Over the first three days of Walkfest, I have joined three of the shorter walks to discover, first hand, more about Guildford and the surrounding area. The walks – around Stoke Park, Gomshall and Worplesdon – took me to three very different parts of the Borough.
Stoke Park had its open spaces, history and activities. Our visit to Gomshall helped us learn more about the industrial history of the Tillingbourne Valley amidst its beautiful countryside. Worplesdon was a revelation. It was an area I’d only ever driven through and I was totally unprepared for the beautiful buildings, farm animals – and, of course, Merrist Wood College – which we saw during our stroll.
Guildford Walking Festival has the promotional tag “Keep Healthy, Keep Walking” but it is far more than that. One very evident feature of all three walks was the social aspect. Some people already knew each other from previous walks with these particular groups, but many others had turned up because of Walkfest and were made very welcome. There was lots of chatting along the way with people making new acquaintances, sharing knowledge and hoping to meet up again on other walks.
It is easy to think of walking as just being “physical exercise” but it is far more than that. Getting out with a group of people who all enjoy what they are doing brings a very important mental health aspect to the occasion. It was also noticeable that at the end of all three walks, a significant number of the participants continued the social element by staying on for tea or coffee and continuing to chat.
What was also clear was that the walks attract a wide cross-section of participants. On these first three walks I chatted with many people of all ages – ranging from a couple in their 80’s to a young mum with a baby in a carrier. Oh yes, and several well behaved dogs on leads! Walkest really does seem to have a winning formula of something for everyone. I’ll be joining some of the longer walks during the month long festival and I’m sure that I will meet just as wide a range of folks and be made just as welcome on those events too.
Part of the success of all three of the walks must, of course, lie with the organising groups – Surrey Hills Society, Walking For Health and Guildford’s own Walkfest team – who put so much effort into creating and leading these walks. They spend a lot of time ensuring that their events are suitable and sociable. My own personal thanks go to all three for letting me take part in such enjoyable sessions.