Here you’ll find Slow Ways stories, films, blogs and news. Things to browse and share, to be informed and inspired by.
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There’s more to Leading Walks than Leading Walks
13th September, 2022 by Guest
Slow Ways pioneering volunteer and artist, Lynn Jackson shares her experience undertaking the Lowland Leader training course!
I’ve been reviewing Slow Ways route for over a year now, and I love doing it. Even my fear of maps and compasses has gone, but I still find myself ‘temporarily misplaced’ enough to know that I need instruction on how to navigate better. I would also like to take people out on verified routes and pass on my joy of learning the Slow Ways paths around my area that were there before the age of the motor car.
So, I needed training, and maybe something that leads to a qualification to show that I’m capable of safely leading a group on a Slow Ways route. A quick Google showed that there was such a course – the Lowland Leader training course from Mountain Training. The Lowland Leader course is for people who wish to lead groups on day walks in lowland countryside and woodland in summer conditions and sounds as if it could have been designed with most Slow Ways routes in mind. Essentially, the walks must follow known paths, generally be no more than 3km from key access points and must use recognized crossing points for rivers and streams.
After some research, I settled on Beyond the Edge as my training provider as they have a great reputation and are based in the Peak District (a favourite stomping ground of mine).
Day 1 found me in Grindleford at front of the Sir William Hotel where the course is based. I met up with the other attendees and our instructor Chris.
After coffee and introductions, Chris set us our first task – drawing a Lowland Leader and listing the skills and qualities that make a good leader. Fortunately, my team was happy with my stick man, and we wrote down our version (although I was later persuaded that a top hat might be better left at home…).
The ethos of the Lowland Leader is to enthuse, inform and entertain; while knowing where you are and protecting those you are with.
And so, our training began. Chris gave a background of the organisations involved in outdoor activities. The British Mountaineering Council is the national representative body for England and Wales that exists to protect the freedoms and promote the interests of hill walkers, not just climbers and mountaineers. We also looked at the various qualifications and where Lowland Leaders are placed on that map. The ethos of the Lowland Leader is to enthuse, inform and entertain; while knowing where you are and protecting those you are with. I began to feel that we’d missed juggling balls off our stick Leader picture.
After lunch we were outside with our rucksacks, maps, and compasses where I demonstrated my woeful lack of distance perception by estimating 3km to a field 750 metres away. Never fear, said Chris, it all comes with practise.
Navigating begins with the three D’s – direction, distance, and description. This is when Chris got Very Specific, stepping through each feature on the map, describing in detail how we were going to get from A to B.
The afternoon gave us the opportunity to use our maps and compasses properly, to take bearings and pace out distances. Throughout this, Chris showed us aspects of the woodland we were in and the animals we could see (and not see) there.
When we got back to the classroom, we did route planning work, considering the type of walking suitable to different groups from children to ladies who lunch. This is just as well as I had to plan a walk for 9 lads on a stag day for my homework that evening.
Day 2 and we were joined by trainee instructor Rich to review our homework route plans. Things then got serious as this is an industry qualification. Chris took us through commercial considerations and legal responsibilities of the activity provider and the individual leader, particularly regarding insurance. This wasn’t to scare us however, it’s about proper preparation, risk assessment and management.
To lighten the mood, we then discussed learning about the environment you’re in, as entertainment makes the walk special for those involved. Many things can be used to provide information from geology to natural history, to social history. We learned about the Field Studies Council, which provides online learning.
With all this information in our heads, it was time to put things into practice. We planned a route for the afternoon’s walk before striding out into the sunshine. Each of us took a turn leading a section of the walk. We navigated and explained a few things about the area that we’d picked up before the course (we’d been asked to present something in the course joining instructions). We also took care of Mildred – a nervous new walker looking suspiciously like Chris.
This walk simulated an assessment with the bonus of Chris and Rich guiding and advising us as we lead.
Once back in the classroom, we rounded off the course with a session on emergency procedures – who to call and what to do while you’re waiting for them to arrive.
