Despite lockdown, Whitchurch, Hampshire WaW volunteers have been as busy as ever…
It became clear to the local coordinators very early on that there were many more people wanting to walk, but who were unfamiliar with the local footpath network and seemed unaware that not every track is a public right of way. Requests were also going out on Facebook sites from locals looking for recommendations on where they could walk safely. These enquiries have all been fielded by WaW volunteers who were able to draw on their knowledge of the extended path network and suggest routes and provide maps tailored to suit all levels of fitness.
When the government relaxed restrictions and permitted travel a short distance from home, a set of five longer distance, more challenging walks were produced as pdf downloads; these walks explored the trails along the ridges and valleys in the nearby North Wessex Downs AONB and are now available on the group’s website www.whitchurchwalks.net One delighted resident wrote, “Thank you, took your recommendation and did the route this morning. Breezy but very beautiful. We are so lucky to have such wonderful countryside nearby”. http://whitchurchwalks.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Wayfarers-Walk-and-Crux-Easton.pdf
The Whitchurch, Hampshire Evening Ramblers and Walking for Health groups are now beginning to put in place measures to re-start their programmes, albeit with a different format focusing on small group sizes and social distancing. Until then, Whitchurch WaW have been encouraging regular W4H participants to organise themselves into groups of up to 6 for a social walk and this seems to have been very successful. The group have also provided a buddy service for new walkers. One of the results of this effort has been over 100 new followers to the groups Facebook page in just 3 months.
On a less positive note, Jackie Browne the Whitchurch, Hampshire co-ordinator has reported many more cyclists, often in groups, taking advantage of the situation and cycling at speed down public rights of way designated only as footpaths. Jackie reports that cyclists have then been sharing these routes on social media. Have any other towns experienced the same?