Thursday, 13 April 2017

Our 5 favourite Spring walks to try this Easter

The Easter holidays are nearly upon us, giving friends and families more time to spend together to enjoy the sunshine (hopefully) and fresh air. These seasonal changes make fitness training far more pleasant and we can take great delight in some of the amazing Spring walks that the South East has to offer.

We’ve put together this handy guide to 5 of our favourite routes around South-East England covering West Sussex, East Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey and London.

We’ve deliberately picked walking routes that come in at less than 10km, making them more suitable for younger families, varied fitness levels and ages alike, take a look and see… 

1. Explore ancient woodland whilst walking in West Sussex

Slindon Estate, West Sussex
Starting point: Eartham
Distance: 6km (3.8 miles)
Time to complete: 1 hour 30 minutes (average)

It was pretty obvious that the South-Downs would feature on this list, it is after all the home of Just Walk, and this one is certainly one of our favourites for this time of year.

As the largest traditional estate occupying the South Downs, Slindon is a well traversed area. Starting at The George Inn at Eartham, this splendid walk around Nore Hill Folly really encapsulates the beauty of the South Downs, truly coming alive around mid-April time, when the bluebells bloom under the expansive canopies of old beach trees. Perfect training terrain.

For further information of this walk, please click here.

2. Walk amongst the Bluebells in East Sussex

Crowhurst Walk, East Sussex
Starting point: Crowhurst Railway Station
Distance: 5.5km (3.5 miles)
Time to complete: 1 hour 30 minutes (average)

Crowhurst Walk offers a mix of scenery along its route, guiding you around the village of Crowhurst itself and through the ancient woodland reserve at Fore Wood. In spring, the Wood is a mass of bluebells, you might also see early purple orchids

Along the way, you’ll pass The Ancient Yew in Crowhurst Churchyard, thought to possibly predate the Roman’s – that’s nearly 3,000 years old! This area is also teaming with wildlife, particularly when you reach Fore Wood, owned by the RSPB; naturally, birds are the main attraction, and you can expect to encounter numerous species of woodpecker, moorhen, mallard and, if you’re lucky, kingfisher and grey heron.

Discover more about this walk here.

3. A walk for butterfly and dragonfly spotting in Hampshire 

New Forest, Hampshire 
Starting point: Hale Purlieu car, National Trust car park
Distance: 4.8km (3 miles)
Time to complete: 1 hour – 1 hour 30 minutes (average)

Perfect if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, this route takes you in a figure of eight through Hale Purlieu, guiding you across streams.

With fantastic views overlooking the New Forest Northern Common’s valleys and mires, the area is home to various types of wildlife, so keep an eye out for flying insects like dragonflies, butterflies and birds like stonechats and Dartford warblers. From March to July its nesting bird season, so if you’re bringing your dog, be sure to keep it on a leash at all times. Also, be prepared to cross the shallow streams - waterproof boots will be needed.

Find out more about this route right here.

4. Walk across stunning woodland and heathland in Surrey 

Frensham Walk, Surrey
Starting point: Bacon Lane, Churt
Distance: 9.6km (6 miles)
Time to complete: 1 hour – 3 hours (average)

Enjoy rambling through the heathland and woodland around the village of Frensham, taking in the beautiful views. This walk encompasses the two ponds of Frensham known as Great Pond and Little pond as well as interesting and unusual wildlife; sand lizards, Dartford warblers, nightjars, and plants such as the insectivorous sundew.

Stop for refreshments at Frensham Little pond, where you can fill up on tasty snacks and homemade cakes. Alternatively, there’s the popular The Holly Bush pub further into the walk.

Discover more about this walk here.

5. Walk a disused railway at London’s longest linear nature reserve

Parkland Walk – North West London 
Starting point: Finsbury Park, London
Distance: 5.5km to (3.5 miles)
Time to complete: 1.5 – 2 hours (average)

This walk offers an excellent opportunity to experience wildlife right in the heart of the city. Take in some alternative views of London whilst trekking the course of a railway that runs from Finsbury Park, through Alexandra Palace at the turn of the century.
Take a dawn walk here in Spring, when it is less busy and you’ll be greeted with the railway’s dawn chorus, a remarkable sound, and not one often heard in the city.