And with that, we had completed our Lowland Leader training course. Chris told us what we needed to do to consolidate our skills (not much for our group, more quality walking days and party management) and explained that we need to attend a 16-hour first aid course before the Assessment course can be signed off.
I had a great two days of learning and meeting new friends. I’ve come away with a great set of skills and knowledge that I hadn’t realised was missing from my lowland walking experience and would like to thank my fellow attendees, Chris, Rich and all at Beyond the Edge for making the course as entertaining as it was informative. I am enthused to carry on with my Lowland Leader journey!
For those of you keen to improve your walking skills without the Leader part, the National Navigation Award Scheme has courses where you can learn navigation skills and gain confidence to get out and enjoy the countryside. And Mountain Training has courses for those people wanting improve their hill and mountain walking skills.
The Joys of Multi-day Hiking and Top Tips for Getting Started
13th September, 2022 by Guest
From mapping out your route to sorting out logistics, brazen multi-day hiker and Slow Ways volunteer Ingrina Shieh shares her love for continuous hiking and her top tips for getting started!
How I got started
The first walk I tried in the UK was sourced from a pocket-sized, no frills book titled, ‘The Best Walks in the Lake District’, from which I chose the classic Langdale Pikes circular from New Dungeon Ghyll. Subsequent walks followed the same approach, and these guidebooks took me to stunning areas and summits throughout the UK and nurtured my love for walking. For the most part, I opted for circular walks for practicality, beginning and finishing at the same point to get back to the parked car or the bus/train stop. These were certainly thrilling, but after years of walking in circles of different circumferences, one day I looked over at the fells just a half mile beyond and wondered, what if I didn’t have to turn back? What if… I could just keep going to that fell over there, and then the ones beyond that? Where would I end up?
The uncertainty of how far that trail could go was titillating. I went on to plan my first multi-day hike in Cornwall, following the Southwest Coastal Path from Penzance to Falmouth, 100 kms in 4 days. It was tiring. I packed far too much, it was hot, my shoulders ached in a way I’d never known.
And I loved it.
My body felt every sweatdrop of that achievement as much as it did the exhaustion. I’ve since done more multi-day walks, from established national trails like the West Highland Way to self-planned routes from London to Brighton. It is exhilarating to look at the map and see the distance I covered on foot each day. While tough, walking from point A to point B, day after day, has a beautiful simplicity. Get up, one foot after another to the next destination, repeat. Of course, there are always parts that aren’t scenic, tricky to navigate, or simply unpleasant, but it all adds to the story of a journey from one place to another. Rather than speeding by on the road, walking in its slowness allows me to take in my surroundings in their totality, feeling and seeing the change of the landscapes, towns, and cities I cross. It also gives me space to reflect on our relationship with nature and consider our role in being in it and a part of it.
Slow Ways launched during the early days of my multi-day explorations. As someone who loves travelling on foot, the idea of walking from town to town (or nodes) across the UK sounded brilliant. I still love walking across the fells, but this new kind of network opened up more possibilities of discovering the country and travelling. I took on a challenge to walk from London to its closest national park, South Downs National Park, and created a waylist that would carry me around 120km over three days (which I’ve spoken to Slow Ways about here).
Having done that route, I would definitely recommend using Slow Ways to plan a multi-day walk, whether you're trying your first one or have walked from Lands End to John O’Groats. Using the Waylist feature, I can connect different routes to save on my navigation apps that are a bit more off-the-beaten track than well-trodden national trails. I can keep the route private or make it public for others to use as well. And though I love walking national trails, I also love planning my own routes.
For seasoned walkers, Slow Ways offers a great, new way to visit different parts and paths of the UK and to encourage others to follow suit - by leaving reviews and/or publishing your Waylists.
For the newer walkers, because the routes connect towns and villages, there are several opportunities for stopping if needed (and if planned), as well as plenty of supplies and facilities along the way.
So if you’re thinking about trying out your first multi-day walk, read on for some of my tips!
