Inverclyde Bothy steps into healthier future with Walk at Work Award

Group of volunteers and staff standing in a row on promenade at seafront
The award-winning Bothy team - from left, Bothy co-ordinator Lorna McCartney, volunteers and Health Walks co-ordinator Jenni Murray (far right)
Cycling UK's team of staff and volunteers at the Bothy proved they can “walk the walk” by racking up almost ten million steps in just a month

Inverclyde’s home of walking and cycling has won the ‘Walk at Work Award’ from Paths for All. The award recognises workplaces in Scotland going the extra mile to create healthy and active workforces.

Although the team of three staff and eleven volunteers were already keen walkers, working towards the award encouraged them to do more.

They entered two teams into the Step Count Challenge in autumn 2020, with one finishing an impressive thirteenth overall in Scotland. With a total step count of 9,320,698 for the ten team members over the month-long challenge, that works out at an average of almost one million steps each.

The Bothy provides opportunities for people in Inverclyde to walk and cycle, mainly through organised walks and cycle rides. It has run 333 total walks since March 2019 with almost 300 people registering to take part. It also works with local employers to support their staff to walk and cycle for everyday journeys.

Although the programme of health walks is currently on hold due to coronavirus restrictions, any employers interested in encouraging their work force to get more active are welcome to get in touch.

Bothy Health Walk co-ordinator Jenni Murray said: “In the past year we’d hoped to help local employers set up walking and cycling schemes, but because of Covid-19 we had to change our focus to encouraging them to work towards this award instead. Then we realised that as an employer too, it made sense for us to complete the work for the award ourselves to help us help others to roll it out.”

I’m delighted the team have achieved this award – it’s excellent to be able to lead the way and show that we really practice what we preach

Shona Morris, programme manager 

Paths for All were also impressed by the Bothy team getting together to walk in the local area when restrictions allowed. As well as enjoying the exercise and social aspect of the walks, they were able to scope out the suitability of the routes for their future programme of organised walks.

Jenni said: “The walks and Step Count Challenge really helped us to feel like one team as the volunteers were included and they are so vital in delivering what we do. Although it’s been a weird year, it gave us something positive to focus on and I know that the staff and volunteers who live alone found it was a lifeline to have a chance to exercise and keep in touch with colleagues when the Bothy was closed”.

Team members also made an extra effort to walk to work at the Bothy instead of driving, sometimes meeting each other on the way. They even tried holding walking meetings and found they worked surprisingly well. Jenni said: “Bothy co-ordinator Lorna and I often met and had a meeting while walking to work. Having a meeting outdoors was ideal during periods when there were restrictions on working indoors and being outside somehow seemed to help us be more creative and come up with new ideas.”

“I found that meeting outside was particularly helpful when inducting new volunteers, as you’re more relaxed when you’re outside and chatting side by side, so we’re planning to keep meeting this way in the future.”

Shona Morris, Bothy programme manager for Cycling UK said: “I’m delighted the team have achieved this award – it’s excellent to be able to lead the way and show that we really practice what we preach.

"Walking has many benefits from being an environmentally friendly way to get around to supporting our health and wellbeing – both are elements we celebrate in our working practice and encourage and support in the community.”

Ian Findlay of Paths for All, Scotland’s walking charity, urges all Scottish workplaces to take their employee’s health seriously.

“Research shows that employees who are physically active in and around the working day take fewer sick days, are more motivated and productive, and are more able to concentrate, so walking is not just good for us, it’s good for business.”