Learn more about this unique London walk here.

We’d love to hear from you and find out what your favourite walk is and where it is. Please feel free to comment on our blog… we may also share these on our social media platforms too (thank you in advance).

The Whole Kit and Caboodle…

You’ve booked your Just Walk place, your training is underway but how else can you prepare for the big day? 

A big part of being prepared for any physical challenge is making sure you have the right equipment for the job. Not only will it give you more confidence in taking part in the challenge; as the saying goes, you need to ‘dress for success’, but by having the right kit, it will ensure you are as comfortable as can be when taking part in the Just Walk challenge.

Using our experience of the event and speaking with our ‘Just Walker’s’, here are the essentials you will need to bring with you on the day:

What to wear on a long walk (kit check): 

Comfortable sturdy walking boots (rather than trainers), preferably waterproof. We recommend you buy the best pair of walking boots you can afford. They need to support your feet, keep them warm and dry, and most importantly they should feel comfortable! Now is the perfect time to buy them so you can train in them, and 'break them in' to minimise blisters on the day.
Thin lightweight trousers or shorts. Whatever you choose to wear, ensure you train in the clothes you will wear on the day to minimise friction burn and chafing.
Walking socks. Try a few options out first to see what suits your feet and boots. A good pair of socks absorb shock, help prevent blisters, regulate temperature and promote good circulation
Layers of clothing. At least two thin top layers, so you can adjust your temperature more easily.
A lightweight, zip-up jumper. A medium fleece top would be perfect and the zip-up enables you to adjust the airflow to your body.
Walking poles. A personal choice as to whether you will find these useful. Give them a go in your training programme and see how you get on with them, they can be very beneficial in hill climbing and descending.

Top Tip: Wear every item of clothing you are planning to wear on the day, on at least 3 training walks. There is nothing worse than an annoying label you discover a mile in to the walk!

What to carry on a long walk (useful items):

Waterproof jacket and trousers
Sunhat, with rim if possible
A couple of spare top layers including a warm fleece (see above)
Sun lotion / block
Spare walking socks
Water bottle or Camelback/Platypus style container that holds 2 litres (something that can be refilled at power stations)
Small first aid kit (plasters and Vaseline for potential chafing)
Mobile phone (fully charged)
Spare money, just in case
Snacks to sustain energy

Top Tip: Choose a rucksack that is lightweight yet strong. Padded shoulder straps and a harness that goes around your chest and stomach to give your back added support helps distribute the weight of items inside your bag, making it easier to walk and maintain energy levels.

Now you have your kit checklist (not including the kitchen sink) to get your prepared for the big day, it leaves us with just one last message…

“Good luck and enjoy!

We can’t wait to say hello to everyone and cheer you round the course, roll on Saturday 13th May!” 

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Meet James: a veteran Just Walker with a moving story


Having just celebrated our tenth anniversary year, we decided to catch up with one of our veteran Just Walkers and find out what it is about the day that keeps bringing them back.
We caught up with 67-year-old James Kinsella, who kindly agreed to share his poignant story that inspired him to take on the Just Walk challenge; one of sheer determination, a big heart and an unwavering dedication to keeping on top of his game.

“Just Walk seemed like the perfect fit”

Just Walk (JW). What is it about Just Walk that first attracted you?
James Kinsella (JK). The main draw for me was the rural setting; I grew up on a farm in Ireland, which has given me a love for horses, farms and fields – it all holds a very special place in my life; my memories. Just Walk seemed like the perfect fit.

J.W. The South Downs certainly does sound befitting; how much of the beautiful scenery do you like to experience each year?

J.K. Well, I usually walk the 20k. This year [2017] though, I’ll be undertaking the 30k for the first time – I feel it’s time to push myself a little further now! Then the year after [2018] I’m going take the 40k challenge to celebrate my 70th birthday. 

