For many of us, a good walk is one of the most enjoyable activities we can do. There is just something deeply pleasurable about sauntering along, chatting and taking in the air. It is this idea that is the driving force behind Portobello Walks.
Taking place every Wednesday evening, Portobello Walks is a chance for people to have a walk with friends, stretch their legs and, crucially, have a good time. Cheryl is one of the walk leaders who, together with her colleagues, manages the walks. She says: “It’s really enjoyable, a good laugh. I’ve gained more strength in my legs and more confidence as a result. And it’s sociable – we all have a good chat on the walks, and even get talking to people we meet on the way!”
The group walks along the Regent’s Canal beyond Westbourne Grove before making its way back to Wornington Green. On winter evenings, when it is dark and leaves make the path slippery, the walks avoid the canal and instead stick to the pavements. Portobello Walks, which was founded a few years ago, now has a ‘Walking for Health’ accreditation, part of which involves those overseeing the walks securing a ‘walk leader’ qualification.
“I’ve been taking part in the walks for a couple of years,” says Cheryl, “and last summer I decided to become a ‘walk leader’ so I could help out. It was a day-long course in Hammersmith, during which we learned all about welcoming new walkers, assessing risks to plan the best routes, and making sure we could help those with any injuries. Although I’m pleased to say we’ve had no injuries yet, touch wood!”
“We also make sure that everyone on the walk is OK and not over-doing it,” she adds. “If someone isn’t feeling up to the whole walk, we make sure they get to a bus stop to get them home, or if people are getting tired we stop for a sit down somewhere like Meanwhile Gardens.” Putting people at ease and helping them, as necessary, is very much part of Cheryl’s character.
She moved to the area in 1970, and got involved in local community projects following her retirement from a catering equipment company a few years ago. For 29 years, she worked in sales for the company, working with many of London’s biggest restaurants and hotels – including the Hilton, Grosvenor House, The Savoy and The Dorchester – to keep them in cutlery, crockery and cooking equipment. With a typical smile, she describes her time at the company as “good fun”.
Wornington Green Community Group
But it’s not just Portobello Walks that Cheryl is involved with. She is also the current chairperson of the Wornington Green Community Group (WGCG), an organisation that focuses on social events for the neighbourhood and local community.
With a little bit of funding and earned income – for example, the group is paid by Catalyst to deliver this magazine – the WGCG organises events such as Christmas parties, treasure hunts and day trips. “ We went to Great Yarmouth this year,” says Cheryl, “which was a great trip out. We had a double-decker bus that took over 75 people to the seaside for the day. We got a small grant from Catalyst and the WGCG put some money in too so that the trip was subsidised enough to ensure as many people as possible could come along. Whatever money we have goes towards events for the local community.”
With more than 40 years at Wornington Green, and her involvement with both Portobello Walks and the WGCG, Cheryl is typical of the sort of person on whom neighbourhoods depend. Seeing her speak with friends and neighbours, it is clear how popular she is in the local community – with all her volunteering and work on social events, it is easy to understand why.
Portobello Walks takes places every Wednesday evening, leaving the Canal Way Sainsbury’s at the top of Ladbroke Grove at 6pm. New walkers are always welcome – simply come along one Wednesday, or call the Wornington Green Community Group on 07572 137546 for further information.