SUE Lee enjoys walking, whether it’s in the Himalayas or in the parks and countryside of Sheffield.
And the council ranger, who has helped the city to gain a national reputation for its health walks, found a way of combining the disparate locations when she celebrated her 60th birthday.
For she invited volunteers on the walks she organises in Sheffield to a lunch at Sparks restaurant at the Castle centre of the Sheffield College and raised £600 for schools in the Himalayas.
In particular, she is supporting a scheme to build schools for girls and to pay the salaries of teachers.
Sue discovered how tough life could be when she went on a trek to Nepal in 2003 on the 50th anniversary of Edmund Hilary’s ascent of Everest. A school built in his name was so cold that children were sent to the school yard to run around to keep warm. The teacher had to run the village shop to supplement his income.
Money from her birthday lunch is being sent to an initiative started by an American climber, Greg Morteson, who unsuccessfully tried to scale K2 and whose life was saved by an elder in an impoverished village in northern Pakistan.
He has since devoted his life to improving educational opportunities of children, especially girls, in the mountains. More than 60 schools have been built.
Sue said: “I share his view that terrorism and feudal war in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan is best tackled by providing the children with an education delivered by properly qualified and trained teachers.”
A donation is being made to Morteson’s charity, The Central Asia Institute, and the Himalayan Trust UK. The lunch raised £600 and Sue, who has been to Nepal four times, is aiming to raise another £600 from family and friends.
Fifty-seven volunteers, mainly from Sue’s walks in the south-west of Sheffield, attended the lunch. “It was wonderful. It was so nice to see all the volunteers mixing with the older volunteers, swapping stories and being so positive and enthusiastic.”
Sue, who lives in Woodseats, joined the council to organise health walks eight years ago after a dramatic career change. She was a reproductive endocrinologist, working on research into HRT. “I didn’t think I would find a job as satisfying but this is just as rewarding.”
Starting with no walks, no volunteer leaders and no walkers, she now oversees an initiative that has attracted more than 13,000 people – a “staggering” number, she says – on 12 regular walks.
“There are health walks in other cities but we are very proud that we have got the biggest walk in the country in Ecclesall Woods and more walks per head of population than in any other town or city.
“And that’s how it should be when you have got the greenest city in the country!”
Some of the walkers are referred by GPs but others come for a multitude of reasons.
“One guy comes to Endcliffe Park with his dog, there is one person in an electric wheelchair, a number have had strokes, some have breathing problems, diabetes or learning difficulties. Some have just moved into the area and are looking to make friends, some may be lonely. We welcome everybody. There is a lovely atmosphere on the walk. Everybody is very friendly.”
Sue works with Tina Moores, who also organises health walks as part of a programme by Natural England (the office is in Firth Park, tel 203 9335).
As well as the south-west of the city, Sue delivers walks in Richmond, Frecheville, Hackenthorpe, Crystal Peaks, Gleadless and Firth Park.
But she has her sights on Nepal in the longer term: “I plan to volunteer in an orphanage there when I retire.”