Walk Leading and Meetup

Have you any experience of Meetup walking groups? I’ve been running one since 2019…

Have you ever used Meetup as a platform for hosting group walks and other events? This could also be an interesting experiment to see who regularly reads my blog.

I hadn’t used Meetup before I created my own walking group in late 2019, called Westonsuper-Walkers. My idea was to create a group for local people, as there wasn’t currently anything in place for people, say, below retirement age who are mostly available to walk with others on a weekend. Having been with Brunel Walking Group (the Ramblers) in Bristol for a number of years, I had this idea that my group (for Weston-super-Mare) could grow to mimic this in a lesser way.

So, I’ve been running this group – by myself – for close to eighteen-months. Another incentive behind starting it was to meet new people and being to ‘move on’ from a previous relationship… I only moved to Weston in 2019, I’ve never felt entirely settled here with a long-term view and, to be honest, I don’t know that many people nearby. There are plenty of ex-work colleagues – many more than I’d initially anticipated – but I know even fewer people who like a proper walk.

Indeed, I have met local people who like a decent walk. Initially, it was growing quite steadily… Then, the pandemic swept in and that first Lockdown halted us. Through the summer of 2020, I tried to re-start the initiative with caution… Before another Lockdown was bought in and then a third – perhaps the cruellest of all.

Today, I do at least have a second walk leader/events organiser, who has happily put himself forward. I do appreciate that and it could help over time.

Also today, I was supposed to be leading a nine mile walk of my own – which I have just cancelled, around two hours before it was due to start.

In the past, I’ve cancelled at least one walk because of anxiety issues and the fear of spending time with lots of people. Today, I have cancelled for different reasons. I basically feeling as though I’ve taken on a bit more than I was ready for and I’m not prepared to put the full effort in to maintain it long term.

Meetup, as a platform, can be very open. I have never placed any restrictions upon members wishing to join my group. To date, I have acquired over three hundred members, a handful of regulars and made a few good friends. Some of my members live in places like South Wales, South Gloucestershire, around Bristol and in other parts of Somerset. It is not solely ‘for’ people living in Weston-super-Mare and North Somerset, even if most of my walks have been based around these areas.

Look around on Meetup and you’ll find many other groups also covering these areas. I’m a member of several; although I’ve never walked with any other. I’ve met one or two of the other leaders and organisers. Members of my group are also members elsewhere. What I realised only yesterday is that I’m almost trying to ‘compete’ with these groups… But there may be a better solution (for my, at least).

I like walk leading. I enjoy taking people to different places and especially if they’ve not been to these places before. But I also put a pressure upon myself to organise and lead walks twice a month – ‘for the benefit of my members’. With the lighter evenings now upon us, I’m also feeling as though I ‘should’ and ‘must’ think about organising evening walks – again, ‘to satisfy others’…

Now, I could go down the road of “trying not to should myself” – I’m well aware it’s an unhealthy habit but I have put myself in this situation. I know what I’m like and I think I’m always going to be susceptible to this when in such a position.

So. Although I’ve made no official announcement – and may not do so for several months yet – I’ve decided that Weston-super-Walkers will come to an end later this year. Unless someone else wishes to take on the reigns, of course. My own plan going forward would be to approach one of the other regional groups as a walk leader/event organiser and put walks on at my own leisure. As I do with the Ramblers, really.

I like walking on my own sometimes and I quite like a longer walk – of which few people will usually join me for. By consciously ‘committing’ to two group walks each month – plus anything I may wish to do with Brunel – I am in danger of restricting myself from doing what I really want to do. Add to this the complication that I work every Saturday but gain Mondays off… It means that I only really get one day each week (Sunday) in which I may get to meet with other people.

Along with all of this, I also have a blog that I’m struggling to keep up with and a YouTube channel that I’d like to do a bit more with. Again, on the subject of evening walks; I quite often come home from work feeling too tired to do anything. Then, coming home as it gets dark and realising I have little ‘me time’ before bed and beginning another day… I am putting a lot of pressure and responsibility upon myself.

I’ve had enough therapy in my life to know that, when you’re already dealing with a full plate in one aspect of your life, adding those “extra curricular” stresses and demands can be enough to send you over the edge. I’ve noticed it within myself recently and I’ve seen it in others, so many times. This is a tough decision for other people but I feel it will be the best for me.

If you have any experiences of organising or walking with Meetup groups, please do feel free to comment below.

Another problem with Meetup is in the reliability of some attendees. Last-minute dropouts have been a constant issue. Some suspected fake profiles and ‘no shows’ do exist. While I do often have a waiting list of members who’d like to come; when one person drops out on the morning of the event, it rarely leaves enough time for the substitute to get ready and attend. Being as that we are still governed by the ‘Rule of 6’, you can hopefully see how this has been frustrating for all concerned.

Thanks for reading.

Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in Weston-super-Mare, close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset and I enjoy time spent outdoors, whether that's walking, camping or backpacking. My day job involved making furniture from recycled wood (I'm a furniture maker and carpenter by trade). I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Walks With Olly (walking, camping and kit) You can also find me on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. My second YouTube channel is titled 'Walks with Olly'.

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