“For more than a decade, Westbank has offered graded, group walks to help people get on the move and make progress with their walking. These range from 30-minute walks on flat, even surfaces (Grade 1) to slightly longer walks with some inclines (Grade 2) to more challenging walks lasting about 1 ½ hours at a slightly faster pace (Grade 3), so there’s genuinely something for everyone.

All our led walks are free of charge. Each week we offer 282 places (14,664 a year) on our daytime walks in Exeter, Exminster and Mid Devon. These not only help people improve their fitness, but also their social life. Each walk ends with a drink stop at either a community centre or an inexpensive local cafe, and for many of our participants this social interaction with their fellow walkers is something they enjoy as much as the regular exercise.

Our walkers are largely led by volunteers and we’re lucky to have up to eighty volunteer leaders. Often they are people who have progressed through our walking groups and who want to give something back. Without them, Westbank’s extensive programme of Health Walks simply wouldn’t be possible. All of our walks are risk assessed and volunteers receive training on how to lead them.

We began these walks because many people feel daunted by the prospect of joining established walking groups like The Ramblers, where the expectation is that you can undertake a fairly strenuous walk for several hours. Many people don’t have that level of fitness or the time to spare for a long ramble. What they need is support so they can walk at a level that suits them and at a location that’s easy to reach by public transport - all of ours are accessible by local buses.

Our Grade-1 walks are perfect for people who have recently left hospital or are recovering from illness, people who feel socially isolated and those who have done very little exercise. Participants are sometimes referred to us by GPs through Social Prescribing and these walks aim to encourage people to just get out and take part in an activity that’s not too strenuous and also offers them the opportunity to connect with others. If and when they want to, walkers can progress to our Grade 2 or 3 routes which will challenge them a bit more.

On our Wonford walks in Exeter, we have a young man who had a stroke and used to come to us for gym-based rehab sessions. He regularly joins us with his parents and particularly enjoys being able to mingle with people from all walks of life, including one 95-year-old, as everyone’s got something to contribute. I’ve seen people improve and gain so much.

If you would like to find out more about Westbank’s Health Walks or would consider supporting our charity through volunteering or by making a donation or legacy, please have a further look around our website. 

Article from The Moorlander newspaper