How You Can Help

There are over 13m carers in the UK*and many of these struggle to look after their own wellbeing, often becoming increasingly isolated as their caring duties increase. 
You can help Stepping Out organise free supported short and long walks in beautifulcountryside locations across the UK to give both carers and those they care for a scenic, sociable, uplifting, health-restoring break from their responsibilities and day-to-day challenges .

WAYS TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT. 


VOLUNTEER to be one of our walk leaders or companions, joining us for walks and lunch at beautiful venues round the UK.


SPONSOR A WALK in your local community by providing the funding and/or volunteer walkers for a Stepping Out event. Open to businesses, organisations, individuals.


OFFER A DONATION to Stepping Out to help us fund more walks for unpaid home carers and those they care for.

TO MAKE A DONATION please contact us at hallosteppingout@gmail.com. We can take payments via BACS or cheque.


HOW YOUR SUPPORT WILL HELP US

Single event sponsorship – £1250 Lunch for 50 people – £400Community minibus to transport those who would not otherwise be able to attend – £180Volunteer expenses per event – £25Stepping Out T’shirt – £7.50
*
Every penny donated goes directly to the cost of the walks & to the benefit of the carers and those they care for themselves.


STEPPING OUT WITH CARERS CIC

Thatch End,The Row, Henham,Herts, CM22 6AT
Company No. 12389880A non-profit company.

The Big Step Out

Everyone is welcome at our first ever sponsored walk to support the UK’s invisible home carers, and those they care for!

We’re inviting friends, carers, school children, supporters and well behaved dogs to walk 1, 3, 6 or 12 miles around Bewl Water on Friday 25th June starting at 10am! Bernard, our Stepping Out mascot dog will also be there to say woof to everyone participating!

We’d love everyone who takes part to raise what they can in sponsorship (we suggest a minimum sponsorship of £1 a mile per person) which will all go towards arranging more fabulous Stepping Out walks across the country.

Our walks are a life-line to so many carers who work tirelessly to look after someone in their own home but have very little time for themselves and often feel isolated. Just being supported to step outside and experience the benefit of Nature can do wonders for carers’ well-being.

There are 151,000 unpaid carers in Kent alone* so anything we can raise through our first ever sponsored walk will be so gratefully received!

How to participate

Our numbers are restricted but if you’d like to come along, we’d love to see you! All we ask if that you register with us (registration is free!) and then commit to raising what you can to support our future walk programme.

You can register here by emailing us hallosteppingout@gmail.com or by clicking on this link:

How to sponsor our walkers

If you can’t come on the day but would like to give a donation to support our walk programme and enable us to put on more Stepping Out walks around the country, please visit our donation page by clicking here:

Sponsor us!

We’re looking for friendly and supportive companies to sponsor The Big Step Out!

If you’d like to find out more about how your business could get involved with sponsoring the event – anything from the T-shirts to the refreshments (always popular!) to the event itself – we’d love to hear from you! 

Please email xxx and we can send you further information. It’s a fabulous opportunity to grow with us, support the UK’s hidden home carers and help us grow our walking programme and our awareness across the UK!

We also have opportunities for you to sponsor our individual walks which take place in different locations up and down the country throughout the year! Just get in touch to find out more!

Follow Us!

Please follow updates from The Big Step Out and keep track of all the steps we take by following us on social media!

*Carers UK.

An Autumn Walk with Carole, Jay and Cat (In Spirit)

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Blog by Carole “ancient, creaky, stick” and Jay: “tall, specs, autism”

One of the pleasures of autumn and winter is making a stew and leaving it for hours in the oven. Easy-peasy, lots of veg and hardly any washing up afterwards. And a warm house to come home to after our walk. Lovely!

So, stew safely in the oven, we’re up here on the cold, windy top of the playing field, and there’s the faraway semicircle of hills before us. We have to stop. It’s too beautiful to just walk on by. My ability to be impressed is in fine fettle, but my memory for actual facts is getting a bit shaky.

“Jay, what’s the name of the hill where all the wind turbines are?”

“Scout Moor. Obviously” he says, with withering scorn.

“Oh,” I say innocently. “I think you might have mentioned that before.”

“I might have.” He tries, but can’t hide the fact that he’s smirking.  I threaten him with my stick. 

The ethereal group of tiny white windmills shine out, sunlit against a background of dark purple cloud, while to the left the hills themselves are dark: blue against paler clouds. What a sight! 

