'It's unbelievable', says Northampton dad after thousands follow his Facebook page dedicated to walking
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A website and Facebook page which has listed around 150 walks in Northamptonshire has recorded just over half a million visitors in 2020 and gone from 1,500 Facebook followers to 15,400 in the space of a year.
Dave Askew, from East Hunsbury, said it is 'unbelievable' the level of following his site has picked up, and he believes the Facebook page, Northamptonshire Walks, has grown due to the positive interactions people have with each other on there.
He said: "The main reasons it has grown, I think, is we try and keep it the most positive group there is, everyone loves that. When the first lockdown came in, everybody was like oh no what am I going to do.
"The page then got picked up by a few people, who then started going out and doing these walks. It was grown by word of mouth. When my daughter called me an influencer I thought I was going on Love Island."
Dave said he started the page eight years ago thanks to an honest conversation with his daughter about his mental health struggles at the time, and now the page is helping others with their mental health.
The 62-year-old-said: "I started this eight years ago when my mental health wasn't that great. My daughter told me to go out, take some pictures and start a blog.
"I get a lot of messages from people - about 10 to 15 a week - saying it's really helped them. If my walks have helped just one person then it's been worthwhile."
The walking enthusiast named some of the positive benefits getting some fresh air has on him.
He said: "Walking isn't just about exercising your body, it's about improving your mental well-being. It doesn't have to be a long walk across open fields either. Sometimes just a 15-minute stroll can help - the key is to make it a regular part of your day.
"Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression and anxiety. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood.
"I always recommend people go canal walking as you will always see something different each time."
Dave said some of his favourite walks include Everdon, across to Fawsley and Preston Capes in the west of the county which he calls 'the alpine region' due to its hills. Also Fotheringhay in the east. And his first ever blogged walk, in the Castle Ashby area.
With the current lockdown restrictions in place, Dave has put in place a 'Walks From My Doorstep' which allows the public to stay local and still get out of the house.