08 April 2019 by Marika Kovacs
Marika Kovacs is a walk leader for Hereford Ramblers who also has a visual impairment.
Back in 2013, I’d been on a few walks with the Hereford Ramblers and heard people talking about walks they were going to be leading. I kept thinking, ‘I’d like to do that too’.
I asked our group chair if he thought I could do it, and together we worked out a way for me to plan and lead walks. After a first recce of the route, I transcribe the directions into braille, then do two more recces to double-check them. I also make sure I have someone who doesn’t know the walk to guide me, while I navigate. My first walk in March of that year was a real success and I’ve been regularly leading walks ever since.
Being visually impaired means I’m often told that I can’t do things I’d like to try, which can be annoying and disheartening. So, becoming a walk leader feels like a big achievement.
Walking is something I’m so passionate about. It’s quite a buzz to get back from leading a ten or twelve mile walk that you’ve planned (and to have not lost anyone along the way!)
Another lovely thing that’s happened is that I’ve inspired others to give it a go too. One friend who came on a couple of my walks told me she had never thought she would be able to lead a walk, until she saw me doing it. She said: ‘If you can do it when you’re visually impaired, then surely I can!’ It was a real thrill to go along on the first walk she led, and to know I’d helped give her the confidence to do that.
On my walks, you get a different experience than usual. People often say: “When I’m walking with you, I become aware of things I would never normally notice”, that’s because there is so much more to appreciate than just things you can see. And it’s not just smells and sounds; you can sense a change in atmosphere walking through different trees, or simply enjoy the feeling of splashing in a puddle or the sensation of crunching through a field where the corn has been cut down to stubble. I think even the sting of nettles and scratch of brambles are all part of the walk experience.
As well as regularly walking around the beautiful Herefordshire countryside where I live, I’ve also enjoyed walks in National Parks over the years, including the Brecon Beacons, the Peak District and the Lakes. Being invited to join in the celebrations for the 70th Anniversary of National Parks up in the Peak District was a wonderful experience.
I think it’s really important that we remember the history of the people that campaigned for National Parks and continue to protect them for the future too.
We had a fantastic and challenging walk up to Mam Tor and filming with Countryfile was great fun. The highlight of the day was definitely meeting presenter Matt Baker. We walked together for a good stretch and had a lovely chat about National Parks and walking, which was filmed for the show. I’m very excited about making my TV debut!
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