We’re on our way round our usual walk once again. The coronavirus is still with us, the politicians dictate what we can and can’t do, and ‘lockdown’ is now a real word used in many a conversation. Brexit looms, and the American election is in full swing. Human life is positively buzzing, like a big dangerous wasps’ nest out there. But still we go out for our walk, and still it calms and soothes us. 

A familiar acquaintance with an old border collie ambles up the path. He pauses.

“When will it all stop?” 

“Who knows? How are you doing?”

“Oh, I’m all right,” he says. He wants to tell us about What They Ought To Do, and I nod along; it’s the human contact that matters here, not an argument about who’s right. Tough old man, he’s probably been through worse.

Jay strides onward. He isn’t really one for idle conversation with people he doesn’t know. I scamper after him. 

“Careful, you might fall over.”

“Nah. Got my stick.”

“The cat thinks it would be a laugh.”

“She’s not here.”

“She is. In spirit,” he says mysteriously.

You can’t win with these conversations, so I don’t even try. Anyway, I bet the cat would laugh.

Coming home, we open the front door and the house reaches out with a warm embrace; a wonderful savoury smell of stew greets us.

So does the cat, looking pleased with herself, stretching out her back legs in that funny way cats have. She looks meaningful. She knows there’s chicken in that stew.

The trees out there are bare now, elegant skeletons. Our walk was reassuringly familiar, and yet in a way we too feel stripped bare, like the trees. We just keep going. We know what happens to trees, in the Spring. 

Photo credit to Marion one of our Kent Ramblers, thank you.

You can follow our blog by clicking here and never miss one or discover more about our Stepping Out walks for Carers and those they care for.

Stepping Out into Nature with Carol

There’s no denying things are difficult for most of us right now, what with the dratted Covid-19, Brexit, and so on. The TV News is a disaster-fest every evening. Whatever your politics or views, things are not going well. Even the Cat agrees. She’s a member of Mensa, apparently, so she ought to know. 

So it’s no wonder that we need our daily walks to bring us back to the reassuring wider scope of nature, the lasting reality of plants, animals, birds, the weather, and the steady tramp of our feet to remind us that all this buzzing anxiety and disruption will pass, as everything man-made always does.  My son Jay has the right attitude, I feel.

“Did you see what the PM said about  -” 

“Nope. Let me tell you about my new oscilloscope.”

“Mm. Er – “

“It’s all right, you don’t have to understand. Just listen.”

“Um. Oscilloscopes are a bit beyond me -”

 “Never mind. I’ll explain. Ooh look, nice blackberries. Here you are.”

See? Even better, with Jay I get two viewpoints together; I get to hear the Cat’s ideas too. 

“The Cat feels we should be paying more attention to dressing fashionably. After her needs have been met, obviously. She says are we roasting that chicken today?”

“Jay, cats can’t talk English.”

“Ours is special. She knows there’s a chicken in the fridge.”

“So that enables her to talk English?”

“Well, she says it certainly helps.”

We tramp along the familiar route, everywhere damp but sunny today, Jay moving ahead on his long legs and then dropping back to my dot-and-carry-one pace to continue our fascinating and often cross-purposes conversations. A couple of magpies are in evidence, kark-karking away. There’s still quite a bit of birdsong, and I wonder what the purpose of that is in this damp autumn air; perhaps sheer pleasure. A bit like the dotty chat between the two of us. 

“Look at that huge black cloud.”

“It’s not going to rain, the forecaster said so.”

“The entire Met Office had a party and got drunk last night. Today’s is a hangover forecast.”

 “Ah. Just as well we brought our waterproofs then.”

It’s nice to think of our conversation as the human equivalent of birdsong. It doesn’t have to mean anything profound. It’s about humans connecting with each other. We can smile at passing strangers, make each other laugh, talk on the phone or on the unfathomable Internet. You can’t stop humans connecting, despite pandemics, politics, and the whole scratchy, problematic, infuriating stuff going on out there. 

So what with today’s mild, soft air, last night’s raindrops still sparkling in the long grass and clover, the ducks and coots mooching about on the lake, and the startlingly gorgeous colours of the autumn leaves, it’s hard to say that our world is a thorough-going disaster. It’s true, we do seem to be in a ‘bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover’ moment; a longing for what we used to have, a yearning for a few good hugs from our loved ones, and an ache for ordinary – wonderful, peaceful, and oh so very ordinary – life to come back. And it will. 

