Mansfield Instep

InStep - Walking for Health in Mansfield

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Our History

First Steps

The Walking for Health initiative (WHI) was launched by the Government in 2000 via the Countryside Agency and British Heart Foundation with extra funding from the New Opportunities Fund and sponsorship from Kia Cars. This was in response to the growing number of inactive people in England at increased risk of obesity, diabetes and particularly coronary heart disease. Concentration of effort was in 205 deprived areas with high health needs.  Existing local agencies were used to set up the first government 5 year funded walking groups; Gill Grievson of Greenwood (Nottinghamshire’s Community Forest) was successful in bidding for funds in this area. The task of establishing the group was spearheaded by Groundwork Ashfield and Mansfield.     


   Advert for first volunteer walk leaders

2002: Recruitment

The Steering group meeting of organisers from Groundwork, Greenwood, the Countryside Agency, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, the Primary Care Trust, and volunteers, was held in the Cattlemarket Tavern, HQ of Groundwork, chaired by Brendan Anderson who was on a gap year before going to university (he had hoped to spend it working for needy people in Africa!)

Volunteers agreed to establish 5 walks of one hour on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. These were Manor Park, Carr Bank Park, Vicar Water Country Park, The Carrs and Pleasley Trail. Funds were used for advertising and administration, training, first aid and other equipment and high visibility clothing. The aim was to provide a safe exercise experience for those with poor fitness, those on GP referral schemes and those who lacked the confidence and motivation to walk independently. All walks were to be free, a register taken and a brief health questionnaire to be completed.

Under the guidance of Groundwork the first routes were gradually devised and risk assessed by the newly trained leaders. (Barbara Ripley on 11th December 2002, Andy Parks and Phil Proffitt on 9th April 2003; other leaders were gradually recruited as the group grew.) An administrative structure was developed to deal with finance, record keeping, publicity etc. and a constitution written. More routes were developed to include all the wards of Mansfield and numbers of walkers increased thanks to the hard work, both pratical and social, of the growing leader team.

2003: November

InStep became independent though links with Greenwood were maintained under the Friends scheme. A committee of leaders was formed under the chairmanship of Brian Whittingham with Barbara Ripley as secretary. Andy became treasurer and Phil walks coordinator, a role he still holds.


First News Letter


2005: Governmemt funding ceased but the committee rose to the challenge and was successful in applying for grants from Mansfield District Council, Nottinghamshire County Council and Nottinghamshire Community Foundation.  In 2006 David Bird was elected as the new chairman, spearheading the search for new funding sources.  Derek Myton stepped in as secretary for a year despite not being a walk leader. Christine Johnson then assumed the mantle in 2009.

2008: Natural England took over the national scheme as Walking for Health (WfH). A national data base was set up using the Outdoor Health Questionnaire (OHQ) and register records entered after each walk.  By the end of 2008 the number of walkers had increased to 115.  

2009: Jane Kockum became secretary and InStep received accredited status from Natural England, and later featured on the national website as walking group of the month. The first website was launched under the guidance of Neil Mudford.  Funding from the local authorities decreased and it became necessary to seek alternative sources in the local community, gratefully acknowledged on each programme of walks.

2010: Jane inaugurated Wednesday one hour walks, much appreciated by those enjoying less strenuous routes.  Sheelagh Holland was elected to the chair and in 2011 Pam Breedon as secretary.

Social Events

The positive and inclusive approach of the leaders has also enabled the group to develop a programme of other activities, beginning with longer walks in the Peak District, dances, Christmas meals and even holidays.  Initiated by Barbara Ripley and Hazel Buckley a Social Committee was formed, soon joined by Sharon Day and Marion Tate.  The ethos of Walking for Health thus extended beyond merely the physical to include also mental and social support.  In 2009 Brenda Berresford joined the committee and introduced the first annual programme of events, for 2010.  Its success ensured another in the following year.  Sadly other commitments of committee members led to its demise at the end of that year.  However the programme of activities has continued mainly thanks to the efforts of Marlene Mee, Pam Breedon, and Jaci Sanders.  As funding is now so difficult to procure any profits help to ensure all walks remain free.

2012: InStep adopted a new constitution at the Annual General Meeting as the group had grown and matured to its present structure in its tenth anniversary year. To celebrate this Sheelagh held a picnic in her garden and later in the year co-ordinated the planting of 100 trees at Oakham Nature Reserve.

Membership of registered walkers reached 253. Another milestone too as on 1st April Natural England handed over WfH to Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support. Sadly we said goodbye to Rob Gornall from Natural England, who had always been helpful and supportive to us. Reregistration of walkers showed the number of active walkers was 222 with numbers per walk varying from six to sixty according to the weather!  20 leaders continued to work with the enthusiasm and commitment established by founder members.

2013: Our new website was created by Jane with mentorship from Island Host. 32 walks were now offered on a rolling basis. Day trips took place to Liverpool, York, and Manchester Christmas markets, and Marlene arranged a holiday to Torbay in May. A table top sale in June helped to boost our funds. In September Pam was awarded Greenwood's volunteer of the year in the WfH category. In time for Christmas Pam and Jaci chose photos from our walks and InStep's first calendar was published. Proud of our accreditation with WfH, we realised, along with many other groups, we would have difficulty in meeting the new criteria of providing walks of less than 3 miles or 90 minutes.

