The Monday Group are rights of way volunteers, founded in 1961 by Harold Rowling MBE of Westmeston. They’ve been creating stylish stiles ever since as Jim Redwood explains
The Monday Group work mainly on the north side of the South Downs, broadly from Albourne to Ringmer. Currently, there are 49 active volunteers, turning out every Monday, rain or shine, to improve the access to our beautiful countryside.
Monday Group stiles are designed to be easy to use and durable, they look pretty good and are identifiable from the distinctive yellow and green labels. Green Sussex oak is used to make the stiles, which cost £150-£250 each in materials. Other structures such as causeways and stairways can be more expensive. Our labour is free, of course.
We are funded by donations, stile sponsorship and the sale of bird boxes. Donors who sponsor a stile are offered a commemorative plaque on it.
A stile to mark the 50th anniversary of The Monday Group near Ditchling is dedicated to Dame Vera Lynn who lived nearby. There are stiles dedicated to dogs such as ‘Stanley and Monty’, and some have literary references such as ‘All was quiet in the deep dark wood, a mouse found a nut and the nut was good.’ We’ve been asked to build a stile in memory of the late Tim Renton, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, who championed the Downs, and chaired the Sussex Downs Conservation Board, which preceded the creation of the National Park. Amuse yourself looking out for our stile dedications – they can be found just about anywhere we work!
This year, The Monday Group worked in partnership with the National Trust for the first time. A stile installation demonstration at Wolstonbury Hill was observed by National Trust rangers and volunteers. They were so impressed by the quality of the work, one of our volunteers was invited to attend their workshop and supervise the construction of a stile in our design. Quite an accolade indeed – being recognised by the nation’s premier conservation body.
The Monday Group sometimes get involved in bigger projects, like the Jubilee Pathway Trust around Ditchling and Westmeston. Last year, between lockdowns, we helped the Trust create a new off-road path which included the construction and installation of two substantial stairways.
Like everything else, Covid-19 affected our work. We stood down during the 2020 March - June lockdown, watching path use increase as new walkers discovered the network and joy of local paths. As a result, we built up a huge backlog of work.
Before the post-Christmas lockdown, we were gradually getting back to work, dutifully obeying social distancing and the rule of six, while hauling heavy oak structures into place or slashing back accumulated months of footpath overgrowth. As June 2021 begins, there is plenty of work ahead. We love what we do, and we hope you do too.
To join us, donate, or sponsor a stile, visit our website www.mondaygroup.org