(Disclaimer: I do not hold qualifications in mountain or low level walking, though I have taken a mountain leader training course. These are just things I personally found helpful for myself, but please do seek out professional guides and/or resources on how to stay safe, prepare for the elements, and kit recommendations.)
Do I really need to plan?
Long distance routes will take more planning than day walks, especially if you’ve not done it before. Also, if you are limited on time, planning is essential unless you can identify points where you can make early exits. If you have time to go as slowly or quickly as you’d like, you might not feel the need to plan a stringent schedule, but you’d still have to ensure that you are prepared in other ways - you have enough food, water, the right kit, etc.
Choose your route
The questions below might help you determine locations of origin and destination - the first step!
- - What area would you like to explore?
- - Would you like to do a low level walk in valleys or would you like to climb a few summits along the way?
- - How far would you like to walk? How many days can you walk the distance in?
- - How long do you think you can/would like to walk each day? Work out an average daily distance and break your route into stages. If it’s your first time, it could be wise to dial each day back a few kms. Bring a book or podcast to keep you occupied if you finish early. By all means, test your boundaries if you’d like, but remember that there is a big difference between doing two 30-km walks one week apart versus doing them over two consecutive days.
Tip #1: I like to think of little prompts that make a story. I chose London to Midhurst because I wanted to walk from London to its closest national park (South Downs National Park). I walked from London to Brighton on the basis that it was a common travel route by train and bike, so I wanted to try it on foot. Slow Ways is also working on a beast of a trail connecting the national parks to each other across the UK.
Tip #2: I always have a Plan B (sometimes a Plan C) and choose a backup destination in case I get tired or injured. Having picked up minor injuries from overuse, I’ve learned that ultimately listening to the body will help me continue walking in the long run.
Map your route
Assuming you’ve opted to map your own route rather than take on a signposted trail, let’s get mapping!
Here are some tools you can use:
- - Navigation apps like Ordnance Survey, AllTrails, Komoot, and Outdoor Active allow you to upload GPX files so you can track your progress and location on a map. Beware of where you might lose reception if you can’t use the map offline.
If you’re using Slow Ways, you can:
- - Go to the home page to see where routes connect your origin and destination
- - Create a new a Waylist (or two!)
- - Download the GPX file of each route and upload to a navigation app
- - Or try their new app on OS!
There are also plenty of route suggestions on other apps and websites like Ordnance Survey, AllTrails, Komoot, Walk Highlands, and the area websites themselves. Most of them also make GPX files available to download and use offline. Note: Some of the apps only allow offline use if you pay a subscription.
Tip: If you want to conserve battery, you can enable location services and go on flight mode. This should allow your app to continue tracking where you are on the map if you can use the app offline.
If you’re like me, logistics are a huge deal, and here are some notes that might be useful:
- Travel: How will you get to/from the walk? A lot will depend on your mode of travel. I usually take public transport, so I aim to make the penultimate bus/train, which means that if any delays, cancellations, or walk disasters come up, I can still get the last service as a backup. And yes, I also have a backup to that backup - ensuring I’ve got enough means for a phone call and/or a taxi.
- Know how much daylight you’ve got: Night walking can be special, but only if you’re prepared! Keep an eye on the sunrise and sunset time and plan your distances accordingly.
- Accommodation: Budget, location, and how you get there, particularly from the destination of your walking route. I’ve been caught out before where I had to walk another few kms to the hotel/campsite because I’d booked it away from the town centre.
- Food: Will you need to pack or cook any food or will you stop by towns for food? Consider weight and what you can carry if you’re packing food. If you want to rely on shops/restaurants, it could be helpful to calculate estimated arrival times and whether snacks are needed in between destinations.
- Toilets: Try to find out where you’ll be able to use toilets for your own comfort. Slow Ways routes that have been surveyed include information on facilities found at the location.
- Kit: Ensure you’ve got the right clothes, footwear, waterproofs, equipment, and supplies. There are plenty of good articles out there on packing list suggestions. If you can, do invest in good socks and waterproofs!
