Going the extra ‘smile’ – the Car boot Cafe!

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We often get asked why would people pay to go walking? or why do they keep coming back and not just walk on their own once they have mastered technique and learned a few routes?

The answer is simple………… Their Instructors are brilliant and go the extra ‘smile’ We are not talking about actual miles of walking or expert teaching we are talking about the proven ingredients of fitness retention…. sociality and fun! At this time of year when motivation is on the wane, the fitness providers who have got this factor right will be retaining their new year clients whilst others will experience the usual churn rate.

When the days are dark and damp, mud is underfoot and it’s chilly, there are two reasons somebody will drag themselves out to be active 

  1. They know it will make them feel good all day
  2. They have fun and feel like they belong

Nordic Walking can always achieve the first factor as its a brilliant whole body workout that makes you feel energised  BUT factor two is all down to how well the Instructor has planned the route, the class content and more importantly…..the whole experience. That’s where the CAR BOOT CAFE comes in…………………………

 The what? I hear you say!

Yes, the CAR BOOT CAFE! Generally Instructors aim to plan walks that end at Cafes or Pubs but sometimes they want to explore areas with less facilities and that’s how the Car boot Cafe was born. Tired walkers would simply leap into their cars at the end of these particular walks so there would be no nattering or feeling of ‘reward’ that was captured when there was somewhere to relax with a drink after a walk. Savvy Instructors spotted this and leaped into action to make every walk a more rewarding and sociable experience.

Many now provide a hot drink from the boots of their cars but the concept has gone from strength to strength and now seems to form a vital part of the NWUK experience. In the picture above (of Norfolk Nordic walking) we are reliably informed the cups contain mulled wine with ginger no less and we see everything from cake shares to picnics these days!

One group even have a Campervan cafe (see the delicious menu at the start of this article and image to the left) This luxury ‘eaterie’ enables the group from Harmony Nordic walking to create pop up picnics in stunning locations where the deck chairs come out as well – what a way to relax after a walk? 

Sam Armstrong (pictured left ) from WALX Derwent and Dales was one of the early innovators who started to haul mega flasks of hot water around to her more remote walks. Whilst in Dorset, Sally Challis started what was affectionately referred to as Aunt Sally’s basket after a coffee lover admitted he would skip certain walks because there was no coffee at the end! Both of these groups ask for a donation to a local charity and now, the car boot cafes are a standard feature on the NWUK circuit with more instructors going the extra smile and taking time to create a real sense of camaraderie and belonging after every walk.

SAM says  “We started doing these in 2009 when one of our NW’s got fed up of the pub not being able to provide us with a coffee when we finished the walk. So he took it upon himself to start bringing a flask and some cups for us all. This progressed to us providing a drink and a snack to one other walk a week and charging 50p for the drink and 50p for the homemade snack, we are now doing this 3 x per week as the other walks have a café we can go to. Once our costs are covered all the rest goes to charity, over the years we have raised money for Prostate Cancer Uk, Dogs for Good,  Treetops Hospice Cancer Support, Sock and Chocs, Derby Homeless Charity (twice) and probably more that I can’t remember. I have to rely on my amazing Walk Leaders to help out with this although I do take responsibility with one of them. Whilst this does put a little extra pressure on me at 7am every Friday, I could not possibly think about not taking the coffee!!

We now have provided all our members with the recycled bamboo WALX mugs which is partly to help the environment by not having throw away cups and partly for marketing purposes as well as no washing up!.  They now are really good at bringing these to their walks so we do not have to provide cups any more. 

We try and invite a guest speaker to our Christmas Lunch to talk about the chosen charity and have a whip around during the lunch. Combined we raise at least £500 per year for each charity, raise awareness for the charities and gain a sense of continued friendship. It helps us to support those who are new and is so sociable that some members turn up early at the end of on walk to grab a coffee with us before the start of the next walk! It is now a firm fixture on many of our walks and woe betide you if you forget the milk or leave the flask on the side in the kitchen!

Tracy Reeve from Nordic Walking Watford (pictured) says

“I started running my Car Boot Cafes nearly 3 years ago. 

The group are a very sociable bunch and so staying for a coffee and a chat after the walk is now a big part of what we do. Most of the time we are blessed with lovely cafes, but for walk venues where there isn’t, I bring along a selection of hot and cold drinks and someone will usually make cakes too. 

Each year our members nominate a charity they would like to support from a selection of 5 or 6 chosen by myself and the walk leaders. We try to select charities which are local to us. Contributions from the Car Boot Cafes go directly to the charities and over the year this soon mounts up. 

In 2017 and 2018 our nominated charity was Essex and Herts Air Ambulance and we raised over £1700 for them mainly through the Car Boot Cafes and a couple of challenge events. This year our members chose Hertfordshire Mind Network, which is really appropriate – so much of what we provide at Nordic Walking Watford is not just about physical health – it is about mental health too.

Exercising outdoors in green space, with people who become your friends, has a very powerful and positive effect on our mental wellbeing. In addition we also always run a specific Macmillan Car Boot Cafe in September too.  We travel with our Car Boot Cafe and last year took it to Epping Forest when we shared a joint walk with Nikki Barnett and her gang. 

So, it’s easy to see what draws people out on inclement days or otherwise… the thought of some friendly banter and a cuppa after one of the most effective workouts you can get! Simples!

We loved doing this feature so much that we just had to add some more images courtesy of MK Nordic walking and Sherwood Nordic Walking. Thanks to all the groups who shared the fun with us!




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