Contact Andrew Bibby
The London Blind Ramblers
This article by Andrew Bibby, in a slightly different form, was first published in Choice magazine, 2008
David Clark says he first joined his walking group to get more exercise. “I was putting one weight, and knew that I had got to do something,” he recalls. Now Sundays are regularly occupied taking the train out of London to spend the day walking. There are weekends away too, as well a whole week's walking holiday, this year lined up for Sheringham on the beautiful Norfolk coast.
In this respect, David is like the many tens of thousands of people who enjoy the companionship and exercise which comes from being in a walking group. David, however, has been totally blind since he was in his thirties and his walking companions are members of the London Blind Rambling Club. The group has grown considerably in its thirty years of existence, and now boasts about forty members. For each walk in the calendar (arranged between March and October) typically around a dozen are likely to rendezvous at the chosen London rail terminus.
The London Blind Rambling Club has a small number of fully sighted members who sort out the practical arrangements at the stations. But the Club works primarily through a partnership arrangement with a large number of local Ramblers' Association walking groups, who take turns in welcoming the Club to one of their own regular walks. Linking arms, the sighted walkers can advise their blind companions of any obstacles ahead – things like overhanging branches, rough ground and approaching stiles.
Sighted walkers may be able to see the views, but they are less sensitive to other aspects of the countryside, David says. “I'll listen out for the sounds and smells of the area – the noise of cattle or of distant farm machinery, for instance. “ Walking through woods, hearing the distinctive woodland sounds, can be a particular delight: “a wonderful experience”, according to David.
David is the London Blind Rambling Club's Walks Organiser, which means he arranges each year's programme with local Ramblers' groups. The walks vary, he says, from around six to ten miles, so that there's a combination of gentler and more strenuous outings.
As well as the London group, there are also walking groups for blind and partially sighted groups in Cardiff , Brighton and Sheffield.
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