Walking group running Festival of Winter Walks across Redbridge and Essex

If you have eaten a few too many mince pies over the festive period and feel the need for fresh air and exercise, a scenic walk may be just the ticket.

It’s not too late to join the West Essex Ramblers’ free Festival of Winter Walks.

The group started the festival on December 22 to offer beginners free rambles through scenic spots in London and Essex, including Chingford, Epping, Camden and the Roding Valley.

Long-time walker John Juchau, 69, said leaders have been going out in all weathers.

He added: “We do walks to suit everybody, from families with buggies to longer routes for experienced walkers.

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“It keeps people fit but it’s as much about the social interaction as well.

“People really open up on a walk and make new friends or catch up with old ones.

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“I even met my wife Pat through walking.”

The West Essex Ramblers is one of the largest ramblers groups in the country, with around 840 members, and was founded 42 years ago.

As well as arranging local walks of different lengths and difficulties, trips and excursions, the group does other work, including conservation, clearing paths and protecting public rights of way.

Walks start free but for an annual subscription, members can go on as many trips with ramblers groups in the UK as they like. John said members of the West Essex group keep on walking way into their 80s, with some people still active in their 90s.

His favourite areas include The Chilterns and the Lake District but he believes there is a lot lying undiscovered closer to home.

John added: “Essex has a lot to offer, it’s largely an unknown county.

“People know the coastal areas but there’s a lot of good walking areas in the countryside.”

Regular rambling haunts include Hainault and Epping forests and the group has many members from Redbridge, as well as further afield.

Join the last walk in the ramblers’ winter festival on January 5 at Thorndon Country Park, near Brentwood.

The group is meeting in the car park at 10.30am.

The West Essex Ramblers go on walks throughout the year.

Excursions planned for 2013 include the South Downs and Sussex.

• For information, visit www.westessexramblers.org.uk or call John on 020 8502 1628.

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