The Weather Network
May. 28, 2022 | Saturday
Local News
Women walk for fitness and friendship
The Calendar Girls celebrating a birthday. From left front around the table: Maureen Dalgleish, Dale Stuteley, Kathryn Litke, Joyce Loewen, Heather Hall, Terry Mactaggart, Marlene Bridgman, Kathy Clark, Ruth de Laat, Sheila Tierney, Charlotte Letkemann and Lorraine Kelly. Helen Chapman and Creena MacNeill are also Calendar Girls, but not present for the photo. (Supplied)

For almost three decades, a group of Niagara-on-the-Lake women, have gathered every weekday morning, almost whatever the weather, to walk around town for exercise and fellowship.

“That’s longer than some marriages last,” one of the women quips over coffee at Sweets and Swirls Cafe at the Community Centre, following one day’s brisk walk.

These days there are as many as twelve walkers/talkers, but the normal daily average is seven or eight. And they are not weather-wimps, braving the elements on all but the slipperiest ice day.

“While the walking keeps bodies active, it is only the vehicle for connecting with each other,” says Kathryn Litke, focusing on the fellowship thread.

“We have so much respect for each other,” Terry Mactaggart, says. “We’re always there for each other in sickness or hard times. And the good times, too!”

In the early days, the group picked people up—like the Pied Piper—as they walked around town. “We kind of collected people as we were walking through town,” Audrey Glauser, an original, describes how the small group added members. “Terry (Mactaggart) had a big Newfoundland dog—McKenzie—that really drew attention.”

In the pre-internet era, the next day’s walking plans were made the night before, by telephone. Now it’s all email.

Over the years, their post-walk talking spots have moved to various cafes around town. But now they meet at the Community Centre, both to have a central spot to gather, but more importantly, to rally after the walk for what most agree is almost more important than the exercise—fellowship and networking.

The group generally sets off in one of four directions from the Community Centre. Where they walk each day isn’t decided until the mood of all the day’s walkers is surveyed.

Over the years, the group has learned to punctuate their walks by searching for “spots of beauty”. A spot of beauty is most often something in nature that strikes the hikers—a patch of blue sky in an otherwise drab day, a small garden of colourful flowers, anything that brightens the moment.

“Even in the winter, when things are grey, we find our spot of beauty,” says Maureen Dalgleish.

At the post-walk confab, the community information surfaces faster than a Google search. What’s happening, where and when. It is all anyone needs to know about what’s happening around town.

Not surprisingly, the group around the table, this cold and windy morning, comes from a wide array of different backgrounds, careers and locales. That makes for both more creative conversation and some expanding horizons. Dale Stuteley teaches the others Mahjong. Other members lead crafting sessions or organize monarch catching.

Some liken the daily post-walk sessions to a book club—trading books, magazines and recipes, even celebrating each other’s birthdays.

For most, the added attraction is the mutual support. Charlotte Letkemann remembers: “You all helped out when I had heart surgery three years ago, preparing and delivering lunches for my first week home.”

Ruth de Laat, a group veteran, wants to make sure everyone understands they are not just a walking group. “We are a fellowship group or rather a fellow-woman-ship group,” she states strongly. “We are a support group for each other.  A network.” Everyone around the table nods enthusiastically.

Some, like Mactaggart and Glauser have stepped up their hiking game, completing the 880-kilometer Bruce Trail over several summers.

But most of the walkers are content with a little exercise and a lot of togetherness.