More people walking for leisure - but north Norfolk rambling group fears for its future

Mike and Jane Holmes, of Sheringham Strollers, with their rambling mascot Sally.

Mike and Jane Holmes, of Sheringham Strollers, with their rambling mascot Sally the dog. - Credit: Submitted

A ramblers group in north Norfolk has seen its numbers dwindle significantly - even though more people in the region are taking up walking for leisure.

Figures from Sport England show while walking dropped off during 2020, due to the pandemic, the number of people taking a so-called health walk has shown a steady increase over the years.

In 2015/16, a quarter of the people surveyed in north Norfolk walked for leisure three times a week, while almost 21pc enjoyed five strolls over seven days.

A new circular walk between Holkham and Wells and accessiblity improvements to a popular part of the

A circular walk between Holkham and Wells which was opened last year. - Credit: Archant

Five years later, those figures had risen by 18pc and 14pc respectively.

And yet, the growing popularity of leisure-walking has not benefitted at least one local ramblers group, Sheringham Strollers, which in a ten-year period has seen its membership plummet from 25 to only six people.

The inconsistency, according to Mike Holmes, one of the group's walk leaders, is down to "people wanting to walk at their own pace and in smaller units".

Mike Holmes, 76, of Sheringham Strollers,

Mike Holmes, 76, of Sheringham Strollers, is concerned that not many people are joining ramblers groups anymore. - Credit: Submitted

The average age of the group, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary at the end of October, has increased from 65 to 75-years-old.

Mr Holmes said: "We've been getting no replacements. We are right down to the bare bones. My wife and I, we're 76, we're leading two walks a month, and it's tiring.

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"We've never known it so difficult to get walk leaders," he added.

Walk leaders plan routes, prepare risk assessments and support walkers.

"The leisure side of walking has improved but organised walks have not benefitted," said Mr Holmes.

Living Streets, a charity which supports everyday walking, said the pandemic has changed the way many of us live our lives, but it is important people build time to exercise into their new way of working.

Stephen Edwards, interim chief executive of the organisation, said: "It’s incredibly important that we keep active, both for our own wellbeing and to avoid storing up massive health problems for the NHS.

"Just a 20-minute walk can prevent long-term health conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and depression."

Last year, Norfolk County Council opened a new circular walk between Holkham and Wells-next-the-Sea, adding to an area already blessed with beautiful hikes.

A new circular walk between Holkham and Wells and accessiblity improvements to a popular part of the

A new circular walk between Holkham and Wells and accessiblity improvements to a popular part of the Norfolk Coast Path have officially been opened. Picture: Stuart Anderson - Credit: Archant

11 of the best circular walks in north Norfolk

1. Cromer to Felbrigg - 6 miles: This path starts from Cromer's Meadow carpark before following Weavers' Way to Felbrigg and looping back around.

2. Bacton - 4.5 miles: The walk heads inland from Bacton across mostly flat and open fields.

3. Roman Camp - 9 miles: Taking in the highest point in East Anglia, Beacon Hill, it also includes a stretch along the coast from Cromer.

weybourne circular walk

Weybourne has a great circular walk. - Credit: Archant

4. Weybourne - 5 miles: The route turns inland from the shingle beach past the Quag, a large pool populated by birds, before climbing to Kelling Heath.

5. Trimingham - 2 miles: A short walk over fields, along tracks and down quiet lanes.

6. Happy Valley - 1.5 miles: A short walk with plenty to see including Cromer's clifftop path and Warren Woods.

7. Blakeney - 7.5 miles: Ramblers on this route will see stunning views across the grazing marshes on a loop around Cley next the Sea as well as Morston Salt Marshes.

8. Brancaster and Brancaster Staithe: Two walks for the price of one - with one heading down country lanes and the other looping to the coast before running parallel to Brancaster Marsh.

9. Cockthorpe - 5.5 miles: Beginning in the coastal village of Morston, the route winds along the salt marsh then toward Cockthorpe and past old Langham airfield.

10. Salthouse - 5 miles: This walk starts in the village near the shop and pub, and meanders upwards to Salthouse Heath, from where there are views from Sheringham to Blakeney Point and beyond.

11. Sea Palling - 6 miles: The walk passes the site of the medieval village of Eccles-Juxta-Mare, which was lost to coastal erosion in the late 16th century.