Club History

It was early in 1921 that a few friends who lived in Urmston and Flixton and who had been on CHA holidays, thought it would be a good idea to form a new CHA club. There were already in existence three Manchester CHA clubs, known as A, B and C Sections. There was a need, they felt, for an additional club to cover the Urmston, Flixton, Stretford, Whalley Range and Chorlton areas. Accordingly, on Saturday 19 March 1921, at the Assembly Rooms, Higher Road, Urmston, the Manchester CHA Club Section 'D' (West) was formed. A preliminary ramble to Lymm on Easter Monday, 20 March, was arranged. Four people met at Flixton Bridge and walked over Carrington Moss to Partington. They had lunch there and then went on to Warburton via the canal bank. From there they crossed the bridge to Glazebrook Station for the train home.

We are indebted to the 'Mr Pepys' of Section D who recorded the above details. He writes of the first official ramble as follows:

"Ramble No 1. We start our first event seventeen strong; a goodly company and all in good heart. There is a fine CHA spirit which augurs well for the future and all thoroughly enjoyed the walk - except probably the lady with the NEW SHOES"

In 1924 the club held its first Children's party. The following year a Drama and Literary Section was formed and in 1926 the cultural standard was raised even higher by the addition of instruments to the Choral Section. In 1927 the first shots were fired in the battle to introduce Sunday walks into the programme.

In 1928 a few headstrong members were given to making independent sorties on Sundays, outside the official programme, and in 1929, after much heart-searching, Sunday walks became an official part of the club programme. It was hoped that the inclusion of these walks would attract more gentlemen into the club. In 1930 the social activities included a Hobbies evening, many Socials, visits to the Rusholme Repertory Theatre, a Camping evening, and a rendering of The Everlasting Mercy by John Masefield. A full programme of rambles was carried out and membership increased considerably.

The early 1930s saw an increasing public interest in the countryside and walking, and the steady growth of the CHA holiday movement had its impact on Section D. With the introduction of Railway Walking Tour tickets, cross-country walks were available on a large scale. Rambles were arranged for alternate Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday, the meeting place on each occasion being one of the railway terminals in Manchester - London Road, Central, Exchange or Victoria. This practice of always meeting at a station or bus stop has remained more or less intact to the present day, in order to accommodate those who do not use cars. Indeed the use of bus passes is now the norm on the first Wednesday in the month.

The decade before World War II was indeed the 'Golden Age of Rambling' and the call of 'Access to the Mountains' was becoming louder every year, but it took another twenty years for this dream to materialise. The gamekeeper was also much in evidence and even law-abiding D Section was not immune from straying off the straight and narrow.

The War years of 1939-45 were naturally difficult but, like the Windmill Theatre in London, Section D was proud to state "We never closed". Membership dwindled to below fifty, but limited rambles were held. Socials (bring your own food) began at 3 pm and finished at 7 pm. After the War there was a rapid increase in membership, which eventually soared to a record two hundred and the programme extended to include more frequent rambles and Wednesday evening walks in the summer. The 1951 programme gives details of the ticket price for each ramble – 2/1d Whaley Bridge Excursion from London Road Station. Meeting places were given for the four mainline stations, eg at Victoria members were to meet at the War Memorial. By 1961 London Road had become Piccadilly and the fare to Whaley Bridge had increased to 3/-9d.

At the end of the 1970s long walks were in vogue, with the completion by some members of the Lyke Wake Walk, the Three Peaks Walk, the Limey Way, and others. Mid-week evening walks in the summer were popular and Gilbert & Sullivan at Gawsworth became a highlight of the social scene. At this time the regular Saturday socials declined in popularity, but social activities still continued, with the first pub grub and the Marple hot-pot.

The last decade has seen the replace­ment of spring and autumn weekends at CHA centres with five-day mid-week breaks by coach to places as far away as Melrose and Eastbourne.

Much good work has been done by the club, such as raising funds for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and for the Invited Guests Trust, some of the guests having been sponsored by the club for a free holiday at a CHA guesthouse. Support has also been given to the Rainbow Family Trust at Francis House.  We continue to look beyond our own activities by supporting other kindred organisations such as the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society, Friends of the Lake District, and the Council for the Protection of Rural England.

