A Facebook group which aims to tackle social isolation while staying fit is encouraging women across Bristol to get involved.
The Bristol Girl Hikers group has been running since February 2018 and provides a community for women to socialise outdoors.
With more than 1,000 members, the group is now hoping to give back to nature by taking part in public tree planting activities.
Creator Charlotte Katherine started the group because she didn’t want to hike alone and being self employed she found it harder to meet people.
The Facebook group gave her a way to connect with like-minded people.
She said: “I was at a Bristol Girl Facebook group coffee meet up and I realised being self-employed meant barely leaving the house any more, let alone speaking regularly to other humans.
“So I posted in the group’s social media page, asking if anyone wanted to create a hiking squad, and the response was overwhelming.
“The following weekend, we went on our first walk together.”
Members of Bristol Girl Hikers have walked a variety of locations, including Leigh Woods, Cheddar Gorge and Brecon Beacons.
One of the members who feels the group has helped her is thirty-seven-year-old Suzannah Green from Knowle, who despite not being able to join the organised walks often due to having a small child, has found encouragement from the group.
She said: “I wasn’t really into sport or fitness at school but a friend of mine, who is a cancer survivor, talked me into joining her in the Jurassic Coast Mighty Hike for Macmillan (a 26 mile hike along the south coast). This took place in June 2019.
“My friend lives in Worcester so I needed to find a local buddy to train with. So, I joined the group after finding Charlotte on the Mighty Hike Facebook page back in February.
(Image: Suzannah Green)
“I met a lady on the Bristol Girl Hikes group, who lived quite local to me, and we did lots of training walks together.
“I really feel the encouragement from the group pushed me to get out of my chair and comfort zone.
“I am now preparing for the June 2020 Mighty Hike Lake District.”
Bristol Girl Hikers introduced Suzannah to smaller and local places which she now visits often with her mum and daughter.
She said: “My mum is 71 and can’t walk very far, but I’ve discovered smaller areas from the groups postings and we revisit them with my daughter and my mum’s dog.
Alongside meeting some great friends, both online and offline, Suzannah has found a new love for hiking and now has a long list of places she wants to visit.
“I would say that the group has given me an appreciation for the outdoors again. I now look forward to getting my boots on and getting outdoors,” she said.
(Image: Bristol Girl Hikers)
Clare Wood is another member who has benefited from the social aspect of the Bristol Girls Hiker group.
She said: “Social isolation can cause me to lose sight of my true self and lead to a disconnection from the world. The group has given me a great opportunity to reconnect physically, mentally and spiritually.
Now the group has accumulated a large following, Charlotte hopes to give back to nature by planting trees around approved areas in Bristol.
She said: “We are trying to find either public tree planting initiatives or people with land who would like to plant trees on their land.
“Our group members are keen to get muddy and plant some trees and we are looking either to join up with a charity who already has the free-planting expertise in place, or to find someone who can help us.”
Other members of the group have branded this an ‘fantastic’ idea, claiming they are ‘happy’ to get onboard.