Charity walking group for people with sight loss pushes for more Wigan volunteers on key anniversary
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David Poyner, 66, set up the monthly event alongside a representative from the sight loss charity, Henshaws, in 2013.
He became involved after being diagnosed with a mitochondrial disease when he was aged just 41, spending more than a month in a coma.
“I had thought for a long time about getting some activity going,” he said. “We had a big meeting of members who would be interested first of all, and what sort of clothing we would need.
“We started our first walk sometime after that. We made sure everyone who wanted to attend could do the walk. Sometimes we were limited by the number of volunteers available and where we could go.”
Walkers have included people aged 20 to 90 and around a dozen walkers attend each event in total. The monthly route is planned in advance, lasting for between four to six miles. They take place on the first Thursday of every month at different locations across northern England.
Not only could you benefit through some good exercise, but you could also help raise money needed and inspire other people to get involved.
David said: “The walking group is about meeting new people, meeting like-minded people, and getting out as being blind can be very lonely and isolating. I am an outdoors person, so I enjoy it.”
Stuart Beckett, 75, from Altrincham, has also been involved. He said: “It’s a good opportunity to meet with others and there’s quite a bit of banter. Where I can, I help those who have got worse eyesight than me. It’s just an all-round good thing to do. Not long walks, so for those who can’t see very well, it’s nice, it’s a good day out.”
Rob Lawley, the organiser of Henshaws’ walking group, said: “The group always likes a visit to the coast - we often walk on the beach at Formby or out to Hilbre Island at West Kirby when the tide is out. Hill walking in the Peak District is also well liked - places like Lyme Park or the Goyt Valley. A day out in the fresh air does everybody the world of good.
“To any new members I say give it a go. You'll benefit from what we do, not just from the exercise but also from camaraderie and the occasional pub lunch stop.”
Henshaws is a sight loss charity based in Greater Manchester but who provides help to those with complete or partial sight loss across North Western England.
Their walking group has previously hiked in locations including the Cheshire countryside and North Wales coast.
Advice to those taking part over the years has suggested using telescopic walking poles, eye shields and sunglasses and to wear gloves when entering areas with nettles or other plants. A smartphone can also be useful as you can use the GPS feature which will help you navigate the route. Some bring their guide dogs.
Volunteers do not need to be visually impaired to be part of it. To get involved, please telephone Henshaws on 0300 222 5555.