Ryan was gazing in fascination at a short winged conehead cricket. Ah, hang on, no it wasn’t. Victoria had spotted an orange bit (not the official anatomical term) on its body and so Joy from the Essex Wildlife Trust declared it – drumroll – a LONG winged conehead cricket. Everybody cheered.
This was an off-piste moment on the pilot Stepping Out walk in Southend-on-Sea – an event which broke all box office records for gathering group of carers and those they support in numbers even greater than Basildon’s turn out back in May. A grand total of 72. In fact 74, if you – and we do – count Roxy and Oscar, the guide dogs.
The walks – long, long–ish, short and short-ish to suit all abilities – roamed through the nature reserve at Gunners Park in one direction and along the promenade from Shoeburyness towards Southend Pier in the other direction. The expert guides were drawn from two local Ramblers groups, South East Essex and Basildon Greenway. Co-walk organiser, Megan Potts, led the Sport For Confidence cavalcade and broke into impromptu dance moves where necessary. An array of volunteers and staff lent their support from every participating groups which included:
Project 49 (Ryan’s group) – Southend day centre for adults with learning difficulties
Forget Me Not – providing disability support in Rochford
Action for Family Carers in Essex
Basis – Blind And Sight Impaired Society
Papworth Trust – Basildon centre for adults with physical and/or learning difficulties.
Chief among the motivating factors was Billy. He has been declared an official”National Fitness Day Hero” only 24 hours earlier, awarded the title for his dedicated service to a vast array of sports and organisations including the recent Cricket World Cup and Active Essex. Just two years ago he has been lying in hospital stricken by fibromyalgia.
“I was practically dying,” he said.”When I came out I was determined to get better. So I took up multidisciplinary low impact exercise like cycling, swimming, yoga. It’s made such a difference to my life. The thing I love is that it’s enabled me to empower others.
“The best thing about today was giving a bit of motivation to some of our walkers who really wanted to reach the mile mark but doubted they could do it. So we chatted, we keep going, we encouraged one another and – with a few rests on benches in between – we made it. I loved that!”
Being the sort of organisation believes in post-exercise lunch, Stepping Out had booked a massive order of cheese toasties and drinks for the returning hordes after the walks in unbroken sunshine. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the seaside cafe, rose to the occasions spectacularly as did the Ramblers and Megan’s forces who were press-ganged into service as waitresses.
QUOTES OF THE DAY
‘I love to the diversity of the age range. The pace was really good. It was accessible to everybody and the best thing about it is that it was fun. Mum and Dad had a great time,” Martin Crocombe, who raised £1500 for Pancreatic Cancer UK in the recent Prudential 100 cycle ride.
“Oh it was just wonderful meeting new people and walking along in the fresh air with nice views alongside like-minded people. We would definitely love to do it again.’ Ama Owusu and her daughter, also Ama, who regularly attend Sports For Confidence activities in Southend.
Geoffrey Forward, the Basildon Greenway rambler who guided the long (long) walk with his usual meticulousness through clouds of butterflies and wild flowers in Gunners Park, quietly revealed that his mum and dad used to bring him to Uncle Tom’s Cabin for an ice cream 65 years ago.
“You’ve just knocked five years off…” exclaimed an overhearing Rambler, “you told me 70 just now!”
Jeff laughed slightly sheepishly and made no further comment.
If you would like to discover more about Stepping Out Walks and how you could join one of our walks email: email@example.com