John’s journey: Finding solace and connection through Pilgrims Hospices’ Walk and Talk for Carers

John from Sandwich reflects on the benefits of Pilgrims Hospices Walk and Talk group for carers. John kindly took time to share his thoughts, encouraging those who care for their loved ones in Pilgrims care to invest a little time in themselves just once each week.

As a dedicated attendee of the Walk and Talk group, he shares his heartfelt sentiments about his experiences.


“Being part of Pilgrims Hospices’ support network has been a true blessing for both myself and my wife, Isabel. She was referred by her GP to Pilgrims for assistance with managing her COPD and breathlessness. The support we’ve received has been invaluable, offering helpful advice. We both have a sense of profound gratitude for the care provided. We truly feel supported in our journey.

“Isabel has been under Pilgrims’ care since September 2023, which led me to join the Walk and Talk for Carers group. As a keen walker, I have stravaiged  (to quote such a lovely Scottish word for walking) the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, including the West Highland Way and the Road to the Isles. With an adventurous spirit, honed through years as a police officer and trainer of police recruits, I find solace in the tranquility of nature.

“Joining the Walk and Talk group has been a delightful experience. The beauty of nature surrounds us, from the serene bird songs to the captivating sightings of rarer species such as Cetti’s Warbler and the White Egret. It’s incredible to witness the resurgence of wildlife.

Our Carers Walking Group enables people to share life experiences, common concerns, and their different coping strategies. It’s a chance for carers to ensure they are looking after themselves in order to best look after their loved one.

Jane Stanley, Pilgrims Hospices Wellbeing Practitioner

“Our small group welcomes all who seek companionship and respite while caring for a loved one. Despite occasional weather constraints, we’ve never missed a walk. It’s a chance to connect, share stories, and appreciate the wonders of nature together. The camaraderie forged is truly special.

“The Walk and Talk group isn’t just about physical exercise; it’s a sanctuary for carers to rejuvenate their spirits and form lasting bonds. Supported by the Pilgrims’ Wellbeing team, we find solace in each other’s company. At three score years and ten, I cherish these moments of relaxation and reflection, savouring my retirement alongside newfound friends.”

“Isabel and I share a lifetime of memories, from our meeting at Stirling University to our adventures among the Scottish islands and around the Rocky Mountains and the trails of Canada.”

During the walks, John said: “I have the chance to reminisce about life’s twists and turns, from witnessing the nearby Richborough cooling towers rise and fall, to celebrating such milestones as my marriage to Isabel at Gretna Green. Even while apart, our bond remains strong, with Isabel having time to indulge in, and catch up on, her favourite TV shows, while I treasure recalling my time as a pipe major, playing the bagpipes in Edinburgh Castle, and leading marches through the streets of London and Tokyo.

“In essence, the Walk and Talk for Carers group embodies the spirit of companionship and renewal, offering respite from life’s demands and fostering connections that enrich our souls.

“Every Monday afternoon you can join us on our Walk and Talk for Carers group through Pegwell Bay Country Park. It is led by two of the hospice staff. You can take time out, and breathe in the invigorating fresh sea air. It’s flat ground — nothing too strenuous. We talk about everything and nothing or just share a laugh.

“The reserve is a mosaic of habitats of saltmarsh, mudflats and chalk shore. Pegwell is the major wildlife migration route from and to Europe. As the season dictates, you can watch thousands of lapwings on their long migration routes. Our group has seen shelducks, redshanks, avocets, oystercatchers, terns and cormorants, and a whole list more. Our favourite is a white egret, whose presence seems to welcome us on each walk.

I cherish these moments of relaxation and reflection, savouring my retirement alongside newfound friends.

John

“Across from the Shellness point of the River Stour is the largest breeding ground for Common or Harbour seals in Kent. It is wonderful to see them resting on the sandbank curled up head and tail, looking like bananas. The walk passes through scrubland, dogwood meadows, and grazing for highland cattle and wild but gentle horses. The walk takes about an hour but no one is rushing you. If we have been very good, there is a cafe at the end of the walk to enjoy a cuppa, rest our feet, and continue our chats.

“The walks are a light hearted, friendly and no doubt healthy break from carers duties. If you do need a serious talk, then there are those there to listen who understand.

“So put on a woolly hat, stout walking shoes, and a warm coat, and I will lend you a set of binoculars.”

Thank you for sharing your story, John, you will have inspired so many of us to take in the fresh air!

For information about Pilgrims Hospices Welling services, please email wellbeing@pilgrimshospices.org or call 01233 504 127 to talk to a member of our care team.


Each year, Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to over 2,500 people in east Kent who are coming to terms with an illness that sadly cannot be cured.  The charity supports patients to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress.