For years, my friends have been nagging me to get some gay friends. Apparently they’re concerned that my circle consists of straight ladies, their husbands and my gaggle of old dears from the church.

“You’ll never find a life partner surrounded by us!” Are they trying to tell me something? Lucky I’m not a sensitive soul otherwise I might think they were trying to palm me off. 

In a way, I guess they’re right. Being stuck in my circle of ‘straights’ is probably not the most pro-active approach to meeting ‘the one’ or any gay friends come to that.

After their persistent advice, I finally decided to take action. I Googled gay men’s groups. And up popped a gay man’s dinner club. I quickly searched for the date of the next meal, only to discover the group was now defunct.

Probably for the best. I’m sure it would have ended up involving copious amounts of alcohol and I’d have bedded half the men before you could say ‘gay men’s dinner club.’

Known for my perseverance, I refused to give up at the first hurdle. As I scoured the Google search engine, the Gay Outdoor Club caught my eye.

Once I’d clarified that it wasn’t a dogging event, I became increasingly disinterested. JOKE. I became very interested. 

I soon discovered that it was a gay walking group. How exciting. Not only would I get to meet fellow gays, I would get exercise and fresh air into the bargain. I had two options to choose from. A London group or the Surrey Hills. Coming to the conclusion that I could walk around London anytime, I decided on the Surrey Hills.

I also noticed that they indulge in coffee and cake at the end of each walk. Cute. And the cakes are baked by some of the members. Being an amateur Mary Berry myself, this gave my spatula a twinge of excitement.

Armed with a lemon drizzle loaf (my speciality), I nervously turned up at my first walk. This particular day was a 13-mile ramble around Hascombe. Yes, Hascombe. I still don’t bloody know where it is but it’s blooming beautiful.

Shaking hands with all the men that were attending the walk was daunting and as the introductions finished, it was clear that I bought the median age range down by about twenty years. 

One of the older guys came up to me and offered me a sweet from an open bag he had in his hand. Ignoring advice I’d been given as a child about accepting sweets from strangers, my hand reached into his sweetie bag. 

“Which colour willy would you like?” He bellowed as my fingers realised they were fiddling with sugar-laden penises. 

As we set off on our walk, the usual small talk ensued as I was asked, “Where do you live?” “What’s your job?” But it was so bloody nice. The surroundings were glorious and I was engaging in conversation with some really friendly people. And they were gay. My friends would be so proud of me. The only conversations I’ve had with gay men in recent years have been via Grindr. 

A few miles in and this rather charming, camp man came up to me and grabbed me by the arm. Maybe this is a dogging group after all, I thought as I felt his hand on my arm.

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“I just have to tell you darling. Your eyebrows are FABULOUS! They are even better than Kim Kardashians!”

We soon spent the rest of the afternoon laughing and talking random rubbish with each other. We had the same stupid sense of humour and outrageous outlook on life. 

As I left the walk that day, my eyebrow admirer came running up to kiss me goodbye. “I feel like I’ve known you my whole life!” He said as we embraced. And it was true. We had clicked automatically. And do you know what was even more refreshing? It was a purely platonic encounter. I certainly felt no romantic notion towards him and I knew the feeling was mutual. 

As the walks are only once a month, I found myself counting down the days until the next one. I’ve now been a member for five months and have loved every minute of the days out.

It’s so amazing seeing parts of the countryside that I would never, ever venture into. And with wonderful conversation and laughs from many beautiful souls I’ve met. It’s innuendo city most of the time. Which is right up my alley. Pardon the pun.

It’s the best decision I’ve made in years to join. My advice to you all: Even if you feel scared, just take the plunge. Join that group, book that trip. Grab life by the balls!

During the most recent walk, I engaged in conversation with the chairman. 

“We are always looking for new people to lead the walks”, he told me.

“I’d bloody get us lost!” I insisted. 

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“That’s what I thought five years ago and look at me now. I lead walks and I’m the chairman!”

“Are you trying to groom me?” I quickly retorted. Oh, how we laughed.

Jokes aside, Tullene (my best friend) later said to me that she can see me becoming the chairman one day. Watch this space!

About the author: Mark Woollard

Mark David Woollard graduated from Brunel University, West London in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing and Journalism. Since then, he has written for many publications as a freelance writer. He has been ‘The Undateable Gay’ for The Gay UK magazine since 2015 where he documents his unsuccessful dating life. He wrote an opinion column for the national Student Times, discussing LGBT issues.

He also writes educational pieces for ‘Massage World’ magazine, giving advice to Reflexologists about treating certain ailments. He authored a novella in 2013 entitled ‘The Fun and Frolics of FIFI a L’Orange’, the crazy adventures of a drag queen.

And is currently working on a series of LGBT books for children and a collection of flash fiction.

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