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Unsung hero: Surbiton walking group leader who organises days out for seniors
Five years ago, Jill Lawrence was a newcomer to Surbiton, with no friends and little to do with her time.
Then she spotted an advert for the YMCA’s senior walking group asking for new members to come and join.
“I moved here from Cambridge five years ago and I knew nobody,” said Jill, 71.
“One day I went to the YMCA in Surbiton and saw an advert saying ‘senior walking group, come and join us’ - so I did.
“They were great. They were so welcoming and everyone was so nice.
“It was every two weeks so it was always something to look forward to. After a while they said ‘we’d like you to lead a walk’ and so that’s how I started.”
Today, Jill is YMCA London South West’s senior walk leader, and has just been shortlisted for the Ramblers’ President’s Volunteer Awards, in the Leading Walks category.
The winners will be announced in Liverpool on March 29.
Jill, from Moresby Avenue in Berrylands, said: “I was absolutely amazed. It is a pleasure for me.
“What can you say about being shortlisted for an award for something that already gives you a lot of pleasure and is already rewarding?”
Jill organises weekly walks for people over 60 years old, combining wanders through both town and country.
To deem whether a potential walk is appropriate for seniors, Jill researches the route by first walking it herself.
“I pre-walk every route,” said Jill. “ I have a few books and ordnance survey maps and I just set out and follow the footpaths.
“We usually walk about four miles and it could be to the town or the country. We’re lucky we can get to so many places from here.
“You can jump on a bus to Box Hill or on to a train to London.
"A typical London walk would be through the old docklands looking at the industrial architecture towards Greenwich. We always have a lunch and then go home.
“It’s good for your wellbeing, as well as your health.”
Clemency Lawrence, YMCA senior programme co-ordinator, said: “Jill not only plans the routes and leads the walks at YMCA Surbiton, but also at YMCA Hawker and plans the routes for YMCA Wimbledon too.
"All the groups have grown in popularity and the feedback is always very positive.
"We are thrilled that Jill has been nominated and very grateful to the continued effort she has contributed to keeping these groups going. We wish her all the luck with the nomination.”
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