Just you wait and see.

Follow our blog and current Crowdfunder Campaign and lets make more of these walks available on the NHS through social prescribing. https://carerssteppingout.co.uk

Alec and his wife Hazel. Bury, Manchester

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“With Hazel being on the vulnerable list we have to be a bit more careful. Like everybody else we get fed up now and again but our daughter phones us every day. She took me on a video walk last week actually beside the Bridgewater Canal. Walking along holding the phone and talking to me so I could see the scenery. It were lovely. Next best thing to being there.

This is the thing you see. I retired early through a heart attack. I sort of took up walking afterwards to get myself fit. Me and a friend. We used to go hill walking every week. I’d be gone from 8 in the morning til 8 at night on those days, Pen-y-Ghent, Ingleborough, as far as Robin Hoods Bay once.  I don’t know how the wife put up with it. She’s fantastic. I had to keep a close rein on Kevin though. He was a devil for going off-piste, if you know what I mean.

Obviously when the wife were taken ill I couldn’t do the walking. So it was really great when Bury Carers took up walking with https://carerssteppingout.co.uk/. That walk we did at Heaton Park, Hazel and I thoroughly enjoyed it – even though we got soaked! We’re looking forward to starting again when we can.

It’s our 58th wedding anniversary this year. We were 15 when we met. Rock’n’Roll, Bill Haley, Elvis Presley. Thing were different. Different world altogether. There were no dating sites, internet, things like that. We actually went out and met people face to face. On Friday/Saturday nights in Chesterfield the habit was for all the youngsters to go Town Topping, as we called it, in the centre of town. Four streets formed a quadrangle and all the girls would circulate one way round the triangle and all the boys would circulate the other way. Bit of talent-spotting. Eyeing up what was available, so to speak. Then we’d go into a coffee bar to chat.

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That’s how we met, me and Hazel. We arranged a date following weekend to go to the pictures. I can’t remember what the film was. (I know it wasn’t the John Barry 7 Band at the Chesterfield Gaumont because I’d already seen them with the lads). So I turned up at the allotted time. No Hazel. Ten minutes – quarter of an hour later, no Hazel. In the end I waited for next two buses. Still no Hazel, so I decided I might as well  go home and chalk it up to experience.

I forgot all about it until about a week later when, my mother said: Oh Mrs. Hardwick’s got a note for you from a young lady. Mrs. Hardwick was our next-door-neighbour. Turned out that she’d met Hazel at a bus stop the day before in Chesterfield and they’d started talking as you do. When Hazel discovered that Mrs. H was catching the bus to Dronfield, she said: Oh I met a young man from Dronfield couple of weeks ago. His Mum and Dad have a shop.’ (They did. Mum and Dad had a corner shop like Arkwrights, you know, the old BBC comedy with David Jason and Ronnie Barker.) Mrs. H said “Oh my next-door neighbours run a shop.” Hazel said: ‘His name were Alec”. Mrs. H said: “Oh my neighbours son is called Alec”.  So she scribbled a quick note to give to Mrs. Hardwick- “Same time, same place, next weekend” – and now we’ve been together over 60 years.

What had happened was Hazel had got infected gums and her mother wouldn’t let her come. ( I understood what it was like because I’d had it too. All I could eat was soup and mashed potato for days.)  From that day we’ve always said, myself and Hazel, it was fated for us to be together.

I was 20 and Hazel was 19 when we married – and I always add we didn’t have to get married! We had 5 children – lost three of them at birth or from miscarriage but we got through.  We still have two fantastic children. Our daughter Susan is a gem, our son Steven is fantastic lad and his husband  Michael is also a great lad. He’s actually made big improvements to our life. He’s brought us out – because he’s always been involved in theatre and performance.

Where we’d been happy doing same things at night and going to work in the morning, Michael got us mixing with his friends and going out more. We would always go to Mablethorpe on our holidays, he goes abroad. And now we’ve been as far East as Bangkok and as far west as San Francisco. He’s done us good.  One of first places we ever went away with them was to the Greek Island of Crete. I got dressed and went outside and Michael looked me up and down and said:“Father-in-law, we do not wear socks with sandals.” I’ve never worn socks with sandals since.

