A BREATH of fresh air has been offered to people struggling with complex issues keeping them out of work, thanks to a Durham-based charity.

A walking group designed to give feelings of isolation and helplessness the boot has been set up by Finchale Group, which provides support for people facing major barriers to employment.

Veterans, people suffering mental health issues and addiction have come together to “walk and talk” across the region, as a way to socialise, stay healthy and find solutions to the problems they face.

The group, Finchale Outdoors, is led by former Royal Marine, Richard Ellis, who has received help from Finchale Group’s case managers.

Mr Ellis, 45, of Consett, regularly leads these walks across the region, somtimes with as many as 12 people.

He said: “So far we’ve been all over the region, including walks at Allensford, Causey Arch, Beamish, Marsden and Durham Riverside – and we’re just getting going.

“The group is a fantastic way for people facing a range of challenges to share that burden, socialise and keep fit.

“I’d encourage anyone who wants to take part to get in touch and see how a breath of fresh air and someone to talk to can make a big difference.

“If you feel like you’re heading downhill, tell those problems to take a hike and join us.”

Mr Ellis, an outdoors lover, is just one of many veterans Finchale Group supports in adjusting to life after the armed forces.

The charity’s specialist case managers helped him to secure a grant through the Royal Marines Charity that allowed him to attend a winter mountain climbing course – a step towards his career ambition to secure a mountain instructor certificate.

Similarly, Finchale Group helps people from all walks of life, using their potential to inspire self-belief and overcome individual challenges – including addiction, homelessness and financial insecurity.

The group is joined on some of the walks by dogs and staff from Durham-based charity Stray Aid, which aims to save dogs left without owners.

Stray Aid is also keen to get more veterans involved in its “Chosen Paw” programme which gives participants the opportunity to walk dogs and improve their health as they do so.

Richard added: “At present we offer lowland walks, but the range of activities will expand to include days out in the mountains, climbing and cycling.

“Some people might prefer a gentle ramble and the social aspect of walking, while others could be set on challenging themselves in the mountains. That’s fine because everyone’s journey is different, as are their needs.

“Finchale Outdoors is set up to cater for ambitions and needs and, given time, has the potential to become a thriving hub of activity and the ‘go-to’ place for veterans who are looking to get outside and active, meet new people, and learn new skills.”

For those interested in joining Finchale Outdoors, more information is available directly from Finchale Group on 0191 386 2634 or enquiries@finchalegroup.co.uk.