SPRING is traditionally the time to start enjoying the countryside again – and to encourage more people to get their hiking boots on there is a new beginner's walking group starting in town.
To celebrate Ramblers' Get Walking Week, which runs all this week, Derbyshire Dales District Council has launched a short health walk to encourage people to take their first steps to a more active lifestyle.
The scheme offers free walks in the Derbyshire Dales every week day – and more than 6,400 individual walks were completed last year.
The new entry-level walk will leave from Ashbourne Leisure Centre every Thursday. Walks will last from 30 minutes to an hour.
The group will meet at 10.30am and organisers said: "Everyone is welcome, bring your friends and enjoy a short, flat walk around the recreation ground, memorial gardens, and fishpond meadow. All our walks are free and the pace is set by those taking part.''
For those looking for something more challenging the Wednesday group, which also meets at the leisure centre at 10.30am, is a longer walk of between two and three hours.
The district council's walking for health officer, Howard Griffith, said: "Lots of us wish we did more exercise.
"Walking as part of a small group is a good way to start and keep going. You will make friends, encourage each other and discover new walks in and around your neighbourhood.
"It's perfect for people who don't fancy intense exercise. You can start off slowly and build up gradually as you get more confident."
All the walks are free and there is no need to book in advance.
Howard added: "It really is a great way of meeting new friends with the chance to socialise.
"There are few better places to explore than the beautiful Derbyshire Dales, there's a real buzz about the groups and no one is too old or too young to take part.''
More information and a programme is online at www.derbyshiredales.gov. uk/walkingforhealth. Alternatively, call Howard Griffith on 01629 761194 or e-mail howard.griffith@derbyshire dales.gov.uk