Richard Ince is a volunteer leader for the council’s award-winning Healthwalks scheme – a daily programme of free walks in and around the city designed to boost health and encourage social interaction.
I like walks that involve a bit of a climb. So there’s one I run two Saturdays a month that starts up on Hollingbury Hill Fort – where there are fantastic views over the city – and goes through Wild Park to the Amex Stadium. The other is on Wednesdays. It starts in Benfield Valley, Portslade, and goes towards Devil’s Dyke. We walk along the old railway line that used to go up to the Dyke.
My walks are not very long – about three miles – and they last about an hour and a half. Anyone can turn up. There are two leaders on each walk so one of us will walk upfront with the fastest walker and the other will keep pace with the slowest.
When someone attends for the first time we ask them a few fixed medical questions to check they’re okay to do it. If one walk isn’t suitable, there are lots of others to choose from. There’s one around Preston Park that’s completely flat, probably not more than an hour – and everyone stops at the café. We usually try to take routes with cafés nearby so people can sit down together and chat.
People come on these walks for the friendship as much as anything. One lady said that when her husband died and her children weren’t in Brighton any more she realised she didn’t actually know many people. She started coming on a walk and that changed. I always make a point of chatting to anyone who’s new and trying to make them feel welcome.
It surprises me what a range of people turn up. We get unemployed people, people who have been in high-paying jobs and are now retired…but what I find about walking is it’s a great leveller. Everyone chats to each other.
I trained as a volunteer Healthwalk leader when I retired. I had been volunteering at Brighton Unemployed Centre – where I still help out on reception – when the lady in charge of the volunteers there mentioned the scheme. I’ve been doing it for about 14 years now.
I grew up in the country and we never had a car in the family so we walked everywhere. The habit has never left me. I’m 79 now and as well as the walks I lead, I’m usually out every day, walking purely for pleasure.
It relaxes me more than anything; to get away from the sound of traffic and be out in nature. I like talking to people but I also like walking on my own, sitting on the grass and looking at insects and trees.
It’s interesting because you can do the same walk the other way around and it changes. If you do a walk in the morning or in the evening it’s different. So there’s always more to see. I’m never bored.