Visually impaired rambler inspires others to explore our National Parks

  • Contributor information: CNP

Photo credit @John Bradley

Visually impaired Marika Kovacs explains what inspired her to be a walk leader and why National Parks are so important to her.

What makes it hard to travel to and around National Parks?

Public transport isn’t really an option – almost impossible in fact. Without private transport I would really struggle to visit the beautiful parts of the country. Private transport does however need to be arranged days and sometimes weeks in advance. For most people they can make a decision at the drop of hat if they would like to take an excursion to the countryside or a National Park. Unfortunately for me it doesn’t work like that, as even things like packing bags take more time than you think.

One of the nearest National Parks to me is the Peak District. Getting a train to the Peak District is possible but a taxi fare is extremely expensive. But if I’m on my own I have no choice as I wouldn’t even entertain using buses. Quite frankly it is a non-starter.

I’m just very lucky I have friends that love to visit National Parks and the outdoors as it is so much easier to go with someone else.

What would you say to someone who is visually impaired and wants to start exploring the outdoors?

Take it bit by bit and work up to it. My first walk was only a few miles. Then I went on a four-mile walk and I was exhausted. Now I can do anything between 10 – 14 miles without any trouble and if I walk less than 3 miles, I feel short-changed. My best bit of advice is to book trips with reputable organisations and go with people who know what they are doing. I even went to Japan last year which was the trip of a lifetime!

What’s your favourite National Park and why?

I love going to the Peak District. I used to go camping with my Nan when I was child in the 1970s and 80s. Places like Dovedale evoke special memories and the Peaks will always hold a special place in my heart. That’s why it was so nice to take part in the commemorative walk last year in Castleton. The Lake District is also beautiful and I have had some great holidays there. Another favourite of mine is Brecon Beacons as I love Pen-y-fal.

And why do you love being a walk leader?

I got into walk leading when I first joined the Herefordshire Ramblers. Quite simply, they inspired to me to challenge myself. Just because I can’t see I didn’t want to be held back. I sat down with friends and devised a way that I could become a walk leader. A good friend of mine found a route near Breinton (Herefordshire) that I could practise being a walk leader on. It was a 5-mile route and we first did the walk together and described all the details of the walk into a dictaphone, which we then translated into Word and subsequently braille. Every walk I now lead takes 3 dry-runs before the main walk, practising the route with a dictaphone and braille. I normally lead groups of varying sizes and I once led a walk at short notice for 35 people. It takes a long time to get 35 people over stiles!

What’s your next trip?

Once Covid-19 has passed I am going to fulfil the plans I had at the start of year. I am going to hopefully complete the Which Way, which is 75 miles long, with friends. I am also going to complete Wye Valley walk, which is the whole length of the River Wye. I was inspired by a book which covered the walk.