FEATURE: South Yorkshire ramblers explain the simple joy of walking
For members of the Dearne Valley Ramblers group, walking offers a multitude of simple pleasures.
They say the simple act of going for a stroll can often prove to be the antidote to the pressures that come with a busy lifestyle.
And these hardy ramblers know what they are talking about.
Come rain or shine, they have traversed some of the region’s most scenic and challenging trails since their formation two decades ago.
Group secretary Sue Haywood, aged 65, explained why so many people catch the ‘walking bug’.
The 65-year-old Mexborough woman said: “It is really great for body and mind.
“Everyone has their own reasons for going walking, but mine - and a lot of other peoples - are for the fresh air, meeting new friends and to see the fantastic scenery we have in this region.”
The former civil servant joined in 2002 and more than a decade later she has made many friends for life.
She added: “There is a big social element to it.
“Along with the walks we have trips out to the theatre, we go out for meals - if someone says ‘party’ most of us are usually there!”
Her husband Gordon, aged 81, explained how the walks have helped him to recover from a number of health issues, including a triple heart bypass operation in 2005 and a hip replacement 18 months ago.
The former training manager and group vice-chair said: “It’s a simple thing walking, but it has always helped me. I love it, and I’ll always do it while I can.”
Retired police inspector Tony Swaby, aged 69, of Cusworth, joined the group a few years ago along with his wife Stephanie, aged 67.
He said: “You get people from all different walks of life. I’m a former policeman, there’s a retired headteacher, and there are younger people aged in their 30s, all with the same goal - to have a nice walk and enjoy the company.”
2016 marks an important milestone for the group as it is 20 years since its formation.
It was launched in March 1996 by a group of friends who lived in the Swinton, Wath and Mexborough area.
They formed because while there were dedicated walking groups in Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster, there did not seem to be one for the Dearne Valley area.
Since those early days group membership has now grown to 107.
Popularity has soared as like-minded people read about their organised walks around the Dearne - and further a-field to Derbyshire and the Yorkshire Dales - and wanted a piece of the action.
Sue said: “We go on shorter walks of about five miles in midweek during the summer around places like the RSPB Old Moor and Denaby Ings natures reserves.
“We also go on longer walks at the weekend to places like Ladybower Reservoir in Sheffield and Castleton in Derbyshire and then up to places like Malham in North Yorkshire and Bronte Country in Harworth.
“There are some really great places right on our doorstep.”
To mark its 20th year anniversary, the group took on perhaps their biggest walking expedition.
A group of more than 20 members decided to walk the recently-created central route of the South Yorkshire Way.
They completed the route in different sections between March and September.
The group started in Thorne, Doncaster, and finished in Dore, Sheffield, where they celebrated with a glass of champagne each.
Sue said: “It was challenging as some of it went through urban areas, and some was in more rural parts. But we all enjoyed it.”
Another celebration milestone saw original group founder Paul Smeaton retrace the steps that he first took 20 years ago.
He led a group on a walk around Denaby Ings in March - a repeat route of the group’s first-ever walk in 1996.
The group currently has a ‘touring information stand’ which has been sited at various public buildings across the area all year. It is currently at Cusworth Hall.
Dearne Valley Ramblers meet at Swinton Club House in Fitzwilliam Street on the third Wednesday of every month at 7.30pm. New members welcome. For more information visit www.ramblers.org.uk/dearne-valley