Sian El­lis of the Cotswolds Con­ser­va­tion Board on hav­ing fun while get­ting fit

No pain, no gain? Walk­ing, cy­cling and horse rid­ing make get­ting fit a lot more en­joy­able than that

Cotswold Life - - NEWS - WORDS: Siân El­lis

There is a sneak­ing temp­ta­tion, as days grow shorter, to curl up in­doors and hi­ber­nate. Yet Septem­ber into au­tumn can be a truly glo­ri­ous time to do the op­po­site: whether ex­plor­ing the Cotswolds’ fa­mous broadleaf wood­lands full of earthy smells and colour, or clear­ing your head stomp­ing over the com­mons, or puff-in­duc­ing hills at Brailes.

The health ben­e­fits of ex­er­cise are well known, par­tic­u­larly when com­bined with na­ture, day­light and fresh air. Stress and blood pres­sure fall, and you can lit­er­ally walk your way to re­duc­ing the risk of heart dis­ease, stroke, os­teo­poro­sis and nu­mer­ous other con­di­tions.

Let good times stroll

Bath­scape Walk­ing Fes­ti­val takes place Septem­ber 15-23 (bath­scape­walk­ingfes­ti­val. co.uk), while Durs­ley hosts its sev­enth walk­ing fes­ti­val, Oc­to­ber 4-7, fea­tur­ing over 30 walks (durs­ley­walk­fest.btck.co.uk).

Durs­ley is also home to one of the Cotswolds’ ‘Walk­ing4health’ ini­tia­tives (strollin­gin­stroud­dis­trict.org ). Some peo­ple, per­haps re­cov­er­ing from an op­er­a­tion or ill­ness, are re­ferred to Walk­ing4health by their GP, or you can sim­ply turn up, says Rob Boulton, one of the walks lead­ers. Each week the pro­gramme (catchy slo­gan ‘Let the Good Times Stroll’) of­fers dif­fer­ent routes around Durs­ley, Cam and Uley for dif­fer­ent lev­els of fit­ness and abil­ity (vale­vi­sion. org.uk).

“They are all very so­cia­ble

walks and walk­ing reg­u­larly to­gether helps to keep up the mo­ti­va­tion, it has cer­tainly made me fit­ter,” says Rob, who joined in 2010. “The au­tumn colour in the woods around here is re­ally up­lift­ing. Walk­ing is about men­tal as well as phys­i­cal health.”

Wheel fun

Rhyth­mic ped­alling on a cy­cle ride is won­der­fully ther­a­peu­tic too. Lo­cal lanes – some orig­i­nally de­signed for sheep drov­ing – can of­fer largely traf­fic-free es­capes, and the Cotswolds has an ex­cep­tional abun­dance of by­ways and bri­dle­ways suit­able for of­froad ad­ven­tures.

En­joy a gen­tle jaunt along the Ken­net & Avon Cy­cle Route fol­low­ing the tow­path from Bath to Brad­ford-on-avon, or hit some big hills around Broad­way and We­ston-sub-edge – the Cotswolds’ var­ied land­scapes let you set the pace (plenty more route ideas at www. cotswold­saonb.org.uk).

What­ever your abil­ity, you will find a wel­come at groups like fam­ily-friendly North Cotswold Cy­cling Club (NCCC), based in More­ton-in-marsh, where ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude ‘Go Ride’ ses­sions to help young­sters to im­prove their skills and reg­u­lar week­end group rides rang­ing from 20 to 40 miles.

“With iconic Cotswold vil­lages to pass through (Broad­way, Lower Slaugh­ter, Bour­ton-on-the Wa­ter), iconic climbs to mas­ter (Snow­shill, Dover’s Hill, Sude­ley Hill) and beau­ti­ful vis­tas once you have made it to the top, it’s hard to imag­ine a nicer place to ride,” says Jeremy Grif­fiths, chair of NCCC (north­cotswoldcc.org. uk).

Sad­dle up

Swap­ping wheels for hooves, you can get in­spi­ra­tion for rid­ing routes from the ‘Cotswolds on Horse­back’ se­ries on the Bri­tish Horse So­ci­ety ac­cess web­site (bh­sac­cess.org.uk). If you are a novice or want to im­prove your rid­ing skills, book some ses­sions at one of the Cotswolds many eques­trian cen­tres.

“Horse rid­ing ben­e­fits pos­ture and core strength,” says Ch­eryl Bo­den­ham, of­fice man­ager at Bar­ton End Eques­trian Cen­tre, Nailsworth. Rid­ers of all abil­i­ties and rang­ing in age from four to 75 years old come to Bar­ton End, whether to learn to ride, try show jump­ing, or pre­pare for com­pe­ti­tion. ‘Take back the reins’ ses­sions cater for those who used to ride and want to get back in the sad­dle.

“We also have happy hack­ers; we’ve around 20 dif­fer­ent routes in the beau­ti­ful lo­cal coun­try­side,” Ch­eryl says.

Horse rid­ing can pro­vide fun ex­er­cise and ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits to chil­dren and adults with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties or learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties: the warmth and move­ment of the horse re­lax­ing the rider, help­ing with bal­ance, pos­ture, strength, co­or­di­na­tion, con­fi­dence and many other as­pects of well­be­ing. See Rid­ing for the Dis­abled to find lo­cal cen­tres (in­clud­ing Bar­ton End) that of­fer ses­sions (rda.org.uk).

Pick up poo

Cotswold Rid­ing for the Dis­abled based at Chel­tenham Racecourse is cur­rently fully booked but does op­er­ate a wait­ing list for new rid­ers. In the mean­time, it is on the look­out for more vol­un­teers to help at the cen­tre, says gen­eral man­ager Claire Jenk­ins. “Groom­ing, sweep­ing the yard, tack clean­ing, muck­ing out sta­bles, gar­den­ing in the sen­sory walk, weed­ing and clear­ing in the field” are all among ac­tiv­i­ties – so you keep fit as well as help out.

“We have 16 ponies and each pro­duces ten tonnes of ma­nure a year,” Claire adds. “Pick­ing up poo is a great up­per body ex­er­cise!” If you would like to vol­un­teer – or want some ma­nure for your gar­den – do get in touch (tel. 01242 584420 or visit the web­site cotswol­drda.org.uk).

Rhyth­mic ped­alling on a cy­cle ride is won­der­fully ther­a­peu­tic

ABOVE: Horse rid­ers along the River Eye, Lower Slaugh­ter, Glouces­ter­shire

ABOVE: Walk­ing in Broad­way, Worces­ter­shire

For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on the Cotswolds AONB and the Cotswolds Con­ser­va­tion Board Cotswolds Con­ser­va­tion BoardCotswolds Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre, Fosse Way, North­leach, Glouces­ter­shire, GL54 3JHTel: 01451 862000 www.cotswold­saonb.org.uk

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