LGBT+ social group holds first inclusive canal walk with more to come

An LGBT+ social group has hosted its first canal walk to provide a safe space for people to socialise and improve their mental wellbeing.

LGBT+ Sparkle Social Group and the Canal and River Trust organised a walk along the canal in Pendeford
LGBT+ Sparkle Social Group and the Canal and River Trust organised a walk along the canal in Pendeford

LGBT+ Sparkle Wolverhampton helps people from the community who are struggling, feel isolated, or simply want a space to socialise in.

The group is run by partners Paul Ryder and Marcus Cotterill, from Pendeford in Wolverhampton, who were supported by Taz Parvaz, engagement manager for the Canal and River Trust to make the walk possible.

Starting from Oasis Cafe, located in Saint Paul's Church, Pendeford, the group explored the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.

Paul, 35, said: "Someone connected us with the Canal Trust to see if we could put some activities on.

"We had the idea to do some guided walks together to help people who feel isolated to improve mental wellbeing. We are encouraging more people to use the canal path and get out there and meet more like-minded people.

"We will be trained up to be walk leaders over time so we can lead our own walks in the future."

Paul added: "We want to do more with the trust in the future such as canoeing and litter picking."

Saturday's was the first of the walks which will take place fortnightly for a further three sessions.

Paul said: "We had 11 people come down and it was really nice, everyone was talking and we really just lost track of time.

"I think we did around three miles in total and it didn’t feel like it at all. When you walk alone you get bored, but when you're together you forget everything.

"We encourage everyone to come down, I know we are an LGBT+ group, but everyone is welcome, we wouldn’t turn anyone away.

"We go at an inclusive pace and we will stop if people fall behind."

The group will be increasing the walk distance weekly with the intention of reaching Wildside Activity Centre after four weeks.

Sessions are designed for adults and children who are interested in trying out a potential new hobby, but anyone under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Future walks will take place on April 16, April 30 and May 14, all starting at 11am.

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