From discovering new places, to learning more about the island, forging friendships and coping with grief... The founder of a walking group celebrating its 10th anniversary next year has shared how she and her companions have found solace and joy in taking things step by step, literally.
Adoni Mosquera-Valencia, a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant for the Government of Jersey, created ‘Walking in Jersey - A way of discovering’ in November 2013.
Aged 56 – although she says “in my head I am 25” – Adoni was a keen marathon runner, until she had an injury.
Pictured: Adoni moved to the island from Brighton 12 years ago with her family.
“I could not run as much as I wanted to,” she explained.
“Then my doctor at the time told me, ‘Why don’t you get into walking? It might help with your stamina and everything.’ So that’s how the walking started. I keep doing exercise, but I do not want to go back to running because I was quiet for a long time with that injury.”
Adoni moved to the island from Brighton 12 years ago with her family.
“My husband wanted to retire, and our son was in high school, so we wanted somewhere where he could have a good life and a good education, somewhere nice and safe.”
Whilst the plan was for Adoni and her husband to retire, it didn’t last very long as she felt too young to retire. In addition to working for a couple of charities, she started working on a book.
Pictured: St. Ouen is the first place Adoni visited when she came to Jersey and it's one of her favourite place to walk.
“At the time I was writing my book, my editor was asking me to write different things,” Adoni recalled.
“I was doing kind of an exercise to describe things. My editor wanted me to write about what I felt and what I smelled… I liked walking so I started writing a blog about the little walks when I came to the island and then he was looking at the blog and saying what was good or not.”
When her mum was suffering from Alzheimer’s, Adoni returned to Colombia to look after her. After she passed away, Adoni said she didn’t feel like she wanted to write any more but she nonetheless continued walking.
“I would go out with family and friends,” she said. “My friends just said, ‘Why don’t you put it on Facebook?’, so in November 2013, I put it on Facebook and I said, ‘Anyone who wants to come walk with me, you’re more than welcome to come.’”
20 people turned up to that first walk and many have returned, week after week, and continue to join to this day.
Pictured: 20 people turned up to Adoni's first walk and many have since returned often.
“We developed friendships with people,” Adoni said. “I have known them for nearly 10 years.
“Every Sunday, we go to different places, I have learned a lot about Jersey!”
Whilst some people are sometimes worried about how difficult the walk will be, Adoni reminds it can be done at your own pace.
She also makes sure there is opportunity to turn back for those who only want to do half of the walk.
Pictured: “We have been discovering as a group what the routes are," Adoni said.
She also adapts the walks depending on the weather – whilst in the summer she plans a month of walks ahead, in the winter she announces them on the Saturday due to the changeable weather.
To keep the walks interesting for all participants, Adoni reverses the walks from one year to the other and changes some of the routes. Last year, she got a map and an app to try and find new routes.
“I know some of the routes, but sometimes we go, 'Let’s see where it’s going to take us’,” she said.
“We have been discovering as a group what the routes are. There are some places I have never been to and some routes that people have never taken before, it requires a lot of planning. A couple of weeks ago, we found a different place and we thought, ‘Aren’t we lucky?’”
Pictured: "St. Ouen has got a bit of everything, you can go to the sand dunes and do some real power walking."
When asked if she has a favourite walk in the island, Adoni simply replies: “West is best!”
“I love body boarding and I love St. Ouen,” she elaborated. “When I came to the island that’s the first thing that I saw, I fell in love with St. Ouen. I cannot tell you how many times I walked that beach.
“St. Ouen has got a bit of everything, you can go to the sand dunes and do some real power walking and then you go down the sand dunes and see the whole stretch. If you go to L’Etacq, you have got the hike and then you absolutely have to see the bay, I like that sort of walk.”
“Saying that, there’s nothing I do not like about Jersey,” she continued. “Every time I go into my walks, there’s something to discover. My favourite depends on the weather. In the summer, it’s St. Ouen. In the winter, I like St. Lawrence and the valley, when you have all the autumn leaves that are falling, it’s really enchanting.
“Every week, there’s something new to see, or something to learn. Withing, the group, there’s a lot of people who have got a special interest, either in history or in birds, or something else. When we go on the walk, we will explore different things. If people have a particular interest and they want to talk about that particular interest, I am happy to let them.”
Pictured: "Every week, there’s something new to see, or something to learn."
Through the group, Adoni said “all sorts of people” from different nationalities have been getting together, some of them have even started running their own activities, from a swimming club to a challenge club called ‘the 20K’.
In the summer, the walkers gather to do barbecues together, each bringing a different dish. The camaraderie within the group, Adoni says, is “something very special”.
“I think the best thing about the group is the friendships that have formed and the sense of community that was born,” she said. “I can see that people have the opportunity to connect with other people and create some real friendships.
“Every walk starts and finishes with a place to eat so we go on the walk, we finish and we have got a place to have something to eat and share experiences, or discuss different things.
“Some people have been there since the beginning, some people have come and gone and come back, we have some people who come from the UK to do the walks. It’s something very special.
“During covid, I could not do anything for a year, it was hard for people because they were used to it.”
With the new year just around the corner, why not try and join one of Adoni’s walk? As she reminds everyone, “it’s for everybody, for the whole community.”
Pictured: Adoni posts all the information about the walks on Facebook.
“It does not matter if you are fit or not fit. People can ask me, I’m quite open to tell people what’s the level depending on their physique.
“It’s not a competitive walk. We are not there to make a time but to share as a community, blow the cobwebs and to be able to have a conversation with somebody else, that’s the purpose of the walk.
“The group is open and people are inviting and lovely and caring.”
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