A WALKING project has won a volunteer award for helping to improve the health of the community whilst going the extra mile to provide support during the pandemic.
Inverclyde Bothy — managed by Cycling UK — was declared Health Walk Group of the Year at Paths for All’s Volunteer Awards 2021.
The diverse group organises seven walks every week for people of all levels, ages and abilities, bringing the community together to socialise while staying active.
Throughout lockdown, the group looked out for each other and kept motivated with regular zoom meetings to stay connected and lift spirits.
Health walk co-ordinator Jenni Murray, said: “This award is a great recognition for our brilliant team of dedicated volunteers and walkers who come together every week.
“We’ve formed such a strong community bond through walking; even if it is just for an hour each week, it really gives people a sense of belonging.
“The pandemic made a lot of people feel isolated and the group become a key support network. Everyone in the group was encouraged to get outside and walk safely when restrictions allowed to improve health and wellbeing.
“Now we are allowed to walk together again, the group is more committed than ever before which is just amazing!
“We venture out in all weathers and we’ve really gone from strength to strength since the pandemic with everyone valuing the time spent together out in the community.”
The group aims to facilitate and support a broad range of diverse walkers, with the numbers of participants growing, many of who are referred to the group via the Scottish Association of Mental Health, Local Community Connectors and Link workers.
Jenni added: “Everyone comes to the group for their own reasons, but, whatever the reason, it is a fantastic opportunity to meet new people and have a chat. People just click together and we’ve had a lot of great friendships developed.
“After a difficult year for many, it is really special to have our group recognised at the award ceremony and I’m sure there will be many celebrations to come.”
Paths for All supports local authorities and communities to develop inclusive environments for people to be active; whether walking, cycling or wheeling.
Kevin Lafferty, chief executive, said: “Groups like Inverclyde Bothy Health Walk Project highlight the very reason why we host an annual awards ceremony.
“It is vital that we celebrate and shed light on the outstanding work that volunteers carry out in local communities across Scotland on a daily basis.
“Our volunteers’ invaluable contribution is directly working to improve the nation’s physical, mental and social health which has been evident throughout the pandemic, with many going above and beyond their normal duties.
“Hearing the inspirational stories during the award ceremony has highlighted that it is not just enough to say thank you –- the work undertaken has provided a lifeline for many and for that we’re forever grateful.”
Find out more about health walks in Inverclyde at www.pathsforall.org.uk/healthwalkfinder.