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Heath walk leader: Walking on Hampstead Heath 'should be prescribed by GPs'

PUBLISHED: 10:00 24 August 2019

Richard Pilkington, one of Camden's Community Champions who leads walks on Hampstead Heath each Monday. Picture: Camden Council

Richard Pilkington, one of Camden's Community Champions who leads walks on Hampstead Heath each Monday. Picture: Camden Council

Vanessa Berberian

For the best part of two decades, Camden Health Walks have been taking place on Hampstead Heath.

With a team of leaders all keen to get people doing a bit more exercise, it's a little community meeting once a week, rain or shine.

One of the leaders is Richard Pilkington, who took up the role when he swapped a hectic life running an further education college for retirement.

He told the Ham&High: "I don't understand why it's not something you get a prescription for. Both for mental and physical health, doctors should be saying 'go for a walk a week'."

Richard has been a walk leader for more than two years, and in that time he said he's only missed, he thinks, four or five Monday walks.

"Part of the reason, both for Richard and the people who join him each week, is the sense of routine.

He said: "A fella spoke to me this week about it, he just said: 'If I miss that I'll miss the walk and I'll miss the company.' It's the same for me, really, it's been a really helpful thing to have when I retired."

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Richard explained that some people have been going on the walks since they began in 2000s, and the inevitable sense of community has grown.

Last week, he said, he even attended the funeral of a woman who, her husband told him "lived for the walks".

He added that the sense of community was infectious, saying: "What tends to happen is people can hardly remember where they have walked!

"We try to do a different route each time, and I bet people don't always remember where we've taken them - that's because they're too wrapped up in the company of other people on the walk.Everyone who comes is so like-minded.

"On a good day we get 40-plus people, even on a rainy one 20 to 25."

Richard got involved on a whim, with a bit of walking experience and having lived near Camden Square, he fancied a chance to stay fit and healthy in the outdoors.

He said: "I had a bit of health scare, and it seemed a positive thing to do!"

"I've realised I didn't really know Hampstead Heath. There's so much to it, and I'd barely been to beautiful Golders Hill Park before this.!"

Each walk begins on a Monday at 9.50 from South End Green. All welcome.

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