J.W. We love your enthusiasm James… just how many times have you taken part?

J.K. So far ten times. I joined the first ever walk in 2006 and haven’t looked back! This year will be my 11th Just Walk and I’m determined to keep doing it for as long as I can.

“Life is far too short; get out there and engage with the world”

J.W. Many of our Just Walkers love to fundraise for charity; others just crave the personal challenge – what is it that drives your enthusiasm to Just Walk every year?

J.K. When I became semi-retired, I started walking to stay fit, healthy and active, but one of my biggest motivations is my grandson, Riley; he was born with a cleft palette and had to go through lots of operations at a very young age. Then, six years ago, he suffered a serious asthma attack and ended up in intensive care at the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London. The care and support their staff provided Riley and my family has made me eternally grateful to them all, so fundraising for their charity is enormously important to me.

I’m driven to give back to others, particularly my grandson, and that was spurred on after the death my brother. An avid walker and mountaineer, he climbed Kilimanjaro in Kenya years ago, but after collapsing, he passed away in a nearby town. That made me realise life is far too short; you should get out there and engage with the world.

J.W. Do you go with friends or family each year, or is it a challenge you prefer to do undertake alone?
J.K. I usually attend the event on my own – I can be a little impatient, which is why you’ll normally see me amongst the first 2 or 3 people. That said, it is nice to find someone that matches my pace and rhythm along the way. Last year I walked a large part of the route with someone else and at the end we crossed the finish line together.

“Competition isn’t important; charity fundraising is what really keeps me going”

J.W. Impressive! You must keep fit to keep ahead of the pack – do you use a clear training regime in the lead up to the big day?
J.K. Well, I walk all the time, usually 20 miles a week on average. But leading up to the event itself I increase my distance every week, up to about 35 miles per week. It keeps my fitness levels in good condition.

J.W. Has your dedication to your fitness improved your time over your 10 years of doing Just Walk?
J.K. My quickest time doing the 20k is about 3 hours and 20 minutes, though I don’t do it to get a personal best. I always hope to knock off 5 to 10 minutes from my best time, but competition isn’t important; charity fundraising is what really keeps me going.

“Training! It’s absolutely essential.”

J.W. Do you have any top tips for anyone who has just signed up for this year’s event?

J.K. Training! It’s absolutely essential. If possible, start walking around three months before the event, but certainly as soon as you can. Also, add in hills to your route – they really do push you, particularly if it’s been raining.

Also – quality hiking boots! Mine are around £140. You must look after your feet and keep them protected to avoid blisters. The right socks, too; good ones to absorb sweat and give you the right support.
And take lightweight, quality gear – you don’t want to be too weighed down on a long walk.

On the day, begin at a leisurely pace and get a good rhythm going. Most importantly, enjoy it; the scenery, the wonderful people and all the wonderful charities being supported. It’s such a positive day!

J.W. Thank you, that’s great advice! Finally, James, could you share with us one of your best memories from the day?
J.K. A couple spring to mind; I remember seeing a mum who must have been unwell with her 4 or 5 children, being taken around the course. Seeing them do it as a family, supporting each other and supporting a wonderful cause - that was really touching.

The other has got to be the first time I took part in Just Walk. I am so proud I did the first one and that I achieved it with so many happy memories. I surprised myself that I was so capable; I wouldn’t, and haven’t, missed one since.

J.W. Thank you very much for sharing your touching story with us James, it’s been an absolute pleasure. We look forward to seeing you once again on the 13th May 2017!

J.K. And thank you too - I look forward to it!


If you would like to show your support for James’ 30k walk this May, head over to his donation page and donate to the Evelina Children’s Hospital.

For more information on Just Walk 2017, including training advice, handy tips and up-to-date event news, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

If you would like to book your place at the start line, sign up today!

Monday, 27 March 2017

Fundraise faster with JustGiving

Just Walk began back in 2006, our walkers have raised over £2 million for numerous charities and already we are seeing that number growing as we move closer to our next walking event for 2017.

