Roger Salter is a walk leader for the Hillfields Walking for Health Group. Here, he tells us about how he got involved with walking.
How did you first get involved with walking groups and what lead you to do this?
When I first retired about seven years ago I was looking for something to do and started going for local walks by myself to try and keep myself reasonably fit. A mutual friend suggested I go along to the Hillfields Walking for Health Group, so I thought I would give it a try. I found them to be a friendly group of people with an interesting walk programme so although I don’t live in that area I joined the group.
What were your first impressions when you started walking?
My first impression was that it was a friendly group of people and an opportunity to do some more interesting walks with the benefit of the company, which made it more of a social occasion than walking alone.
What do you enjoy about walking?
I enjoy getting out and about in all wind and weathers and going to places I have not been before or taking in all the interesting things that you usually whiz past in the car.
What are some of your favourite local walks?
There are so many walks we have done, some in town and some in the countryside. In town, I like walks around places I have never been before, and in the countryside I enjoy places like Abbots Pool and Newton St Loe.
How do you feel when you’re out walking? Do you find that walking changes your state of mind?
It feels great to be out and about with the group in the fresh air be it warm or cold, it becomes a social occasion as well as a healthy activity.
Have you experienced any physical or mental health benefits from walking? If so, how?
The physical and mental benefits are really a combination of enjoying the experience and the opportunity of the exercise to try and keep active.
How did you become a walk leader and what does this involve?
After a couple of years with the group I was approached and asked if I would consider becoming a leader. I felt I had become part of the group and had something I could offer the group, so I agreed. I did the walk leader training course and attended the leaders’ planning meetings to get to know how it all worked and got fully involved in the planning and leading roles. As a leader, I have to come up with ideas for walks and routes to take, and with other leaders I then carry out a recce and risk analysis, and identify things such as toilet facilities and refreshment facilities. If walks are out of the immediate area, we only use public transport so one of my jobs is to make sure transport is available at the required times to get out there and back again.
What are the main pleasures and also challenges of being a walk leader?
I enjoy finding new walks and taking people to places they may never have been before, as well as doing research into the places and areas we take the group. It is challenging to come up with new walks as we have so many, as is ensuring that the walks are safe and appropriate for the age and ability profile of the group.
What advice would you give to people in a similar situation to you who might be thinking of taking up walking?
My advice to anyone thinking of taking up walking would be to go and find a group near you (there are plenty of them) and join up. You will meet new and interesting people, enjoy a wide variety of walks in and around the city and surrounding countryside and have the benefits of regular walking to keep mobile and fit.
Bristol Walk Fest, the UK’s largest celebration of urban walking, takes place from 1 – 31 May 2018. See what’s happening and when on our events calendar page.