Over the years, signposts and seats have been dedicated to past members in recognition of what their friendship has meant.

The club was known originally as 'Section D' but in 1975 this part of its title was dropped. It continued to be affiliated to the national body but when, in 2004, Countrywide Holidays was sold to Ramblers (see below) the club decided to stay true to its CHA roots. It became an independent group but still with the title 'Manchester CHA Rambling and Social Club'

It is impossible to recount all the wonderful, hairy, daft, and even scary things which have been done by club members in the 90 years of the club’s life, but suffice to say that without it, hundreds of people from the Manchester area would have been the poorer – in health, in friendship, and in their experience of the natural world.

 History of the CHA

The birth of Countrywide Holidays Association (CHA) took place in 1891 in the small mill town of Colne in north east Lancashire when the Rev T A Leonard took a party of 30 young men on holiday to Ambleside in the Lake District, and followed this with a holiday in Caernarfon in the following year.

The first CHA property was acquired in 1896 when a 5-year lease was taken on Abbey House in Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast.

There followed rapid growth, buying more properties around Britain, including Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man, and also leasing centres abroad during the early part of last century.

Such did CHA flourish that a Head Office was established in Manchester in 1908. By 1936, each year a total of 30,837 guestweeks were being enjoyed at 37 centres at home and abroad.

The companionship and love of the outdoors formed a bond between holidaymakers. Indeed, the initials CHA were said to stand for Catch A Husband Association, as many couples first met on walking holidays, sharing a common interest! CHA Houseparties became a famous and popular feature of the CHA - walking in the outdoors during the day and enjoying entertainment indoors during the evenings with a host/hostess.

CHA was known by a number of official names during its long history. It started as the Co-operative Holidays Association in 1893 and in 1897 a legal organisation of that name was formed, with T A Leonard as its permanent secretary. Its stated objects were “to provide recreation and educational holidays by purchasing, or renting and furnishing, houses and rooms in selected areas; by catering in such houses for parties of members and guests, and by securing helpers who will promote the intellectual and social interests of the party with which they are associated”.

This long title was quickly shortened to CHA, but this required members to give an explanation as various suggestions, as above, were proposed by enquirers.  To make things simpler, the name was officially changed in 1957 to 'CHA'.  However, this did not remove the confusion or the questions as to what the abbreviations stood for and another change was made in 1964, this time to Countrywide Holidays Association.  The changes did not stop there, as the name was again modified this time to 'Countrywide Holidays'.

Finally, in January 2004, the Countrywide Holidays brand was bought by Ramblers Holidays, who continue to develop a strong holiday programme.

Coast to Coast, an account of a CHA Holiday led by Margaret, our Club Secretary.

No doubt most of you have asked yourselves at one time or another while slogging up some Lakeland peak: "Why do I do it?" - and the answer is not always easy to find. This was the question I asked myself, and which was asked of me, when I set out to walk from Coast to Coast last summer. It seemed somehow to be a challenge, something I wasn't quite sure if I could manage, and yet something which would be very satisfying.
As the time for the holiday approached, I went through times of longing for the wide open spaces with nothing to think about but the condition of my feet, and other times when the condition of the said feet was a source of anxiety in case they weren't capable of doing what I wanted them to. However, the l4th of June arrived and I set off for Cumbria. Following the example of our leader, Margaret, I started my walk at Ravenglas, climbing over Muncaster Fell and down to Stanley Ghyll House in Eskdale, where the party had assembled. I know I wasn't alone in wondering what the fortnight had in store for us and how we would feel when we eventually arrived, at the Abbey House in Whitby - if we got there.
Our route was an adaptation of one devised by A. Wainwright, who walked from the Cumberland coast to Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire. The first two days were spent in the Lake District, where we had clear weather and beautiful views of Pillar, Gable, Blencathra, Helvellyn, and many more.
We said goodbye to the Lakes at Hawse Water on an afternoon shining after rain and spent that night, at Kendal Youth Hostel, which we had reached by minibus from Shap. The next morning, Shap Summit was hidden in driving mist, and we didn't have the magnificent views which Margaret insisted we might have had. That was the day of the long walk (21 miles in all), but the rain passed over in the afternoon, and we had a pleasant tramp into Kirkby Stephen, where the warden of the hostel was waiting for us with a fire blazing in the hearth. There was something very homely about that evening, with the wet socks festooned round the fireplace and tomorrow's lunch piling up as the sandwich-maker got to work. On four nights of the holiday, we cooked our own meals in the hostels. This was to ensure that we had suffi­cient to eat, as in one place the helping of three fish fingers, mash, and peas had left a lot to be desired, and there had been a general search for fish and chips and suchlike to supplement the diet.
The journey from Kirkby Stephen to Keld, over the moors by compass in driving rain, served to confirm our faith in our leader's excellent guidance, especially when she led us straight to a shooting-hut which provided shelter for lunch. Keld Hostel to me is synonymous with damp.
We were all soaked, the house was damp with paper peeling off the walls, there were wet boots and clothes all over the place downstairs, and our bedroom was des­cribed by one of the occupants as a Chinese laundry. I'm glad to say, however, that that was the end of the rain.

