Skip to main content Skip to footer

'Walking does us the world of good' – Hywel's Story

Walking can have a positive impact on our lives, whatever our age, and it can benefit us mentally, physically and socially. 

Walking Friends Wales was a four-year project, funded by the Healthy & Active Fund, a partnership between Welsh Government, Sport Wales and Public Health Wales. It helped people aged over 50 build up the confidence and strength to start walking, make new connections and voice the need for changes to their local walking environment. It also gave members of the community useful skills to help them lead group walks. 

Hywel Fetherston attended one of our Walk Leader Training days in Merthyr Tydfil in January 2023 and he has put the training to great use. 

Hywel started walking regularly after his wife passed away a few years ago. He felt at a loose end and wanted to do something to keep himself busy. 

At first, he found walking a bit of a struggle but soon became fitter and decided that he wanted to walk in the company of others and discover new routes. He became involved with several walking groups and was already leading weekly walks when he took part in the Walking Friends Wales walk leader training.  

Hywel says that the course really helped him understand the responsibilities involved with leading a walking group and taught him other important skills. As a walk leader, he is well aware of the benefits walking can provide for older adults and he sees them becoming fitter and becoming more confident and independent.  




Photo by Natasha Burnell from Play It Again Sport

“Walking has totally changed me. As well as improving my health, especially my diabetes, it’s nice to get out and chat to people.” – Hywel


Hywel shared that the training had given him the skills and confidence to lead and support many groups, including Welcome to Our Woods - Social Snails, which helps ‘newbies’ – or those who are new to regular walking – and people with mobility issues in the Rhondda valley and the surrounding areas enjoy the great outdoors. The led walks can cover up to three miles depending on surfaces and participant capability and is very popular with the local community.  He's also involved with Play It Again Sport who run walks and other events and recycle/up-cycle sportswear so that everyone has the opportunity to participate in their activities at minimal cost.

“It’s great that so many beneficiaries make the effort to take part in weekly walks. I see them getting fitter each week and coming out of their shell. I think it does them the world of good and it’s nice to be making a positive difference”. 

Hywel himself has benefitted from walking more. As a type 2 diabetic, the regular exercise has lowered his blood sugars levels meaning that he doesn't need to take insulin. He says he’s now a lot fitter and looks forward to the group walks, some of which can be 10-12 miles. 

Walking is a big part of his social life and he feels more connected to his local community. As a result, his mental health and wellbeing has improved. 

“Walking has totally changed me. As well as improving my health, especially my diabetes, it’s nice to get out and chat to people.” 

"My confidence level has rocketed. I used to feel terrified walking into a café on my own. Now I don't give a monkey’s. Walking gets me out of the house and the accountability of being a walk leader means that I always walk, no matter what, as I don't want to let people down. It's good for me."