Blog by Hayley
Sustainable Merton Supporter
Having always been a car driver and one of those people who drove everywhere, even when I didn't necessarily need to, I was failing to see the impact this was having on the environment surrounding me.
During the global coronavirus pandemic I was identified as high risk and therefore had to shield, not being able to leave my front door for three months. This had a major effect on not only my physical health but also my mental health. Being told that after three months I could leave the house for daily exercise opened up a whole new world for me and started me on a journey to reaching goals I never thought I'd be able to achieve.
Walking became my main mode of transport and I quickly saw the benefits... I was able to surround myself in local green spaces and absolutely thrived from being in nature and discovering the wildlife on my doorstep. I began to see a positive effect on my mental health and began to really enjoy the fact that I was no longer reliant on my car.
Being a sufferer of chronic health conditions it became apparent that being able to get out and about on foot gave me a sense of purpose and achievement and I actually looked forward to my next walking adventure. I saw an improvement in my overall physical health, and for the first time, I was choosing walking over using my car to get around.
Walking soon turned into running and this is definitely something that I never thought I'd be able to do! I would always watch other people running and wish I could do that, wondering how they started and what motivated them. After lots of procrastinating, I bought my first pair of running trainers, laced them up and hit the pavements and parks of Merton, completing ‘Couch to 5K’ in nine weeks. For me, this was a great starting point having not had much running experience or confidence and I soon discovered a new passion for running. Thirsty for another challenge, in September 2020 I took part in ‘Move For Mind’ - a charity fundraiser to raise valuable funds for the mental health charity Mind, a cause very close to my heart. During the pandemic, Mind worked tirelessly to reach more people in need than ever before, with the demand for people contacting the charity hitting an all-time high. The aim of the challenge was to include the number 30 - be it 30mins of exercise for 30 days, cycling every day for 30 days or doing 30 push-ups. I took on the challenge of running 30 miles in the 30 days of September, managing to raise £411 along the way. For me, this became a very proud moment as I had provided Mind with funds to reach more people in a time of crisis. I also felt a huge sense of personal growth.
Both walking and running became a part of my everyday routine and I never looked back, I was now leaving a much more sustainable and environmentally friendly footprint on my local area.
One evening whilst drinking a cup of tea and browsing the internet, I came across an article in the local Wimbledon Times talking about a cycling scheme available to Merton residents who do not have access to a bike... The CYCLE 42 scheme aims to encourage people to travel more sustainably and get active in the process and the article stressed the importance of both mental and physical health and how the power of cycling could improve both.
The scheme, run by Brompton bike hire in partnership with Clarion Housing Group and Hadley Property Group, had set up a pop-up bike hub in the centre of Colliers Wood to establish a place for cycling, recycling old bikes, upcycling and the opportunity to apply for free bike hire of a Brompton folding bicycle for 90 days. The scheme was inspired by Brompton’s ‘Wheels4Heroes’ campaign, which offered free cycle hire for NHS workers during the Covid pandemic and examined the benefits of cycling to the mental and physical wellbeing of frontline workers.
The initial roll out of CYCLE 42 prioritised Merton’s key workers, encouraging people to apply for the scheme by filling out a simple form online. Being a frontline worker myself, I decided to apply and was lucky enough to be successful and one of the first 50 people in Merton to borrow a bike, along with safety equipment and a helmet for a 90 day period. Following on from the scheme it is hoped that more people will choose to buy a new or second hand bike and cycle instead of making car journeys. This is a great way to help lower pollution in Merton, as well as helping people to move more.
As this was such a unique opportunity I decided to make the most of it and get the most out of this experience. I incorporated cycling into my weekly activities alongside walking and running. I was amazed at how cycling made me feel and the freedom it gave me to explore new and exciting places. Richmond Park has always been one of my favourite places to explore since a very young age and I would normally make the journey by car. I realised that having my Brompton bike now meant that I could cycle there and back (folding the bike up to enjoy some well earned ice cream after a 10K cycle). I have enjoyed many cycles to Richmond Park and have loved speaking with other cyclists who are always happy to share tips and advice on road safety. Due to this scheme, I will be purchasing my own bike and carrying on with the lifestyle changes I have made. I would strongly recommend the CYCLE 42 scheme to any Merton residents that want to see if cycling is for them or want to cycle but do not have access to a bike. There is no better way to travel more sustainably whilst keeping fit and active.
My journey so far has been life-changing and I take great pleasure in knowing that I am doing my bit to contribute to a better, more sustainable world. If anyone is considering making healthier choices by walking more, running or cycling, then there is no time like the present!
Please feel free to follow my running and cycling journey on Instagram @run_with_hayley, and join my new fitness community @safe_space_fitness which aims to bring together people from all walks of life and focuses on moving for physical and mental health and wellbeing.