WHEN Keith Wilman stepped down, after three years, as chair of Lower Wharfedale Ramblers (LWR), two members put their names forward to replace him. However they weren’t competing for the role. Instead they were proposing to undertake the role on a job-sharing basis. Whilst job-sharing is fairly common in the world of work, it is a novel approach in the voluntary sector.

Lesley Hill and Janet Williams, as well as being keen walkers are also close friends, living near each other. Lesley lives in Menston and has recently retired as an NHS Hospital Director, whilst Janet has moved to Burley to be nearer her daughter and grandchildren. Prior to retiring Janet was the head teacher of a primary school in Suffolk.

Lesley has visited over 50 countries, walking and trekking in some of the world’s great mountains, including the Himalayas. Closer to home, Janet’s many achievements include climbing Ben Nevis, completing the 550 mile SW Coastal Path in six weeks and cycling the UK coast to coast.

Remaining avid travellers, the two friends decided that sharing the chair role made perfect sense. Through sharing responsibilities and expertise, one of them would be available to fill the chair role whilst the other was away on their travels. Janet stresses that whilst both she and Lesley had very different careers, good communications was crucial to both. With around 400 members and five different walking groups, particularly at the moment, clear communications will be a crucial requirement.

Like so many local voluntary organisations, LWR activities have been seriously impacted by Covid. One week walking was permitted, the next week it was not. With her NHS background, Lesley says she fully recognises how important walking has become for the physical and mental health of the membership, many of whom live alone. Throughout the last nine months, LWR has maintained a walking programme but fully compliant with government guidelines. Despite so many challenges, membership has remained steady with new members also joining.

Looking to the future, Lesley and Janet are very excited. By the summer, they hope LWR will be back to operating normally with a fully weekly programme and no limits on numbers walking. Last year was the 50th anniversary of LWR but extensive celebration plans had to be put on hold. The plan is to hold the delayed celebration later in 2021.

Lesley added that currently LWR walk only on weekdays. She would like LWR to offer weekend and, maybe, dedicated walks for younger members and children.

Outgoing Chair, Keith Wilman, said: “We are so lucky that Janet and Lesley offered to take this innovative approach to being chair of LWR. With their backgrounds and complementary personalities, LWR is in good hands to launch the new ideas and initiatives that will enable it to thrive for the next 50 years.”