21 August 2020 by Mary Gough
I discovered walking when my children were little. I used to drive everywhere by car, but one day my late husband said “Right, we’re going for a walk.” We walked three miles and it almost killed me! But I soon got the bug. I joined the Ramblers when my late husband discovered golf.
Since then, I have had many volunteer roles and I’m now chair of my local Ramblers group. I also develop routes for Ramblers Routes – the growing, online collection of more than 3,000 inspiring routes for walkers of all levels of experience and location across Great Britain. It’s rewarding work. Whether you’re walking with a group, friends or family, or on your own, you get fed up with the same routes. I probably lead about 40 walks a year, and I try to introduce at least one new short and one long walk.
Unlocking new routes for everyone to enjoy
I think it’s important to have some local knowledge when developing a route. I usually start by looking at a map, marking roughly where I want to go, then mapping it digitally onto Ramblers Routes. Then I’ll check the mileage.
If I know the route area well, I’ll think about where to put the way points – for example on turnings or buildings. Sometimes I use Google Maps to do some virtual walking, to help me with writing the route description. Then, once I’ve got a rough outline, I’ll walk the route. On average, it will take me three times to walk it and get it how I want it; going round with my notes and amending the description as needed.
I’ve developed lots of lovely walks, but one of my favourite routes is from Islip. It’s got a bit of everything – historical interest, some scenic views, woods, and a path along the river. Islip used to be more important than Oxford, so there’s a lot of history waiting to be discovered. That’s the great thing about discovering new walks on Ramblers Routes – when you start looking at walks on it, you find out so much that you won’t get from a map. For example, on the Islip route there are lots of tracks that are old green lanes. They are the paths people used to get to church, to market and so on: it’s like going back in time when you walk them. In fact, the route has gained a five-star rating on Ramblers Routes, which is particularly rewarding.
Supporting and inspiring walkers
During the COVID-19 lock-down I’ve discovered a lot more paths locally . When I see a footpath, I wonder…where does it go? I love discovering new ways, and I’d love to see more people getting involved with helping to develop new walking routes for the Ramblers Routes collection. Since the pandemic, there are more people walking, including people who wouldn’t want to go on a led, group walk. For them, the Ramblers Routes library – available on our website or via the Ramblers app – is a great resource that can help them to stay engaged and inspired and supported.
I’ve made a lot of friends and become healthier through joining the Ramblers. The comradeship is what I really enjoy: walking with the Ramblers helped me through a difficult period when I was widowed a few years ago. Recently I’ve seen so many wildflowers, it’s been amazing. I’ve seen a lot more wildlife too – it’s exhilarating. Most of all, walking for me is all about the feeling of freedom.
Joining the Ramblers gives you access to Ramblers Routes, a growing collection of nearly 4,000 routes, developed by walkers for walkers of all levels of experience, across Great Britain The Ramblers, Great Britain’s largest walking community, is waiting to welcome you for just £3.05 a month. Find out more: www.ramblers.org.uk/get-involved/join-the-ramblers