Monday Fellowship: My life as a countryside volunteer

Nigel will be presenting the next Monday Fellowship talk at Bradford Cathedral on Monday 9th March at 2pm. His subject is ‘My life as a countryside volunteer’ and ahead of it we spoke to him to find out more about him, what to expect from his talk, and some of his favourite local walks.

Nigel

Can you give us an introduction to yourself?
My name is Nigel and I’m one of the volunteers for Bradford Countryside and I’ve done that for thirty-five years now. I lead walks for Bradford and for Kirklees. I’ve always liked walking. I come from London and there were only a few places to walk there; to get to the countryside would involve a bus ride, which I used to do with my mates. We didn’t know much about public footpaths: we just walked across fields, and got chased by farmers occasionally!

When I moved up to Bradford, my wife got a dog and I ended up as the one walking it! So I did that and eventually moved onto walking in Bradford around 1984. The person at the back was David Parsons, who oversaw the volunteers. He asked me then whether I’d be interested in leading a walk, but at that point I didn’t know anything about that. David invited me along to the next meeting and I went along and they started to teach us things like map reading, how to talk people when outside and where to stand to get people to listen so they can see you, and it all went from there.

Walks must be good, both socially and for health?
Yes, especially in Bradford. They do weekday walks mainly now and can get up to 120 people per walk!

Do you have a particular favourite walk that you most like?
I have several. I like going through Judy Woods but I have another walks as well around the district.

You are speaking at the Monday Fellowship in March; what will you be talking about?
I’m going to take them back to my roots, and how I don’t come round from here, where I lived and how I used to enjoy going out into the countryside, taking a bus or train out and walking back. Where my cousin lived was actually only about 2-3 minutes from the countryside, as he lived in north-west London and they were still building it around there, and there were lots of places to go. I’ll also talk about how, coming up here, how I started walking, with Bradford and then a year later with Kirklees. I’ll be talking about what interested me when I was down in London and what interests me now from a walking point of view.

How can people get involved with walking and become a Countryside Volunteer themselves?
They would need to get in touch with Danny Jackson on Bradford Council as he’s the one who takes all the people who’ve said they’d like to give it a go. He will invite them along to see them, take notes on what they like and don’t like, and send out a pack. Then you can come out on walks and be helpful back-ups on walks and to find out what’s involved. When you’ve done about six of those there’ll be discussions about the walks, and put walks on.

If you want to come and do a walk you can pick up a walking leaflet from the Visit Bradford Tourist Information or online. I try to give people good details and which bus to catch that sort of thing.

At the moment I’m doing some ‘web walks’ with Bradford Council, where you can print them off and go and walk them. These were done in around 2008 but they need checking and I’m letting them know if there are any problems on them, as quite often after twelve years paths might be taken out and you might end up leading people into someone’s garden!

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