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A month ago we announced via this article that we were, with the support of a National Forest Society Grant, looking to recruit a number of individuals to be trained as Trail Therapy run/walk leaders. With the objective of increasing the opportunities for people within the National Forest are to gain the physical and mental health benefits of being active in green spaces.

As a project of this kind was new territory for us, we worried about whether anybody would apply to join the programme. We need not have fretted though, as we’ve been blown away by the both the level of interest and the quality of the applications.

A massive thank you is due to everyone that put themselves forwards. With only a limited number of places available, you made our decision making in who to select for this inaugural programme very challenging indeed. A great problem to have though.

So we are very pleased to announce who are first cohort of new Trail Therapy Leaders are. Please put your hands together for:

Simon Weeks: a scientist and engineer by day, and jog leader at Swad Joggers and musician by night, Simon only took up running in 2020 (at the age of 58) – but quickly realised how beneficial it was to mental, as well as physical health.

Ellie McClean: although she ran her first road marathon last year, at the age of 53, Ellie is definitely a trail girl at heart and loves being outdoors exercising in nature. When not looking after her son or exploring on foot, she is studying psychotherapy and lists her other interests as photography, cooking, music and cheese!

Karl Watson: a lover of all things outdoors, whose inquisitive nature makes running indoors on a treadmill a non-starter. Previously the resident Santa Claus at Sunnyside Garden Centre, Karl was a Couch to 5k graduate in 2019 and has since gone on to lose 2.5 stones in weight and improve his mental health through being active in the countryside.

Lindsey Wright: an avid reader, enjoyer of local history and Derbyshire wildlife member, Lindsey is another of Swad Joggers’ run leaders. Her friends would say she loves finding mud whenever they go on a run or a walk, so will no doubt easily fit into the roll.

Steve Bullock: a competitive ‘road’ runner (although we won’t hold that again him), but -being a resident of the area – a lover of the National Forest. Steve is at his happiest when out walking in the local countryside with his whippets and young family, or covered in mud during the cross country season.

Katie Heelas: the local trails are part of Katie’s daily life, and being out and about on them have been life saving for her through traumatic times during the covid pandemic. An active member of Overseal Running Club, she loves people and is a passionate believer in the healing and wellbeing power of mother nature.

Nikki Reeves: ‘life is a climb, but the view is great!’ is Nikki’s favourite quote. Her happy place is out there on the trails with dog Fleur, away from the hustle of daily life and the pressure to push hard. Alongside gaining the mental health benefits of the trails, she is a keen triathlete and has been a run leader for a number of years.

Craig Dolman: a resident of the National Forest area and countryside lover, Craig believes that the outdoors means so many things to people; being a place to find headspace, think, chat, picnic, get fit or just be yourself. He is one of the run leader team at Swad Joggers and, when not working hard in his busy day job, enjoys introducing people to new things while out for a jog.

We are really excited about working with all of these lovely people of the months ahead, and - with their help - being able to provide many more opportunities for people to enjoy a spot of 'trail therapy' in the forest.

Watch this space for some new runs and walks over this coming summer.

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