Walk yourself to better health in Horsham

PUBLISHED: 17:23 02 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:09 20 February 2013

Walk yourself to better health in Horsham

Walk yourself to better health in Horsham

There are more than 1,700 people registered for Horsham's Health Walks, with motives ranging from improving health to meeting new people. Emily Friend spoke to some of the walkers.

Horsham District Council has been running a Health Walks programme for eleven years. The latest timetable boasts at least one organised walk a day over the winter. All abilities are welcome, with some walks specially designed for those recovering from surgery or those who have never been on a walk before. And if that wasnt convincing enough, all walks are free.

Supported by Natural England, the scheme promotes walking for health reasons but has proved to be a sociable experience for many involved. Jill Shuker, Horshams Health Walks co-ordinator says: I still have the first programme; it started on the August Bank Holiday weekend in 2000, with three walks a week.

Now we have at least 15 walks a week all over Horsham District, of all lengths and timings. With more walks and more leaders consequently we have had more participants. The scheme has approximately 50 leaders and now we have about 1,000 walks taken a month. There are 1,700 registered walkers and about a third of those walk on a regular basis.

William Gander, 70, has suffered from health problems over the last 20 years and was referred to the scheme five years ago to regain his strength after surgery. He began as a walker but was encouraged to become a leader, taking other people recovering from surgery on a weekly walk.

William went on to lead more ambitious walks but unfortunately he experienced further health complications last year. He is slowly walking his way to recovery and hopes to lead walks again as soon as possible.

He says, There is no doubting the improvement in my health over the past six years. Annual check-ups at The Royal Brompton confirm that taking up walking was the best thing I could have done and I must try not to stop. In addition to the health benefits of our walks there is the very valuable social contact - I have made many good friends - and all completely free of charge.

For some, the walks have provided companionship, support and inspiration far beyond the Councils expectations. Lynette Coates, who has two children with special needs, has been walking for two years.

I try to do at least two walks per week when the children are at school. Weekends are difficult for me to get out so the fact that walks take place every day of the week gives me the chance to de-stress in the countryside on days that I am not already busy, she explains.

Since I started walking I have taken up photography, something I would never have done before but a hobby which I now love. I have found chatting to others and hearing about their lives has helped to realise that I am not alone.

A group of women who met on Williams walks, including Lynette, now arrange their own birthday walks. Lynne Mace, who has been walking with the scheme since 2008, explains:

Initially a group of six, we are now nine in total and call ourselves the Calendar Girls as, quite amazingly, we all celebrate a birthday in a different month from February to October. As one of the group calculated, the chances of this happening are quite exceptional.

Every one of the walk leaders does an exemplary voluntary role and has such enthusiasm for walking in our beautiful Sussex countryside. The words of one fellow walker summed it up "You have no idea what this has meant to me; it has changed my life around.

If you would like to know more about the Horsham Health Walks, visit the Horsham District Council website at www.horsham.gov.uk for a list of walk routes and times or contact Jill Shuker on 01403 215269 or jill.shuker@horsham.gov.uk

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