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Guided walking groups for all levels across Somerset

SASP walking group follow the path towards the River Brue. Photo: Rachel Mead
SASP walking group follow the path towards the River Brue. Photo: Rachel Mead

There are ‘walks around the block’, ‘walks on the wild side’ and even in your twenties the occasional ‘walks of shame’, but today’s walk is a ‘health walk’ and I am delighted to be joining an organised walking group in Highbridge. I’ve been asked to meet my walk leader, Ian outside the Purplespoon café at 10.15am for a 10.30am start and have been told that the walk will happen ‘whether rain, snow or blow!’ The invitation extends to optional coffee and cake at the end of the group walk and as I have arrived a few minutes early I can see a few of my fellow striders have even met for a pre-walk caffeine injection too! As per usual I have my trusty hiking boots laced and ready and I am excited to be exploring pastures new to see what this part of Somerset has to offer. The health walks are organised by Somerset Activity & Sports Partnership (SASP) and this walk in Highbridge is one of over 50 organised walking groups taking part each and every week across the breadth of our glorious county.

Great British Life: Healthy food options at the PurpleSpoon cafe, Highbridge. Photo: Kate GardinerHealthy food options at the PurpleSpoon cafe, Highbridge. Photo: Kate Gardiner

Georgina Hainsby is the Health Walks Coordinator for SASP, ‘We were commissioned in 2022 by Somerset Council Public Health to deliver health walks across Somerset County, with the vision for everyone in Somerset to have access to a free, friendly short group walk within easy reach of where they live, to help them become and stay active. We are just rolling out a new grading system which aids consistency for people when choosing the level of walk they’d like to attend. There are five levels, starting at ‘beginner level’ which is a flat walk of less than a mile in distance which offers frequent stops along the way, up to the quicker paced walks of ‘Level 4’ which are advanced walks of up to five miles in length.’ The options are plentiful and so if you are returning to walking after an operation for example, or if you have moved to a new area and wish to meet new people, there are, across the county, countless walking groups to join. Today’s walk in Highbridge is a Level 2 which means we’ll be out for about an hour, the pace is listed as being moderate, and it’s a good one for those who are looking to develop their walking fitness.

The turnout is great, about 15 walkers have congregated and once the clock turns to 10.30am, Walk Leader Ian heads to the front of the pack to set the pace whilst his fellow volunteer, Christy picks up the rear. Ian volunteered with SASP after he injured himself and could no longer go trail running and yet knew that he had to keep moving in order to maintain his fitness, ‘Everyone is here for a different reason, we’ve got walkers who are recovering from cancer and regaining their strength, to multi-generational walkers who bring young grandchildren along in buggies. Many of our group come purely for the social aspect, they’re meeting new people and quite often learning new routes in their home town which they didn’t even know were there!’ As we’re walking I can see the group naturally drifts with people walking in pairs or small groups, whilst others are pausing en route to take photos of the birdlife on Apex Lake. I chat to Christy, the other Walk Leader and she tells me how she works from home and uses the SASP health walks as a way of ensuring she is still seeing people face to face, ‘This group is lovely and so welcoming, if someone doesn’t turn up one week you can bet that they’ll receive a message to check they’re OK. It’s also been great because it helps me with my confidence and I know a lot of the walkers who live alone use the group to help them with their mental health too.’

Great British Life: Apex Lake, Highbridge. SASP walk. Photo: Rachel MeadApex Lake, Highbridge. SASP walk. Photo: Rachel Mead

The sun is shining off the River Brue and with a gentle breeze coming across from the Bristol Channel it certainly isn’t difficult to see why these walks are labelled as ‘healthy’. Chatting whilst walking in step with a ‘stranger’ makes any potential social awkwardness fade away and before I know it, we are back at the cafe ordering coffee. Kate Gardiner, the owner of both of the Purplespoon cafes in Bridgwater and Highbridge welcomes the walking groups each week, ‘Having struggled with my mental health in the past I know how walking helped me with my healing process. Now, by locating my café’s in the YMCA’s I’m pleased to be a central hub which breaks down the barriers and stigmas associated with people who quite often have heart-breaking stories.’ Taking a look at the menu reaffirms how the Purplespoon approach fits in so well with the concept of a Health Walk; the salads and food choice on offer certainly mean that you can re-fuel, healthily, with some of Somerset’s finest local fayre. Cyril, who also attended for the first time today says, ‘It’s not just about the walking but also the socialising, today has been great to meet people and get the brain jigging along a bit too!’

Great British Life: SASP Highbridge Health Walk OS Map route. SASP Highbridge Health Walk OS Map route.


BEGINNER WALKS: Under one mile, flat and even ground, no stiles, gentle pace and frequent stops. Ideal for those new to walking or living with health conditions that impact fitness or mobility.

LEVEL 1: Up to two miles, flat or gentle slopes, no stiles and ideal for those able to complete 30mins with minimal stops.

LEVEL 2: Up to three miles, tracks and some hills or moderate pace. Intermediate walks, ideal for those looking to develop their walking fitness and able to complete 45-60 mins with minimal stops.

LEVEL 3: three to four miles, fields and hills, quicker pace and possible stiles. Intermediate walks, ideal for those with good walking fitness and able to complete 60-90mins with minimal stops.

LEVEL 4: three to five miles, fields and steep hills, quicker pace and stiles. Advanced walks, ideal for those with very good mobility and fitness and able to complete 90mins + with minimal stops.


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