Long read: Walking is a great way to see Banburyshire as spring arrives

Banbury and North Oxfordshire Ramblers group members before a Friday morning walk around Drayton NNL-180417-091601001
Banbury and North Oxfordshire Ramblers group members before a Friday morning walk around Drayton NNL-180417-091601001

With the days getting longer and the weather supposedly getting better, there is no better time to start walking.

Banburyshire has great countryside so the Banbury Guardian decided to join an established group for a Friday stroll on our patch.

Banbury and North Oxfordshire Ramblers group members on a Friday morning walk around Drayton NNL-180417-091549001

Banbury and North Oxfordshire Ramblers group members on a Friday morning walk around Drayton NNL-180417-091549001

The Ramblers’ Association is probably the best-known walking organisation in the country and has a strong heritage in Banbury, with more than a dozen walks arranged every month.

Roy Clemence, who has worked as a publicity officer for the Oxfordshire group in the past, said the combination of exercise and social interaction was what makes it so appealing.

“It’s a good place to socialise as you’ve get to walk with people and you get talking to them, find out the people you like and don’t like, but I must confess, I’ve never met anybody in the Ramblers that I don’t like,” he said.

The Banbury and North Oxfordshire Ramblers’ walks vary from three mile strolls to 12 mile hikes all across the district.

I must confess, I’ve never met anybody in the Ramblers that I don’t like.

Roy Clemence

Wednesdays and Sundays are the most common days but other walks are arranged throughout the week and at different times

Mike Peel, who was the leader for the Guardian’s walk around Drayton, has been a member of the group since the 1990s and enjoys the shorter walks these days.

“I changed my job and I was part-retired as I worked part-time for many years that’s when I started, but also I had lost my wife at the same time, so I took it up really to keep myself occupied as I was only in my 50s then,” he said.

“But I‘ve kept it up ever since, unfortunately now we can’t always keep up with some of their walks as they get a lot faster as you get a bit older.

“So that was the concept of the Friday session, it was designed for people like that who still wanted to walk but wanted the social side of it.”

Another group for walking in Banburyshire is the ‘health walks’ organisation which focus on getting active to reduce the chances of illness.

Walking for Health has walks all over the district of varying distances, which Mike said are well attended.

The 79-year-old pensioner, who lives in Banbury, said they used to get 30-40 people coming on the Ramblers’ Wednesday walks but that has ‘tailed off’ recently.

But many still come for the enjoyment of exploring the beautiful countryside surrounding Banbury, the benefits of keeping active through walking, and the friendships forged trekking across fields and over a couple of drinks in the pub afterwards.

Getting stuck in on morning stroll

Jack Duggan joins a walking group to see why more people should have a go.

It is not every day at Banbury Guardian Towers that you get the chance to spend the morning walking through fields for a couple of hours.

For the sake of finding out just how easy it is to get involved in walking, I jumped at the opportunity and made my way over to Drayton to meet the unsuspecting group.

My first reaction after pulling up in The Roebuck Inn car park was the joy at the immediate friendliness of the Ramblers.

I introduced myself and my intentions, which were warmly agreed, and I was quickly part of the group.

The walkers chatted openly about how they got involved with the Ramblers, some who have been doing it for years and others who were coming back after injury.

My second reaction was how poorly prepared I was looking at everyone else’s attire, I only had some old trainers, which were not quite up to some of the muddier fields we encountered - but I wasn’t to know at that stage.

Once we were ready and walk leader Mike Peel set out his plans, the group headed off down the road towards the first field.

Apparently Mike could tell the walkers were having a good time as there was plenty of chatting going on behind as we led the pack.

Roy Clemence’s dog Bertie added to the enjoyment as he raced around the fields surrounding Drayton, finding sticks and any section of water to splash around in.

The scenery was gorgeous on a relatively sunny early-April morning, a deserving treat after climbing the first hill.

We passed through more fields, covering my trainers and trousers in mud as we made our way towards Horley before having a coffee stop by a pretty stream – obviously I was not that organised!

The hour-and-a-half of my first ramble with the Ramblers flew by while my daily step count hit unprecedented levels for a Friday.

Soon enough we were back at the pub, unfortunately I couldn’t stay for lunch with the others, but I bid farewell to my newest walking buddies hopeful I would be back again for more.