A breath of fresh air has been offered to veterans struggling with complex issues keeping them out of work, thanks to a forward-thinking North East charity…

A walking group designed to give feelings of isolation and helplessness the boot has been set up by Finchale Group, which provides support for those facing major barriers to employment. Veterans, people suffering mental health issues and addiction have come together to ‘walk and talk’ across the region, as a way to socialise, stay healthy and find solutions to the problems they face.

The group – Finchale Outdoors – is led by 45-year-old former Royal Marine, Richard Ellis, who has received help from Finchale Group’s case managers. Richard, from Consett, regularly leads these walks across the North East – sometimes with as many as 12 people.

He explained: “The group is a fantastic way for people facing a range of challenges to share that burden, socialise and keep fit. I’d encourage anyone who wants to take part to get in touch and see how a breath of fresh air and someone to talk to can make a big difference. If you feel like you’re heading downhill, tell those problems to take a hike and join us.”

Richard, an outdoors lover, is just one of many veterans Finchale Group supports in adjusting to life after the armed forces. The charity’s specialist case managers helped him to secure a grant through the Royal Marines Charity that allowed him to attend a winter mountain climbing course – a step towards Richard’s career ambition to secure a mountain instructor certificate.

The group is joined on some of the walks by dogs and staff from Durham-based charity Stray Aid, which aims to save dogs left without owners. They are keen to get more veterans involved in the ‘Chosen Paw’ programme which gives participants the opportunity to walk dogs and improve their health as they do so.

Richard added: “At present we offer lowland walks, but the range of activities will expand to include days out in the mountains, climbing and cycling. Some people might prefer a gentle ramble and the social aspect of walking, while others could be set on challenging themselves in the mountains. That’s fine because everyone’s journey is different, as are their needs.

“Finchale Outdoors is set up to cater for ambitions and needs and, given time, has the potential to become a thriving hub of activity and the ‘go-to’ place for veterans who are looking to get outside and active, meet new people, and learn new skills.”

For those interested in joining Finchale Outdoors, more information is available directly from Finchale Group on 0191 386 2634 or enquiries@finchalegroup.co.uk