A walk and talk with Mike McCann

  • Name: Mike McCann
  • Volunteer role: Health walk leader and trainer

Mike McCann talks 

Mike is a walk leader and trainer with Healthy Stepping Middlesbrough, which is part of Walking for Health - the England wide network of health walk schemes run in partnership between the Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Over the last twelve years, Mike has helped train hundreds of walk leaders, many of whom are also local volunteers. Throughout this time, Mike has also led hundreds of walks with his local walking group, and has organised and taken part in many community fundraising events.

Having suffered prostate cancer himself, Mike is always willing to share his experience with other walkers and trainee walk leaders.  He encourages other people living with cancer to stay physically active and to live a healthy lifestyle. Mike’s enthusiasm for life is an inspiration to us all.

Thinking about volunteering specifically…

What does a typical day of volunteering look like?

I check out walking kit, maps, packed lunch and head off early to welcome walkers for registration and sort out car sharing to start the walk. During the walk I make sure we are walking at a pace to suit everyone and make sure nobody is struggling. I also try to point out anything interesting and share local history from time to time. Afterwards, I lead everyone to a café or pub so we can socialise before dispersing.

Q2. What made you want to volunteer for the Ramblers?

I was asked to help set up a Walking for Health group in my local community about 12 years ago. It turned out to be really successful, attracting lots of people who’d never walked before. We had no difficulty in recruiting more volunteers to train as walk leaders so that the group could grow.

Q3. How do you feel you make a difference?

Helping to bring the many joys of walking to others. Over the years I’ve seen the pleasure and new friendships that walking brings to so many people. Importantly, it’s brought a number of people out of social isolation and hugely improved the quality of their lives.

Thinking about walking more generally…

Q4. When did you discover the joys of walking?

As a boy of nine or ten I walked the Cleveland Hills with friends. To escape from an industrial town and walk in clean fresh air and see the natural beauty of the moorland was a great pleasure, and still is.

Q5. Why do you love walking / how has walking changed your life?

I love to be immersed in nature and admire its beauty on the moors and hills or in the countryside. It’s good for both my physical and mental health, and socially I have met and made many good friends. Perhaps the greatest pleasure for me though is sharing it with others. There is no doubt it has enriched my life, and I’m delighted that my enthusiasm is shared by my children, who now take their children walking too!

Q6. Describe your perfect walk (group walk, walking alone, where etc)

A couple of weeks ago I did a circular walk with friends starting at Hawnby on the North Yorkshire Moors. The sky was blue, the walk was on varied terrain; across the moors, through woods, over fields and down beck paths and there were magnificent displays of bluebells amidst wild garlic and other spring flowers. There were even lambs happily frolicking on the moors. Idyllic. Finally, our path led us through a woodland to bring us to a wonderful medieval church and ancient graveyard with a delightful beck with bluebells beyond.

Q7. Why should other people take up walking?

To enjoy the health benefits, see nature in the raw, make friends and share these wonders with other people!

And finally... 

Q8. If you could change one thing about walking, or the walking environment, what would that be?

I think it’s essential that we preserve our urban greenbelts.