It might seem like we’ve been running Nordic walking classes for years, but in fact we only started in March 2022. Last year was our second full year and, thanks to our amazing instructor team, walkers, and funders it has been an incredible year. Here are some of the highlights:
Three new instructors and a walk leader
Shamso, Samira, Michael, and Fred all joined our Let’s Walk team in 2023. Their training and insurance costs were made possible thanks to funds from our consistent/unswerving partners: Wesport, Natural England, NHS, and South Glos Race Equality Network (SGREN).
Samira and Shamso are especially keen to encourage more Somali women to get outdoors and they have plans to establish a women’s Nordic walking class in Netham Park.
Michael has taken his Nordic walking instructor skills into Nilaari, the black-led organisation that provides mental health support, particularly to adults from Black, Asian, and minoritised communities. He hopes to establish a men’s Nordic walking group as part of the work he does there, plus use Nordic walking as part of his one-to-one mental health support work.
Fred has been one of the firm roots in the blooming Nordic walking community at Page Park, and at many tasters/beginner workshops taught by us.
A new group in Page Park
With money from Natural England’s Positive Activities fund we were able to start a Nordic walking group in Page Park and thanks to the support of Friends of Page Park class spaces were filled quickly. Subitha and Michael were soon regularly teaching between 15 and 18 students and Fred’s involvement as a walk leader has helped embed Nordic walking as a firm fixture in Page Park on Monday mornings.
The enthusiasm and support of Friends of Page Park has enabled us to start handing the running of the Page Park Polers (as they are now known) over to the community. They already have their own set of Nordic walking poles and funds to train two further Nordic walk leaders to support Fred. Hopefully they will soon have funds to train their own instructor. It will make the Page Park Polers a truly self-sustaining community group, rooted in the local park, nurturing health and wellbeing.
Nordic walking for older adults in St George Park
Another community group which we started in 2023 was the Beehive Nordic walking group in St George Park. This was thanks to funding from The Grateful Society, a Bristol-based charity dedicated to improving the wellbeing and independence of older adults.
Nordic walking is especially suitable for older adults. It’s a social activity and the poles provide support and increase confidence and strength as well as offering the challenge of learning a new skill. Their support has funded:
- A bag of poles which are stored in the Beehive Community Centre where classes meet. We’ve also established a pole borrowing scheme to so that participants can borrow poles outside of organised classes and Nordic walk by themselves or with others members of the group.
- The delivery of a series of learn to Nordic walk courses for older adults. More than 30 people have learned Nordic walking through the programme and over 80% of these have been over 70 years old.
- The provision of tea/coffee/hot chocolate at the Beehive afterwards. It’s been a valuable opportunity for people to socialise after their walk and get to know what’s on offer at their local community centre. Like at Page Park, we’ve had numerous celebration events with people bringing home made cakes, biscuits, and other goodies.
- The training of two Nordic walking instructors to take over from us and lead the group going forwards. Both were participants from our first course. One of them has just turned 80. She is an absolute inspiration about what’s possible.
As with Page Park, thanks to funds and strong local enthusiasm we have been able to establish a self-sustaining community group, meeting in a community space, led by members of the community.
2023 has been a full and busy year. Thanks to our energetic and committed team, for some months Nordic Walkers could be spotted at Page Park on Mondays; St George Park, Blaise Castle Estate, and St Pauls on Tuesdays; Eastville Park on Wednesdays and Fridays; Netham Park on Thursdays; and occasionally on a Saturday at other local green spaces such as Stoke Park. In addition:
- With our support, the South Gloucestershire Chinese Association gained their own grant to start Nordic Walking classes in Jubilee Green, South Gloucestershire taught by our team member, Henrietta.
- We worked with Friends of Oldbury Court on their successful Bristol Impact Fund application for a new community Nordic walking programme for residents living in the BS16 postcode. This will launch in the spring of 2024, with classes initially being taught by our team.
- We ran a series of tasters including the very boisterous, slightly chaotic taster in June for men from the Bangladesh Association. A film of this practically went ‘viral’ across Bristol and beyond. (If you’ve not yet watched it, click here). It led to the Bangladesh Association successfully applying for their own weekly Nordic walking class, in active partnership with us, which started in September.
- We teamed up with Gundula Azeez, who led us on a couple of fascinating tree walks around Eastville Park teaching us about some of our local trees, their history, folklore, and how to identify them.
- We organised a mass Nordic walking celebration event in Eastville Park on World Nordic Walking Day. It was a huge success and as well as Nordic walking, Eastville Park Lawn Bowls Club offered us a bowls taster. Over twenty of us tried it and it definitely brought out a competitive streak in more than a few.
It seems fitting to end our review of 2023 with the news that in December we were awarded funds from the National Lottery Community Fund to provide Nordic walking related workshops, scenic walks, and cultural sharing events. Our growing Nordic walking community is set to go from strength to strength.
With all best wishes
Subitha, Sunita, Henrietta, Lucille, Michael, Fred, Samira, Shamso, Vicky