How’s Hazel? This is the thing: obviously it’s not good. She’s losing her memory. She can’t even remember now when we got married. But she’s ok – she’ll have a conversation with you. But two minutes later she’s forgotten every word. Her short term memory is shot. Myself, Im coping because Ive got to cope. I cant do anything else. I also know if boot was on the other foot shed look after me. She looked after me brilliant when I had my heart attack. When I had my second one in 2018 my daughter and son came for a week each but Hazel, even though then she was ill, looked after me as best she could.

She’s had Alzheimers for about seven years now and she’s always laughing. She’s chosen to. She says there’s two things you can do: laugh or cry.  I do things to try and jog her memory. I put on the DVD of our Golden Wedding Anniversary a week or two back. She can’t remember any of it now. Being only 2012 that was heart breaking. I’m looking at that film and there’s my Hazel in full-song on video but she weren’t sat watching it as she was then. But our daughter is prouder of Hazel than she’s ever been. She says: “I’ve never know anybody with such a positive attitude.” So that’s basically it. That’s where we are now.

 I suppose the toughest thing about this lockdown – me particularly, the wife not so much – is not meeting people, losing contact with people, not seeing family. That’s been the worst for me. I’d love to be able to get in the car and drive to the Peak District and park by the side of the road for an hour, see the sights, walk in the hills, but those days will come again.”

The Daily Round

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Here we are again, just like every afternoon for ages now, off for The Walk. Just me (ancient, creaky, stick) and my grown son Jay (tall, specs, autistic). Fortunately, we can make each other laugh – precious in these strange lockdown times. In our house we also have the cat (old, tabby- and-white, cattle prod for encouraging slaves). 

So here we go, down the muddy bank and onto the Green. This is mown grass. It was turfed over after they demolished the remains of a Victorian factory or two, so that they could build that new estate you can see up there. Apparently research has shown that seeing stretches of horizontal green like this are calming, good for us – I can believe it. 

So, down to the little lake we go. No coots today, but the Canada geese are nesting on the bank. A few pairs of ducks about. The pond weed is coming back, too, so I guess there will be plenty of insects for the birds now. Talk about birds – just listen to that glorious din of birdsong from the surrounding woodland! Can you hear that single, miraculous song ring out above the rest; a blackbird, maybe, or a thrush? Wish I’d learned to recognise birdsong in my younger days. 

We talk as we go. It’s a good time to share silly stories. 

“Did you know, the cat’s thinking of getting a helicopter?” “Really? Where’s she going to keep it?”
“In the garden, she said.”
“No room. Her tyrannosaurus is there.” 

“Oh yes. Have to be on the roof then, I suppose.” “Mm”. 

When they made this into a tiny country park a few years ago, they left the woodland alone. Lots of scrubby new growth, with a few mature trees. Hawthorn, sparkling with fresh green leaves now, and brambles and ivy, filling in the gaps. To our right there’s a raggedy little stand of redcurrant bushes. If it was later in the year we might find a handful of berries to munch. 

 

A pair of magpies are lurking about deep in the wood on our left. One peeps out from behind a tree trunk and says ‘Kark?’ suggestively to Jay – cue for developing a ludicrous scenario about flirting magpies. 

“Well hello there sailor! You look very – fit – in those jeans. Like to hold my feather?”
Stop laughing. No, really. Stop. Look, there are people coming. Let’s get out of the way. Remember 

the 6ft rule? “Afternoon. Hello dog.” 

Here’s the ancient cobbled path called ‘Nursery Walk’, and we turn left to go uphill towards the main road. Still woodland here, but soon we hear the traffic, cross over and go into the playing field. We’re really high up here. Look! There’s the wind farm all lit up in the sunlight, and Ramsbottom Moor there – can you see Peel Tower on the top? And a long way off, Saddleworth Moor. The wind is cold, isn’t it? 

And we head home, via the lovely, scruffy back alleys, for cups of hot tea.  

CM April 2020 

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Lesley’s Story

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WHY THE ‘ECONOMICALLY INACTIVE” WON’T TAKE A JOB AS A CARER.

My name is Lesley. I am between 16-64. And I confess I have been “economically inactive”.  I am one of the 8 million people that Priti Patel has highlighted as being among “plenty of people in the UK who businesses should be looking to upskill and train.”