2014:  Jaci took on the role of secretary and Pam of vice President. Work continued throughout the year to try to ensure that we should be able to stay with WfH.  15 leaders were retrained in March and 6 new leaders were trained and joined the team in the autumn.  However it proved impossible for our longer walks to satisfy the new criteria for accreditation so we began work to become an independent group. In 2014 we walked on 147 days, with an average attendance of about 30.  We did not receive any external funding but thanks to the generosity of walkers and hard work of leaders we have kept solvent by organising events and raffles.  Day trips visited Whitby, Chester, Hull and Stratford on Avon, these events being organised by or shared with Sherwood Foragers.  











There were also two holidays, to the Isle of Wight in August and Gilsland Spa in October.  Winter entertainments were a Barn Dance in November and a splendid Christmas lunch in December.


Our first walk in March as an independent group


2015: In March Mansfield InStep became an independent health walking group with responsibility for its own governance and insurance. We remain committed to providing 3 walks a week and our aim of maintaining or improving the physical and mental health of our walkers. It was necessary to re-enrol our walkers who, by the end of the year reached a splendid 250. A holiday to Bideford in June and Coach trips to Cambridge, Harrogate and Birmingham Christmas markets kept us amused, as did the autumn Barn Dance and Christmas Lunch.




We were delighted in July when Sheelagh received a special recognition award at the Greenwood annual BBQ. Pam and Jaci produced an InStep calendar of our favourite walks, with a popular quiz as to who could name the places.





2016: Pam became our chairman following Sheelagh's amazing stint of 6 years, and Alec Seels vice. Pam was instrumental in beginning InStep's own Facebook page, which seems to have been appreciated by our walkers who post excellent photos there. A holiday was arranged to Worthing in April. Sadly there have been no more InStep holidays to date, so recognition to Marlene who took on the responsibility for the last couple of years holidays. Three day trips were organised: the beautiful Rudyard Lake and Leek, Scarborough, and Leeds Christmas Market. Due to popular demand the calendar was again produced.


The leader team was increased by four.  Phil Proffitt's amusing summary to his walks report at the AGM: Kirkby Parks showed up; Maun Valley dried up; Brierley Park dried out: Poulter Park branched out; Warsop sank with no trace, and Scarcliffe has no place.  


2017: Walk numbers were consitently high, with 400 people registered on our books since independence. The number of walkers for the year totalled 4,173, an average of 30 per walk! No income from grants this year meant belts were tightened, and we were only able to continue with printing the programme and other sundry expenses due to the generosity of our members contributing to raffles Two exceptional outings were a visit to Bempton Cliffs, and York and its Christmas market.



During the year the maps page was updated with a 2017 tracing of all our walks. Our Christmas lunch at South Forest was enjoyed with a tinge of regret as this was the last year of many that it was organised by Marlene.

2018: David Perry became Chairman and Sheelagh Holland agreed to take the role of Vicechair.  Fortunately four new leaders joined the team during the year.  The maps page was updated on the website, making it easier to try the routes independently. 
Pam and Jaci organized trips to Stratford and Chester Christmas markets and mulled wine was enjoyed on three walk days approaching Christmas.  Thanks to Marlene another Christmas lunch at South Forest was celebrated, and the regular raffle boosted funds.

2019: Total number of walkers registered at the end of the year approached 550, but the actual number of walkers on any day is usually about 25 to 30, weather then location being the main deciding factors. No other leaders volunteered to take on the role of officers, apart from Lesley, who remained Treasurer.  David and Sheelagh agreed to serve for another year only.
John Strong took over the organization of coach trips to Whitby and the Christmas market in Birmingham.  John also prepared for another Whitby trip in 2020 but InStep had to stop with the onset of the coronavirus so meeting for the AGM was not possible.  Walks ceased in March 2020.  

2021: Conditions have changed so dramatically that the old constitution is no longer workable.
Leaders have met to set up a trial programme tailored to the likely need of those who were unable to exercise during lockdown and those who walked longer distances.  The suggested new approach is a simply structured group where walks can take place with guides who know the route from the meeting place advertised.    
Unfortunately reduced leader numbers meant that Sundays could not be included in the programme.  These walks were popular with those working and with families (one group included 4 generations) so a younger age profile.  Phil Proffitt was the regular Sunday leader from 2002, a founder member of InStep and Walks Co-ordinator so planned and produced the walks programmes throughout.  Many thanks for inspiring so many of us to keep walking Phil.                            


Walks recommenced in July 2021 under the new constitution, initially offering two walks from the same venue; a shorter slower walk and longer quicker one. This proved popular enabling people who had not exercised much during the pandemic to regain their fitness. The number of walkers registering under the new constitution soon topped one hundred.

2022: Walks continued twice a week throughout the year on Mondays and Thursdays  Routes were varied from the venues, new routes and venues added and were lead by different volunteers. This enabled us to have a greater variety of walks which were popular with the walkers.


Whilst we had over 170 registered members the number of walkers rarely exceeded 20.



Further information

For further details on the history of the national scheme see:

For information about Greenwood see: