A Walking for Health group in action. Photo: Paula Solloway

A Walking for Health group in action. Photo: Paula Solloway

Campaigning charity the Ramblers has received a cash boost to help it encourage walking.

Sport England has given the organisation £185,000 of National Lottery funding for its Walking for Health scheme.

The money will enable a further 12 months’ operation for Walking for Health, which the Ramblers said is England’s largest network of health walk schemes, helping 70,000 people from a wide variety of backgrounds to enjoy a more active lifestyle and new friendships by taking part in short walks led by trained leaders.

The Sport England funding follows existing support for the programme.

The Ramblers said it will enable Walking for Health to continue to support 370 local health walk schemes adopt a sustainable partnership approach – including providing training for walk leaders – and developing new schemes across the country. It will also help the programme respond more closely to the needs of its walkers, to improve data and digital infrastructure, and to explore sustainable delivery models with partners, as well as increasing funded partnership opportunities.

Ramblers Walking for Health began more than 20 years ago. Walks are open to everyone, but they are especially aimed at people who want to be more active, such as those who haven’t done any exercise before, are disabled or are recovering from or living with health conditions.

It provides 1,800 walks every week, supported by local organisations. The charity said many walkers start walking to improve their health but find it easy to keep coming back because of the new friends they’ve made. Some also go on to take part in longer or more challenging walks organised by their local Ramblers group.

Sport England is a public body and invests up to £300m National Lottery and government money annually in projects and programmes that help people get active and play sport.

Mike Diaper, Sport England’s executive director, said: “Walking is an activity that people of all ages and abilities can safely enjoy, which is one of the reasons it has always been very a popular activity and even more so during the pandemic.

“It has been an effective way to get outside and enjoy some movement over these past few months when our lives have all been so disrupted. We are pleased to be able to continue supporting the Ramblers Walking for Health programme, alongside of all the National Lottery players who help to raise £30m a week.

“It is increasingly important to have opportunities for people to get active in their local communities, as we approach the months ahead, that will help them be fitter, healthier and happier.”

Rachael Bayley, director of operations and volunteering for the Ramblers said: “We welcome the continued support from Sport England, which allows us to grow the partnership between both organisations, to support local schemes and, most importantly, to keep people walking.

“This funding enables the Ramblers Walking for Health team to continue building long-term sustainability and growth of health walks across England, something we all want to see, as they are needed now more than ever to support people into being active.

“We are really grateful for the time that local schemes have put into speaking with the Ramblers Walking for Health team, to discuss the future and share ideas. Thank you for everyone’s work towards more people walking and being active.”

Aileen Grant, Active Cumbria development officer and Cumbria Walking for Health Scheme co-ordinator said: “Being part of the Ramblers Walking for Health programme is very advantageous for us.

“It allows us to access a whole network of support and training, which we can in turn deliver across Cumbria. It has enabled us to provide 52 regular health walks free of charge across the county to participants during our first year of delivery.

“Being able to remove cost as a barrier has really helped us in reaching out to people right across Cumbria, but most importantly to us in some of our target communities where there are high levels of inactivity.

“Walking is a low-cost activity and the groups are social too, helping to reduce social isolation which is more important than ever now in these very challenging times.”

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