TWO Wester Ross women are celebrating over a decade of friendship, thanks to their love of walking and the great outdoors.
Marylynn Burbridge and Janet Whittington have been friends since 2004, and are walk leaders at the Poolewe based Step It Up Highland walking group – supported by Scotland’s walking charity Paths for All.
Along with four other leaders, the duo enjoy planning routes for members of the community who are available to step out on a weekday morning.
Marylynn, a former comprehensive school teacher from Somerset, believes that her flourishing friendship with ex-librarian Janet has been a great motivation.
Marylynn said: “Janet and I have been friends for 14 years. My husband and I first met the Whittingtons at a party and then regularly at Poolewe swimming pool.
“They encouraged us to join them in the Healthy Hearts walking group which we did in 2005. Janet and I discovered that we shared many interests as we talked and walked with what became Step it Up Highland (SIUH).
“With this group we go on a variety of walks, one of our favourites being the scenic Pinewood Trail opposite Inverewe Garden. This area has easy, medium and harder options, allowing the confident walkers to tackle the gradients and those with more limited mobility to follow a gentler route.
“We have up to 20 members and guests attending our Monday outings and come together after all walks for welcome refreshments and animated conversations. One learns a lot about the local area.
“Right now our own SIUH group’s official walks are suspended for July and August due to summer holidays. However, we are currently operating informally as Summer Strollers during the break and have been tackling a few more challenging routes in the sunny weather.
“Walking with Janet and the group has really contributed to my well-being. I feel compelled to get up and go, regardless of the weather and have found a real sense of companionship.”
When not pulling on their walking boots and stepping out into the fresh air, Marylynn and Janet don gardening gear as volunteers at the National Trust for Scotland’s Inverewe Garden. The enthusiastic amateurs meet with others on a weekly basis to be tasked by the professionals to weed, rake, tidy or harvest, depending on season and location.
Marylynn added: “Janet and I very much enjoy these activities which are therapeutic in that they are useful, healthy and allow us to interact with others.
“When we aren’t getting our hands or boots dirty we visit each other’s homes for meals and relaxation, Janet having a good selection of board games.
“With me in Big Sand and Janet in Mellon Charles, we belong to separate book groups but meet monthly at Gairloch Library’s reading group. We have plenty to discuss when walking and gardening.
“Eden Court theatre is a great attraction and Janet and I have with friends enjoyed plays, films, concerts and the ballet. Age has its advantages as if the performance is a matinee we can use our passes to travel to Inverness on the Westerbus.
“We are also members of the local U3A (University of the Third Age) which devises a variety of stimulating talks, events and visits.
“It’s lovely to reflect that being part of a walking group has enabled me to know and like someone with so many of the same hobbies and interests.”
There are over 550 health walks running across Scotland every week. For more information, visit www.pathsforall.org.uk
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