A WALKING group is helping residents across the borough to boost their mental health by connecting with others and embracing nature.

Mental Health Walking, run by Ross Elliott, Heidi Flack, Lindsey Bush and Andy Steel, sees groups of up to 12 walkers explore the Northern Roots site and Alexandra Park for an hour every Thursday.

The walks began after members of Mental Health Football, also ran by Ross Elliot, suggested a walking group and it has proved to be a hit.

Mental Health Football runs kickabouts on Friday nights at Broadfield Primary School for residents without pressure or expectations.

Ross, the first team manager at AFC Oldham, turned to football when he lost his mum to a terminal illness aged 22.

He said: “Football and being part of a group got me through”.

He described Mental Health Football as a place “to get together and have a laugh” without feeling the need to train or commit.

Mental Health Walking is similarly “judgement and pressure free”.

Ross said the walks have struck a chord with some working from home who may not be able to regularly connect with people and nature but can now “feel part of something”. He added members who may feel “anxious” or “isolated” in the current climate can join and become part of a community.

Two Mental Health Football members are also now taking part in the walks, and after having never spoken before, are now chatting “like the greatest of friends”, Ross says.

There is a broad mix of people who take part in the walks, with the youngest attendee on one walk just 10 years old and the oldest 72.

Ross’s daughter Connie, four, has also joined a mental health walk after starting walking with her dad during lockdown. She is set to bring a “kindness rock” with a ladybird painted on it to the next walk.

For more information visit the Mental Health Walking Twitter and Facebook pages. The group will be meeting on Thursday at the Northern Roots car park.