Get Out-and-About For Fun and Health

Don't let worries about accessibility put you off getting into the countryside. There are all sorts of resources out there to help.

A walk in the hills can be a great way to relieve stress, get fitter, build confidence, and simply get away from it all. But it’s easy to be put off by worries about accessibility.

However, a visual impairment shouldn’t prevent anyone enjoying the countryside. With a bit of planning and the right advice you should be able to get out there without any bother.

If you’d like to get out and about in a group then Henshaws has its own walking group – Henshaws Hikers –  that go for walks of 6-7 miles on the first Thursday of every month.

Group leader Rob told me, “Getting out and walking with the group enables people to interact whilst taking in the smells, sounds and sights of the countryside.

“I make sure the experiences are different by choosing different types of locations – hills with exposure to the sky, woodlands, rivers and canals and beaches (when the tide is out!).”

Henshaws Hikers

Peter, a veteran walker with the group, has no vision as a result of retinitis pigmentosa and glaucoma. He explained why he regularly goes on Henshaws Hikes.

“I really enjoy getting out in the fresh air and chatting to everyone,” he says. “And there’s always a good meal at the end of it.

“I think everyone should get out and about. You’ve got to do it. I’m out every day.”

British Blind Sport has produced a set of guidelines to support people with sight impairments to join in group walks, and offers general advice that might be useful to VI walkers.

They suggest using telescopic walking poles, visors or caps, eye shields and sunglasses, gloves when the likelihood of encountering nettles, brambles and gorse is high, and taking out a smartphone – to use GPS to get a general sense of the route, or to use the camera zoom to magnify features of interest.

The Ramblers also has a website which suggests easy access routes.

Tourism site Visit England’s Access for All website offers suggestions for country getaways catering for those with a visual impairment. It shows that many businesses are keen to encourage visually impaired walkers to visit their area.

There are many other resources out there, and – if you fancy a bit of company – lots of Blind Rambling clubs, including Henshaws Hikers!

So why not make the most of the summer weather, and get out and about? Even if it’s just for an hour or so, there’s something for everyone.

Find out more about group walks by calling Henshaws Hikers on 0300 222 5555.

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