Eileen Robinson, Brian Marshall and Ann Bowes are among 12 volunteers with the Bury – Walk with Me scheme. This is part of Walking for Health, the England-wide network run by Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support to help people get active.
‘The Walking for Health walks are nice and gentle and take about an hour or so,’ explains Brian. ‘It tends to be retired people who come on along. The main incentive is the friendship of the group.
‘We have some people who do struggle. But they are motivated to do it and they get quite a bit out of it. They must do, because they come back week after week.’
Over the past three years the trio has collectively spent around 600 volunteer hours leading more than 400 health walks – helping improve the health and wellbeing of more than 300 walkers.
When Eileen first started volunteering, she spent a lot of time planning a range of different walks, making sure they were the right length and suitable for everybody. She now leads two walks a week.
‘It’s just so satisfying to see people enjoying it. They all say thank you at the end. I get people saying, “My blood pressure’s gone down since I started walking”. And people who were slow at the beginning manage to keep up with the group. It’s total job satisfaction.’
Ann agrees that helping people who have been unwell get back on their feet is the most rewarding part of the role. ‘People have said we’ve made a big difference,’ she says. ‘Some people have joined when they’ve been depressed – and it’s helped them make new friends. If we have new people, I make sure that they’re not left to walk on their own. I want everybody to feel welcome.’
During Volunteers' Week we’ll be publishing interviews with our volunteer award winners, like Bury - Walk with Me, and you’ll be able to read them on our Volunteers' Week webpage.