Whether you’re planning on participating in the event on your own or with friends and family; Just Walk is a superb day out! Your day will be spent surrounded by lots of different people, some dressed in crazy costumes, some will be experienced walkers and for some it will be their first ever challenge – but everyone will have their own story to tell as to why they are doing this event. It may be for a personal challenge or it may be to raise funds for a charity of their choice.

If you wish to use Just Walk to fundraise, then a great way to do this is through the UK’s first online fundraising platform JustGiving.

Presenting JustGiving

JustGiving (the name is merely a coincidence, we promise) is one of the most popular and easiest platforms in the world for charity fundraising. We’ve signed up with JustGiving to help make it even easier for you to achieve your fundraising goals.

Follow our guide below to set up your JustGiving account and once complete you’re ready to walk the distance to make a difference.

6 easy-to-follow steps:
  1. Book your place(s) at the just Walk 2017 event choosing either the 10k, 20k, 30k, 40k or the BIG 60k – just click the button…
  2. Click the 'Start fundraising' button below to begin:
    N.B. For your convenience, by using this link, the Just Walk event on May 13th 2017 is automatically linked to your fundraising page.
  3. Fill out your details to create your account (alternatively you can login with your Facebook profile)
  4. Choose the charity you wish to support – you can fundraise for any charity around the world too, not just in the UK!
  5. Select the relevant options on the next page and click ‘Create your page'
  6. Now spread the word instantly via social media or email, and wait for the donations to come in. All donations through JustGiving are sent directly to your chosen charity.

Last minute fundraising tips:
Once you’ve set up your JustGiving page, you may be wondering if you have enough time to raise money for your chosen charity – you do, so don’t fret!
Take a look at these useful last-minute tips when fundraising through JustGiving…

  • Up to 20% of donations come in after the event has finished*, so just update your fundraising page after Just Walk on 13th May with how well it went and you might just see those extra pennies come rolling in.
  • Share your Fundraising Page on your social media platforms – Did you know that when someone likes your Fundraising Page on Facebook it could raise you an extra £5 in donations? *

Once you’ve followed these steps, you’re good to go! If you still have any questions, feel free to contact us, or see JustGiving’s FAQ page on their website here.

* Source: JustGiving

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Alan has won a FREE Just Walk place, who will be next?

Yes, that’s right we are very pleased to announce Alan Wood accepted our challenge and is our first Media Champion to have his article published in his local paper The Faversham News and so now qualifies for a FREE place on our 2017 Just Walk!

Alan will be tackling the 60km route to raise funds for his chosen charity Alzheimer’s UK, a charity close to his heart as he has friends and family affected by dementia. By completing the 60km walk within one-day he is hoping to raise £250 for this worthy cause. If you would like to help Alan reach his target you can sponsor him on his Just Giving page.

A massive well done to Alan and good luck with your training and walking the BIG 60km on the 13th May. We promise we will be cheering you across the finish line.

If you are up for a challenge and becoming a media champion sounds like something you would be interested in it’s not too late to take part.

Want to be a media champion yourself? This is what you have to do… 
Just follow these 3 steps by 30th April:
  • Just book your place for the 13th May 2017 Just Walk event – right here
  • Just contact your local newspaper and convince them to print a picture of you, saying that you’re fundraising for the charity of your choice at the Just Walk event.
  • Just prove it with a picture: send us your proof to OR visit us on Facebook or Twitter ‘Like / Follow’ our page and post it on our Timeline with the hashtag #MediaChampion

We look forward to seeing all of your entries and joining our exclusive ‘Media Champion’ group!

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Find out what motivates James to complete his 11th Just Walk

Walking one ‘Just Walk’ challenge is a great achievement but to have walked every single one since we started back in 2007, like our lifelong walker James Kinsella, is simply amazing! James usually undertakes the 20km route but in 2016 he raised the bar and took part in the 30km event, and to celebrate his 70th birthday in 2019 he has already decided he will take on the 40km challenge!

