In 1979 Teesside Samaritans became the first Samaritans branch to invite volunteers from other branches to join them walking over the North Yorkshire Moors. The branch had designed a 40-mile circular walk, now officially recognised as “The Samaritans Way”, with the intention of bringing together Samaritans volunteers from all four nations to help raise money for their own branches.
Accommodation was provided for those that needed it, and the event allowed volunteers to meet informally and share ideas.
After three years of hosting, the idea of a National Walk developed further, and other branches were invited to host the Walk. Now in its 38th year the Walk has taken on a life of its own, with many different branches hosting and proudly singing the praises of their regions.
In the past few years the walks have been hosted by Colchester Samaritans (around the coastal paths and beaches of Mersea and Brightlingsea), Bradford Samaritans (around the stunning landscape of Haworth, home of the Brontës); and Samaritans of Cornwall at Truro, who held their walk along the picturesque Cornish coast. Other recent venues have included the Chilterns, Perth, Inverness and the South Downs.
Nowadays National Walks always offer at least two alternative distances – one approximately a half marathon (13 miles) and the other (for more serious walkers) a full marathon distance.
At first, the Walks were open to Samaritans volunteers and their families and friends. But in recent years walks have opened up to everyone in order to raise the profile and awareness of Samaritans