The trouble is I don’t have time to get a job as, say, a carer in the social care sector because I’m already a carer to my Mum and Dad. My Dad was diagnosed with dementia 17 years ago and my Mum had to stop being his full-time carer in 2013 because she diagnosed with cancer followed by chronic arthritis and a stroke. I do virtually everything for them bar actually living in the same house: shopping, form-filling, hospital trips, doctors appointments, outings, holidays.

I also run a charity called Friendly Faces of Kent for people facing loneliness and isolation. A huge number of our group are equally “economically inactive” because they have mental health conditions which come from being isolated – often stemming from the loneliness of being a carer. It’s common to find that people are abandoned by friends and other family over they years when they are a fullltime carer. They don’t go out, they don’t do anything, they have nothing to talk about apart from their caring role.

Then there are the people they care for  – also “economically inactive” – who have all kinds of physical conditions from Parkinsons, MS, diabetes, fibromyalgia, the list is endless really. Often the carers have significant health issues themselves that are rarely addressed because caring for someone is a full-time, full-on 24/7 job. Unpaid. I know people who are postponing their own operations so that that they can soldier on in their carer role. That’s surprisingly common.

I think “economically inactive” is terrible term to use towards carers, especially when they are saving the government an estimated £132 billion according to Carers UK. They reckon that is the amount carers in kind contribute to the treasury because carers have abandoned jobs, income and often their own needs to look after someone in the family or a friend. Otherwise that responsibility would fall to social care (in crisis) or the NHS (under huge pressure) to do the job instead. The whole system would topple.

Do not get me wrong. I love my Mum and Dad. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want to spend as much time with them as possible in the years that remain to us together. I love Friendly Faces. I love the Stepping Out walks we take with carers and the people they support as a wonderful break. But caring generally is hard work and tough going. It does impact on my life.

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I’m five years down the line since the break up of my marriage and I can now recognise the toll it took on us. Rather than go out to work and earn a proper wage I decided to go part time and look after Mum and Dad instead. My husband was working doubly hard and I wasn’t really contributing very much. Believe it or not, I worked out that in 22 years I’d been out twice with my husband without my Mum and Dad. Every holiday we went on, we took them aswell.

When it was all over I realised that actually we should have made time for us as a couple too. We never really did that. It definitely contributed to the break up. This happens regularly with carers. You give it your all. You do that because you love the person you care for or you feel a profound responsibility and there’s no-one else to do it. You don’t always realise what’s happening around you. How you can lose touch with the real world.

And we should give credit, perhaps, to those who work when they can. Barry, my new partner, was a full-time carer to his wife earning £60 a week in carers’ allowance for 8 years. When she died, he did, in fact, return to work.

I can honestly say that I’ve never been more “active” in my life. It never bloody stops. So forgive me for not accepting a job as a professional carer. I’m doing the job as an “amateur” already.

Find FRIENDLY FACES OF KENT on FACEBOOK

TWITTER @FFOKent

A Wild Country Ramble…..in London! (By Suzanne Baboneau, MD at Simon & Schuster)

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There is wildness in us all, but in most of us it’s latent, sleeping, unused. Wild we are in our deeper selves: we are hunter-gatherers in suits and dresses and jeans and T-shirts. We have been civilised – tame – for less than 1 percent of our existence as a species.

 Simon Barnes, Rewild Yourself

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Suzanne Baboneau, Managing Director of Adult Publishing at Simon & Schuster, probably didn’t set out to rewild herself the morning she left her home on one side of London at some ungodly hour and walked pretty much to the other side of the city just to get to work. It was miles. There is a perfectly good underground system. What was she thinking?

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“I was thinking: ‘I’ve just turned 60 and I wonder what I could do to help keep myself active.’ It just came to me as a challenge. From where I live at Shepherd’s Bush to where I work at Grays Inn Road: could I do the walk physically? How long would it take? I seem to remember there were tube strikes at the time so that was another incentive. My daughters had grown up. I didn’t have to do the school run any more. I liked walking. Why not?

 “It might be something I’d do a couple of times and then give up. Maybe it would take too long. Maybe I’d get to work exhausted. Maybe it was just plain crazy. That was three years ago. I still do it every morning.

 “I owe a lot to the Royal Parks. The vast majority of the walk is through beautiful green spaces and attractive back roads. I’ve seen glorious sunrises, families of swans, geese flying in formation.  It is like walking through the countryside in one of the biggest, busiest cities in the world. It’s extraordinary.