Raising money for his chosen charity, one that is very close to his and his family’s hearts is all the motivation James needs to carry on participating in Just Walk. Read on to find out why fundraising is so important to James and why he takes on the Just Walk challenge each year…

“Having worked in the NHS as a qualified nurse for many years it was only after semi-retiring in 2002 that I found the time to start walking. I thought it would be a good way to stay fit and healthy as well as something that I could do anywhere and at any time, especially around the parks of Crystal Palace in London where I live. It also fitted in well with my new job at the Courts and Tribunal Services where I’m not as busy as I was, and now have more time to spend on myself.
I was born and lived in Ireland until I moved to London when I was 24, so one of the things I now have time to do is go back and visit family and friends every few months for a catch up. During that time I love to walk and explore the countryside. I’ve always been an active person and enjoy being outdoors, especially after having grown-up on a farm. I’m used to taking myself off in to the countryside and I have to say, it doesn’t get more rural or picturesque than the wild and windswept landscapes of Ireland. I also used to enjoy amateur athletics in my younger years and more recently I have taken up mountain climbing - I think now with all the walking I do, I am probably healthier than when I was back in my 30’s and 40’s.”

“For me, age isn’t a barrier and I really feel that it shouldn’t stop you or hold you back from trying new things. Look at me, I’m a great example that you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it. I’m quite an emotionally driven person and for me, it took my retirement and unfortunately the passing of my brother when he was on a climbing trip to Mt Kilimanjaro in Kenya, to show me that life is too short and to make every day count, which is why I started researching various challenges I could take part in. Another big reason I wanted to participate in a challenge, to be able to fundraise and give something back to a worthwhile charity, is for my very special grandson, Riley. Riley was born with a cleft lip and palate, and had to endure various operations, all at a very young age. 6 years ago Riley had a very serious asthma attack which ended up with him being admitted into intensive care. Thankfully with the care and support of the staff at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital he is now a well, happy and thriving little boy. We are so grateful to the hospital as a family so this is my way of supporting them and saying a massive thank you. His mum and dad also set up the ‘Riley Carp Challenge’ annual charity fishing competition which raises much needed funds for the Evelina Children’s Hospital who treat and care for many brave children like Riley and has successfully raised over £3000 to date." If you would like to support James and donate to his chosen charity, the Evelina Children’s Hospital please click here.

“I sometimes surprise myself that I have achieved these Just Walk challenges. I remember my first walk, it was a really emotional moment when I completed the route as I was so pleased and proud that I was capable of finishing, and now I wouldn’t miss taking part in any of them. That said, it does take a lot of training and hard work beforehand so I feel fully prepared for the challenge ahead. I usually walk 20 miles a week around the parks in London and then leading up to the event I increase the distance each week up to a mileage of about 35 miles a week. Over the years this is what I’ve found to be the best training that suits me and ensures I am fit and healthy going into the walk.
My best training advice for first timers, is to start walking about three months before the event and make sure you add hills into your training as there are quite a few on the Just Walk routes which can be quite a challenge, especially if it has been raining beforehand. Invest in some good quality hiking boots and socks as well; you need to look after your feet and keep them supported and protected from blisters. On the day itself, take it all at your own pace, start off at a leisurely pace and find your rhythm, but most of all - enjoy it! It is such a fabulous day with the stunning Sussex scenery all around you, wonderful people to talk to, and great charities being supported, you can’t help but smile and feel positive.”

“I like to walk by myself to start with, so I can find and set my own pace and then I usually meet people along the route to have a chat with. The great thing about this day is that everyone has a story as to why they are walking, so it’s nice to hear and it just makes you think ‘I’m so glad I did this; people are so kind and caring’. The atmosphere is really great, there is always someone to keep you company; last year I found someone to walk with and we crossed the finish line together, which was nice.
I’m quite impatient so although the walk isn’t a competition I am quite competitive with myself and usually finish in the top five of my group. My quickest 20km time was 3hrs 20 minutes, and last year’s 30km took me 5hrs 20mins – I am hoping to knock a half hour off that in 2017! Having said that, I don’t walk to get a personal best, it’s all about finishing the race for my chosen charity. If I can knock 5-10 minutes off my best time that would be an added bonus.”

