More about ... the walking group

Harlestone picturesque village

There have been regular walks around the county for more than twenty years and started originally in response to a call from National to keep the nation’s footpaths open. The walks were intended to be, and are, a way for members to enjoy a convivial morning together sampling the many delights our beautiful county has to offer and to get some healthy exercise to boot (pun intended). Northamptonshire is a long county – approximately 60 miles by 30 miles – and so has many varied landscapes both to walk upon and to view; the county too has a wide variety of wild life.

In the Federation newsletter each month an item is included that lets every member of every WI within the Northamptonshire County Federation (NCFWI) know the upcoming walks for the next three months. We are fortunate that, for the most part, footpaths are well marked and well maintained and there are many of them. There is usually one walk a month, on a Saturday morning. They vary from short, around 3 to 4 miles, to long, around 8 miles, but most are between 5 and 6 miles. Generally, the walks are circular and start from a local hostelry. The walks make use of footpaths, towpaths, bridleways, green lanes and little used back roads and byways. The start time and place is given in the newsletter along with the contact details for the leader(s) of that particular walk. Members are requested to advise the leader a week in advance if they wish to have lunch in pub after the walk – those not wishing to have lunch can, if they chose, just turn up. Pubs are only too pleased to provide lunch for 20 -30 thirsty walkers but, understandably, need advance notice of numbers. In turn they are pleased to make their “facilities” available before setting off and to enable pre-selection of lunch – something that, mostly, makes for good service for the hungry on their return. There is nothing formal about the walks and the walks are open to friends and family. An unexpected benefit, enjoyed by all the members, is the opportunity the walks provide to exchange of news and views (and speakers) of other WIs within the Federation.

There is a core of around twenty members and family who come along to most of the walks – some of that core will change depending on which end of the county the walk is taking place. It can take two hours, on a good day, to drive from one end to the other so the leaders try to vary the location of the walks as much as possible in order that those on the extremes get opportunity to walk. There are those who lead regularly, mostly those who are keen walkers, and there are others who know their particular area and are prepared to share their local knowledge. Of necessity we limit numbers to around 30. Occasionally there have been this many wishing to come along but mostly there are around 25 walkers on any given Saturday.

As a regular walker, and leader, my advice to any WI/Federation thinking of holding regular walks would be – make sure the leader knows and is familiar with the route; if there are ruins, earthworks, anything out of the ordinary, read up and have information to hand; potted histories of any given area is useful. Make sure the pub, or sometimes local WI that will provide refreshments, knows you are coming and has the numbers expected. Ensure those at the back do not get lost! It has happened!

The company, the scenery, the variety, the sheer pleasure for those who come along means the walks continue to be supported and enjoyed and, hopefully, that will continue to be so for years to come. To those who say it is not for them, come along once and then decide – you may be surprised.

Ann Thorington, Welford WI