Walking for Health (WfH) is administered overall by the Ramblers and is supported by Macmillan Cancer Support. There are many schemes in Oxfordshire that offer short, free, local health walks. To find your local Health Walk go to www.walkingforhealth.org.uk and search by putting in your postcode. The various WfH providers offer a different selection of walk-based activities, so find one that suits you.
Our Oxfordshire Ramblers President, Sir J. A. Muir Gray, CBE, FRCPSGlas, FCLIP, worked with Macmillan and then the Ramblers to move the Health Walks to the voluntary sector. In collaboration with Public Health England, Muir has promoted taking a regular 10 minute brisk walk https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/active10/home and Walking Plus, 10 minutes of exercises every day, http://www.sod70.org/10-a-day.html .
Health walks aim to provide:
- An hour of exercise at a pace that suits the individual, as they can choose different levels of walk;
- Regular walks, starting from the same place, at the same time, on the same day(s) of the week;
- Exercise for people with limited time to spare;
- Free walks that are open to all.
The structure of Health Walks enable people to walk in safety:
- A trained leader and backmarker;
- Safe routes which are risk-assessed;
- Registers to check who is on the walks;
- A volunteering policy;
- A safeguarding vulnerable adults policy;
- Safety cards for walkers to carry (ICE cards).
Here’s what two of our walkers said:
- “I joined the Health Walks when I retired and it was the most positive activity I got involved in - I could never have envisaged how much healthier and enthusiastic I would feel about the future. It has become a very important and integral part of my life. The organisation of the walks is second to none, friendly, sociable and safe. So much work is put in by the organisers beforehand and this is a key factor to the enjoyment and continuing growth of the group.”
- “Health Walks have been fantastic for me. At my age (80) to walk one hour at my speed is really great. Breathing deeply, blood circulation increased, glowing warmly, chatting and laughing with lots of good friends who look forward to seeing one another twice a week, seeing the ever-changing wonders of the countryside around us, enjoying whatever the weather brings. What could be better? It is important to me as I've always loved and benefited from rambling but, as my partner cannot walk now, it seems unfair to go off all day on a long walk. A really brisk walk probably does me as much good.”
To find a walk near you go onto the website www.walkingforhealth.org.uk and search by putting in your postcode. Details of some schemes in Oxfordshire are given below:
Benson Health Walks
Wednesdays 10:30 Choice of walks: 40 minutes or 1 hour plus. Benson Parish Hall car park.
Saturdays 09:30 1 hour plus walk. Ewelme Recreation Ground car park, Cow Common.
For further details call 07976 302136 or see website Benson Health Walks.
Sonning Common Health Walks
Walks available every day of the week of varying lengths and levels of difficulty, please see website for timings and start location www.sonningcommonhealthwalks.co.uk or contact 07789 717017
Goring Gap Health Walks
Walks every day except Mondays and Wednesday. Different lengths and grades. See www.goringgapwalks.co.uk or contact 01491 873092.
Abingdon Health Walks
White Horse Leisure Centre, Mondays and Wednesdays at 10:30. For further details call 01235 531769 or see website Abingdon Health Walks.
Viv Boorman, the Abingdon Health Walks Voluntary Coordinator, gives a flavour of health walks by describing the origin and development of the Abingdon walks:
When I retired from teaching in 2003 I wanted to help in our local community. I was really lucky; I read an article on Health Walks and their benefits. I love walking and the outdoors, so started the daunting task of recruiting volunteers to help me.
I used the gym at the Leisure centre where I started talking to any individual who enjoyed exercise and admitted to liking walking! I recruited them and we started one walk on a Wednesday morning from the White Horse Leisure Centre in Audlett Drive.
Initially we had one led walk and only 3-4 walkers. Gradually we have grown and grown, so to date we now lead 8 different walks per week as follows:
- Monday and Wednesday mornings at 10.30 am. There are 3 walks a gentle, moderate and a brisk.
- On Thursdays mornings we have a first steps walk that is based at Preston Road Community centre. This is 30-45 minutes in length and is the gentlest of our walks
- In October 2017 we are starting a Friday morning moderate walk from the White Horse Leisure Centre.
Since we started 14 years ago Abingdon Health Walks have grown from one weekly walk with 4 walkers, to 8 walks of varying speeds every week. A typical attendance on any single walk is 10-20 people.
We receive support from the Leisure centre but are not funded in any way. We believe this is our strength - no officialdom. We have around 300 regular walkers on our database. 75 walkers have undertaken training to become leaders or backmarkers.
These committed volunteers also organise coach trips, holidays (three this year), a picnic, pub walks, evening pub walks and a Christmas party.
Coordinating this Scheme is the most fulfilling activity that I am involved in. The support of the leaders and the group is amazing. The walkers support of each other, whenever there is a need, gives me faith in the people of Abingdon and the surrounding area.
Viv Boorman with Sir Muir Gray, President of Oxfordshire Ramblers