“I personally couldn’t imagine my life without the bushwalking club, as it has allowed me to have the company of like-minded people to do what I love, that is, bushwalking”. Shirley C., 75 years old.
It’s been found that walking just 30 minutes every day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat and boost muscle power and endurance. It can also reduce your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers. And, it’s free.
Recently, more research has been sauntering into the mental health benefits that regular walking may provide. Especially, as neuroscientist Shane O’Mara believes, “Our sensory systems work at their best when they’re moving about the world”. It appears that walking “makes us healthier, happier and brainier”.
We didn’t just want science, we needed some anecdotal evidence on the benefits of walking as well, and we wanted to hear from leaders, champions in their field or award-winners. Luckily, we found just the people, right here in Gippsland.
The West Gippsland Bushwalking Club was recently awarded the Age-Friendly Victorian Award for an organisation by Victoria’s consistently snappily dressed Governor, Linda Dessau AC, and the Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Luke Donnellan, at a ceremony at Government House.
Mary Habgood, a member of the victorious club, explained that the award recognises an organisation for creating age-friendly communities, promoting active ageing, and improving quality of life and inclusion for older people. All extremely important objectives as the proportion of older people in Australia continues to grow, and pursue purposeful, active lives.
Established in 1998, the West Gippsland Bush Walkers Club is a non-profit incorporated organisation affiliated with Bushwalking Victoria Inc. The club currently has ninety-three members, 96% of whom are over sixty years of age and 48% over seventy years, the oldest being a spritely 84 years young. To cater for a range of fitness levels, the club offers three levels of walks each fortnight.
Given Gippsland’s immense natural beauty and diverse collection of hiking trails (please review our conversation with The Gippy Explorer, Carly Jones, in #12 for a suite of hike suggestions), it’s no surprise that our region is home to several other bushwalking clubs, including the Strzelecki Bushwalking Club, Ben Cruachan Walking Club, Peregrine Club, South Gippsland Walking and Adventure Club, and the Bass Coast Strollers, who score extra points for having the coolest name.
Later this year, all eyes will be on the Gippsland bushwalking scene as the annual Bushwalking Victoria ‘Federation Walks’ will be hosted by the Ben Cruachan Club with support from other Gippsland clubs. In November, walkers from all Victorian clubs will enjoy traipsing throughout Licola’s stunning trails in what should be a valuable boost to our region’s tourism economy too.
The time that the West Gippsland Bush Walkers Club enjoys amongst Gippsland’s natural beauty has fostered a sense of stewardship, and the group co-operates with Parks Victoria and twice a year, under its supervision, participates in clearing two walking tracks. The club has also documented over 150 walking routes covering more than 2000km of tracks thanks to six GPS readers they were able to purchase as part of Community Support Small Equipment Grants via Baw Baw Shire.
Gippslandia isn’t always able to highlight the wonderful achievements that the region’s clubs are responsible for. That’s not the role of this publication. We chose to showcase this club, as they’re representative of so many others: inclusive, passionate, dedicated, industrious, actively seeking to improve the spaces that they utilise (including our parks and bushland) and key pillars in our community.
Hopefully, the following quote from Regina Z., a dedicated bushwalker, is relatable for readers who are involved in one of the many other clubs found throughout Gippsland. If you’re not yet a member, maybe it’s high time you joined: the benefits are huge.
“Participants can learn about and appreciate the natural environment (e.g. urban park, national park, reserve, bushland), whilst enjoying the social interactions made. The sense of community and connectedness to a group, in turn, decreases the feelings of isolation, which could otherwise be common amongst people in rural areas, those who have lost their partners or are remote from their family and friends.
“...the club is an important and essential component of my life. As a newly retired teacher moving to Gippsland, I found the adjustment to having extra ‘free time’, and potentially fewer social connections in a small rural township, was eased considerably by joining the Club. I have been fortunate in forming new friendships with people of various age groups from all walks of life, who have a common love of nature, all whilst enjoying the associated physical and mental benefits.”
If you’re keen to get some hot calves and new friends, you can visit www.westgippslandbushwalkingclub.org.au.
The site provides general information and assists prospective members in contacting the club’s secretary.
To find details on other bushwalking clubs throughout Gippsland, please wander along to bushwalkingvictoria.org.au/frontpage/club-directory-2