Local walking groups guide: how to find one near me

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Group of people hiking in the countryside

Enjoy the mind and body benefits of walking with others and spending time in nature with our expert guide to local walking groups

The benefits of being part of a walking group are myriad, from being inspired to go for regular rambles to meeting and spending time outside with likeminded people with the chance to connect with nature in a social setting. 

And, this is where walking groups such as the Ramblers’ shine. Providing a friendly and supportive introduction to walking groups, the Ramblers offers thousands of tried and tested routes and guided walks across the UK. To find a walk to join near you, just check out their website, which has thousands of options, from beautiful coastal hikes to gentle countryside rambles. And with Boundless Plus membership you’ll gain unlimited access to them all, as well as access to walking gear and gadget offers.  

But, like taking out a good pension plan, the concept of joining a walking group is something most of us don’t consider until a certain juncture in life, and then it suddenly seems like a brilliant idea. Walking is one of the healthiest, life-enhancing activities you can do, and it’s completely free – but it’s so much more enjoyable when done with others. So why do we wait so long, when joining a walking group can enrich and extend our existence? 

Like many people, I was lucky enough to inherit my love of walking from my parents. Most of my earliest memories involve outdoor adventures in the Surrey Hills with my mum and dad, and hiking is something I’ve enjoyed ever since. It was a tax-free gift that has kept giving throughout my life, contributing to my health and happiness across decades, and I’ve made provisions to pass it on to my daughters, instilling in them (I hope) an appreciation of the curative joy of exploring coast and countryside by foot, especially in the company of loved ones.

But when children leave home, and everyone you know has busy lives, it can be hard to find trail buddies – that’s when joining a walking group is transformative.

The last five years have been a bit bumpy but if nothing else, the pandemic and the lockdowns that came with it have taught us to truly appreciate two things: companionship and the freedom to get out and about. I’ll certainly never take either for granted again, and one of the best ways to enjoy both is to share a great walk in the countryside with good people – the kind you can meet through a walking group.

Discover the joy of walking together

Why would I join a walking group, when I can just head out with friends and family any time I like? The response to this perfectly reasonable question will vary according to your location, situation and time of life, but often the answer is simple: no matter how willing and keen you all seem, it’s surprisingly hard to find a time and place at which kith and kin can catch up for a wander in the wilds.

By contrast, regular escapades are planned well in advance with a dedicated walking group, and someone else does the organising, so you can just turn up, enjoy the ramble and reap the health and fitness rewards that come with taking part in habitual outdoor exercise. Happy days. But the benefits of being part of a walking group don’t stop there.

Group of women walking in the mountains

The benefits of joining local walking groups

Joining a walking group is a great way to meet new people, especially if you've recently moved to an area or your circumstances have changed. And those people can often show you footpaths, features and rambling routes you might never have chanced upon before. Or they might offer insights and information about the places you end up exploring together, from the animals encountered in the woodlands to the history that haunts the hills.

Group of people on a remote walk

A shared walk is an experience to treasure. Connections and memories made along trails are special, and often result in stories that are retold umpteen times. In a group, you can start a stroll as virtual strangers and reach the trailhead at the far end as firm friends. And by being part of a group, you can get a wealth of ideas about where to go walking next. 

For those who get a bit nervous about navigation and feel put off by the possibility of getting lost, walking clubs are an ideal way to explore the countryside, with experienced group leaders planning the route in advance and ensuring you get back to base safe and sound.

Being part of a group is also an excellent way to stay active. It can be so easy to find an excuse not to venture out when you’re going alone, or trying to persuade half-hearted friends to join you – the slightest hint of rain in the air (or on your phone’s weather app) can convince you to stay inside watching TV with a cup of tea.

But once you’ve committed to joining an outing with a walking group, it’s a different story. People are expecting you to come and looking forward to seeing you, and once you’re out and about, strolls in slightly wilder weather often prove to be the most exciting and memorable experiences.

Walking groups for every age: from over-50s to over-60s

Hitting the hills (even little ones) on a regular basis has massive mental and physical health benefits, especially if you spend most of the rest of the week sitting, either at a desk or in the house. Lots of us work from home these days – myself included – and it’s not just the face-to-face interaction and conversations with colleagues I miss, it’s the incidental exercise I used to get when I was travelling to and from the office. For retirees, getting out for a ramble with other people can provide a proper lease of life and a way to keep both body and mind fit and well.

Group of women walking and laughing

For this to be a success, you need to find the right group for you. There’s nothing more frustrating than being with people who want to walk further or faster than you’re comfortable with – or finding yourself in the opposite camp, always raring to carry on when everyone else is ready to turn around. Luckily there are walking groups out there for all ages, abilities and fitness levels. And you can team up with fellow amblers who share your interests, whether that’s bird spotting, exploring local history or simply walking with your dogs.

Ramblers: UK-wide walking groups

The Ramblers provides the perfect introduction to walking with thousands of guided walks and routes available to members. You can benefit from unlimited access as part of Boundless Plus. 

It’s easy to find a group. The Ramblers website, which offers a comprehensive list of affiliated walking groups arranged by location, is the perfect place to start. Just put in your postcode and the site will let you know which of its 500 groups is the closest. 

Tips for finding walking groups near you

If you fancy exploring somewhere specific, for example Exmoor, you simply type that into the search bar – with over 50,000 walks taking place each year, you’re sure to find one well suited to your requirements. If you have any worries about the difficulty of the route, just contact the leader to discuss them.  

And remember, being a member of a walking group doesn’t mean you have to stop going out for strolls with your friends. It just allows you to show off a bit with your increased fitness and newfound knowledge about places to go, footpaths to explore and wildlife you can encounter along the way.

Do more with Boundless

If you're working in or retired from the public sector or civil service, Boundless has two great membership options to choose from: Boundless and Boundless Plus.

With Boundless, you get unlimited access or discounted entry to many of the UK’s top attractions including Kew Gardens and Wakehurst and WWT centres across the UK, as well as year-round deals on restaurants, holidays, shopping and much more. With Boundless Plus, you can enjoy additional benefits including unlimited access to Historic Royal Palaces sites, National Trust for Scotland places, access to the Ramblers' extensive group walks and routes, and peace of mind with roadside assistance and local recovery by LV= Britannia Rescue.

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