“Every year I look forward to Just Walk and think that they won’t get any better but they do – every year beats the last one. I have so many touching memories especially over the last 10 years with people from all walks of life supporting and helping one another. This is why I think Just Walk is so special, it brings out the best in people and I for one, can’t wait for the 13th May next year to see what my 11th Just Walk has in store.”

We want to wish James the best of luck for his 30km Just Walk this year, we are sure he will be as amazing as always and can’t wait to hear all about it at the finish line – plus we’re already looking forward to celebrating his 70th birthday with him in 2019.

If you are feeling inspired after reading James’ story and would like to walk one of our Just Walk routes (you can choose 10km, 20km, 30km, 40km or the BIG 60km), then click here to find out more and book your place today.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Q&A with David, one our 60km walkers

Name: David Hawkins
Age: 80 years’ young

How did you first hear about Just Walk?
I have been walking for the last 10 years and initially started on the ‘Big Foot’ walks and then they told me about the Just Walk challenge. So, I looked in to it further, gave it a try and that was it, I have been hooked on the walks ever since.

What distance do you normally walk?
I always walk the 60km route and aim to finish around 9pm. I chose this route so I could have something to aim for, I find it’s also a great barometer check for my health. I enjoy long distances and setting myself challenging goals.
How many times have you taken part in a Just Walk challenge?
I have participated in Just Walk for the last 8 years and last year out of 75 people walking the 60km route I came in the top 25 – not too shabby! 

What made you want to get involved?
It started as I wanted to stay active and keep fit but having walked for so many years now I love the social aspect of the walk, making friends along the way and meeting lots of new and interesting people. I’m a bit of a rebel so also want to prove that age doesn’t mean anything, you can achieve whatever you put your mind to.

I also raise money for my local hospice when taking on these Just Walk challenges, it’s a great way for me to give something back. My daughter is a Macmillan nurse and last year she supported me on the walk, she waved me off at the start, met me halfway through the route and then was there at the finishing line which was so lovely to see. She also made me a scrapbook afterwards for my 80th birthday full of photos of me throughout the walk as well as messages and drawings from my family which I will treasure forever.

Who do you normally walk with?
I normally walk on my own so I can set my own pace that I’m comfortable with and then just chat and meet up with people as we walk along. The social aspect of walking was an unexpected surprise but is one of my favourite parts of the walk.

Do you do any training for the challenge?
Yes, I live in North Malvern, Worcestershire so I find walking along the stunning Malvern Hills ridge which keeps me fit. After Christmas and through to the date of the Just Walk, I walk to the ridge and back every week which is approximately 20 miles as well as walking with my local ramblers group. I also enjoy spinning classes down at my local gym, I like to stay fit and active as you can probably tell.

Do you have a top tip for anyone who has just signed up for this year’s event?
Train – you absolutely must do this so you are fully prepared, especially for the BIG 60km route. Include hill walking in your training as there are a few on this route and you don’t want to be caught unawares.

It is also worthwhile investing in decent kit, so walking boots and socks are essential and a  lightweight backpack. Don’t make the mistake I made a few years ago where I carried an excess weight in my backpack which caused me considerable problems.

What is your best memory from the day?
I have so many but one that sticks out in my mind is a memory from about 3 or 4 years ago where a group of soldiers (I think cadets) where walking the 60km route like myself and they shot off at the start, all guns blazing (not literally). About three quarters of the way around I found one leaning against a fence, he couldn’t walk and was saying he couldn’t finish. I spoke to him and managed to help motivate him to continue. We then came across 2 more of his group with cramp and serious blisters. Again after talking to them, we all continued together and I felt great pride watching them cross the finish line together arm in arm to the acclaim of the crowd.  I followed behind them at a discreet distance. They thanked me for my encouragement, and said that without my support they would have not finished.