Walking for Wellbeing

Walking for Wellbeing

Celebrating the first anniversary of the Wimbledon Common & Village Walk and Talk Movement.

The Walk and Talk Movement celebrates physical wellbeing and mental health and was started in lockdown by local Andy Yates. It has now grown in popularity and is a national campaign, with communities around the UK setting up their own groups. I’d first heard about how good Walk and Talk is from my mother, who has recently moved back to Wimbledon after 30 years away so I was thrilled to join them on a morning stroll for their first anniversary.

The occasion was marked by prominent locals including Stephen Hammond MP. It was also joined by Medical Life Lines Ukraine (MLLU) who brought along one of their ambulances that they have been raising funds for to send out to Ukraine filled with supplies. This extraordinary charity was founded by Village resident Aliya Aralbayeva the day after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.

As we set off, the warm and enthusiastic team of walkers quickly made my daughter and I feel at ease, and it was easy to see why it has become so popular. Digging deeper and chatting to individuals, the appeal of wellbeing and community are at the centre of the group, and the fact that it’s easy. “You don’t have to register, there’s no charge, and so there’s no pressure,” says Michelle who has lived in the Village for 15 years. It’s that ease and community that drew co-ordinator Rob Noble to the organisation as well. “I moved back from Germany to Wimbledon last year, having been away from SW19 for around 16 years. I came back to the Village thinking everything would be the same, and my friends would all be there… but of course life had moved on and people had moved on. So I thought I am going to have to go out and work to get back the life I had all those years ago.” He uses the lovely analogy of stages of giving and taking back in life. “I believe there is an age of taking and an age of giving. I lived in Wimbledon for seven years and enjoyed all of the benefits, but did nothing to put anything back in. We had the facilities, the restaurants, shops and totally took for granted community. Now I’m seeing things from a different side of the track, and I want to give back and provide something for people in the area.”

The organisation is supported by the hard work of the Wimbledon Society, Friends and Conservators of Wimbledon Common, the Friends of Cannizaro Park, the Wimbledon Village Business Association, and the Wimbledon United Residents Associations.

Walk and Talk has grown from strength to strength, and regularly attracts over 50 people a week. It gives locals, and those that come from further afield, the chance to learn about Wimbledon Common and the highlights of the area, chat, and of course get some exercise. As well as upping your step count considerably, it’s an amazing way to learn about history. “Locals join us on the walks, and people come from other areas including Putney, Tooting, Cheam, and Carshalton,” says Rob.

“Every week we have a topic relating to the area, so I’ve learned so much about nature on the common – just last week we had a lecture on azaleas and rhododendrons. Then there are cultural connections as well, we had one walker who did a talk about the The Beatles’ connection to Wimbledon.”

As my daughter and I finished the walk and left the group, we felt warm – partly from the soaring temperatures of that Saturday, but mostly because of the inclusivity and kindness that we had tapped into My mother and her fellow walkers were heading to the Rose and Crown for free tea, and biscuits generously put on by landlady Nicky Green.

In our fast-paced and often anonymous world, Walk and Talk offers exactly the opposite.