Unabridged version: The Pilton Walking Project, Edinburgh

The Pilton Walking Project, Edinburgh


Delivery organisation

Pilton Community Health project


Programme value unknown

About the project

The walking project was developed to help people lead healthier lives and meet other people. The project offers health walks, led by volunteers, free of charge. This is an opportunity to meet residents, explore the city and increase fitness. The walk is open to all, and caters for all levels of fitness and mobility levels. Families with small children are also welcome to join in. Stepometers and walking diaries are available for people wishing to monitor their fitness programme and measure progress.

For those people who wish to volunteer with the project, there is full training on request. The 2009/10 Annual report highlights more than 100 walking opportunities, and more than 50 people have participated in the walks, including 88-year-old Nancy.

While anyone is able to join in on the walks, the project does receive referrals and works with other local projects to refer on participants. This includes the smoking cessation project and Pilton counselling service.

The project is funded by a number of organisations which includes NHS Lothian, The City of Edinburgh Council, Forth and Inverleith Neighbourhood Partnerships, Fairer Scotland and Social Justice Funds, Scottish Government (Third Sector Enterprise Fund), Paths to Health, Scottish Community Foundation Volant Trust, Awards for All Scotland, Links Foundation and Community Food and Health (Scotland).

The project has now been running for six-and-a-half years.

The big idea

The Pilton Walking Project emerged from the ‘move it' project - a project to promote physical activities developed by the Pilton Community Health project.

Setting up the project

The Walking Project targeted residents in the Pilton area of Edinburgh, a deprived area in the north west of the City. The project is primarily for older people. However, over the years the project has been extended to include other groups of residents. For example, more recently the Walking Project has invited people that attend a mental health project to participate in the walks. The community development officer began promoting the project to local agencies but the project took awhile to gain momentum. The community development officer began by talking to as many people as possible, particularly local agencies that could encourage people to start walking, including GPs. It GPs were a particularly important group to get buy in for the project as they come into contact with a large proportion of the older community. Finding the right person in a GPs surgery, who will commit to promoting the project can be difficult and time consuming.

Getting people to incorporate behaviour change can take time. This can be particularly difficult in deprived areas, where residents may have other concerns which can take precedence over walking.

The community development worker promotes and manages the project, recruits volunteers, promotes the walks and works with other agencies. The project is also supported by active volunteer participation. The volunteers help with promotion and help guide the project. This is particularly key given that the project continues to evolve

The project has evolved, for instance they now have buddy walking to help new comers to the group. This helps to better manage anxiety of group members. The group is popular amongst older residents and unemployed women of all ages who want to lose weight.

Impact of the project

Residents have forged really strong groups. Whilst physical changes are harder to measure, walkers have become much more confident. There have been improvements in their general wellbeing and the group has developed supportive networks. The walks also encourage people to explore areas that they haven't visited since childhood and can overcome any fears of exploring the neighbourhood. The older walkers have benefitted from physically maintaining themselves and preventing deterioration.

The walking project has built on new and existing partnerships with local agencies. It has particularly beneficial to share learning and skills, particularly in the absence of a team. The project has built on the broad skill base of colleagues in other agencies and volunteers.

Lessons learned

It is important to work with partner agencies that share an understanding of the project. This can help in terms of recruitment or sharing resources. A project of this nature can be slow to get off the ground and therefore has to fit in around people's lives and their needs. The project needs to evolve with the emerging needs.

The volunteers have been invaluable on this project and it is important to highlight to them the difference that they make.

Three top tips

  • Knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are: finding people to help you with things that you are not strong at
  • thanking people along the way
  • don't get disheartened: find out what resources and help are available and build on the learning.

Next steps

The funding for this project will end in the summer of 2011 but the project will evolve with the aim to attract new funding or use available funds.

15 September 2011

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