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In step with life 

For me, walking while taking in the beauty of Dorset is an essential part of my life – it is as critical to my wellbeing as food and rest. 

As we look for positives to take from the COVID nightmare, spending more time working from home has been a big bonus. I shower, dress, have breakfast and still get a vigorous walk in all before 9 am, which sets me up for the day and means I hit the ground running. The great thing about walking is that it is completely free and it’s a great way to see your friends or to get some much-needed peace and quiet. I also think better in the great outdoors, problems don’t disappear, but they seem more manageable. 

It’s something most of us can do into old age when our days of playing squash and tennis are behind us. My 93-year-old mum now needs a stroller, but she still takes a constitutional whenever she can. 

The Camino de Santiago

In 2022 my walking plans are getting quite ambitious, as I aim to take on the world-famous Camino de Santiago in Spain, in the company of a friend I first met in 1973, my son and his best friend. Not sure if my arthritic knees will manage 150 miles over seven days, but I’m determined to give it a whirl. 

I did the trail for a friend’s 40th back in 2006 and it was truly a life-changing experience. The Camino strips life back to its essentials. All we need is food, shelter and companionship, yet we fill our lives with pointless stuff in the hope it will make us happy. It’s wonderful to meet people from all corners of the globe, converse in a variety of languages and do a fair bit of gesturing. Of course many people you encounter speak great English, which I always find rather shaming. 

There is also something inspiring about visiting some of the smaller Spanish communities, where life revolves around their faith, friendship and a simple existence. You return from the Camino determined to live a different life and for a while you probably do, but after 15 years it’s time to remind myself about what’s important, and what isn’t. 

The wonders of Dorset  

Of course, you don’t need to fly to Spain to find great walks, Dorset is awash with them, whether you’re looking for a brutal climb in the Purbecks or a stroll along Bournemouth beach. May is National Walking Month, so it’s a great moment to get out there with friends or strangers and enjoy everything this wonderful county has to offer us. I find people open up better when they’re out walking, they share their concerns and hopefully feel better for having someone listen. 

At Dorset Mind we believe walking and talking is an essential therapy and I’ll be raising funds for the life-changing work of our staff and volunteers whilst in Spain. Please visit the link here, if you’d like to support our work. 

Our guest blogger:  

Huge thanks to Nick Rowe our Dorset Community Mental Health Alliance Project Manager, for his personal take on the benefits of walking and the link between walking and better mental health – Good luck to Nick on the Camino de Santiago later this year.  

Further support:

If you are struggling to cope with your mental health in general, please talk to your GP. If you’re in a crisis, treat it as an emergency. Call 999 immediately or The Samaritans, FREE on 116 123. 

Dorset Mind offers group support that can also help with your wellbeing. The group offers peer support and helps to reduce stigma by normalizing conversations about mental health. You can also check out further support for stress and mental health here.  

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