To mark 20 years since Chichester Wellbeing’s first HeartSmart Walk, over 50 volunteers and residents gathered to celebrate the anniversary with a special walk on Monday 9 May.
Run by Chichester District Council’s Wellbeing team, the HeartSmart walk programme offers a free, healthy and social way to enjoy the natural beauty of the district and beyond. The programme encourages people of all fitness levels to get out into the fresh air and meet new people, promoting both physical and mental wellbeing.
Regular walker, Trevor, says: “The social aspect of the walks is great because it means that you can meet people from different walks of life. When you are on the walks, you are also seeing different parts of the district, which you might not otherwise see.”
Chichester Wellbeing organise up to ten walks a week thanks to the efforts of the volunteers who deliver the programme, many of whom were in attendance at the anniversary event, which took place in the Committee Rooms at East Pallant House preceded by a 3 mile walk around the city walls in Chichester.
Volunteer walk leader, Peter, said of HeartSmart: ‘The great thing about the HeartSmart walks is that on any given day there is probably one taking place, so there is a lot of flexibility.
“It’s great to be with like-minded people, and if you are new to the area then you get to see and explore it. I have never regretted a walk, no matter the weather!”
The walks cover locations across the district, such as Chidham Peninsular and Chichester Canal, and vary in length from one-mile walks for beginners to longer walks across the South Downs – with something for everyone regardless of ability.
Pete, another of the hard-working volunteer team, says: “I have been doing the walks for around five years. It is very beneficial for both your social and physical wellbeing, which is an important combination for most people. I think one of the reasons the Heartsmart walks have lasted so long is because so many people come on a regular basis.”
Councillor Roy Briscoe, Cabinet Member for Culture and Community Services, gave a speech at the anniversary event. He says: “This anniversary is a testament to the hard work of the volunteers and the Chichester Wellbeing team, who provide an invaluable service that improves the lives of so many people, both physically and mentally. It is wonderful to be able to celebrate this and the legacy of the Heartsmart programme at this special event.
“Heartsmart began back in April 2001 with a week of events to raise awareness of heart disease and how to help prevent it. This was a joint effort with the Chichester Lions Club, the Parklands Surgery Patient Participation Group, the Chichester Dieticians, the Chichester and Rural Primary Care Group and ourselves.
“As a result of the success of these events, the HeartSmart walks programme was created, and has been flourishing ever since. Over the years, we have realised that people benefit from so much more than exercise when they come along — for example, the chance to meet new friends, see different parts of our wonderful district, and learn about their local area.”
For more details about the HeartSmart Walks programme, and to book a place on a future walk, please visit: www.chichester.gov.uk/heartsmart or call 01243 521041.