Walk to Better Health

The Great Fen Local Ramble at March I went on recently had people who regularly attend 1 hour long health walks in their Fenland towns. logos

The NHS recommends that walking can become part of a healthy routine through integrating it into your daily schedule, for example walking the children to school or walking to work. To keep walking interesting and sociable, you can cover different routes and distances, set goals and join local walking groups.

Examples of walking organisations and their walks near Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area

Walking for Health is a relatively recent health-related initiative that is aimed at people who do little or no exercise but who would like to become more active. Based at Cambridgeshire ACRE in Littleport, I found many different health walks within 15 miles, many of which are also in or around the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area:

  • East Cambridgeshire: Heart Beat at Littleport (10:30 am, Harley-Davidson Sculpture, Church Lane, CB6 1PT) and Ely (2 pm, Ely Cathedral, Minster Place, CB7 4D) every Tuesday; Littleport (Evening Walk, 6:30 pm, St George’s Medical Centre, Parsons Lane, CB6 1JU) on Thursdays.
  • Mytime Active Cambridgeshire Walks at Littleport (6.30pm, St George’s Medical Centre every Wednesday) and Wisbech (2.15pm, Chapel Road) every 2nd Tuesday and March (10am, Merceford House) every Tuesday; (10.30am, Cornerstone Surgery) every Thursday; (12.30pm, George Campbell Leisure Centre) every Thursday.

Organisations and resources for health walks

Ramblers organises group walks for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, including previously inactive people, people with a specific health condition and people with wheelchairs. They hold walks in towns, cities and the countryside to promote walking for health, leisure and as a means for getting around.

The Fenland Ramblers gathering up in Swaffham for a walk in the surrounding Norfolk countryside. Source: Lizzie Bannister
The Fenland Ramblers gathering up in Swaffham for a walk in the surrounding Norfolk countryside. Source: Lizzie Bannister

There are several Ramblers groups local to the OWLP are: Cambridge and Peterborough,  Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, and Cambridge and Huntingdon. Keep posted on these Ramblers’ websites to see if you can enjoy the Ouse Washes via walks at places in and around the scheme area. Remember that organisations like the Great Fen Project also hold walks in the area, information about which may be available from local walking group, nature conservation groups, and leisure or health centres. Other national initiatives such as Walk4LIfe supports the activity of walking and changes to better lifestyles for health benefits, this interactive map from Walk4LIfe shows some of the local walking opportunities around the Ouse Washes, including at the Welney WWT reserve.

Squeezing alongside houses can be part of a walk, as it was for Woodman's Way route  near March - sourced by Lizzie Bannister

Squeezing alongside houses can be part of a route near March – sourced by Lizzie Bannister

Health benefits

Walking has become a popular health-related activity advocated by health professionals. Regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of various illnesses and have many positive benefits. Cambridgeshire Mind recommends being active and taking more notice of the world to enhance wellbeing, which can be met by walking outdoors. To get the health benefits from walking, it needs to be faster than a stroll, which raises your heart rate and makes you break a sweat. Walking is an ideal exercise for most people – one that can be built up slowly in pace and distance as suitable.

two friends from the Great Fen Local Ramble group enjoying their walk while in conversation

Two friends from the Great Fen Local Ramble group enjoying their walk while in deep conversation

Walk anywhere!

Also, remember the countryside isn’t the only place to walk – towns and cities offer interesting walks including parks, heritage trails, riverside paths, commons, woodlands, heaths and nature reserves. Ely’s Country Park, for example, produced leaflets on walk routes, which involve trails that pass by the River Ouse, Roswell Pits, the Hereward Way and through an ecological and geological Site of Scientific Interest, and include magnificent views of Ely Cathedral. Your local towns and villages often have walks and routes – see your parish or local newsletters or magazines and parish council resources like websites for them.

The Great Fen Local Ramble group on The Woodman's Way near March on the way to Wimblington

The Great Fen Local Ramble group near March on the way to Wimblington – source: Lizzie Bannister

Walking is great for giving to charities, community involvement and social inclusion

Walking is a popular way for raising money for charity – whether through sponsorship to achieve great distances and individual aims for a charity that is close to the heart, or as a fun, collective activity where monies are generated by contributions and entry charges. The charities can be illness-related – for example, there is a 5km circular Walk for Macmillan in March. The emergency medical organisation of Magpas is one of many charities being supported by the Ouse Washes Experience (organised by the Ely Hereward Rotary Club), which people can choose to walk 8.5km or 17km, run 8.5km or cycle 11.5km, 17km or 32km on the 21st September.

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