Last updated 10Jun19
I was recently (well 11 Apr 09) walking with a living legend and asked about the origin of Wednesday Walks. I found myself talking with the originator, Eric Pickering!
Eric started Wednesday Walks when he retired, around 1989. After a couple of years he encouraged guest leaders and finally the FBI, CBC and NPA walking clubs provided ongoing sponsorship (sounds like an evolution the Tuesday Walks may be part-way along!).
Wednesday Walks are now a great institution, attracting a large number of mid-week walkers. FBI hosts the first and third Wednesday of each month, CBC the second and NPA the fourth and if there is one, the fifth.
In mid 2009 CBC were unable to continue to sponsor Wednesday walks, as they were not conducted in accordance with CBC’s published and long-standing safety, social impact and environmental impact guidelines. After some soul searching, CBC again joined in sponsoring the walks.
On 1 June 2011, Wednesday walkers enjoyed a convivial and celebratory lunch at the Scope cafe on Mt Stromlo. Eric was asked to outline the history of Wednesday Walks and he’s given the nod for me to publish it here:
What Eric said…
Janet asked me to make a short speech on the history of joint midweek FBI/CBC/NPA medium walks. The level of noise of happy people enjoying their lunch at the Scope Restaurant was such that I could be heard by only a few of the WedWalk walkers. Here is the gist of what I said.
Joint FBI/CBC/NPA medium Wednesday Walks
I took early retirement from the work force in 1989 and decided that as a keen bushwalker challenging mid week walks would be a good idea to meet the social and physical needs of people like myself. People were taking up offers of early retirement from age 50+, and others were taking midweek “flex” leave. I could see a market developing for challenging mid-week walks. I decided on Wednesdays because it is half way between Sunday and Saturday and because I played tennis on Tuesdays and Thursdays (and still do). I was also very fit, running 15 km on several days each week as well as tennis and walking. Walks needed to be challenging, but not gut-busting for those who had to go back to work next day. They would equate to the CBC’s medium/medium rough categories – ie medium distance, preferably off-track, and with decent climbs.
The first Wednesday walk of this type was an FBI walk I led on 1 November 1989. I am sure there were some ad hoc walks (off program) as well as others where I just invited people to come awalking. I led programmed Wednesday walks in 1990, 1991 for the CBC and in 1992 for the FBI. The walk on 22 August 1990 was significant because Alan M took a flex day to attend. There were only three of us and I organised a “car shuffle” using a bicycle as the second car. When Allan retired some years later, he played a very significant role in the further development of Wednesday walks. Here is a quote from Allan’s write-up of the walk published in the Canberra Bushwalking Club’s monthly it magazine (September 1990).
“We then descended to the valley floor; saw a wild pig and countless kangaroos before crossing the Orroral River and returning to the car park. The rain, sleet and snow were heavy enough for us all to resort to donning our wet weather gear. It was hard to put the thought “the cars are just over this rise” out of our heads and replace it with “the bicycle is just over the rise”. Eventually we reached the hidden bicycle and Eric cycled off with the wind behind him to retrieve the car while Pat and I sauntered along the road. The use of the bicycle was a great success and I can recommend it to anyone faced with a similar car shuffle problem. Despite the weather I had a great day and hope to have a flex or sickie on the next Wednesday the Pickerings venture out. Thanks Eric and Pat for an interesting day.”
To provide historical context, Bill Hayden was GG, Bob Hawke and Margaret Thatcher PM’s, Trevor Kaine was Chief Minister, Ray F was President of FBI, David C President of CBC and Janet D (E) became a prospective member of the CBC.
My objective was to have one walk per month. By 1992/1993 Wednesday walks were a regular part of the FBI program. I was leading all the walks. It was about this time I adopted the wording “Mid-week walks will have common features – interesting, not difficult but you will feel exercised, close to Canberra”. In other words, people could attend walks and not need another day off work to recover. This wording is still used in the FBI program.
I tried to encourage other leaders, and I pay tribute to those who joined in as leaders over the initial years …. Jeff C, Milton T, David H, David L, and Gary S to mention a few.
Then in 1997 Allan M added to the program by leading joint FBI/CBC walks on a second Wednesday each month. There were then walks on two Wednesdays a month. Allan led joint CBC/FBI Wednesday walks for more than a decade until 2010 when Jane E became CBC Wednesday walks coordinator after brief stints in the job by CBC Walks secretaries, Jeff B and Rob Hd.
The NPA, which had had its own program of shorter walks and nature rambles over the period 1983-1995, introduced a new series of walks in October 1996, initiated by Col McA. These later became part of the joint Wednesday medium walks program and with the FBI doubling up there were walks on every Wednesday of the month. It was good to see the three clubs cooperating in this way.
To complete the midweek picture, in 2001, the FBI commenced a completely separate program of Wednesday shorter walks which still attract considerable support for people seeking gentle exercise and companionship.
In 2004, Allan introduced the email system of informing Wednesday Walkers of walk location and meeting times which has made things much easier for both leaders and walkers. For a while, and even now occasionally, we have large numbers attending these walks. I can remember up to 30 on some walks but numbers have settled down to a reasonable level.
It is good to see the enormous support for Wednesday walks from the Wednesday Walkers and more particularly from leaders in recent years……..To name a few…
NPA..Mike S, Henry H, Philip G, David L, Max L, Col McA
CBC.. Allan M, Janet E, Lorraine T, Jeff B, Ann G-J, Monika B, Jenny H
FBI.. Peter W, Doug F, Mary H, Ray F, Steve R, John E, Eric Pickering
I ask you to stand for a toast to Wednesday walks, and to the walks leaders. May Wednesday walks continue long into the future.
That was the gist of the speech I gave slightly embellished to include a bit more history. Joint FBI/NPA/CBC Wednesday walks and Wednesday Walkers have become an entity in themselves and have done much to encourage friendship, cooperation and understanding between the three clubs.
For the record, the Pickerings have been members of all three clubs continuously since 1982/1983. Eric Pickering [names privatised by Johnny Boy]
Contact the designated person in your club to be added to the email notification list.
Safety aspects were re-emphasised in November 2013:
Subject: New procedures to improve safety on Wednesday Walks
To members of the Wednesday Walks email list
Wednesday Walks have been running successfully for 15 years, as a collaboration between the Brindabella Bushwalking Club, the National Parks Association and the Canberra Bushwalking Club. The popular no-need-to-book tradition of Wednesday Walks means that leaders do not have the opportunity to identify, prior to the walk, anyone who may be less capable of completing a walk safely. The risk of safety incidents on Wednesday walks is thus potentially higher than for walks which require pre-booking. The large numbers on some Wednesday walks, while an indication of the success of the Wednesday Walks program, is an additional risk factor.
To help reduce these risks, the three clubs have agreed that each Wednesday Walk description should include the following words:
o Walkers who are not members of the BBC, NPA or CBC must contact the walk leader before the walk, to discuss the level of difficulty of the walk. (Please note that walk leaders retain the right not to accept any walker.)
o Non-members must be accompanied by a sponsoring member.
Walkers are responsible for assessing their own ability to complete a walk, and to help them self-assess, good walk descriptions are vitally important. The three clubs strongly recommend to Wednesday walk leaders that walk descriptions include: map name, grading (in the system of the leader’s own club), an indication of the proposed route, length in kilometres, height gain, information on the terrain including extent of off-track walking, scrub and rock scrambling, and some qualitative description such as ‘challenging’ or ‘moderate’.
David W, President BBC | Mike S, Outings Co-ordinator NPA | Linda G, President CBC