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“I vary the route from day to day but it’s roughly west to east from Shepherd’s Bush Green to Holland Park to Kensington Gardens. The Italian Garden and the pond there are favourites of mine. Then into Hyde Park where I see people like me every morning: runners, joggers, dog walkers – all part of the same early bird community.

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 “Marble Arch is always a bit of a shock to the system, with its reams of traffic and noise and construction but once navigated the back roads offer peace again.  The BT Tower is sometimes lit up with a message that says “Good Morning London”. I take that as a personal greeting.  I reach work before 9am and instead of feeling tired, I feel better, energised and ready.

 “It’s never boring, the walk. Every day is different. I see the changing of the seasons, I vary the route and I don’t care about the weather. My friends say: ‘But what if it’s raining?’ I say” ‘I put up an umbrella.” Sometimes I hum to myself. Sometimes I’m pondering a book title. You can definitely work as you walk. Things come to you. But above all it is just wonderful to look about you, take in nature, be part of nature and make the time to build it into your everyday life. I hardly notice I’m walking 12 miles a day. I’m just going to work my way.

 “It’s simple. It’s free. I didn’t realise at first that I’m rewilding myself – to borrow Simon’s phrase – every morning. But that’s exactly what I’m doing. There’s a rhythm and a quietness and a contemplative element to a walk and it has brought me great joy.”

 Huge thanks to Suzanne and Simon & Schuster for sponsoring https://carerssteppingout.co.uk/ with copies of this wonderful book “REWILD YOURSELF” by the brilliant wildlife writer Simon Barnes at a major Stepping Out event this year. Details coming soon.

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ON THE BOOK: “Whether you’ve in the city or suburbs or deep countryside, this book will bring you closer to the nature that exists all around you. You can always be where the wild things are. These days non-human life walsh’s seems to be just over the horizon – but with the smallest alteration all this can change. This book is designed to make that happen.”

Walking Back to Happiness

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I don’t know why it is, but you tend to get to know people better on a walk. Maybe it’s something to do with being out in the open air, communing with Nature, meeting other people who are enjoying the same thing. Chatting combines with exercise effortlessly – it does for me anyway – and that’s why I’d like to thank the Stepping Out and the Manchester & Salford Ramblers so much for all the walks this past year.

The last one at Alexandra Park was as brilliant as ever and unlike our previous walk at Heaton Park, this time the weather remained dry throughout.

It was nice to see some new people from The Bury Jubilee Centre, who joined us and there must have been about thirty of us all together.  We instantly bonded with our new friends, and I reflected that the Pavilion,where we sat enjoying enjoying tea and coffee afterwards, was the same place I’d regularly visited, when I was about six years old, on a Sunday afternoon with Mam, gran and my elder brother. I remember the tropical plants and large whicker armchairs in the Pavilion which opened up at the front to take in the panorama of tennis courts, fields and cricket pitch over yonder. This was something of an “Oasis,” where we were treated to delicious Orange Squash, Dandelion and Burdock or Strawberry Soda. Not forgetting the famous Wall’s  vanilla ice cream, which we eagerly devoured clamped between two wafers! Then there was the novelty, and at times frustration of a bag of Smith’s Salt & Shake crisps, with a little blue paper (dark blue like the touch paper of a firework) twist of salt inside. The problem was that occasionally this was absent, and the tantrums were frightful, and sometimes “explosive!”.

These were such vivid happy memories of endless Sunday summer days, partaking of a spot of “pitch and put” behind the Pavilion, or walking down the passage way between the wire-fenced tennis courts. I can still recollect on one occasion, chatting to a young couple, resplendent in their immaculate tennis whites. They were so kind and and must have been bemused by this talkative little chap.

Back to the walk…..as is the habit with The Manchester & Salford Ramblers (I was there as a member of The Manchester Carers Forum) there were two walks to choose from: an easier more pedestrian type walk in the confines of the park, or a longer one that I chose to take.  We set off from the rear of the  Pavilion, with the old duck pond ( I didn’t stop to throw bread as had been the habit in my younger days!), out through the smaller of the park gates, down the wide street bordered by elegant, red brick, large victorian houses to eventually join the “Fairfield Loop” at the end of the street, a now tarmac-ed path, well signposted, that was formerly a railway line. We’d entered at the point of the old station, as the Station Master’s house to the right of our view now testified.

