Community Walking Groups
Think Nature Health Walks – Health Walks Co-ordinator
Charlotte Mackenzie, 01.09.20
I go for a walk whenever I can, whether it’s around the garden, along the river by our house or further afield in an evening or at weekends, to one of the many amazing places that there is to explore in the Highlands. Twenty minutes or two hours out walking makes all the difference to me, it’s so uplifting to see and hear the surrounding changes in nature and the peace and quiet and fresh air does wonders for my wellbeing.
One of my recent walks with my family was along an old road which is usually submerged under a loch but has been exposed during the last few weeks. The road used to wind down a glen through a small settlement which was flooded in the 1950s to create a reservoir as part of a hydro-electric power scheme. So at the moment you can wander further down the road and imagine what the hidden glen used to look like. How cool is that?! There is always something fascinating wherever you walk, in this case it was a historical connection with a forgotten glen, but often it’s spotting wildlife in the woods or finding beachcombing treasure on the seashore.
Walking is a big part of my life and that’s why my new role is perfect for me! At the beginning of August I started my new job as the Health Walk Co-ordinator for rural Highland as part of the Think Nature Health Walks project, working in partnership with Think Health Think Nature, Paths for All and Highland Third Sector Interface. I provide support and guidance to 10 existing health walk groups and aim to work with communities to set up new walks in the areas of Caithness, Sutherland, Wester Ross, Skye, Lochalsh and Lochaber. I will also recruit, train and support new walk leaders across rural Highland with the aim of providing further capacity and adding value to the existing walks being delivered by our network of dedicated volunteers. Another part of my role is to promote active travel and develop further green health opportunities across rural Highland, encouraging all ages to spend more time outdoors to improve physical inactivity, mental health issues and health inequalities. Along with other project partners we also aim to develop green health referral pathways with GP’s to ‘prescribe’ walking as a health intervention.
There are so many benefits to walking, including the improvement of our health and fitness levels. It can reduce the chance of developing many long term conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Regular walking also builds up strength, improves sleep and generally improves quality of life. It also has positive effects on mental health and social health and can increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety and build up connections with others. By walking more, we use our cars less, reducing air pollution benefiting our environment too. One of my favourite things about walking is the feeling of connecting with nature. I just love to hear the wind rustling the leaves in the trees, to see a beautiful butterfly dance by or watch waves on the sea sparkle in the sunshine. These types of experiences are all so uplifting and are the reason that I want to spend more and more time walking outdoors.
Many people prefer to walk with others, that’s why health walks are ideal, they are also safe, fun and free! There are over 500 health walks across Scotland and we want to develop further and encourage more people to enjoy the benefits of walking. Our health walk groups welcome everyone and are set at a pace to suit the walkers. Groups are led by trained volunteer walk leaders along routes which have been risk assessed and are safe, low-level and local. All protocols regarding Covid19 have been put in place for our health walks and we are following Scottish Government advice to keep all of our volunteers and walkers safe.
So if you would like to join one of our health walk groups across Highland please get in touch. Details of all walks in your area can be found on the Paths for All website: https://www.pathsforall.org.uk/walking-for-health/health-walks.
You can also contact me:
Charlotte Mackenzie, Health Walks Co-ordinator
Highland Third Sector Interface, Thorfin House, Bridgend Business Park, Dingwall, IV15 9SL
Office: 01349 864289 Email: email@example.com