Leading walks has helped Geraldine and her husband Bill find purpose and make new friends in their retirement.
“I first started walking when I retired from the civil service. Having spent years at work I needed to make some new local friends, so when I heard about the Get Wiltshire Walking group I promised myself I would join.
“Everyone in the group was hugely welcoming and entertaining, and I didn’t find the walks too demanding or feel like I was under pressure to walk outside of my comfort zone. The added bonus was that I met up with several people I had worked with years before!
"People in the group also told me about other activities in the area, and invited me to join. The social side of the group is fantastic, and it really encourages diversity of outlook and attitude. Because of this interaction, I’ve joined the WI and two local bowls clubs.
“When Rosie, our scheme coordinator, appealed for people to train as walk leaders, I was happy to step forward. The day’s training was really interesting and fun, by the end I felt confident and excited to lead my first walk.
“In August 2013, my husband Bill had a bad fall which resulted in serious spinal injuries and a broken neck. Although Bill made a good recovery, he was forced to abandon some of his hobbies, like golf. His orthopaedic consultant advised him that walking would contribute more to his recovery than any other form of activity.
“Between myself and Rosie, we managed to encourage Bill to start walking with the original group and since April 2014 – when he completed his walk leader course - walking has become a large part of his life. It really aided his recovery, and helped him feel more like his old self.
“After I’d been leading walks for several years, Rosie asked if I’d be interested in establishing a shorter walk for beginners. The idea of this was to make sure that anyone could join a walk, no matter what their level of fitness was.
“The starter walk is only 30 minutes long, on even ground and we stop regularly to let people catch up and catch their breath. It’s perfect for people who are only just starting to get active, or are recovering from illness or injury.
“The shorter walk takes place at the same time every week as our longer walk, and we make sure everyone meets up at the end to have a coffee. This means that everyone from each sub-group can socialise and make new friends.
“Social interaction is so important, and for some of our less able walkers the weekly walk is their only chance to enjoy this.
"All of our walkers have improved their physical stamina and fitness, and leading the slower walk is hugely rewarding. I know that I am making a contribution to people’s wellbeing – especially those who wouldn’t be able to get involved without the shorter walk.”
Find out more about how you could become a walk leader here.