- Compass and map: This is part of your kit, but it’s listed separately here to emphasise that these are really handy for when technology checks out on you.
- Walking poles: This is optional, but I wish I’d taken these up when I was younger. If you’re carrying heavy loads (like I do when I backpack) or if you’re doing a lot of descents, these will save your knees from bearing a lot of the impact. They’re also handy for fording rivers and going through bogs.
Don’t be fooled that slow could mean easy! While walking is indeed much gentler than other sports, doing it day after day can take a toll. Training a bit can help make the journey a bit more comfortable and enjoyable.
A few quick tips:
- If you’ve not done a lot of long distance walking before, try increasing your distances slowly to avoid injury
- Break in the shoes you’re planning to use. Some walking boots require more use than others
- Try different thicknesses of socks to narrow down what you feel more comfortable in
- Do some walks on consecutive days so your feet and legs can get used to back-to-back walking
- Use your training walks to try different ways of fueling
- Training could help you figure out if you’re prone to blisters. In this case it might be helpful to pack some blister tape and use them before the blisters form.
Ingrina Shieh is a volunteer London National Park City Ranger and passionate active traveller who loves exploring places and connections on foot. Ingrina has walked in many different parts of the UK on established trails in between cities or towns. Her recent solo journey took her on 15 routes over three days from London to its closest national park, South Downs. She particularly loves multi-day hiking and camping and is now working towards a UK Mountain Leader Award.
Six tips for walking on the Broads
19th August, 2022 by Saira Niazi
Big skies, mystical marshes, winding waterways, and a ton of wildlife: the wondrous, expansive landscapes of Norfolk and Suffolk are a joy – and a challenge
Bristol Walking Festival Podcast - Discovering Slow Ways with Pommy Harmar
6th June, 2022 by Saira Niazi
In this episode of the Bristol Walking Festival podcast, producer and host Pommy Harmar introduces listeners to Slow Ways and embarks on a wondrous Slow Ways journey out of Bristol along the Frome Valley, listening to the sounds of nature and talking to locals along the way.
Hello everyone. And welcome back to Bristol walk Fest podcast with me Pommy Harmer. The festival is in full swing and it lasts until the end of the month so do have a look at the program and join in some of the walks. In this, our final episode of the series we're discovering slow ways. An organization that got going during the lockdowns of 2020, it was started by Dan Raven-Ellison who had an epiphany moment while walking the pilgrims way from Salisbury to Chester, realizing we've lost the culture of using footpaths to visit our family and friends, or even just to get to work. And out of that that moment, a network of 7,000 Slow Ways has emerged. Later on in the show. I'll be trying one of them out, I'll be walking along the river from the city center to Hambrook. But before that, let's find out more about Slow Ways from their Community Stories lead Saira Niazi.
Pommy: Tell me about some of the benefits of Slow Ways. that's kind of the heart of why you're doing it, isn't it?
There are so, so many benefits. I mean, I guess the more well-known benefits of walking is that it keeps you healthy. It keeps you active, it connects you to nature. It connects you to each other. Conceptually I feel like Slow Ways is much bigger than that. It's about kind of really getting under the skin of different areas and really empowering people to get a better understanding of the local neighbourhoods that make up Great Britain. So for me, it's been really, really fascinating. One of the first Slow Ways walks that I did was from Canvey Island to Leigh on Sea and Canvey Island is, really, really different to Leigh on Sea. You know, it's quite working class it's at risk of flooding, it's really unusual in parts. It's got lots of really, really interesting and rich stories, and it was really powerful to walk from canvey island onto Leigh on sea, which is a bit more quirky. It's a bit more middle class. It's part of the mainland. And on the way, connecting to lots of different sort of hidden gems and people who were really, really rooted in their area. So I remember I met one man who was in recovery, he would teach people to wild swim off three tree island. And then I met a local councillor by chance sitting on, on a bench, overlooking the seafront in Canvey Island and, and the bench was dedicated to his father who had recently passed away. And he talked a lot about the community coming together during lockdown. And then I met a farmer on that route. And it was really interesting because all these kind of micro stories just gave you a bigger picture on life in that part of great Britain.
