This was the motivation for a women’s walking group offering exercise and companionship across generations, outdoor fun, time to admire the scenery and enjoy a day of relaxation amongst like-minded women. Women’s Outdoor Pursuits, or WOPs for short, has expanded to members across the whole of Auckland with many car-pooling networks and it’s still going strong today.

 Would-be members complete an introductory course which covers outdoor clothing and equipment, shelter building, survival skills, advice on food and drink in the bush and map skills. Present membership ranges across many decades, and all carry an ID in their pack with medical details should the need arise. They also know what to do if they stumble on a wasp’s nest, need to apply an epi pen or carry a wounded mate out of the bush. But for all the precautions to ensure safety, enjoyment is a key focus. Women join for a huge range of reasons, not just the all too familiar need to get out of the house but also to increase fitness, to find companionship after a recent move to Auckland, to learn more about native flora and local history or simply to meet up regularly with a group of friends and get out in the bush.

Our term programme provides you with a range of weekly walks. Pre –booking is not required once you’ve paid for the term’s enrollment. Just find a walk that appeals, ring your car pool group to see if there’s still room for another bod, get your pack ready, sun block, hat and boots on and you’re off.  Our timetable allows for members who need to get back to the city in time for a school pick-up.

Firm friendships grow over years of walking together and sharing lifes up and downs. Further plans develop with other “Woppers”, whether doing a Great Walk, exploring intriguing but remote corners of NZ or walking in distant countries. As the focus is on outdoor activities you soon find soul-mates who want to bike, swim kayak or paddle board with you as well. In fact, our own intrepid members can usually provide riveting and entertaining stories for our AGM presentation each year- we don’t need to search any further. Relationships are built out of shared experiences and support during difficult times, contributing to the overall wellbeing of our members.

Another  point of difference from other clubs is that our timetabled walks are led by highly experienced contracted leaders, charged with checking the safety of the track before the day, ensuring all abilities are catered for during the walk and carrying relevant first aid for all eventualities. And if you find you can’t keep up with the majority, there’s always a slower, less challenging option: the “Legs” group is designed for those who want a different pace because of injury or who are just seeking a safe but steady walk.

Recent developments with kauri dieback have changed many of our favourite excursions. But we’ve adapted to the need to protect the kauri trees in our forests and we still turn up to our weekly tramps for the fitness and the fun.  One new member summed up her first year with WOPS: “I come back from each day out a better person- more balanced, more centred, energised. I’m hooked!”

Thank you to Jeanene Piper for the words and images. Visit the Women’s Outdoor Pursuits website to learn more about the club.