Health Walks helps connect communities

Pairc Trust Office Manager Fiona Stokes and South Lochs resident and community volunteer Dave Philips launched their first Health Walk in November 2017 following Walk Leader training by NHS Western Isles’ ‘Walk on Hebrides’ project.

Pairc Trust Health Walk

The Pairc Trust on the Isle of Lewis was established in 2003 with community ownership of the Estate achieved in late 2015. It has 11 townships spread across 11,000 hectares of land and is home to around 400 people.

As a new community land owner, Fiona Stokes felt that offering Health Walks would be an informal way to meet people in the community who wouldn’t usually attend formal meetings. She was delighted that the local community embraced Health Walks and found the information, ideas and knowledge that people shared on the walks invaluable to the development work at the Trust. It wasn’t long before Fiona realised how beneficial a simple group walk could be to the health and wellbeing of those coming along.

The local Sports Centre is over 20 miles away, so having Health Walks in the community provides people with the opportunity to increase their physical activity locally.

There are currently two Health Walks available in Pairc. They host a weekly Health Walk on Saturday mornings that is usually around 40-50 minutes long and takes place in a different location around the estate every week. The Trust launched their first Macmillan Friendly Health Walk in September 2018 and this was the first one to be held in the Outer Hebrides. These walks are part of the Macmillan Cancer Support Move More project; promoting activity before, during and after cancer treatment. This walk is shorter and takes place weekly on a Tuesday.

Kirsty Wade, Move More Western Isles Activity Officer said:

We were delighted when Fiona and Dave expressed an interest in creating a Macmillan Friendly Health Walk in the Pairc area; a first for the Outer Hebrides! They attended a short training course which provided them with the skills and confidence to support people who are affected by cancer on their walks. Fiona and Dave are enthusiastic leaders and they do a great job in a remote area.

The Trust is finding people come along if they have an upcoming operation and have been advised to increase their physical activity by their doctor. Evidence shows that being physically active before an operation can help prepare your body and mind prior to surgery and promote recovery afterwards. Joining a Health Walk is a simple and safe way to do this.

Walkers are benefiting from the social aspect of the Health Walks. Fiona said: “Quite often I notice their confidence grow from the time they set-off on a walk to the cuppa and natter at the end. The groups are friendly, welcoming and encouraging for new walkers”.

Walk Leader Dave said: “In Autumn 2017 I was asked if I’d be interested in training as a Walk Leader for the Walk on Hebrides project and I decided to get involved. Since then I have been a joint Walk Leader and I’m out almost every Tuesday and Saturday with a great group of local people. I am enjoying the outdoors once again, regardless of the weather. I can thoroughly recommend getting involved with your local group wherever you are. It also gives us the opportunity to meet with other like-minded people who may not see anybody else for days on end and have a good blether”.

“You can miss lots of detail while driving along in your car. When you take the time to walk in your local community you can notice and learn so much. Walkers often share stories and knowledge on days gone by or on current affairs and things planned for the future. It can be fascinating.”