And so for me, I guess the benefits are a lot more nuanced than just sort of walking from A to B; it's about connecting people, but also connecting ideas, connecting with nature, discovering stories, which is kind of the main premise of my job and really kind of empowering people who also might not necessarily drive or, you know, be so keen on taking public transport. It's really empowering to know you can walk to your closest neighborhood. And I think during lockdown, a lot of people who wouldn't really consider themselves as walkers got out walking. And so you're seeing a lot more diversity in terms of the different kinds of people who use walking routes. I guess, sideways is supposed to be a functional walking network. So as well as it being quite recreational, it's also about getting from A to B you know, it's about maybe how would I get to my, you know, local dentists or how could I get to the hospital one town over and you'd do slow ways to plan that journey. And we've had quite a few people actually planning very, very long distance journeys from one part of great Britain into another. So we had a few people walk from London to COP in Scotland and they used slow ways to do that. So, you know, you get people planning much bigger pilgrimages, which is, yeah, it's really, really empowering. And it's really powerful to know that, you know, you can actually walk to places, especially because it, it feels like our infrastructure's all kind of rooted around roads and railway lines.
Pommy's Slow Ways Journey
The route from castle park is a very urban one. It leads past the main shopping center up old market down to Riverside, which sounds idyllic doesn't it, but it runs along the M 32 motorway up past the first junction and towards the second, which is known as the Eastville junction Eastville park. Also the home to Ikea, which sits on the spot of Bristol Rover's old ground. And when they vacated the place, it became a Greyhound dog track and a market that's now gone, and Ikea has taken over the site.
That's the point I'm going to go to next because that's where the river Frome appears out of the ground and starts running freely, Right? We've reached the mighty store of Ikea just by junction two on the M32, this see where the Frome river disappears underground and goes all the way back to where I've just come from Castle park. From now on, on the walk, it'll be visible all the way. All the way to Hambrook actually, where it divides Hambrook is slightly off the Frome river. The flow of the river is managed at this point before it goes down underground. So there are slew gates. There's nothing beautiful about the room at this point, but that will soon change. In fact, as soon as we cross this roundabout and get into Eastville park, It'll look bucolic.
I've just reached the carpark of snuff mills, which is part of the old recorder state. And it's absolutely teaming with bird song, insects, butterflies. So snuff mills, it's about three miles outta the city center now. And it was called Whitwood mill. Whitwood mill was a working mill until the early 20th century in the 1890s, a six bladed stone saw was installed and powered by a steam engine demolished in the thirties. The mill was tarmacced over and used as a bandstand and in the eighties was restored back to its former glory. The water wheel is now turning again and the egg ended steam boiler can be clearly seen.
And the volunteers from the snuff mills action group have transformed the garden around it into a riot of color, full of insects and birds at this time of year. Hello?
"I've always had a love of gardening, but I'M certainly not a professional in any way, but I think if you're interested in something, you learn about it. it's just progressed from there. I mean, there's only about five of us now, but that's enough. Actually if we work all through the winter, we try and get most of the weeds out the way. And we just love it and we love the people, the comments we get from people because they all appreciate it so much. As I say, I spent my childhood down here, this is our playground. So I loved it down here and you can keep to the river all the way along. So it's easy and accessible for people in wheelchairs, anything like this is possible. I mean, if you want to, you can turn right up, further along and go up over the top. And there's quite a nice Arboretum up there. Obviously another cafe up there too."
