Our first Stepping Out walk of 2019 with participants, carers and the people they care for, came from all over the county and included the Friendly Faces of Kent project from Sheppey, Touchbase Care from Folkestone, our new partners from SOBS charity, a wonderful group that helps people bereaved by suicide. Not forgetting Bernard, the dog, our caring cockapoo who took part in our very first walk back in 2016 and has been our assistance dog and mascot ever since.
We gathered at the bandstand in Dane John Gardens for photographs, with the guides from the White Cliffs Ramblers conspicuous in their High Vis. Rowena, the Bridges Walk leader, explained in her opening talk that this incredible walk had been devised by her dear late friend, Alan Clewer. It has been created to cross every bridge in the city without traversing the same one twice. The full-version includes 30 plus bridges. Rowena was kindly cutting it down to 21 for us. Which was quite enough.
We took in the wonders of Westgate Gardens which has a 200-year-old oriental plane tree that is believed to be the oldest specimen in the country. It is also rumoured that the trunk has actually engulfed a metal seat which once encircled it!
For fun, and a sense of achievement, as each bridge was crossed Rowena held up the number in question. The walkers zigzagged through parkland, canal paths, city streets and rare byways going over the flowing River Stour in a multitude of different ways. There were a few steps and moments of soggy ground involved so it was not suitable for wheelchairs, which made it all the more remarkable that Steve, in his wheelchair, with his friends from the ever-resourceful Touchbase Care, happily joined in.
The short walkers, for those with mobility issues who nevertheless enjoy a good stroll in the outdoors even on a grey day (no rain though), took advantage of the starting venue to explore Dane John Gardens, bursting with snowdrops and crocuses, before climbing up to the top of the city wall. With scenic views in every direction, we could spot Sandra and Brenda (who were running late) and very clearly our destination beyond the shopping centre: Canterbury Cathedral The Cathedral staff could not have been more welcoming, waving us through the barriers to gaze in considerable wonder at the magnificent building, even with its skirts of scaffolding while it undergoes extensive repairs.
After a wonderful lunch in the Canterbury Lodge, a number of the carers were able to tour the Cathedral – those parts that are accessible to people in wheelchairs – and Bernard, as usual, had his photograph taken in a suitable scenic spot by an admirer, certainly one for his instagram account. @Bernardlovessteppingout. We’re loving the doggy instagram too.
We’re delighted that everyone had such a wonderful day. We would like to thank Canterbury Cathedral Lodge, Cabline Canterbury Taxis, the White Cliffs Ramblers too. We’re already planning our next walk which will be a walk around the grounds of Leeds Castle, Kent on the 26th March – more details coming soon.
If you are a carer and would like the opportunity to walk somewhere beautiful with the person you look after or simply would like to walk, meet and chat – sharing experiences, we arrange walks all over the country – so please get in touch with us here.