Last year embracing innovation and positive risk-taking led to Walsingham Support setting up a walking group in the Cumbria region. Thanks to a great idea and the can-do attitude of our staff, the group was a huge success, with people we support venturing into the great outdoors for leisurely walks in the beautiful Cumbrian countryside.
The positive impact of these walks quickly became apparent from the promising feedback received, some of which is included in our previous article, encouraging more people to come. The initial walks went so well in fact, that they became a regular feature, scheduled on the last Sunday of every month. The concept was that from both a health point of view, and a social one, every individual we support would benefit from and enjoy a walk at a pace that suited them. As always, we put the people we support at the heart of everything we do. Everyone is different, with different needs and abilities and all walks are accessible to all people with careful consideration taken and routes planned well in advance. Just as important as anything else, the walks are great fun!
Melissa, staff member, says: “There are always smiles on people’s faces which is great to see.”
Walsingham Support staff engaged in some training that was available through Active Cumbria, an initiative set up to increase engagement in sport and physical activity. 3 staff members attended a full-day course on how to become a volunteer Walk Leader, leading to officially certified walk leaders now within our ranks! These monthly walks boost our links as an organisation and the involvement of the people we support within the community. This opens the possibility for many other exciting engagement projects in the future. We have been a leader in supporting people with learning disabilities, autism, brain injuries and complex needs for over 30 years and we are extremely proud that thanks to the hard work of our staff in Cumbria, that our positive reputation extends to these walks.
What's more, since April this year, we are now able to offer Active Cumbria health walks that the public can join in with, further increasing the social and wellbeing benefits of these walks for the people we support. There are around 10–20 people attending each month. As James, a staff member and our certified walk leader in North Cumbria says, it’s a “good turn out.”
The walks allow the people we support to spend time with others that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to see. Jamie, a person we support who has bundles of energy and is constantly at the front of any walk that Walsingham Support does, says: “I like it with everyone, I like to go walking.”
Margaret, who comes on the walks with her friend, Julie, says: “I like to see lots of people, and this is my chance to see them.”
Occasionally, the walks can be weather dependent, however, recently “we’ve been quite lucky” says James. “The walk helps me be in the sunshine and I see my friends like Janet,” says Rebecca who uses a walker. Janet is from a different care provider, so these walks allow people from different communities to spend time together.
The walks have enabled people we support with a wide range of disabilities to spend time together in the fresh air. From those in wheelchairs or using rollators to those who can walk independently, through careful planning and consideration, everyone benefits from walking together. The group also encourages new relationships. Making friends, connections and memories makes up part of the walking experience through some of the most picturesque scenery England has to offer.
“The walking group is helping the people we support to build relationships with other people in the community,” says James.
Each walk is on average 1.5-3 miles long. Since the walks began, each participant has walked over 20 miles! The health benefits are numerous and the many hours spent exploring and socialising in the fresh country air beats time spent watching TV on a weekend. 49% of people with learning disabilities would like to spend more time outside their house [Mencap 2015]. This is something that Walsingham Support is helping to make possible, thanks to everyone’s participation and their enthusiasm to be involved.
Quick, the good weather won’t last forever!