The Catholic Walking Club of Victoria celebrates its 70-year anniversary in 2021. Founded in 1951, the club has provided a weekly source of outdoor enjoyment, exploration and adventure, and enduring friendships for its 100-plus members. Former club president, Peter Naughtin, said there is much to celebrate and commemorate in this special anniversary year.

‘For 70 years, the Catholic Walking Club of Victoria has provided the opportunity to so many people to experience the Victorian and Australian bush and coastal settings in a variety of ways,’ said Peter. ‘Our walks have taken members to the far reaches of Victoria and interstate, providing the chance to appreciate the wonders of the Australian landscape. And, of course, there have been international trips from time to time.

‘All of us appreciate getting out into the environment and the great variety of walking settings that we have around Melbourne and Victoria. We have the High Country, the Dandenongs, Mount Macedon, the Mornington Peninsula, just to name a few. There’s such a variety of places you can walk, and we have a great variety of beaches and rivers and mountains you can climb. Places like the Grampians have always been a popular spot and we recently did a terrific camp in Portland.

‘We’ve also done a lot of great trips away interstate,’ he said, ‘particularly to Tasmania – the north-east and north-west cape, Cradle Mountain and the Western Arthurs. There is so much beautiful scenery to see!’

2012 Feathertop views steep descent to MUMC hut RB
Making the descent from Mount Feathertop

Peter said over the years there has been a mixture of trips on offer with varying walking grades. Most walks are between 12-15km, especially the Sunday walks, where anywhere between 15-20 club members usually participate. At the moment, there are 120 walkers in the club. They come mostly from metropolitan Melbourne, but also from as far as Kyneton, Alexandra, Kilmore and the Mornington Peninsula.

Reflecting on the significance of the 70-year anniversary, Peter said, ‘this milestone prompts us all to think about what the Club has meant for so many members over so many years. This is truly an achievement to be proud of and a cause for celebration.’

Out of these walking experiences many lifelong friendships have been formed, as well as many marriages, especially in the early decades of the club, in the 50s and 60s. Members have been able to share their lives and wealth of experience with one another and to provide support in the various difficulties we have experienced together on walks and in our own personal lives.'

‘Our membership list comprises a wonderful mix of members; some who have been with the club for many decades, a number going back to the 1950s, through to very recent new members. Others who have stopped active club walking keep in touch through informal social groups.

‘There was a time when marriage and the birth of children resulted in a number of members dropping off the active list to rear their families, however, when the children had grown and family responsibilities were less, they’ve resumed active walking and remained so for many more years.’

Peter added, ‘Others have joined the club in their middle years and found the enjoyment of walking they never had the chance to experience before.

Some have experienced personal crises in their lives and found the companionship and support from club members a way forward out of their sadness. So, for many reasons we can give thanks to God for what the club has been for so many people.’

To mark the anniversary, a walk and picnic lunch was held at Jells Park in Glen Waverley in May for present and past members. ‘We had a terrific turnout for this event with over 50 people present, including many past members of the club,’ said Peter.

‘The gathering at Jells Park was a wonderful reunion for many of the past members who came to meet again and renew friendships, friendships that have survived long after they stopped active walking.’

More recently, the club celebrated the online launch of its special 70-year anniversary edition of The Catholic Walker, the club’s magazine. Produced by editor of 10 years, Joan Kenny, this special edition features pages of photographs over the seven decades and story highlights that have been drawn from the past seven decades. Around 80 people attended the launch event online, including the inaugural magazine editor, Kerry Maher. Attendees enjoyed an extensive PowerPoint presentation of photos from club walks and activities over the past 70 years.

Peter explained, ‘The Catholic Walker magazine has been going for 60 years and comes out six times in the year. It features a lot of photographs and accounts of all the walks we’ve done. It’s a wonderful resource for our members.’

Looking ahead, Peter said the future of the Catholic Walking Club of Victoria ‘looks full of hope’. ‘Recently, we have had quite a number of new members joining the club. While many of us are now retired, most club members are physically well and coping with walks, according to their capacity. This good health is surely a reminder of the positive benefits of walking.

‘The club looks to the future with hope and the confidence that each week, provided we don’t get more lockdowns, we will get good numbers of walkers on our walks and the club will continue to prosper. Long may it continue!’

Membership of the CWCV is open to anyone 18 years of age and over who is genuinely interested in bushwalking. Fr Michael Mifsud is the club’s chaplain and Corrie van den Bosch MSS is the club’s pastoral care person. Each year, the anniversary of the club is celebrated in May within a bush setting. Anyone interested in joining, or finding out more, should visit the website.

Feature image: CWCV members walking along Bass Coast, Victoria