A group of walkers have penned a book about how their love of the outdoors blossomed into a lifeline lockdown support network.
The Tayberries Nordic walking group was formed in 2013 and the female members, spanning Tayside and Fife, quickly became firm friends and even took international trips together.
Although the 20-strong troupe had to abandon group adventures in March, they reverted to online meetings and continued to support each other through difficult times.
Now the Tayberries have published a book outlining how members’ lives have been touched since joining the group, from helping each other through bereavements to keeping spirits up during lockdown cancer treatments.
Women Afoot outlines members’ favourite walks, from local trails to far-flung travels. The final chapter explains how the group adapted during lockdown and diverted their energy to making masks for frontline health staff.
Sandra Nutley, a Tayberries member who pulled together contributions for the book, joined two years ago as a way to rebuild her confidence after an osteoporosis diagnosis.
She heard of Nordic walking, which uses poles to propel and provide support, through a neighbour and agreed to join a walk.
The 67-year-old academic from near Newport-on-Tay said: “The first walk I joined everyone was so friendly and welcoming, it is an amazing group to be part of.
“Some members have gone through bereavements and now live alone so it’s so nice to have that support network.
“I struggled with my diagnosis because I didn’t want to believe that label was me. I became very hesitant on my feet and the idea of using poles for stability was reassuring to me.
“It was daunting but the nice thing about the group is it’s not a competition. You walk at your own pace and enjoy the outdoors without trying to keep up.”
The idea for the book came from Tayberries member Vivian Blok, who was inspired by reading about a similar group.
Treatment for ovarian cancer meant the 64-year-old Canadian, who now lives in Invergowrie, spent the first months of lockdown shielding.
The James Hutton Institute employee said although she missed the walks, the group’s online meetings were a tonic.
“I don’t think we’re a particularly extraordinary group of people, we just try to make it work,” Vivian said.
“With Covid-19, it could easily have all crumbled but we have kept in touch and kept each other going, it’s a wonderful thing.
“It’s a shame that we haven’t been able to get out but we are always in touch. The group is very much alive and well, just waiting for when we can go out again.”
Women Afoot also reveals tales of members’ earliest memories of walking and how they have been inspired by the outdoors.
Although the Tayberries are not accepting new members, former Nordic walking instructor and group member Caroline Turnbull hopes the book will inspire people to exercise outdoors.
The 62-year-old from Monifieth said: “The lovely thing about walking outdoors is it can be done alone or in a group and in a group it offers the kind of companionship we have seen here.
“Our main aim with the book is to inspire people who may be lonely or just want to try something new.”
Paper copies of Women Afoot are available at the Bookhouse in Broughty Ferry or can be ordered by emailing email@example.com for £10 each, with all profits going to charity. Sales so far have allowed profits to be split between Maggie’s Cancer Centre in Dundee and the John Muir Trust Wild Ways Path Appeal.
A free online version is also available by emailing the group.