Walk This Way

By Vernice Shostal

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The Victoria Garden City Wanderers, a Volkssport Club, walk in all weather following planned safe, scenic and usually circular trails. Volkssporting, translated from German meaning people’s sport, began 30 years ago in Europe where a need was recognized for healthy, organized, non-competitive activities suitable for all ages. The goal is to promote public health through enjoyable non-competitive, outdoor sporting events.

Back home from a walking trip in Cape Breton, GCW President Dave Catrall says he and his wife, Beverley, “walk three or four times a week with GCW or one of our sister clubs in Victoria.”

Canada is one of 52 countries around the world that are part of the International Federation of Volkssport Clubs, so all the walks are planned well in advance and published so that anyone, when travelling in Canada or the U.S., or any of the other 50 countries can see when events are scheduled and join in.

“It’s a wonderful way to meet local people if you like travelling and a wonderful way to get to know a city or a region - including your own. Lots of forward planning and communication with other clubs and other people is required. We often host visitors from around the world, though mostly from U.S. and Canada.”

The Garden City Wanderers continue to add new walks and events. In the winter, they have a snowshoeing/cross-country skiing weekend at Mt. Washington. They go to a Gulf Island once or twice in the summer and spend a day walking there. This year, they visited Pender and Mayne Islands. On Canada Day, they walked from a winery and did some sampling afterwards. Although they do some hiking, the majority of their walks are on city streets, in parks and on trails. A few clubs are also involved in cycling, swimming, as well as in-line and ice skating.

President of the provincial association of Volkssport clubs and board member of the Canadian Volkssport Federation (a federation of non-profit walking clubs formed in 1987, with activities in all provinces and territories across Canada), Beverley has walked 8,000 kilometres to date, while Dave has completed 6,000 kilometres.

The GCW have approximately 150 walks each year. The other Victoria clubs have a similar number. Overall, there are six walks per week. The GCW has over 100 members and generally, about 40 attend weekend walks and 12-16 on mid-week walks.

“Many of us are pretty fit from all the walking we do,” says Dave, “but we all struggled when we first started. Our walks are open to everyone and we really welcome new walkers, but we encourage them to start walking just 5K at a slow pace and to work up to the longer distance and faster pace. We don’t want people to be put off by trying too much. We’d rather they felt encouraged that ‘one day soon, I’ll be walking like that.’”

New walkers don’t have to join or pay anything - they are welcome to go out to do a few walks any time.

“We put a lot of emphasis on the Fs,” says Dave, “fun, fitness, friendship - and food.” After the walks, there is the option of joining the group for lunch at a local restaurant or pub and picnics and potlucks are held occasionally throughout the year.

To keep track of the distance they accumulate over time, participants get a card stamped after each walk. Awards (pins and certificates) are given as milestones are reached. A keen runner, Dave ran the Victoria Marathon a couple of years ago (and qualified for Boston). He found that walking was an excellent cross-training activity.

Dave and Beverley also like to travel. They have walked in most parts of Canada, many parts of the U.S., plus France, England (a 320km Coast to Coast Walk in 2009), China, Mexico and are considering a trekking holiday in Nepal. While some members travel and enjoy the opportunity to meet and walk with others, many members only walk in Victoria and enjoy walking with friends near home. The goal is to promote health and fitness through a non-competitive outdoor activity. Dogs are usually welcome, but must be leashed and cleaned up after.

Garden City Walker Asgrid Hauth says she loves walking and she likes the social aspect. “It’s a great group and it’s informal,” says Asgrid. “If you want to come you can come, and if you don’t that’s fine. It’s easy, not cliquey.”

John Lewis walks for his health. He, along with his wife, Janet, and three other GC Wanderers, walked on the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way in Scotland last year. At home, John says, “It’s a wonderful way to see the city. I’ve learned so much about Victoria the three years I’ve been here, walking around it. It’s a very sociable group and it’s doing me good.”

With four Volkssport Clubs in Victoria and three others in Nanaimo, Comox and Parksville, the seven clubs have approximately 300 members who walk almost every day of the year. Anyone is welcome to attend. Typically, the walks take from one to two hours. Although the majority of walkers are over the age of 55, the group includes members of all ages.

To contact the Garden City Wanderers, call Dave Cattrall at 250-598-4316 or email gcw@islandnet.com. Visit their website at www.gardencitywanderers.ca
Other Victoria Volkssport clubs are Juan de Fuca Pathfinders Walking Club, www.jdfpathfinders.ca and Victoria “Y” Volkssport Club, www.letswalkinvictoria.ca
To join other clubs on Vancouver Island (Nanaimo, Parksville and Comox) or in B.C., visit www.volkssportingbc.ca
For more information about Volkssport clubs in the rest of Canada, visit www.walks.ca



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