How to find a walking group – and transform your life

Make new friends and discover the countryside with a hiking group.

I almost didn’t go to my first walking group event. I was driving to meet a bunch of strangers and then walk somewhere I’d never been to before with them. It suddenly seemed a really stupid idea and I almost turned the car around.

What if I was the oldest person there? What if I was the slowest and couldn’t keep up with everyone? What if no one wanted to talk to me?

Cherryson on a group walk on the Skirrid Mountain, in South Wales.Credit: Phillipa Cherryson
Cherryson on a group walk on the Skirrid Mountain, South Wales.

Thankfully I kept on driving and had a life-changing day, walking end to end along the ridge of the Malvern Hills.

Until then I’d been a cautious day walker, but that walk led to me becoming a volunteer organiser for the online community group Adventure Queens, which encourages more women to get outside in sports and adventure.

Over the past five years I’ve organised more than 100 group walks, weekends away and instructional days. I’ve gained confidence, made friends for life and walked in beautiful places that I’d never known existed before.

I’ve also seen that same transformation amongst the hundreds of women of all ages who have joined me.


A group of women on a walk, including Philippa Cherryson, posing for a picture on a rocky hillsideCredit: Adventure Queens
Cherryson (centre) on an Adventure Queens walk in Snowdonia

There’s something about getting outside, exploring somewhere new and seeing stunning views that gets people talking, sharing and letting down their barriers.

To anyone who is nervous about going on a group walk, all I can say is that nobody gets left behind, nobody cares how old you are, and you will always find someone to talk to.

Reasons to join a walking group

There are multiple health benefits from walking. But group walking has its own added bonuses.

  1. Friendship – The reason why most people join a walking group. To make new friends and widen your social circle. Some single walkers find romance on group walks.
  2. Shared interests – Everyone will be joining the group for the same reasons – to get outside, meet new people and get fitter. You know you’ll have at least something in common with all of them.
  3. You won’t get lost – You don’t have to navigate or rely on yourself to find your way, if you have a walk leader doing it for you.
Sharing the outdoors with other people is a great way of making friends.Credit: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images
Sharing the outdoors with other people is a great way of making friends.
  1. Motivation – It can be hard to get out of the door when it’s cold and miserable outside. But if you know you’ll be chatting with other people and sharing the walk, then it’s something to look forward to.
  2. Confidence – It’s easy to be braver in a group of people. On your own you might be nervous about getting lost; worried about taking on more challenging terrain or just not fancy being out for hours on your own.

Once you’ve found a walking group that interests you, consider what kind of walk you want to start off with. How many miles do you feel comfortable with? Are you looking for a short stroll or an all-day hike? Would you prefer hilly or flat? Most walking groups include walk details on their website, and may include details such as how strenuous the walk is, what the lunchtime arrangements are, and whether you can bring your dog.

If you still have questions or concerns, then contact the organiser before you join.

Professional walk leader Sue Sharp, from Herefordshire, says: “People do worry about whether they will fit in with the group, whether they might be too slow, too old or different to other walkers.

“Every organiser wants those taking part to enjoy themselves. So, get in touch with the walk leader if you are interested in joining, be honest and tell them your fears and what walking you have already done. That way they can let you know whether the walk will be right for you.”

A group of people walking through a field.Credit: Gloria Francis
Walks are tailored for every ability.

How to find a walking group

Walking groups come in all shapes and sizes. Some are led by qualified or professional walk leaders who have insurance in case of accidents, while other groups are organised by volunteers.

The best place to start looking is online.

  • Google – Type in walking groups and your location and you’ll get a list of those closest to you.
  • Social media: Facebook, Instagram and Tiktok are home to hundreds of walking groups. You can search by location, by your interests or by people you identify with. There are hundreds of walking groups across the UK for every background, interest and ability.

Jason Robinson was searching for a hiking group on Facebook in New Year 2022.

He says: “I’ve walked for almost 35 years, but I wanted to go out in company. I found a group called Hiking Buddies, joined and then put myself down for an event the very next day.

“By chance this turned out to be the group’s inaugural hike. I became involved in leading events and after a few weeks the founder, Marlon Miah, invited me to become an admin on the group.

“I enjoy meeting and encouraging new members to join events, some of whom are anxious or nervous. It’s fantastic when I see their successes, as they end up active and really become part of the community.”

A large group of walkers in the forest.Credit: Hiking Buddies
Hiking Buddies has 20,000 members across the UK
  • is another online option to find a walking group local to you.

That’s where Gloria Francis from Solihull, searched for walking groups when she started out.

She says: “I wanted to improve my fitness and meet new people, but it was difficult because I work shifts and can’t do weekends.

“When I found a group it changed my life – I went to places I didn’t know existed and from five-mile walks to more than 20 miles. You don’t need to drive to a national park to walk, there are great walks on your doorstep.

“Now I’m a walk leader and trainee hill and moorland leader. I organise walks in urban and rural areas. We walk through nature reserves, in National Trust land and go past the sort of country houses you’d need a lottery win to buy! There is so much to see out walking, it’s knowing where to look.”

A woman walker standing by a signpost.Credit: Gloria Francis
Gloria Francis now works as a walk leader after joining a walking group.

Other good ways to find a walking group include:

  • The Ramblers – The Britain-wide charity organises walks, ranging from its short Wellbeing Walks (10-90mins) to group day hikes across all types of terrain. It’s made up of local groups, but as a Ramblers member you can walk with any group. There’s a yearly membership fee, and you can try up to three walks for free before you’re expected to join.
  • The Long Distance Walkers Association – Local LDWA groups organise day walks of usually 15-25 miles, and there are also longer challenge events. Yearly membership.
  •  Walk NI – Has a directory of clubs offering walks of all levels around Northern Ireland.
  • Mountaineering Scotland – More than 160 walking groups are members and there are walks to suit all levels.
A group of smiling women on a walkCredit: Juls Simms
Juls Simms started her own walking group

But what happens if you can’t find a group near you? Well, why not start your own?

That’s what Juls Simms, from Mid Wales, did. She was stuck at home during the pandemic and started going on daily walks with a friend.

She says: “We walked from our homes every day and kept bumping into other women walking alone and got chatting. As restrictions lifted, more women joined us and then I set up a Facebook group. Now we’ve got more than 200 members and arrange regular walks around the area.

“I’m not a qualified leader, but I organise walks in places I know and so do other women. It’s really informal and we do different length walks to suit all abilities. It doesn’t take much work now, and other members also organise walks. I’d recommend it to anyone who can’t find an established walking group as I’ve made new friends, discovered new places and my fitness has really improved too.”

Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her


Phillipa Cherryson is a senior digital editor for Saga Exceptional. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV. In her spare time she loves the outdoors and is a trainee mountain leader and Ordnance Survey Champion.

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