Some imagination had been used to enable us to lose the main roads and cut through Hough End Playing Fields down into a grove by the stream. Our Ramblers’ guide Margaret (also amongst the leaders a  “Mags” and a “Maggie,” which continues to confuse and amuse me!!!) informed us that the clump of very old blackened and wettened trees were once the shelter for a herd of horses being hidden from Bonnie Prince Charlie as he passed this way.

After about one hour and a half in total, we had apparently totted up four miles as we made our way back onto the “Loop” and retraced our steps back to our base at the Pavillion for a hearty buffet and hot drinks. I celebrated the day’s walk with a delicious slice of Blueberry Pie and a nice hot brew!

It only remains for me at the end of this year to say thank you to everyone for making these walks not just possible but so enjoyable too. I am really looking forward to the outings’ next year with The M & S Ramblers and all the new friends we made this year. Plus those we have yet to meet.

A very merry Christmas to everyone involved and a Happy New Walking Year.

Jack.

Walk in Heaton Park, Manchester

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A lovely blog post entitled: Walk in Heaton Park, Manchester, in September by Jack Coupe, one of our carers with the Manchester Carers Forum.

I looked out of the window that morning and thought: “Oh no, it’s raining”, followed by  “Who cares if it’s raining!”  I love walking in the fresh air. My wife’s the same. We go for walks in the park most days. We don’t have a dog, so we walk each other. It’s one of the greatest things: to be out in Nature, hear the birds singing, smell the new-mown grass, the wind rustling the leaves. It’s like a movie in front of your eyes.

I was a bit concerned that they might cancel it thanks to the weather. But I didn’t get a call so I soldiered boldly forward. It always reminds me of the love I had for walking 40 years ago when a bunch of us at the YMCA in Peter Street used to catch a train and go out somewhere for the day with a packet of sandwiches and a thermos. It was a trek really. We’d climb what felt like a mountain to me and on the way up, you’d be shattered and thinking: “Why, why, am I doing this?’ Then you’d get to the top and see this beautiful patchwork quilt of fields and trees and lakes laid out in front of you and all the pain would vanish.

Now I’m older with a bit of arthritis but I still love it and I can’t praise the Manchester Ramblers and the Carers Forum enough for putting on these walks for us at so many wonderful places. The value of them is immense.

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I was surprised to see so many people turn up in the drizzle but, you know, I think that’s because people can be lonely. When you’re a carer you often feel isolated. My son developed a drug dependancy when he was young, mainly cannabis, and  there have been long years of struggle and heartbreak. He’s doing better now but I can sympathise with people going through the same thing. Somehow people can find that bulldog spirit that pulls them through, which I suppose is why this huge crowd turned up at a hotel on the edge of Heaton Park – the largest park in Europe, by the way – to walk, have a chat and have fun.

“Fun?” I can hear you saying. But it was. We had an amazingly good time. It was like “Singing In The Rain” –  the old film. And it was all the more amazing to me because I’d had quite a grumpy start to the morning. I do sometimes. I have anxiety. My dad died in a road accident when I was seven and it’s like Sliding Doors the movie. I don’t know how I’d have been had he lived. I’ve always been a bit nervous and anxious since.

But then I put my boots on and it made me think immediately: “Wow, I’m getting back to my youth here when I was young and fancy free at the YMCA.” I was unemployed then but doing exercise and taking in their philosophy about cultivating mind, body and spirit gave me motivation. I got a job with the Royal Mail and stayed there for 23 years.

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My mood changed and the walk was fantastic. In the distance saw the big stone, like an obelisk, planted to commemorate the Pope’s visit to Manchester in 1984. We made our way to the highest point in Manchester, topped with a grand-looking folly made of pillars, with a panoramic view out to Oldham and the suburbs. For me, I think the most moving sight was the memorial to the Battle of the Somme, a semi-circular wall made of up plaques in a collage dedicated to the soldiers who fell in battle. We all stood and read the inscriptions for some time. Took some photos. Took time to think of them.

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We came back for lunch together and that was great too. No man is an island and talking to people, being with people, especially people who have just been part of the same adventure makes you feel better.

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I can’t say enough about Margaret, Mags, Maggie and the rest of the Manchester and Salford Ramblers who organise the walks for us. Nor Miriam and the other staff at the Manchester Carers Forum. You are always greeted by smiles and they are not perfunctory either. They really care. Looking forward to the next walk now and seeing everyone again.