The Balsam Centre is an independent charity set up by local people for local people, focusing on mental health and wellbeing - providing groups and activities to minimise loneliness and isolation, and ...
Walk Leader / Co-leader
The Balsam Centre is committed to helping people to maintain good mental health and supporting those who are struggling. As a part of what we do, we run various groups and activities to prevent loneliness and isolation, key to good mental health.
Walking with others not only provides an opportunity to socialise, it is also very good for our mental wellbeing.
Our walking groups started with one weekly group and we now have four, to appeal to all abilities.
- Our level 1 walk is 30 minutes long, in Wincanton, walking slowly and over level ground, following the same route each week.
- The level 2 walk is 50 minutes long at a more brisk pace, with some inclines and field paths, and the route varies each week in-and-around Wincanton starting and ending at The Balsam Centre.
- Rotas for Level 1 and 2 walks are planned 4 months in advance.
- Our level 3 walk is between 3 and 5 miles long, following public footpaths in rural areas, with the starting point varying each week - usually within 40 minutes drive from Wincanton.
- Level 3 walk leaders walk the route within the month before to check it is still safe and "walkable".
- Rotas and routes for level 3 walks are planned 6 months at a time and are printed in our brochure.
- The Buggy Walk takes place at Stourhead every other week, walking around the lake, with pushchairs and prams. This last walk is currently suspended because of Covid restrictions at Stourhead but will hopefully restart next year.
- Each walk or Walk Leader has a kit bag with high viz vests for the lead / co-lead and a first aid kit.
- Walk leaders have access to a mapping app to help them plan walks if they want it.
The walks have a leader at the front, and a co-leader at the back. Leaders and co-leaders can change roles for each walk, but some volunteers prefer to be co-leaders and not plan or lead the walks - there is no pressure to take a leading/planning role. All volunteers are trained by an experienced walk leader with a 2 hour course followed by a walk. Generally, people chose the level of walk they want to volunteer for - although you can volunteer for more than one group.
That's the role, so what are we looking for in our volunteers?
- You enjoy walking - you don't have to be a marathon runner to take part, you just need to be able to complete the length of walk you are applying to volunteer for.
- You are friendly and approachable - you will be the "face" of the walk, so you will be greeting people on the walk and welcoming new walkers.
- Commitment. Some of our leaders do walk every week but most walk once a month. You can even walk once every 2 months but we need a commitment that you will be able to walk the date you have agreed to.
- Everyone is welcome. Our walkers are men and women and range in age from 24 to 78!
And what will you get from volunteering?
Regular commitment can help us all at the moment - those that have just lost their jobs, those that have retired, but also those working from home. Our volunteers response to the question was overwhelmingly - "friendship"! All the walking groups are led by friendly volunteers who will welcome you on to the team. Many of the walk leaders join the other walks as "punters", although we have a meeting once every 6 months to plan or raise any issues. We have a regular band of friendly walkers for each of the levels of walk, and they will also welcome you as a new leader. Once a year we have a Volunteers party, where volunteers can meet one another, and where we have the opportunity to thank volunteers in person for the amazing work they do for this community.
As you get to know the walkers, you will understand what the walks mean to them, the friendly face, the chat - it is easier to talk shoulder-to-shoulder at times than face-to-face. For some, this is the only time they see anyone else.
Walking will be good for your mental health too!