Variety is the spice of Take A Hike

It’s sixteen years since the formation of Take A Hike and we continue to see new faces on most walks, despite there now being several local online groups aimed at younger walkers.

Newcomers may have seen our activity on Facebook, MeetUp, the group website or the Ramblers site. Only time will tell whether they turn into Ramblers members but it is encouraging to see a fairly constant flow of younger people wanting to walk. Often they have moved to the area for work/study or they are wanting to get out and about following a change in circumstances. Committee members promote the group and mention the Ramblers where possible, encouraging people to try two or three walks before signing up.

The emergence of online non-Ramblers walking groups, together with a plethora of online groups for any other social activity you can possibly think of, means that it is not just the new faces we need to be thinking about. It is important that we maintain the interest and commitment of existing members too. When Take A Hike began, meeting up with strangers from a group you found on the internet was far from the everyday occurrence it is today, and people joining tended to stick with the group as their main source of social activity. We need to embrace the fact that many of our members now walk/socialise and lead walks with various non-Ramblers groups as well as Take A Hike.

So, putting aside the membership fee and the charitable objectives of the Ramblers, what makes us different from the rest? What is our unique selling point? Having listened recently to people talking about their experiences in online non-Ramblers young people’s walking and non-walking groups, I strongly believe that what sets Take A Hike (and other Ramblers groups) apart is the opportunity to develop real friendships and the presence of experienced/supported walk leaders and event organisers. Flitting between online social groups has its advantages, e.g. choice of activity/date/meeting lots of people, but it can be difficult to build relationships, particularly when the number of attendees is large and there are few familiar faces from one event to the next.

Experiences can vary too. It was interesting to hear a non-member recently describe us as ‘professional’ in comparison to other groups they walk with.

Take A Hike members have made, and continue to make, longlasting friendships while discovering new places, getting fitter, socialising and doing something they enjoy, as well as contributing to the Ramblers charity through their membership. I believe the friendship aspect is partly due to the sheer number and variety of walks/events our volunteers have traditionally offered for members and potential members to enjoy, and 2018 is no exception! So far this year we have seen a varied programme of weekend walks, including stage 1-3 of the Dales Way (with a big thank you to Colin Speakman for providing wonderful insights and anecdotes during stage one) and train-based walks; morning/ afternoon/evening walks; a weekend in Wales; a path-survey walk; a weekend in the Peak District; a ceilidh; a theatrical performance with fish and chip supper and a pub crawl.

We already have a number of walks and weekends away in the diary for the second half of the year (including the remaining stages of the Dales Way) and more will pop up as time progresses. One of the benefits of being an online-diary-only group is that there is practically zero lead time. The committee co-ordinates a small number of ‘core’ events across the year, but the content of the diary is largely dependent on the volunteer walk leaders and social organisers in the wider group. We are grateful to everyone who takes the time to invent/organise a walk or social, and the organisers are appreciative of the people who participate! Contributions to the diary are always welcomed and the committee can offer support if anyone needs help, perhaps to bounce an idea off or support a first-time walk leader/social organiser.

Do you know someone in the area aged 20s/30s/40s who might be interested in walking with people of a similar age? Please mention us to them and direct them to www.takeahike.org.uk

Susan Wilkinson