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HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Keep fit on hiking trail

Heather-Lynn Evanson

HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Keep fit on hiking trail

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ESTABLISHED hiking trails are fast disappearing as security conscious Barbadians fence in their properties.

But for every trail that disappears, another is cleared as the Barbados Hiking Association aggressively pursues its mandate to make hiking a free, healthy exercise alternative.

President of the association, John Nurse, said the majority of trails were cleared in anticipation of the two major hiking events of the year – the Hill Challenge in May (for those who feel that Barbados is “flat” and for those who know it is not) and the Colin Hudson Great Train Hike.

“Bearing in mind we’re only using these trails on an annual basis, during the rest of the year it’s overgrown so we have to go in and clear trails for these events,” Nurse explained.

“We try to find new trails as well because what is happening is that in hiking different parts of Barbados, we are finding more and more that people are fencing off areas and, in order to access these areas, now you have to cut additional trails into the vegetation so as to circumvent where people have fenced off their properties.”

He hastened to add that neither he nor the organisation was against people securing their properties as that was their right.

“So we try to keep cutting alternate trails to keep certain areas accessible so the hiking could continue in these areas,” he said.

But fear not, there will be no lack of trails for the adventurous to follow.

In fact, said Nurse, he was constantly surprised by the discovery or rediscovery of trails.

“I’ve been hiking a number of years,” said the former hike leader, “and I keep crossing a number of trails. Barbados, over the years, has been criss-crossed with a number of trails. Sometimes you go out there and find an old trail that had been gone.”

And it is all worth it. The numbers attending the Sunday hikes are growing, groups with their own Facebook pages have been formed and some workplaces even have dedicated groups that hike every month.

For example, said Nurse, the gruelling Hill Challenge, which starts in Haggatts, St Andrew, and wends its way through the hills of the parish, is attracting greater numbers every year, as does the Colin Hudson Great Train Hike, an all-day event which traces the train line from Independence Square to Belleplaine, St Andrew.

“We are seeing large numbers at the hikes. There is a core group [of people] out there who are interested in fitness and we are seeing that core coming out.”

That group, he conceded, was made up of more elderly and middle-aged people, rather than young people.

“We don’t see many, say under-20s. We don’t find many teenagers. We don’t get that many children,” he admitted.

The Barbados Hiking Association was formed out of National Trust hikers who wanted to do more for hiking in the island.

According to Nurse, they “had to step out from under the umbrella of the National Trust” and form their own association so they could host different events, coordinate fundraising activities and “be able to promote hiking more so”.