Inverclyde Bothy strides to national award

A group of participants and volunteers on a Health Walk in Inverclyde
Inverclyde Bothy Health Walk volunteer Robin Galbraith and co-ordinator Jenni Murray
Cycling UK’s Inverclyde Bothy – the home of walking and cycling in Inverclyde – has been named as the top group delivering Health Walks in Scotland for 2021

The Inverclyde Bothy has received national recognition for a programme of Health Walks that have helped to boost people’s health whilst also going the extra mile to provide support during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Cycling UK-led project, which supports people across Inverclyde to walk and cycle, was named Health Walk Group of the Year at Paths for All’s Volunteer Awards 2021.

The Bothy was selected for the award from over 300 groups delivering Health Walks in Scotland.

The project runs seven Health Walks every week, from five locations across Inverclyde. The walks support a diverse spectrum of people, with the numbers of walkers growing, many of whom are referred to the group via the Scottish Association of Mental Health, local Community Connectors and link workers.

We’ve formed such a strong community bond through walking. The pandemic made a lot of people feel isolated and the group became a key support network

Jenni Murray, Cycling UK's Inverclyde Bothy health walk co-ordinator

Cycling UK’s health walk co-ordinator for the Inverclyde Bothy, Jenni Murray, said: “This award is a great recognition for our brilliant team of dedicated volunteers and walkers.

“We’ve formed such a strong community bond through walking. The pandemic made a lot of people feel isolated and the group became a key support network.

“Now we are allowed to walk together again, the group is more committed than ever before which is just amazing! We venture out in all weathers, and we’ve really gone from strength to strength since the pandemic with everyone valuing the time spent together out in the community.”

In a recent survey of the Bothy’s Health Walk participants, 90% of respondents said that Health Walks helped them cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and 80% said Health Walks made them feel happier.

Health Walk volunteer Robin Galbraith originally came to the Bothy looking for support in his battle with a gambling addiction. A keen walker when he was younger, Robin’s doctor suggested he try to find a local walking group to break up his usual routine:

“[We] decided to try to break the cycle I was in. I approached [the Bothy] and never really looked back from there.

“I got to know the people…it was totally different to any of the other agencies I’d tried to get help with.”

Robin soon became an enthusiastic regular walker and was eventually trained up to become a volunteer walk leader.

“They asked if I’d be interested in helping out and I just felt it was giving something back to them that’d helped me.”

Jenni added: “Everyone comes to the group for their own reasons, but whatever the reason it is a fantastic opportunity to meet new people and have a chat. People just click together and we’ve had a lot of great friendships develop.

“After a difficult year for many it is really special to have our group recognised with this award.”

Kevin Lafferty, chief executive officer at Paths for All, commented: “Groups like Inverclyde Bothy Health Walk Project highlight the very reason why we host an annual awards ceremony. It is vital that we celebrate and shed light on the outstanding work that volunteers carry out in local communities across Scotland.

“Our volunteers' invaluable contribution is directly working to improve the nation’s physical, mental and social health which has been evident throughout the pandemic, with many going above and beyond their normal duties.

“The work undertaken has provided a lifeline for many and for that we’re forever grateful.”