Group organizes noncompetitive U.K. walks
April 15, 2009
Go take a hike.
Well, at least a walk. Though British weather is unpredictable, this is the best time of year for venturing outdoors.
If you’re not quite up for scaling Ben Nevis in Scotland, a little organized walking might be up your alley. And with public footpaths and nationally designated trails all over the United Kingdom, a walkabout near you awaits.
Those who have participated in volksmarches in Germany will find good company in the U.K. with the British Walking Federation. Affiliated with the International Federation of Popular Sports, the federation organizes walks throughout the year that suit the needs of everyone, from children to those with disabilities.
All modeled with the volkssports movement in mind, the walks aim to foster friendship among participants in a noncompetitive sporting environment.
As with volksmarches in Germany, those who walk in the organized events typically log their journeys, get participation stamps along the route and medals and other prizes upon completion, said Roger Baker, the federation’s permanent and national trails officer.
The federation’s Web site plugs users into local walking clubs that sponsor the events and provide would-be participants with route descriptions, distances and other trail-specific information.
The site also shows upcoming walking events as well as popular trails all over the country.
If competition is what you’re after, the walking federation events may not be your cup of tea.
"There are competitive, long-distance walking associations," Baker said. "They walk for walking’s sake. Whereas we do it more as a friendly, social thing. It’s done for people to enjoy the countryside and walk at their leisure."
It’s commonplace during the recreation-minded walks to stop at a pub along the way or gather at a village hall afterward for refreshments, he said.
Children are usually welcome, though walks with little ones should be limited to between five and 10 kilometers, Baker said. He also recommends planning for the unpredictable British weather by bringing a rucksack with rain gear and other supplies you might need along the trail.
Along with a sense of community, the federation walks give participants an opportunity to explore the "beauty of the countryside," Baker said.
"There are beautiful spots all around the world. And although this country has its problems, when you go out in the countryside there’s no better place."
Check out the British Walking Federation on the Web at www.bwf-ivv.org.uk.