EVERY week, come rain or shine, you will find the Wayfarers out walking somewhere in the Bradford district, or beyond.

And if these friendly mid-week walkers have a motto it is: “You’re never too old.”

The Bradford Senior Wayfarers is a walking group that has been in existence for more than 40 years. Most members have retired and some are in their 80s - but that doesn’t stop them completing eight-mile walks.

“You’re never too old” was what led the late Tom Wilcock to set up the walking group when he retired. Tom met his wife, Ruby, on a walk and they were keen walkers well into their seventies. When they set up the Wayfarers eight dedicated trekkers turned out for the first walk, then it snowballed to 30 members. And it all started with a Telegraph & Argus article.

“One of Tom’s friends who retired about the same time died of a heart attack. Tom and Ruby put a two-line advert in the T&A about setting up a walking group and it went from there,” says Wayfarers chairman Verner Wheelock, who has been in the group for 12 years. “The club is aimed primarily at the 50-plus age group, but we welcome people of any age, apart from children. Most members are retired - our walks take place during the week - and we’re a friendly, welcoming group.”

The group has now resumed its mid-week walks after 14 months of inactivity, due to the pandemic. With many older people confined to the home over the past year, Verner says the walking group offers a chance to get out and about, and make new friends.

“There has been a lot of isolation during lockdown, with people stuck indoors. I’m sure there are lots of people who would like to join us, now that we’re back in action,” says Verner. “There’s nothing like walking for your physical and mental health, and getting some Vitamin D from being outdoors. It’s important to keep active as you get older - there are three of us in our 80s in the eight-mile group.

“It’s as much social as anything - we chat about all sorts and usually finish up in a cafe. We have a Christmas lunch and other get-togethers. New members are made very welcome, and quickly get to know the others. We’re a group for folk who enjoy mid-week walking, socialising and above all, having fun. Some people have been members for 20 years.”

Founded in 1979, the group has more than 200 members. Walks take place Monday to Thursday. “There are six groups - three do four or five miles and three do longer distances of eight to 10 miles,” says Verner. “The shorter ones are two or three hours and the longer ones five or six. We start at 10.30am. Each walk varies in numbers but generally it’s 10 to 20 people, and we don’t have dogs on the walks. When we first resumed, with a few walks, we had the Rule of Six but now we can go up to 30.”

“One of our strengths is that we share leadership - members take turns to lead walks and two or three can do it together if they prefer. We can offer guidance on this.”

Anyone who wants to join a walk can turn up at the starting point, and membership is £5 a year. Walks are generally accessible by public transport and take place around the district, at locations such as Baildon, Shipley Glen, Saltaire, St Ives, Ilkley, Judy Woods in Wyke, Haworth, Wharfedale, Gargrave and beyond to Shibden, Settle, Malham and into Lancashire.

“There are some remarkably good walking areas in the Bradford district,” says Verner. “We walk all year round, and in summer months tend to go a bit further. We’re hoping to start up our walking holidays again, when we can. We’ve been to places such as the Lake District and east coast in the past. We were planning a trip when Covid struck and we had to cease all activity in the middle of March 2020.”

The past year has been particularly difficult for older people, many of whom have had to isolate at home, unable to be with their families. And loneliness and isolation can be very significant challenges as people get older, having to adapt to life changes such as bereavement and retirement. The Wayfarers, says Verner, offer a great opportunity to get outdoors and socialise.

“There is no doubt that there are major benefits for physical health, but we must not underestimate the mental health dimension,” says Verner. “We have quite a few members who live on their own. Walking with the Wayfarers is great way to interact socially with others and to make new friends. The chat can vary from the mundane to the serious. Inevitably, there are bereavements from time to time. Many have found that the support from fellow members, is crucial in enabling them to re-construct their lives. Occasionally, new ‘partnerships’ are established.”

l For more about Bradford Senior Wayfarers visit seniorwayfarers.org.uk