and helped secure Walkers Are Welcome status for Deal.
Mr Smith is also heavily involved with the Long Distance Walkers Association, having just stepped down as Kent group chairman, and he has organised the 30 or 50 mile White Cliffs Challenge every year since 2005. He now edits the LDWA’s magazine, Strider.
He said: “Walking is a huge part of my life, and the White Cliffs Ramblers is where it all started. It is a wonderful, friendly group.”
Mr Preston, who lives in Canterbury Road, Etchinghill, near Hythe, joined the group in the late 1990s, serving as membership secretary and as member without portfolio on the group’s committee.
He has also been vice-chairman of Kent Ramblers, organised scores of map reading courses and, like Mr Smith, been a mainstay of the White Cliffs Walking Festival.
Last year Mr Preston played a key role in launching the Kearsney Loop, a 2.6-mile, family friendly walking route in the Dover area.
Mr Preston personally negotiated with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, part of the Ministry of Defence - which owns part of the land - to create a permissive path, thus avoiding a half mile walk along a busy road.
He has also organised group holidays to Cyprus, Majorca, Morocco and Spain, and in 2002, he set up the Trailfinders Group, the first walking group in Kent targeted at people in their 20s-50s (since renamed as the East Kent Walking Group).
Mr Preston, who served in the Army for 34 years and was a major when he left in 1989, said: “Joining the White Cliffs Ramblers was the best thing I did when I left the Army. There is such comradeship in the group”.