Who was Tony Drake?

Several members of our South Cotswold Group will remember Tony very well. He was so exceptional! He regularly attended ALL our footpath committee meetings along with Mavis Rear, the then Gloucestershire Ramblers' Area Secretary. He seemed to know all the paths in Gloucestershire. But this was only the tip of the iceberg! Read on ......

A life long Rambler, Tony dedicated his life to the development of our network of footpaths and the protection of our countryside. He was involved in the planning of several long distance paths, including the Cotswold Way, Offa's Dyke Path and the Cambrian Way. He was instrumental in the production of the Gloucestershire definitive map resulting in the recording of many, many footpaths on our OS Maps.

Tony was involved with and influential in many countryside organisations over his long life. He was held in high esteem for his attention to detail particularly when the definitive map was being created.

People with whom he worked, including members of the then Countryside Commission and Gloucestershire Public Rights of Way Staff gathered at the ceremony in May 2013 along with representatives of other organisations, Ramblers' past Chairmen, past and present Board of Trustees members, Ramblers' Directors of Wales and Scotland and many others to remember this one off man.

Tony was such a key player in the Association for so many years and  we all enjoy his legacy every time  we walk in the Gloucestershire countryside and elsewhere.


  • Born 1923, only child, attended Wycliffe School
  • Joined Scouts, relished outdoor pursuits
  • As a pupil travelled by ferry to remote Forest of Dean at weekends
  • At age 16 left school and entered family department store in Cheltenham, Drakes
  • Trained at Bon Marche (now Debenhams) Gloucester to learn to manage family business
  • Aged 18 he volunteered for RAF and was a Radar Technician until 1946
  • From then until 1970's worked at Drakes as “Mr Antony”
  • He loved walking and mountaineering
  • As a part time hobby he became Footpath Secretary of Ramblers in Gloucestershire in 1951 at the age of 28
  • He and teams of Ramblers worked hard to record hundreds of Public Rights of Way for the new Definitive Map
  • He recorded rights of way on paper maps for over 200 parishes – these are now in the County Archives
  • After inheriting the family department store in the 1970's he decided to sell up and devote himself full time to Ramblers
  • He was a major contributor to the idea of the Cotswold Way
  • Long before Explorer (and before them Pathfinder) Maps, he produced a series of 1:25,000 maps of the whole route
  • He also produced for many years the Cotswold Way Accommodation Guide
  • He painstakingly checked every revised edition of every OS map for the county as a service to OS for many years
  • A very active member of the YHA in Wales
  • Here he developed the mountain connoisseurs walk, the Cambrian Way, 270 miles long with 61.540 feet of ascent!
  • He mounted the White Roads Campaign, so that walkers could know whether an uncoloured road on the map was private or a public low class road, (now shown with green dots on all Explorer maps) and thus making lots more routes available for walkers on OS maps. Look on any OS map and see if you can spot the coloured blobs! Now called ORPAs (Other Routes with Public Access).
  • Campaigned for better stiles, gates and particularly gaps!
  • He served on the Ramblers' Board of Trustees for over 20 years
  • Awarded the MBE in 2001 for services to Public Rights of Way

In May 2013 people who knew Tony came from all over the country to mark Tony's passing. Groups of Gloucestershire Ramblers converged on Painswick from all directions. Our Group walked from Stroud for a picnic there (See Pictures). Benedict Southworth, Ramblers Chief Executive was there, as was the President Kate Ashbrook, who unveiled the memorial to Tony. Janet Davis, who had worked in the London office since the 1980's, knew Tony well, and her address gives you the full flavour of his work and personality.

Janet Davis' Address in PDF format - click here


Kate Ashbrook's blog of the event - click here


December 2016 update

Now it is Janet Davis's turn to retire, and Kate has written a tribute to her work, Thank you Janet, the Ramblers' Rock  Click HERE It includes a photo of Janet at Painswick in 2013.

Memorial at Painswick

Janet Davis tells us her memories of Tony over many years.