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Healthy Havering: Walking is a great way to socialise while keeping fit

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:27 17 October 2018

Walk leaders Carol Margetts and Bob May lead the way in Harold Hill for the borough's Walking for Health weekly walk. Picture: Ken Mears

Walk leaders Carol Margetts and Bob May lead the way in Harold Hill for the borough's Walking for Health weekly walk. Picture: Ken Mears

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A chance to visit the borough’s various parks, good company and multiple health benefits makes joining Havering’s Walking for Health scheme a great way to stay active.

Residents of Havering enjoying the benefits of an outdoor walk through the borough's parks and woods.Residents of Havering enjoying the benefits of an outdoor walk through the borough's parks and woods.

For this week’s instalment in the Recorder’s Healthy Havering campaign, I experienced another way to get active by joining residents on one of the borough’s Walking for Health (WFH) weekly walks.

I met with the group of residents in Harold Hill’s Central Park, for their Tuesday morning walk on October 16.

The walks occur six days of the week throughout the year, and they vary from 30 minutes to two hours and from easy to hard.

As we set off, I got talking to one of the walkers, Graham Carr, who explained that the walks rotate by the seasons.

Reporter April Roach with Graham Carr enjoying the benefits of an outdoor walk through the borough's parks and woods. Picture: Ken MearsReporter April Roach with Graham Carr enjoying the benefits of an outdoor walk through the borough's parks and woods. Picture: Ken Mears

This means that the next time they will be in Central Park won’t be until the Winter or Spring.

Bad weather doesn’t deter the walkers as the only two times they’ve had to cancel in the past was due to ice on the roads which made travelling to the walking locations difficult.

WFH is a national scheme which encourages people to exercise for the benefit of their health.

Havering WFH is run by volunteers and supported by Havering Council which coordinates and administers the scheme.

Residents of Havering enjoying the benefits of an outdoor walk through the borough's parks and woods.Residents of Havering enjoying the benefits of an outdoor walk through the borough's parks and woods.

There are more than 25 trained walk leaders who are familiar with the 19 different walk venues.

Rick Barnes, from Hornchurch, has been a walk leader since 2003 when the project first started.

He said: “I was in a heart rehab course and somebody contacted me to ask if I would start a walking scheme in Havering.

“It’s a brilliant scheme. It gets people out into the open air and people have said to me if they weren’t walking, they would be sitting indoors looking at four walls, watching afternoon television.”

Residents of Havering enjoying the benefits of an outdoor walk through the borough's parks and woods.Residents of Havering enjoying the benefits of an outdoor walk through the borough's parks and woods.

From April to July there were more than 5,500 attendances across the programme.

Rick, who has a long term heart condition, added that the walking had kept him going for the past 20 years.

Rita Barnes, Rick’s wife, added: “It started as a project for people coming out of hospital and then it opened out for everyone.

“The social side is really important, especially for people who live on their own.”

Residents of Havering enjoying the benefits of an outdoor walk through the borough's parks and woods.Residents of Havering enjoying the benefits of an outdoor walk through the borough's parks and woods.

Walking is known to help improve people’s mental health, reduce weight and improve muscle strength.

Carol Margetts, also from Hornchurch, has been volunteering as a trained walk leader for more than nine years and helped lead our walk in Harold Hill.

She said: “After I retired I wanted to find something to do and I always like to find ways to stay healthy.

“When new people get in touch I find out how much they currently walk to see which walk would be best for them to join.

Residents of Havering enjoying the benefits of an outdoor walk through the borough's parks and woods. Eileen Adams and Anne Brown enjoying their walk.Residents of Havering enjoying the benefits of an outdoor walk through the borough's parks and woods. Eileen Adams and Anne Brown enjoying their walk.

“People can come with a friend or on their own and they will always find someone to talk with.”

Carol’s favourite walks include Thorndon Park, South Weald and a walk in Thames Chase.

“There’s just so nice, there’s lots of forest in them and fields,” she said.

“There’s also lots to look at - the trees and birds - not that we stop to look at them when we’re walking!

Residents of Havering enjoying the benefits of an outdoor walk through the borough's parks and woods.Residents of Havering enjoying the benefits of an outdoor walk through the borough's parks and woods.

“When you’re talking you don’t even realise when an hour has passed.”

I had to agree with Carol, because within 15 minutes of the walk I was surprised at how far we had come.

I spent the time chatting and admiring the beautiful park – and wasn’t focused on the act of walking at all.

“You’ll be surprised once we got over this hill at what you’ll see,” said Graham as we left the park and entered The Manor nature reserve.

“It won’t feel like we’re in Harold Hill at all.”

The walk definitely felt like an escape. Even though I wasn’t able to join the residents for the full 90 minute walk, I returned to work feeling refreshed and ready to start the day.

For more information visit the Walking for Health website.

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