We’re celebrating!

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This month we reached a real milestone – six years of bringing Nordic Walking to South Shropshire and beyond, first as Shropshire Hills Nordic Walking, and then, with a wider brief, as WALX in the Marches. It has been my privilege to teach over 200 people to Nordic Walk in that time. 

So how has the group changed over time? I am pleased to say that I still have some of my very first trainees walking with me, and that is very special – two of them were in the group of ‘guinea pigs’ I taught before my instructor assessment. Others have found their way to me more recently, but are no less committed. As with all groups, some have come and gone, with the changes that life carries. Currently I have a committed core of walkers, some have been with me for a while, others are some of my newest ‘graduates’. I also have those who dip in and out as life allows. All are welcomed warmly by our lovely, friendly groups. In fact some very deep friendships have formed as a result of our group walks.

Whilst still Shropshire Hills Nordic Walking, after being a one-man band, I quickly saw the need for additional support, particularly for school holidays when I was busy with family.  I was very delighted to be joined by Lynne Munro, first as a walk leader and then, as an Instructor. Lynne, sadly, could not continue, but is still in the affections of those who walked with her. I have since been joined by Nowela Swanson, who trained as a a walk leader just before lockdown, and more recently, by the aptly named Beverley Walker (or Bev to distinguish her from me!). A third WALX Guide is currently in training, and we very much look forward to her joining the team before the summer holidays, once everything is in place. More leaders means we can cover this large county more easily, or leaves me freer to recce new routes, as well as giving me holiday or illness cover.

I was particularly grateful to have walk leaders in place when I was recovering first from a broken foot, and more recently from burns to my feet. My leaders stepped in and kept everyone walking until I was fit enough to return! I have, to date, escaped Covid, but know that I could call on my leaders to keep walks running in my absence should it finally catch up with me.

Speaking of Covid, the pandemic has had its part in shaping the group too. The change to the wider brief of a WALX group from a Nordic Walking UK group came during the lockdown, as did online sessions, which are part of our weekly programme now, and greatly appreciated by those that attend, as they have found them a very beneficial addition to their fitness. We have also added regular Yoga WALX and Total Body WALX sessions to the programme too which are both valued by those that attend. During the lockdowns, we were also able to keep up contact and exercise with those who wished to, using Zoom. These sessions (both indoor exercise, and outside individual walks with online warm ups and cool downs, followed by sociable sharing sessions) were particularly valuable for those who lived alone, and brought a lasting sense of friendship.

Over the years we have enjoyed hosting some group walks with both Mercian Nordic Walking and Chase Nordic Walking, and whilst Lynne and I enjoyed attending the Purbeck Nordic Walking Festival together, we are looking forward to our first group attendance at the Festival this year.

The pandemic, and the rising cost of living, have created challenges for the group, but there are always good things to look forward to. We have been enjoying a partnership with the National Trust at Attingham Park since 2019, which forms a core part of our programme now, and are about to embark on a new partnership with Forestry England bringing new venues and possibilities for our next chapter.

My hopes for the next few years are to welcome back some of our members who have had a break from walking with us, and to see some new faces too. Those who walk regularly, and attend some of the other sessions, are really seeing the benefits. I’d like that for others too! We have the infrastructure, training and passion – now we need the people! I hope to be here in another six years with news of a large and thriving Nordic Walking community here in the English Marches.

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