Winter walks help you form friendships and combat loneliness

Bright lights at Christmas can often prove overwhelming and make some feel lonely, but walking groups could be the answer this winter

A sunrise coming over the summit of Pen y Fan mountain
The summit at Pen y Fan Mountain, a popular location for south Wales walkers
Credit: Ashley Thieme

The lights of Winter Wonderland and the classic Christmas stalls taking Cardiff by storm during the festive season are not for everyone. Sometimes these events are overwhelming. Avoiding activities means the season can be a lonely time, say mental health charities.

“One in five people feel like they have nowhere to turn for support” at Christmas, a UK-wide research poll by the charity Mind suggested.

Mind also noted that although loneliness during the festive period is typically associated with the older generation, 18 to 24-year-olds are the most likely to feel embarrassed about loneliness at Christmas.

One group that can offer an alternative to the busy city is Cardiff Outdoor Group. It is made up of keen walkers who take on seven to 11-mile hikes, including over the Brecon Beacons, on a regular basis. Sian Davies, a keen walker herself, has been part of the group for over 20 years. She finds the group is an “informal help system” for the members.

She said: “We are aware people turn up alone and we make people feel welcome and part of the group.” Davies said the group host getaways around Christmas and the New Year, and many members, like herself, use this to get out of busy city life and unwind.

She describes the group as “a walking group that does a lot of socialising”. At Christmas last year the group went away to Tenby. Davies added: “Group members sit and play board games together,” and she feels the group offers a great sense of community.

The view of south Wales from the summit of Pen y Fan, perfect for winter walks
The morning sunrise coming over Pen y Fan Mountain in south Wales
Credit: Ashley Thieme

Joining groups can often counteract feelings of loneliness, as this can bring people facing similar struggles together, say mental health experts. Cardiff and surrounding areas offer some of the best walks in Wales. Pen y Fan recently became popular for its scenic sunrise walk following the location trending on TikTok.

Mike Kohnstamm of Cardiff Ramblers encourages new members to join at this time of year. The group has over 660 members. They host walks varying in difficulty for all members. He says: “Non-members are welcome to try a taster walk and are officially allowed to try two or three with us before joining the Ramblers.”

Andrew Jones-Angove of the Tiger Bay Ramblers, which is geared towards a younger generation, pointed out they tend to see an upturn in newcomers after Christmas, working off the festive season. “But all are welcome anytime,” he added.

Upcoming walking events to try out

Follow these links to find the walking schedule for the groups mentioned above.