Slow Ways Story — ‘Slower Way of Walking’
Slow Ways stories, films, blogs and news
‘Slower Way of Walking’
7th June, 2021 by Rob Bushby
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.
But are they inter-connected in a consistent way? Can you easily source credible information that helps make walking plans? Might footpaths be more accessible? And might people choose to walk for more reasons, other than recreation?
In a nutshell – or snailshell - Slow Ways aims to help get more people walking further, more of the time, for more purposes. During the Spring 2020 lockdown, 700 volunteers mapped out over 7,000 routes that connect 2,500 cities, towns, villages and settlements, using a wide range of existing trails, paths and ways (and roads where necessary). Added together, you could use them for your annual 100-mile extravaganza for nearly 700 years.
Some are short – the average length of a Slow Way is 12km in England, 18km in Scotland. They can be joined to create longer journeys with multiple options opening up to walk between your chosen start and finish points. They can trigger triangular trips. They can stimulate walking for ‘functional’ purposes – visiting friends and family, to commute to work, or get to a meeting or event.
The next step – literally – is to test-walk, verify and review all of these plotted Slow Ways over the next few months (restrictions permitting, of course). This will establish Slow Ways as a national network of trusted walking routes, with a website to host information on each.
Volunteers will record their experiences of walking a Slow Way; users can see how others have graded and reviewed any route, and add their own feedback if they wish. Shared stories will help build a nationwide walking culture, with all parts of society represented.
A launch plan for 10,000 volunteers to cover 100,000km of Slow Ways routes in the last week of January was Covid-scuppered; we’re currently gauging when and how best to share our new website and invite participation. Many LDWA members have already registered an interest, and tuned in to a Slow Ways info-sharing webinar. It’s easy to sign up for a newsletter, or as a group. We’ll invite volunteers to walk and review Slow Ways when it’s safe and sensible to do so.
We’re already seeing councils lobbied to support Slow Ways (for various reasons including path enhancement, as part of active travel policies and to promote health benefits of walking), and links emerging with youth award schemes.
We’re keen on collaborations. How can Slow Ways be used in your own innovative planning of long-distance walks? And how can your long distance walking help establish Slow Ways in the coming months? Register and we’ll keep you updated, let you know when you can get involved, and welcome your Long Distance Slow Ways Walking contributions.
Development of Slow Ways is being supported by Sport England, Paths for All’s Smarter Choices, Smarter Places programme, Kestrelman Trust and The Pilgrim Trust.