The Paston and Boudicca Way to better health
By Chris Dady

Walking is one of the few exercises we can enjoy in lockdown – and Norfolk has an abundance of great walks

There are times we all feel it would be great just to walk away from it all and with over 1,500 miles of Norfolk trails plus walks around towns, National Trust properties and Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserves when open, and permissive footpaths, with wheelchair friendly boardwalks and paths in many places, it is something we all can do.

It is worth making time for too. A recent TV programme, ‘Trust me, I’m a Doctor’, ran a test to see if one extra hour per week spent in nature makes you healthier. This was a small group study of people who spend much time indoors, and the results were positive even from such a small change in behaviour.

This reinforces research about our wellbeing and the benefits of walking for both our physical and mental health. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that those who regularly walked showed significant improvements in blood pressure, slowing of resting heart rate, reduction of body fat and body weight, reduced cholesterol as well as helping with depression, leading to a better quality of life and increased measures of endurance.

Other research programmes found that walking increased creative output by an average of 60%, and that a 10-minute walk is just as good as a 45-minute workout in the gym in relieving symptoms of anxiety. Yet another study concluded that just 12 minutes of walking resulted in an increase in ‘joviality, vigour, attentiveness and self-confidence’ versus the same time spent sitting.

Walking in nature, specifically, was found to reduce depression.

The right-to-roam law means pre-1949 rights of way that are not on official maps must be recorded by the end of 2025 or they will no longer be protected. Particularly at risk are urban paths, with shortcuts behind houses under threat from homeowners extending their gardens, or fencing off paths that have existed for decades. This risk also applies to some ‘green lanes’ and situations where changes to road layouts have created situations where the footpath no longer reaches the road in the official record, which means the path could become legally blocked in the future.

It is worth checking whether all the paths in your area are recorded properly and your parish council should be able to confirm and take action where records need updating.

Local walks are available whether you live in a town or in the country. There is one every month from the Norfolk Ramblers in the Norfolk magazine and the Visit Norfolk website is a great place to start finding out about our many trails and footpaths.

Information on walks is available from Norfolk County Council, Tourist Information offices, Greater Anglia who highlight the many walks available from their stations and many more sources. There are walking groups too so it does not have to be a solitary pursuit, and it is a great way to meet new people.

So, if you are asked about Paston and Boudicca you will know they are both Norfolk trails.
And when you have finished enjoying reading this article – take a walk!

This article was published in the May 2020 edition of the Norfolk Magazine.

Helen Steed
A footpath alongside a hedgerow and farmland in the Norfolk countryside