Our highlights from the #GreatBigWalk

On 29th May Noel Johnston from Omagh and Olivia Cosgrove from Enniskillen, joined walkers from across the UK in Bately, West Yorkshire to set off on the #GreatBigWalk, funded by the National Lottery.

They walked almost 700 miles on their 21 day journey. It saw them walk from Bately to Liverpool, take the ferry to Belfast and then walk around Northern Ireland before returning to Belfast on 18th June to celebrate at a Big Lunch event.

Along the route they stopped in towns and villages each day to shine a light on amazing community projects which are really making a difference to people’s lives.

Some of the projects Noel and Olivia visited were are funded by Big Lottery Fund. Here are some highlights of our projects:

Connswater Community Greenway

Arriving in Belfast on Saturday 3rd June, their first stop was Connswater Community Greenway where they took a tour of greenway and rang the bell to start Park Run in Victoria Park. They met volunteers and heard stories about the positive impact the greenway has had from people who use it. Connwater Community Greenway has been created with our largest ever grant in Northern Ireland of £23.5million.

Acceptable Enterprises Larne Ltd

On Monday 5th June they visited Acceptable Enterprises in Larne which recently received an Empowering Young People grant of £600,000 to support young people with a learning disability. The team toured the various enterprises run by the group including the allotments, had a meal in their café, and learnt about the bottling process for Clearer Water.

David Hunter, chief executive of Acceptable Enterprises said: “It’s given Acceptable Enterprises Limited a real boost to have the walkers from the Great Big Walk drop in to find out about our project here in Larne.

“Larne has had its fair share of difficulties in the past but sometimes it’s good to focus on the real needs of a community and pull together to deliver positive change.”

Be Safe Be Well

Olivia and Noel visited an open day for Be Safe Be Well Men’s Shed in Limavady on Wednesday 7th June which was developed with support from National Lottery funding. With plenty of visitors – old and new – there was a real buzz around the centre with the members showing off their woodworking skills and sharing stories about why coming to the shed is so important to them.

Armagh Men’s Shed

Armagh Men’s Shed, which has been funded through our Connecting Older People programme was also visited on 13th June. The members met the walkers along with Joanne McDowell and Joan McCrum from Big Lottery Fund and walked through Armagh to their men’s shed where they had lunch, had a sing along and chatted about their lives.

Click here to watch a video of the sing along at the shed.

Dessie, one of the members, said: “Today, meeting the great big walk folk was good craic and good luck to them walking all that way from Yorkshire to here, meeting people and learning what we all do.”

Head injury Support

On Thursday 15th June Olivia and Noel started the day by visiting Head injury Support in Newry which received funding through our People and Communities programme. The walkers were inspired listening to the stories from members, some of who have had to learn how to walk again after surviving a brain injury. They then walked through Newry with some of the members before heading off on the final few days of their journey.

College Park Avenue Residents Association

The walk finished on Sunday 18th June, where Olivia and Noel met Big Lottery Fund Chair Julie Harrison in Belfast and joined a Big Lunch event in the Holylands with over 400 other people from different communities. The event was funded with a Celebrate grant to College Park Avenue Residents Association.

Noel and Olivia were overwhelmed by the stories they heard on their journey, but the common theme was that in every community they visited, they met ordinary people doing extraordinary things and they were inspired by everyone they met.

Click here to watch a video of Olivia and Noel reflecting on their experiences.

The Great Big Walk saw five teams of walkers set off from West Yorkshire and walk to Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and London. Run by Eden Communities the Great Big Walk encouraged people to hold a Big Lunch celebration on Sunday 18 June as part of The Great Get Together, run by the Jo Cox Foundation.


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