26 February 2020 by Roy Emes
Sunday 8 December 2019 was a momentous day. Not only did I join my 200th walk with Cleeve Ramblers, I also passed a personal landmark – walking a total of 20,000 miles since joining the Ramblers ten years ago. When I began walking with people that I’d never met, never could I have imagined such an outcome.
The life-changing event occurred a little more than a month after my 66th birthday, in October 2010, when I joined the Ramblers. A year after moving to Charlton Kings, a suburb of Cheltenham that’s a 30-minute walk from the Cotswold Escarpment and national trail, I began exploring nearby footpaths, keeping a meticulous record of every walk and ramble.
On one investigation of my new environment, I chanced upon a group of walkers near Staverton, Cotswold Airport. After chatting to one or two of them, I quickly realised that they were the Walking for Health group from Churchdown. I was invited to join them on their weekly walks.
After about two months of joining relatively short weekly walks, I could see the great benefits of people coming together for regular walks. Both the exercise and the social friendship that ensued gave us all something to look forward to each week. So I decided to become a Walking for Health walk leader and have been leading walks ever since, once a week, in my own community of Charlton Kings.
500 glorious groups
It wasn't long before I encountered people in this group who were members of Ramblers and I was further invited to do some longer walks. I duly had my first Ramblers walk with Cirencester group on 31 October, 2010.
This led to further walks with other groups and I initially became assigned to Gloucester Ramblers. As time went on I walked with many different Ramblers groups - 29 groups to date – as well as some local walking clubs that were affiliated to Ramblers.
Eventually I settled with Cleeve ramblers, which covers Bishops Cleeve and Cleeve Hill in Gloucestershire, including Winchcombe, Tewkesbury in the north, to Tirley in the west, Stanton in the east and Cheltenham in the south. It’s closest to my home and ideal for regular Sunday walks.
With so many people to walk with, I soon found myself walking five days a week, joining not only Ramblers walks but also enjoying ad hoc walks with all these new friends and acquaintances that I had made and leading weekly Walking for Health walks.
Walking into publishing
My experiences over the past ten years and 20,000 miles has inspired me so much – I’ve even self-published a book jointly with Anne Ochala, my regular walking partner and neighbour. It’s entitled Along the A44 Oxford to Kington: 44 Circular Walks in Four Counties. The idea for the book emerged between 2016-17 when Anne and I, and a group of friends, completed a series of circular walks between Oxford and the Welsh border. With the A44 as our guide, we put together 44 new walks through the counties of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, and Herefordshire.
Currently Anne and I are creating something called the Cotswold Link Trail, which is a series of 42 circular walks around the north Cotswolds within the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We plan to publish a book in the autumn detailing the 400 miles of walking, and the 120 Cotswold towns, villages, and hamlets that we visit on the way around this great area.
Walk your way to happiness
Of the 2,500 walks that I have completed during the past decade, 500 of them have been Walking for Health walks – and a quarter of those I’ve led myself. The great democratic principle is exemplified by being a member of Ramblers in that it is possible to play your part as either a leader or a follower, or both. Anyone can lead a walk.
Ramblers, and other regular walkers, are some of the happiest people that I’ve ever met. I hope more people can discover walking and enjoy a great life change, just like I did.
The Ramblers’ Walking for Health programme holds training days for prospective walk leaders.
The Ramblers Volunteer Roadshows provide an opportunity to learn new skills or brush up your knowledge through workshops on Rights of Way, navigation and leading walks.
By Roy Emes, Cleeve Ramblers group, Gloucestershire.
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