Hayley Gillard, an ecotherapist who runs the Wild Goose social enterprise, is quite literally stepping up her bid to help crammed city dwellers destress through the first barefoot walking club to be founded in Leeds and possibly Yorkshire.
The 29-year-old is guiding groups free of footwear around Otley Chevin in a series of unusual sessions aimed at getting people to embrace the outdoors and forget their troubles.
Hayley, from Otley, struggled with severe anxiety after the breakdown of a relationship, losing friends and moving areas before she sought the outdoors as an alternative therapy.
“There’s the mindful element of being barefoot and being more aware of where you’re walking,” she said. “There are lots of sensory acupressure points and nerve endings on your feet. It takes your mind away from stressful things because you’re so aware of where you’re walking.”
Hayley, who says that walking barefoot gets people out of their comfort zones, will lead monthly walks involving mindfulness, meditation and picnics. The first Barefoot Club walk is £5 per person and will take place on April 9 from 10am to 12noon.
Wild Goose is a social enterprise, founded by Hayley in 2014, which aims to use the outdoors to promote positive mental health in adults. It runs regular open-to-all retreats featuring a range of outdoor activities, profits from which pay for sessions to help people with mental health issues share stories and support each other.
Hayley added: “It’s a way to get people outdoors on a Saturday to actually spend some time not just on their phones on Facebook or watching TV on a screen in bed.
“I’m on a bit of a mission to say it’s okay to have some me time, you’ve got to look after yourself and you shouldn’t feel bad about it.”
Visit www.facebook.com/wildgoosecic for information.