I have always observed that whatever the age, friendships can be kindled and forged against a background of shared life experience, laughter, and easy chatter when walking or Nordic Walking. Talking and the sharing of thoughts flow readily when side by side surrounded by Nature. The pandemic has cemented this further as we all seek to keep our physical and mental well-being topped up. Long walks, short walks and Fitness walks; all have a common thread of friendship running through them.
Last weekend, I walked with friends I have known for 30 years. I think this is what inspired me to write this post. Guiding friends across the New Forest, on tracks that I had enjoyed on horseback or on foot as a child, made me realise how much walking has always been a part of my life and instrumental in keeping these strong friendships going despite us living in different areas of the UK. Our meet ups do not always involve National Parks, sometimes we explore London on foot…but whatever the backdrop, walking and talking is at the heart of these friendships as we share the latest news on where we are in life, teasing and supporting all the while.
Marcel Theroux summed this up beautifully when he wrote in the Guardian on Walking and Friendship in 2021.
“A familiar routine establishes itself every time we walk. Someone takes responsibility for the route. We fall into pairs and chat. And somehow, over the course of the day, people change partners naturally like dancers at a Regency ball.”Marcel Theroux
The group have been hugely supportive of Nordic4. Some friends were my first guinea pigs before I taught paying walkers and some regularly walk the Seasonal walks each month alongside Guy (my husband) and I in Risk Assessment Walks, ahead of taking Nordic walkers out. Whether walker or Nordic walker our love of walking, is undiminished by the passing years and it is this that I have taken into creating Nordic Walking for life within Nordic4: 9 to 90 years old, we tailor to all. It is also what has attracted Nordic4 Instructors and Leaders to Nordic4. We all share the same ethos and the benefits to so many that it brings.
Our Gentle walking Group were especially affected by the Pandemic. Loss of friends and a loss of a social life, lead to a general loss in confidence caused by isolation especially for those living on their own. But now we see these walkers aged 75-90, growing stronger both physically and mentally, secure in the friendships formed within this group. Their confidence has returned. They look out for each other, calling regularly if someone is unwell, they have formed a lunch club and their friendships now extend well beyond this special weekly walking group.
At the other end of our age spectrum, the Teens love their Sunday two-hour catchup Nordic walk. Every topic under the sun is discussed, funny stories are told, and gentle banter abounds in this inclusive 11–18-year-old walking group. At Primary level the children naturally chat in our Walk and Talk, as they walk alongside each other. Some pupils, from both groups, have sometimes felt on the edge of their peer group in school but whatever is going on they know they have a group of Nordic walking friends, with whom they share not only a common interest, but also are able to just be themselves. Each genuinely values the other for who they are. Such are the strengths of their friendships that some of the Teens on leaving school asked for an 18-23 Hiking Group to be set up to continue walking together through Gap Years and in student holidays. These are friendships that I truly hope will sustain them in the years to come.
In our Monthly Seasonal Walks walkers from across different Nordic Walking groups in Bristol, come together in our Nordic4 guided walks. Exploring the beautiful local areas of Bristol and further surrounding countryside in walks that vary between 5-10 miles walkers enjoy meeting others and making new friends. The wonderful sound of talk and laughter echoes around the pastures and woodland tracks but there is time too for earnest and thoughtful conversation, walkers listening and giving time to each other. You realise that in busy lives you can lose yourself within a walk and with only the distraction of wildlife or an amazing view, you just feel good!
Walking or Nordic Walking, friendship is what keeps us turning up for more. Walking and talking in Nature creates opportunity for new friendships to blossom, old friendships to be reaffirmed and a knowledge that whatever is going on in one’s life you know you always feel better after a walk!