It’s been almost two decades since Jenny Budd started running healthy walks in Lewisham, and she believes that continuity has led to it averaging 1,300 walk groups a year with some 750 regular participants, collectively clocking-up in excess of 12,000 walks a year.
The service has changed funders and management over the years, but Jenny’s delivery has been steady and consistent, building relationships, expertise, respect and knowledge. The service is now part of the Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency's Be Inspired Lewisham programme, funded by Lewisham Council’s Public Health team.
Not even the coronavirus is stopping her as she and her team of instructors and volunteer walk leaders have set up a programme of virtual walks for the housebound or those self-isolating to protect their health. Walk leaders will host an online session allowing people to virtually share what the walk leader can see, hear and experience as they deliver a commentary to accompany the images they broadcast during their pre-planned route through the borough’s parks and open spaces. Some people have liked sitting at home and experiencing the wildlife, flowers and birdsong of the borough’s parks they are shown on their phones or other devices. Others enjoyed being out and about, chatting whilst they walked and still following the government guidelines on physical distancing.
It’s important that we all stick to the social distancing guidelines, but this is all part of our service of keeping our people connected and part of our community. This won’t replace being out and about but for those who can’t get out, they can still enjoy the connections with nature and being part of a group of friends. We’re also having sessions where our expert Nordic walk instructors will take people through a virtual warm-up online. Participants can then go out on their walk and return 45 minutes later for a cool-down routine with the same instructor. Another option is to join a tea party after your own walk, for those who’d normally have been on a walking group as part of a weekly routine. I’ve also developed a physical activity sheet for people to exercise at home,” she added. “To help those without a smartphone or internet connection.”
The Lewisham Healthy Walks programme is linked with the national Walking for Health initiative, run by Ramblers Walking for Health. They have a variety of resources and guides to help people set-up and run groups.
Jenny and her team of volunteer walk leaders deliver a number of walks through parks across the borough, like those listed below, some walks are open to everyone, some for pregnant women and young mothers, fothers or beginners and for experienced walkers. There’s one that sets off from St Christopher’s Hospice into Crystal Palace Park. It’s for the local community as well as people associated with the hospice.
People value the routine of a weekly walk and some great friendships have been made on all our walks. Walking is a great way of allowing people to talk freely and openly in ways that may be harder face-to-face in a room.”
The walks vary from short, easy ones, to longer, more energetic ones, with options such as whole-body workouts provided by Nordic Walking led by an experienced instructors and volunteer walk leaders. All are created to boost physical and mental well-being through being active and social.
Jenny says she’s lucky:
I live in Bromley and both it and Lewisham have some fantastic and beautiful parks; big and small beautiful open spaces, which make walking an easy and enjoyable way to get fit or keep active.”