24 May 2012
After more than ten years in the care of Natural England, the successful Walking for Health scheme has been handed over to the Ramblers, in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support as part of a new Responsibility Deal.
The groups have pledged to “work together to significantly increase the numbers of people who are active through walking by supporting and managing a sustainable national centre for the programme”.
They will work with Local Authorities, the NHS and others to increase the number of local walks and the numbers of walkers, with a particular focus on the least active and people living with and beyond cancer.
Dr William Bird, a Reading GP, first came up with the idea of walking for health in 1996 when he began to lead walks from his surgery. The programme was rolled out nationally in 2000, with support from Natural England and funding from BIG lottery and British Heart Foundation.
By 2005, Walking for Health had more than 25,000 regular walkers in England. In 2009, Natural England received funding from the Department of Health for another major expansion. By the end of 2011, there were over 78,000 walkers and 600 walk schemes.
Natural England Chair Poul Christensen met with Environment Minister Richard Benyon, Health Minister Anne Milton, the Ramblers and McMillan Cancer support at a meeting to mark the handover today and added “Walking for Health now has over 75,000 regular walkers who enjoy the health and social benefits that regular walking brings. The successful partnership between Natural England and the local walking groups has been at the heart of this programme and we are proud of what we have achieved together over the past 12 years. We know this success will continue under the new ownership of Macmillan Cancer Support and the Ramblers.”
Walkers have spent over 5million hours on health walks since 2000.
A range of partnership with the private, public and voluntary sector – with local authorities, PCTs, NHS Federation, MIND, Age UK, County Sports partnerships, National Trust, BTCV, Woodland Trust, Groundwork Trusts, Sustrans, Milletts, Tesco and league football clubs.
Walking for Health is all about walks for local people, led by local people. Our training has helped nearly 12,000 active community volunteers to lead health walks and volunteers have donated over 800 working years of their time since 2000.