Marika (left) leading the walk
Visually impaired walker Marika Kovacs achieved her ambition of leading a group walk earlier this summer, taking ten fellow Ramblers members on a four and a half mile walk in Herefordshire.
Marika regularly enjoys walking with her local Herefordshire Ramblers but had always wanted to lead a walk of her own so, with the aid of a friend, planned a route to follow including which footpaths and directions to take.
Creating detailed instructions in braille, Marika used them to lead a walk on 25 May. Several members of the group took turns to walk with her, but it was Marika who was completely in charge of the circular walk from the outskirts of Hereford to the River Wye and back.
Marika encouraged the walkers to experience the walk from the point of view of someone with a visual impairment after having invited them to introduce themselves verbally at the start of the walk so she could take a mental note of their voices.
“I encouraged my group to take in their surroundings by smell and hearing and to feel the beautiful countryside around them in the same way as I do” explained Marika. “Everyone felt happy with this, and was very encouraging towards me.”
The walk was a great success with the whole group impressed with Marika’s walk leading skills. “I really didn’t want it to end” said Marika. “I really felt so happy and buzzing with the achievement of having done it, without asking my friend, without having made a wrong turn.”
The walkers were keen to congratulate Marika on her triumph over tea and cake back at the Wyevale Garden Centre start point. “Everyone in my group was praising me for what I had done and asking me how I felt” said Marika.
“One person stated, as we walked to the garden centre, ‘You led this walk like a sighted person, if I didn’t know you I wouldn’t know you couldn’t see’” continued Marika. “This was the most wonderful and encouraging thing that anyone had said.”
You can read an extended interview with Marika in the next edition of Walk magazine. Walking advice for blind and partially sighted people (and for those walking with someone with a visual impairment) can be found in our advice for walkers section.