How to enjoy routes responsibly
1. Respect other people:
- consider the local community and other people enjoying the outdoors
- leave gates and property as you find them and follow paths unless wider access is available.
2. Protect the natural environment:
- leave no trace of your visit and take your litter home
- keep dogs under effective control.
3. Enjoy the outdoors:
- plan ahead and be prepared
- follow advice and local signs.
In Scotland when enjoying the outdoors you must follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, which is based on three key principles:
- Respect the interests of others.
- Care for the environment.
- Take responsibility for your own actions.
You can go on to most land to enjoy the outdoors (with some common sense exceptions including houses and gardens, other buildings and their yards or compounds, school grounds and places which charge for entry) – as long as you behave responsibly.
For detailed information and guidance about where you can go and what you can do see the different sections of the Code.
For up to date Coronavirus advice on walking in England, Scotland and Wales please refer to this Ramblers web page.
How to review a Slow Ways route
A review is an appraisal of a Slow Ways route, contributed by someone after walking or wheeling that route. Reviews are key to creating a network of trusted walking routes - they collect user feedback in a set format and, collectively as more are added, build a bank of information to help make decisions about a route.
Any logged-in Slow Ways user can leave a route review, which includes:
- a star rating for the route - between 1 and 5 stars
- a written description
- photos as a source of information
- the option to contribute to a process of ‘verifying’ the route.
How to verify a Slow Ways route
The ambition is to create a nationwide network of Slow Ways walking routes that is trusted and used with confidence. To do that requires ‘verifying’ each specific route to make sure it merits inclusion in the Slow Ways network.
A verified route is indicated by a snail symbol with a tick in its shell on a Slow Ways route page.
Help to confirm if a route should be included or not by leaving a review on a route page. Part of this process asks if you think the route is good enough to be included in the verified network or not.
‘Verified’ means that a route has been positively reviewed by a minimum of three people who think the route is good enough to be in the network. For example: Would you be willing to walk the route again? Would you recommend the route to others? Does it fit with the Slow Ways set methodology (see ‘Adding a route’)?
[A route can lose its verified status if the majority of reviewers submit that a route is not good enough to be in the verified network.]
- A verified route is not necessarily accessible for everyone.
- Consider a Slow Ways route in relation to its landscape. Challenging routes in remote places where there are no other route options can be included.
- Long distances can be appropriate, and don’t prevent a route from being verified.
Reasons a route might not be verified include:
- it’s dangerous
- it’s poorly drawn
- it doesn’t stick to Slow Ways methodology (see ‘Adding a route’)
- it’s overly dependent on roads compared to alternatives.
How to survey a Slow Ways route
A survey of a Slow Ways route collects key information to help potential users decide if it is suitable for them or not. It’s a vital and specialised undertaking. The process includes noting and photographing features and barriers, and making a judgement about what grade a Slow Ways route should be given.
To carry out a Slow Ways survey you must first read the Survey Training information that can be found on every route page after you have logged in. Tick the box to self-verify that you understand what is involved and will conduct surveys according to this guidance.
A Slow Ways route survey includes gauging and compiling:
- A route grade to indicate the worst quality of the path surface
- An access grade that will be released at a future date (see below)
- Lists of features
- Lists of obstacles, such as stiles
- Challenges that might be encountered, such as needing to scramble or climb
- Photos showing path quality and obstacles
- A description by the surveyor
An access grade that communicates path gradient, widths and barriers is being developed in collaboration with a range of partners, experts and users. In the meantime, the survey process is collecting measurements that can be converted into a grade at a later date.
It’s important to note:
- Only people who have completed Survey Training can submit a survey.
- Surveys are not approved or vetted - this should be taken into account if relying on any information they provide.
- Routes can have multiple surveys. The more surveys submitted, the more they can be cross-referenced for reliability and confidence.
Doing a survey? You can print, copy or adapt this survey sheet for use when out surveying Slow Ways routes.
How to survey a place
The towns, cities and villages at the end of routes are vital elements of Slow Ways. Without them you wouldn’t know where or when to stop! Place surveys collect and share information that users may find useful, including public toilets, accommodation under £50, bus and train stations.
There’s a link to submit a place survey on every place page, like this one for Blackpool.
How to add a new Slow Ways route
The ambition is to establish a national network of mapped, reviewed, rated, verified and surveyed walking routes that connect all of the United Kingdom’s towns and cities. Over 7,000 are already mapped.
There can be more than one Slow Way option between settlements. Why might you add a route?
- Different route options can be valuable for different users, needs and purposes.
- Landscape, features and barriers can all influence the process of route plotting, and create the need for more than one option.
- Where there is an obvious gap in the Slow Ways network, route additions are welcome.
Please look at existing routes first
If the route being considered is not significantly better, or does not follow Slow Ways methodology, please do not add it. The aim is to avoid route clutter.
If there is a useful alternative route that follows a Slow Ways methodology (below) please do add it.
How can you add a route?
You cannot actually plot a route using the Slow Ways website. You will need to do that using OS Maps or another platform.
All routes must start and finish at the published meeting points. These are precise locations where routes connect, and tend to be close to public transport. Find them on the route upload page that links from every route page.
All routes should follow a set methodology. As far as is reasonable a route should:
1. be safe
2. respect local codes and laws
3. be accessible to as many people as possible
4. be direct
5. be off road
6. have resting places to eat or sleep every 5-10km
7. pass through train and bus stations
8. be easy to navigate
9. be enjoyable and beautiful
10. use established routes (such as the Welsh Coast Path or John Muir Way), but not be distracted by them.
Guidance for creating Slow Ways routes in Scotland, Wales, England
When it comes to paths, access and rights of way, each of Great Britain’s nations has its own legal, devolved, cultural and historical considerations.
- Scotland - Click here for detailed information and guidance from a City Council Access Officer.
- England - Click here for detailed information from Ramblers UK on types of paths and Rights of Way law.
- Wales - Click here for detailed information from Ramblers UK on types of paths and Rights of Way law.
How to navigate and not get lost
Being able to find your way around without getting lost is important for walking or wheeling Slow Ways. Slow Ways is not a navigation tool or app. Many routes can be navigated with a basic ability to interpret street maps.
Here are some tips:
- To follow Slow Ways routes on a phone or device, download them onto a navigation app like OS Maps, MapMyWalk, Strava or Viewranger.
- Check the route you plan to walk looks good before committing to it.
- Learn how to map read with Steve Backshall.
- Use the Ordnance Survey beginner’s guides to map reading.
Slow Ways route-related information has been contributed by individuals from across the country. Some submitted routes may be unreliable, unachievable, or dangerous - the processes of reviewing, rating and surveying routes aims to root these out. Please be aware that you are entirely responsible for planning and undertaking your own journeys.