More than just a walk in the park!

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Nicole McKeating-Jones
Added to All, That Counts, Walking on 20 Aug 2019

More than just a walk in the park!

- Guest blogger Gerri Barry I August 12th 2019

I was recently inspired by Hayley Lever (@GmMoving #ActiveSoles) an inspiring and motivational speaker at the recent TedxOldham, which was a fantastic event.

I was talking to Hayley and shared the wealth of added benefits, that have come from our Wednesday lunchtime walks to Alexandra Park in Oldham. Hayley said you’ll have to write a blog for me (my first ever blog!). So I thought, yes I will!

So here is where we walk to on a Wednesday lunch time. This is Alexandra Park in Oldham:

Alex Park Oldham Blog

I am very lucky that I work for an organisation (Oldham Council) that values Emotional Health and Wellbeing for its staff. A Wednesday lunch time walk was suggested and we walked from the Civic Centre in Oldham Town Centre to Alexandra Park around the lake and back again. It takes us between 45 and 50 minutes sometimes a little longer if we've got new people because we like to show them the sights and give them a little tour of the park. We don’t realise the benefits and what we get out the walk, as it goes far beyond the walk itself.

I can say that the walk is not just a walk in the park, it’s so much more than that

So as I was reflecting at TEDxOldham I thought we get to go outside we get to see wildlife and plants. We see the trees transform from Winter to Summer and back again. But more importantly, if I reflect over the last 12 months I can say that the walk is not just a walk the walk in the park, it’s so much more than that.

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Sometimes the Chief Executive and the Lead of the Council join us.

It’s a walk and talk and along the way we talk to each other about what we see, how things are changing, what we are working on and how we can do things differently together. Some of the things that we've done include:

We help people solve their childcare problems.

We've discussed the best places to go on holiday where the best deals are.

One colleague found out that trailer tents actually do exist! As well as how much fun they can be.

Members on the walk have coached staff who are new to line management and who are never done that before. We had a weekly update and support session.

Personally, I have learnt that Herons build their nests in the trees… and that was a surprise to me. Have you seen how big these birds are and so prehistoric looking.

We've had ‘on the go’ one-to-one meetings.

We met two young men who were learning to fly a drone and they shared these photographs with us:

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We debate and solve lots and lots of problems for colleagues.

One week we changed our plans and only walked half the distance so that we could do a quick litter pick at a particular grot spot we had spotted along the way.

We top up on our vitamin D and get the sun on our faces.

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We watch the seasons develop and change in the park and we have our ‘awe’ moment seeing the new life that appears on the lake. We all have our favourite chicks and watching them grow.

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The rich history of the park has been shared with us by one of our colleagues and who'd of thought that the American Civil War (1861) was the result of the park being built in Oldham? This was because of the blockade that stopped cotton coming to the cotton industry in Oldham.

There are also the stories and legend of the statues in the park and what happens on the stoke of midnight to the Statue of Joseph Howard "Old Blind Joe"? All these stories and facts are amazing.

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It’s inspired me to walk every Saturday morning at Park Run @oldhamparkrun and I have achieved my 50th walk – Got the t-shirt!

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We recruited three walking members to become school governors..

And there is much more!

… but most important of all the list above is that we've all got out of the office, we’ve got moving and we have had the opportunity to talk to colleagues and find out about each other. Some of us work not 10 feet away from each other in other teams but did not know anything about them, their work life or the area of work that they were involved. The walks have forged new friendships and relationships across services.

So if people say they haven't got time to go for a walk - I would say you haven't got time not to.

So if people say they haven't got time to go for a walk I would say you haven't got time not to. There's so much to a walk, so much more than you'll ever know and realise, the relationship building the new friendships and the improvement to peoples health and social well-being is worth more than sitting at a desk as normal – It’s more than a walk in the park

I hope this inspires you to get moving and to encourage you to go for a walk at lunch time

Gerri Barry