Being an Active Champion

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Active Champions play a key role in delivering our mission of making physical activity an embedded part of everyday life in Calderdale. They are pivotal in inspiring others to be active and driving forward change in communities. But what does it mean to be an Active Champion and what does the role entail?

Being an Active Champion - Gillian's Story

I have recently been assigned the role of Mixenden Active Champion, as part of Active Calderdale’s efforts to encourage residents to inspire others to become more active within my community.

Here is some background that led to my personal goal to improve my fitness and the local environment. My interest in animals and other wildlife did not occur until later in life when my focus was being a young stepparent. From studying Animal Management and Zoology, I realised the importance of education in helping improve our local habitats and ecosystems for animals and humans. In recent years, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has given me many opportunities to work with local communities in Huddersfield and Bradford as an Inspire People Volunteer. This enabled me to work on projects, support residents in enhancing their greenspaces, and engage families and children through nature play sessions in and after school. I was keen to continue this sort of work in my community.

There are many ways you can enjoy our local wild spaces and Mixenden is surrounded with beautiful and varied habitats and ecosystems that we benefit from. I prefer to be active within our green spaces, whether exploring nature or investigating our local wildlife by taking photos and using ID apps to learn more about them. Throughout the year I like to forage for some of our edible plants such as berries and wild garlic, there are many I have yet to discover. Many residents within Mixenden also care about our wildlife and have actively helped to improve the area, such as laying gravel paths and planting crocus etc and have done their bit to help clean up the area in their spare time.

I created a Facebook page called Mixenden Wildlife as a platform for the community to share their experience and encounters with our local wildlife. The focus of this is on cleaning and improving our natural environment. Local conservation volunteering work varies in nature and depends on the time of year and the sites being managed. Ranging from fairly low-impact tasks such as litter picking and removing invasive species to slightly more challenging work such as planting trees, clearing pathways, pond maintenance, and community gardening. Dubbed the “Green Gym”, volunteers are often completing tasks that exercise the whole body. They are also learning new skills whilst working out in the fresh air improving the community. This is wonderful for your mental health and wellbeing and the best thing is, it’s free.

Litter picking and managing invasive plant species has been my focus recently. My experience, like with many others, is that these activities are both enjoyable and satisfying. They create opportunities for like-minded individuals who want to make a difference, to connect with people, whilst surrounded by nature. I find volunteering offers flexibility and a relaxed environment for people to contribute at their own pace.

I recently hosted a litter pick during Britain’s Big Spring Clean (kindly supported by North Halifax Partnership). This resulted in 20 plus bags and several larger items cleared from a badly littered area, some litter was around 30 years old. The event had a huge positive response from the community, with others interested in joining future events. Work in the area also continues with ‘Look after the Brook’ monthly task days organised by Active Calderdale and Calderdale Council. Current improvement works aim to improve the access and pathways in preparation of the Mixenden Hebble History and Nature trail to be installed later in the year.

Trying something new and sticking with it can be hard. I hope being an Active Champion and sharing my experiences about exercise will resonate and motivate others, which in turn motivates me.

"It's great to have residents leading the way in their communities. Physical activity means different things to each of us, and we want to support individuals to find their way and reasons to be active.

Gillian is doing fantastic work in Mixenden to inspire others to get active in different ways.

We're looking for more local people who want to get involved, share their stories and help others take their first steps towards a more active lifestyle!"

Sofie Armitage - Active Calderdale Community Project Manager

If you are inspired to become an Active Champion for your community, please contact us via for further information.