After experiencing difficulties with his mental health, training as a walk leader boosted Colin’s confidence and helped him stay happy and well. Now he’s been leading walks for almost 13 years.
“In 1994, I lost my job due to depression. I thought I was falling down a great big hole. Everything was falling to bits all around me. I thought ‘I’m on the scrap heap, what on earth is going to happen to me?’
“I was very well looked after by the mental health services at the time, and almost 13 years ago now I decided I wanted to give something back. I saw an appeal for volunteers for Best Foot Forward, my local walking scheme in Nottingham, and thought ‘I could be of assistance here’.
“At that point I was starting to get my confidence back after a long period out of work, and training as a walk leader really cemented this. I’ve always enjoyed working with people, but leading the walks has given me the confidence to stand up in front of groups of people and take the lead, after going through a time when I never thought I’d have that confidence.
“Going out, spending time outdoors and helping others helps me manage my mental health, and mostly I now go without medication.
"Very early on in walking I found that my mood was lightening, and I was feeling a lot better for being out in the fresh air.
“It’s the same for the walkers. You can see their general wellbeing improve as they walk; they become happier, more social – and of course they’re becoming more physically healthy as well. I’ve seen so many people improve way beyond any target I thought they’d achieve. It’s so rewarding.
“I receive fantastic support from both my wife and family, and Age UK Nottingham who run Best Foot Forward, and I’d encourage anyone who’s thinking about training as a walk leader to go for it. It may seem daunting to lead a group of people, but you will be supported throughout – and you will gain so much from it.”