Hello? Hello. Can I chat with you? Hello? How far are you running? Maybe seven miles seems quite a lot to me. Do you run along here a lot? I do run here quite a lot. Yeah, I do. It's quite a nice flat route away from traffic, but the only bad bit is going up through French shame back down the hill. Ah, yes. Well, choice is up through the field are up the main road, obviously the field's the best option. And have you ever run out as far as handbook, I've run all the way to eight, have you? I have I've run all the way to eight and got the bus home, which is really nice to do. We've reached Grange park in Frenchay, which links Frenchay, a common with the footpath. Again, it's a housing estate and right at the front of it is a tower. I've just looked it up. Uh, it's currently an electricity substation, but it was a dove cut. It says the electricity substation was originally built as part of a Victorian model farm that occupied the land beside it and was a dove cut. The land was part of the Woodfield house estate.
And of course, none of these houses would've been here then, and it would've been a footpath extending Frenchay right the way through to the next part of our journey. My rural tranquility has been shattered as the path walks me under the M4 motorway cars and trucks are thundering overhead. What a place to live. There's a garden here thats just right under the motorway itself. That's quite a spot to live in, the amount of traffic going past 24/7. And this is obviously a very rural little village as we near Hambrook with beautiful stone bridges going over the Frome. Well, I've reached the end. I'm in Hambrook. And as you can hear, Hambrook is surrounded by motorway and ring roads sandwiched between a triangle of the M32, the M4 and the ring road that goes around the east part of Bristol. I'm at the coach house. So it was obviously somewhere that people stayed overnight, rested their horses. If you lived in Hambrook, walking back into the city center is only five miles and you are in beautiful countryside and the whole of the Frome valley for probably four miles of it in woods high sided, Rocky valleys, open moorland.
Listen to more episodes of the Bristol Walking Festival Podcast.
Tuning in to nature
31st May, 2022 by Guest
Audio: Immerse your senses in this beautiful wandering wildlife pilgrimage on the Llŷn Peninsula, North Wales, with wildlife photographer and naturalist Ben Porter, and a Little Egret, Curlew, Yellow Dung Fly, Blackcap...
Wythnos o gerdded yng Nghymru
17th May, 2022 by Hannah Engelkamp
Welsh/Cymraeg: Tim Ryan sy’n hen gyfarwydd â cherdded pellter mawr yn defnyddio Slow Ways i gynllunio ei daith gerdded wythnos o hyd o Gaerdydd i Aberystwyth
Walk a week in Wales
17th May, 2022 by Hannah Engelkamp
Long distance walker Tim Ryan has pioneered a version of the Cambrian Way on 19 consecutive Slow Ways, across spectacular landscape from Cardiff to Aberystwyth
What is Slow? What are Ways?
3rd May, 2022 by Hannah Engelkamp
What should Slow Ways translate as in Welsh? And what about Scottish Gaelic? Or Cornish? Polish or Punjabi? Before we begin, we need to think about what Slow and Ways really mean
What can we learn from listening to the land?
21st December, 2021 by Guest
What do you hear when you listen to the land? Thinkers and activists from India, the UK, Finland and Ghana speak about the importance of walking journeys to their relationships with nature.
Q&A with David Sanderson, who's now walked 500 miles of Slow Ways!
24th November, 2021 by Dan Raven-Ellison
To celebrate his century of Slow Ways routes, I reached out to David with some questions. I wanted to find out what makes him tick, what he's planning next and any tips he has for people who'd like to follow in his footsteps.
Michael Tormey: How off-road are Slow Ways routes, really?
10th September, 2021 by Guest
Slow Ways walking routes are designed to be as off-road as possible... but what proportion of them really are off-road? And does it matter?
In the news - Slow Ways articles
7th June, 2021 by Cristie Moore
Slow Ways has been in the news in recent weeks. Click on each to read more.
‘Slower Way of Walking’
7th June, 2021 by Cristie Moore
Article in Strider, Magazine of the Long Distance Walking Association, April 2021, by Rob Bushby, Slow Ways (and an LDWA Red Rose 100 finisher in 2015) Readers of Strider probably need no encouragement to walk further. Longer Distance Walking Association, anyone? You’ll know that Great Britain has lots of paths, trails and ways. Across the LDWA membership you’ve probably walked most if not all of them...