GM Walking has given grants to local voluntary and community groups with the aim of getting Greater Manchester walking. We offered the grants to support a huge range of activities that encourage people who are usually less active to start or to increase the amount they walk regularly.
One of the projects benefitting from this was Oldham’s Milltown to Mountains. Here we look at what they did and how they got on.
What is Milltown to Mountains?
Milltown to Mountains is a partnership between two Oldham-based organisations, UProjects which helps people to get active outdoors, and WiFi North West which provides health and wellbeing support programmes. They received support from BAME Connect, which strives to tackle social isolation amongst people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage in Oldham.
The goal of the project was to set up a walking group for women from ethnically diverse backgrounds who did not participate in outdoor activities and who did no or very little planned group exercise. The intention was to take the group on weekly walks, gradually increasing in length and difficulty, until they were ready to take on the huge challenge of climbing Mount Snowdon.
Who took part?
19 Oldham women aged 18 to 62 from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds took part in the project. Quite a few of the group members had health conditions including asthma, musculoskeletal conditions, diabetes, arthritis, anxiety and depression. Prior to the project, all group members described the pandemic having worsened their physical and mental health and many also identified social isolation as a big factor in wanting to take part and to get more active.
How did it go?
Throughout the project, all the participants consistently fed back that they were increasing the number and length of walks they did each week, as well as increasing their confidence in walking. Whilst on their group walks together, they made a number of inspiring video diaries documenting their experiences and showing their progress.
All 19 women stayed with the project and were successful in reaching the summit of Mount Snowdon along with their project leaders. Through working together, they bonded and now share a sense of pride, team commitment and peer support.
The women are all now incredibly enthusiastic about walking and several have formed an independent walking group now that the project has ended. Some have even joined a local Muslim Hikers group. Others have progressed to volunteering to support Oldham’s local Pharmacy Walks which are part of the National Diabetes Prevention Programme. These days, the group all consider themselves ‘walking champions’ and are looking forward to motivating friends, family and the wider community to walk more.
Feedback from participants
“I joined the group because I was worried about being at home all the time and needed some regular exercise as I was getting aches and pains all the time. My asthma and hayfever were a challenge so I always made sure I took my antihistamine and inhaler before the walk. There was fear and anxiety at the back of my kind all the way through the challenge ahead – but there was also hope and excitement.
I enjoyed the various routes we took in and around Oldham. Park Bridge was one of the very first places we walked and I was surprised at the beauty of it and the fact that it was on our doorstep and we had never been. Dovestones was beautiful and I went there after almost 10 years! The green spaces, mountains and trees, reservoirs and wildlife gave a sense of peace and cleared the mind.
The help and support provided by the leaders and the kindness of the group brought a sense of community and belonging, wellness and humbleness.
Looking back I really can’t believe that we an average group of Asian women usually always in the kitchen cooking, cleaning and looking after the family, managed to take time out and do this for ourselves.
This has inspired me to do something like this again and raise money for a good cause in the future”