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News & Stories > Deaf-initely women- an insight into a deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing women’s walking group in Derbyshire.

Deaf-initely women- an insight into a deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing women’s walking group in Derbyshire.

Walk Derbyshire joined the Deaf-initely Women Sandiacre Historical Walk in April. The walk was specifically for deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing women who were coming together to ‘discover the secrets of days gone by on a delightful stroll around this fascinating village.’ of Sandiacre.

The walk started at Sandiacre Library where we met the attendees, Becky Daykin, Becci Carter, the British sign Language (BSL) interpreter and David (Walk Leader) who would be providing interesting facts about the history of Sandiacre using the Sandiacre Historical Trail booklet. Becky Daykin is the Connector Co-ordinator for Deaf-initely Women and one of the Walk Leaders, Becci Carter is the temporary Erewash Walk Coordinator and David is a volunteer from the local area who guided us around the historical sites.

Before setting off they went through what to expect during the walk and a brief history about the area as a whole. Throughout the talk everything that was said by the walk leaders and the questions the women asked were interpreted by the British Sign Language Interpreter. After the talk we got ready to leave.

While waiting to set off on the walk, we learnt that it was the first Deaf-initely Women walk for most of those attending. One of the women travelled from Birmingham to be there, and they also were expecting others to come from Cheltenham and Bristol, but due to the rain they had to cancel.

Even with the heavy rain the women were committed to going on the walk. The walk for many of the women was the chance to take a break from everyday life and socialise in fresh air and be more physically active with like-minded people, and the weather wasn’t stopping them.

Due to women travelling from beyond Derbyshire, Deaf-initely Women try and host walks in all boroughs.

We started off by visiting the 1920 Memorial Institute, the Red Lion pub and the local Co-op that was built in 1872, they are all well-established historical buildings in Sandiacre.

Then we moved on to the main attraction of the walk, The Sandiacre Lock Cottage and Toll House. We walked through the public footpaths on the Erewash Canal looking at the birds and learning a little bit about foraging. The narrow footpath was also popular amongst cyclists which requires careful planning for all walking groups. In order to make it safe for everyone, a walk leader was situated at the back and the front of the group to warn the women when a bike was approaching.

Once we arrived at the Sandiacre Lock Cottage and Toll House we were given a talk and tour around the building, showing us how people lived and worked there. We saw how daily activities were done such as doing the laundry and cooking, we saw the stable and how the toll house operated when boats arrived with coal. We were also treated to some homemade cakes, biscuits and tea, which were very much appreciated!

We then set off to look at some more historical buildings. We saw the Springfield- Special occasions and events hall that used to be the main church and visited the Springfield Mill that was built in 1888 as a tenanted lace factory but was converted into residential properties in the 21st century. The walk ended with us all coming back to the library.

Talking to the women later we found just how important deaf and hard of hearing women spaces are.

For the women the walking group is an accepting space where people with similar experiences can come together and share their love of walking and learning. Having a BSL interpreter made it more inclusive and allowed the women to feel safe within the group.

A major factor that drew the women to the walk was the educational aspect of it, they would love to see more accessible walks around nature, heritage sites and famous people. Also having people like David who are passionate and well informed about the area made the walk even more enjoyable.

It’s the hard work and passion of others that has made so many deaf and hard of hearing women feel welcomed and comfortable within the group. Becky Daykin, the Connect Coordinator of Deaf-initely women knows just how much spaces like these are important. As an “assertive deaf woman” herself she can sometimes struggle in other groups that aren’t as inclusive as it can be tiring to lip read. Other reasons why deaf and hard of hearing people may struggle to attend other walking groups is that they can feel left out, it can be stressful and they may lack the confidence within a group of people who don’t have the same barriers. But having a deaf and hard of hearing women’s only group allows them to easily and naturally communicate with each other. It also gives them the opportunity to socialise with fellow women in a comfortable setting.

This is why it’s vital that walking groups have the right communication support in place so all people have the same experiences.

Planning a Deaf-initely Women walk isn’t easy, there are many challenges to setting the walks up. Booking BSL interpreters can be difficult because they are booked up well in advance, can be difficult to find and may not be available for the dates you require. It is also a costly process so funding is essential to keeping the walks running. The financial barriers of the women are also considered so Deaf-initely Women always try to source other funding to provide refreshments and look for cheap or free parking to make the walks as accessible as they can to everyone.

When looking for routes, less busy routes are preferred as they allow time and space for the women to sign or speak. Before a walk all potential risks are taken into consideration and all new walking routes are tested and risk assessed by Becky two or three times before the walk itself takes place.

Volunteers and staff are at the heart of the walks, making sure there are enough walk leaders available to cover the event can always be challenging as they also have other jobs. However, it is not the volunteers’ responsibility to organise the logistics, that is down to the Deaf-intely Women staff.

After meeting the women it is easy to see why inclusive groups are important, they provide a space of comfort and reassurance that cannot always be achieved in every environment. Having likeminded people share similar experiences and interest creates a sense of community and support that will keep the women coming back.

Thank you to Deaf-initely Women for inviting us, the women and walk leaders we met and the Sandiacre Library for supporting the event. It was great seeing how much care and support was put into the walks and how welcoming it was to everyone.

If you want to join a Deaf-initely women walk, please visit the Deaf-initely women website for all future walking dates: Events | Deaf-initely Women (

Walk Derbyshire is all about supporting people to walk more from their doorsteps and advocate for the right support to be in place to allow that to happen for everyone in our communities.