East Riding Walking for Health is celebrating 20 years of helping to make the local community more physically active.


It was established in October, 2003, after joining up with a national initiative led by the British Heart Foundation and the UK Countryside Agency. The scheme, initially called Walking Your Way to Health, was initiated by Dr William Bird, who is a UK based GP and set up health walks from his practice in Sonning Common, as he saw how little the local parks were used for walking and exercise.  He then worked with the Countryside Agency and the British Heart Foundation to expand it nationally. It was designed to encourage people to become more physically active through a gentle, safe led walk. 

East Riding of Yorkshire Council's Active Communities Team jumped at the chance to get the scheme set up in the East Riding and launched, with support from the Countryside Team, a walk from East Riding Leisure Beverley 20 years ago.

Now East Riding's Walking for Health scheme has its own identity and is going from strength to strength, with 22 different walk locations offering over 18 walks a week and enjoyed by over 700 residents. Walks are in all towns and some villages across the whole of the East Riding and go from local leisure centres, community centres and churches. 

The walks are led by trained volunteer walk leaders who plan and risk assess each route. Their dedication and support makes the scheme the success that it is - they turn up each week, whatever the weather, to deliver a safe and enjoyable walk.

As a thank you for all their hard work, the volunteer leaders were invited to a celebration event to celebrate 20 years of Walking for Health in the East Riding. Leaders were given an update on the current scheme and even recreated the very first walk from 20 years ago. The event was enjoyed by 40 of the East Riding's walk leaders, who loved coming together to chat to other leaders and hearing about all the exciting plans for 2024.

Laura Hutchinson, Programme Lead for Walking for Health, said : "We have had an amazing 20 years of Walking for Health, trained hundreds of volunteers and helped thousands of people lead a healthier life through walking. This celebration event is a little way of thanking our amazing leaders who give up their time to lead walks for our communities without asking for anything in return. Without them we wouldn't have the great scheme we have today!"

Andrew F Barber, Market Weighton Walk Leader and chair of Walkers are Welcome, added: "We have had a great day to celebrate the walks. I volunteered to become a walk leader to give back to the community. There is nothing better than doing something you enjoy doing, but also seeing all the other happy faces, and the benefits people get from coming on the walks. It is very rewarding to be part of this scheme and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys walking in their local area".

Following recent feedback from those taking part in Walking for Health, results showed that all participants enjoyed the walks; 82% said their general health had improved; and 65% that they felt happier. Confidence and self esteem improved for 73%, and 72% felt less socially isolated.

Councillor Nick Coultish, the council's Cabinet member for culture, leisure and tourism, said : "Walking really is one of the most perfect forms of exercise there is - physically, it tones your body, strengthens your muscles and keeps your heart healthy. But it's crucial for our mental health too. Going out for a daily walk can help reduce tension, stress and anxiety.

"I would urge East Riding residents to get involved with Walking for Health in their local area and reap the benefits, whilst also enjoying our beautiful wide open spaces."

Looking to the future, Laura Hutchinson explained : "We are always looking for new walk leaders to help support our existing walks and to help support the set up of new walks. We want to hear from you if you would like to see a walk in your village. Free training is provided for all budding leaders."

For more information on East Riding's Walking for Health Scheme or how to set one up in a local area, email: laura.hutchinson@eastriding,gov.uk or visit https://www.eastridingleisure.co.uk/health/walking-for-health/