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Our Wellbeing Walks🥰

I love to walk.

A friend and I are regular walkers – it is ‘our time’ and always makes us feel good.

What is it about walking that brings so much joy and goodness to people’s lives? It’s calming, it’s fun, it’s social and great for our physical and mental health. Moving, chatting, talking, fresh air, trees, nature, birds, views, landscapes, providing sharing and thinking time. We often spoke about how we could share these feelings and experiences with others. We knew we could, we just needed that little touch of magic….

When local community leader Carolyn Magson set up a meeting with Maggy Blagrove, the Founder of Open Minds Active, I knew I had met like minded women and was keen to be involved. I was asked to try and put a group of volunteer walk leaders together for our community. I was so excited at the prospect of getting our community walking, talking and giggling! I was already walking with friends and some clients as a means of ‘letting go’ ‘escaping’ ‘getting through’ the uncertainty and underlying anxiety caused by the pandemic. I was super keen to see if we could help reach people with community walking groups.

After just one request over email, 6 wonderful women replied keen to lead a walking group. Jo, Ann, Hannah, Sara, Faye and Kirsten. After several planning meetings and training we created a weekly time table for ‘wellbeing walks’ in BS4 - Hannah, one of our leaders came up with the name for us. From the start, this project was developed and led by our walk leaders, helping to shape this into something very special.

We decided to offer a morning stroll, an evening amble and a midday saunter each week for 2 months. We hoped to reach out with something that appealed to all members of our community.

Collectively we are all nervous and excited - would anyone turn up?? We advertised the groups on Facebook and put out flyers to local doctors surgeries.

Our first week was amazing with over 40 women attending across all 3 sessions and participation grew over the subsequent 7 weeks. Walkers told others, leaders invited friends and neighbours, plus locals we met whilst walking. Each week the walks have been so well attended and received, it’s made our job as leaders an absolute pleasure.

We have walked with people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. We have shown walker's wonderful hour-long walks all over our community spaces - parks, woods, farms, rivers, urban & reserves. Walks that many people have never experienced, it has been wonderful.

Our private facebook group has grown from 40 members to 145 and still growing! We now have separate Whatsapp groups for those not on facebook and for community members to continue with self led walks with the friends they have made.

It has truly been one of the best things I have ever done. I know the other leaders feel the same. It has warmed my heart to see each group set off, chatting, welcoming, friendly and happy. The sense of togetherness has been so powerful as has the feeling of belonging this community has fostered.

As the 8 weeks come to an end, we asked our participants to reflect on just how much these simple, beautiful walking groups have meant to them. Here are some of the comments they shared:

‘It is so nice to be able to walk & talk with someone’

‘It's so nice to get out’

‘ I have made some lovely friends & will continue to walk with them’

‘It’s my lifeline’ after losing my dog, I feel so lucky to have this group’

‘I feel better, I feel happier, I love these walks’

‘Knowing you are here, makes me get out, its great’

‘I have discovered new areas & my local knowledge has really improved’

‘I lack confidence to walk alone, I love walking, so these walks are just brilliant’

What’s next for us? The whole point of this programme was to mobilise local people to connect with each other and now we are seeing new walk leader volunteers emerge and help plan new routes on different days and times. We are planning a series of ‘off piste’ walks for August and thinking about offering different walks suitable with dogs, babies, children & men.

Walking - as simple as it is, offers tremendous social connection and health benefits. Our Wellbeing Walks have offered a little light, a lot of joy and a lifeline to some.

Long may they continue. Open Minds Active, Maggy and team you are awesome. Thank you for your unfailing support, love and guidance throughout.

Rachel and Wellbeing Walk Leaders

To join our Facebook group follow this link

Here is a link to the report & more about Open Minds Active

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