Our route was then to follow the course of the Swale down to Richmond, over open moors where the lapwings, curlews, and redshanks were calling, and not another soul was to be seen. The beauty of the whole fortnight was that we didn't care what time of day it was, and it required great mental effort to work out the day of the week: all, that is, except for the middle weekend. We all knew which day we would be arriving in Richmond! - and it was such a lovely day.
Our walk was a mere eleven miles through rolling meadows until, there in front of us, we could see Richmond Castle, and, in the distance through the heat haze, the Cleveland hills rose beyond the Vale of Mowbray - and to think that by Monday evening we would be under those hills, which in the afternoon sunshine seemed so far away. But first we were to enjoy the culinary delights of the Black Lion Hotel. It wasn't that we were starving, but more that we were in prime condition to do justice to good food and lots of it, though I hasten to add that after another day of such luxury we should have fast become lazy.
Richmond provided welcome rest and refreshment, and then on the Monday we crossed the Vale of Mowbray. The day was cloudless and hot, and it was pleasant walking along field paths in the sunshine, with a pub and a little village shop conveniently placed to provide drinks at lunch time and later in the afternoon, before we walked the final few miles to the Cleveland Tontine Hotel.
The next morning we visited Mount Grace Priory and then climbed up on to the Cleveland Hills to follow the Lyke Wake Walk and Cleveland Way north-east. We could smell the sea that day and
began to experience some of the excitement of approaching our objective A night in a comfortable farmhouse with typical hospitality in the shape of extra cups of tea and home-made scones was followed by another night in a youth hostel.
The last three days were spent on the moors, only now and then drop­ping down to a village, and then at last we saw the cliffs above Robin Hood's Bay. It seemed a long way down the hill through Fylingthorpe to the old village and the sea, but 
when we arrived and some of us paddled in the sea, we slowly began to realise that we had done it: we really had walked right across England,
and, what was perhaps more amazing, we felt fit enough to do some more, so off we set along the cliffs to walk the seven miles to the Abbey House. We had cheated, of course, because the previous night had been spent there, but I think we could be forgiven for showing off just a little as we ran up the stairs two at a time in front of the guests assembling for dinner.
And why did I do it? I don't know, but I do know I had a wonder­fully relaxing holiday. For me, I think, the enjoyment of the tour lay in the fact that life became so uncomplicated and basic. What would we get for supper? Would the pub be open when we reached it after toiling along in the sweltering sun over the barren heather moor? Could I really do another five miles on that blister? Was I really enjoying this trudging over peat hags in the mist with the rain pouring down and with my boots full of water? But then there were those beautiful birdseye primroses in the limestone country east of Shap, and the dainty violet and yellow mountain pansies in Swaledale; there were the ring ouzels near the old lead mines, and the dippers at Falling Foss.
Long-distance walking is a bit like CHA itself - it 'gets' you.