Slow Ways editor Tom Morris weighs up the reasons for and against the clocks changing and reflects on what these changes mean for walkers
The practice of putting the clocks forward one hour in March and back in October has been with us since the first world war, although campaigners were thinking about it decades beforehand. Every year the debate starts anew about whether this practice has any place in modern life, both in Britain and in other countries around the world.
Why do the clocks change?
Time has not always been measured on mechanical clocks. In Roman times, sundials were used to measure ‘solar time’. Because the sun ‘moves’ quicker through the sky in the winter, this means that although the same number of hours appears on the face of the sundial, the hours are shorter in winter and longer in summer. On a clock, we use the average of these two extremes to create the standardised hour and day.
In 1916, the British government changed the clocks in an effort to promote productivity and save energy during the war effort, and even then it was only to catch-up with Germany, who had already done it.
Today, clocks change around the world in ‘influential’ nations including all of the European Union, Australia, the USA and Canada, although the majority of the world’s population don’t change their clocks.
BST ‘springs forward’ on the 26th March 2023, 94 days after the winter equinox (the year’s shortest day, 22nd December 2022), and 87 days before summer equinox (the longest day) on 21st June. However, we’ll ‘fall back’ into Greenwich Mean Time on 29th October, 130 days after the summer equinox and 54 days before the winter equinox. This means that BST lasts a total of 217 days, whereas GMT only lasts 148 days. Therefore although it may sound like GMT is the ‘default’ time, BST is in fact with us for a longer portion of the year.
Why should we stop changing the clocks?
When we ‘spring forward’ as you know, we get a darker morning in exchange for a brighter afternoon, and when we fall back we get a brighter morning in exchange for a darker afternoon. This has an effect, say abolitionists, on road safety. One of the most important voices in this debate has thus become the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, or RoSPA. In theory sticking to BST means fewer road incidents in the evening, but more in the morning, with a particular effect on the safety of cyclists and walkers.
Alternatively we could make GMT the default. This would mean lighter mornings and darker evenings, which would, supporters say, make more sense for circadian rhythms and thus public health.
Of course there are many people in our society working to different schedules to the rest of us: for example maintenance workers who do most of their important work at night. With different groups more or less dependent on solar time versus clock time, it’s very difficult to say which option benefits the most people. The Victorian campaigners for British Summer Time acted out of a paternalistic concern for the public who they believed were missing out on the sun’s golden mornings, but in reality for many shift workers the change meant waking up even earlier, and darker. Therefore it is important that any decisions on the matter are made democratically.
It is a common misconception that farmers are the lobby keeping the clock-change in place. However farmwork is mostly dictated by solar time, so changing the numbers on the clock only introduces an unnecessary challenge.
What does the clock change mean for walkers?
You’d think that for walkers, the time on the clock-face wouldn’t matter so much. But when you’re walking a Slow Way there are many things that you have to keep an eye on beyond the solar time. For example, perhaps you want to take a bus back to the start of the walk. Therefore, what time the buses start and finish running for the day matters a lot, and affects whether you end up walking more in sunlight or in the dark.
With all that in mind, we open the floor to the Slow Ways community:
Should we drop the clock-changing practice?
If so, do we keep BST, GMT, or some other time entirely?
How would it affect your work, family and social life?
Dr Lizzie Philps carries her baby 50 miles to her mother’s house, partly as pilgrimage in atonement for her teenage sins, partly as protest march against the sanctity of motherhood, mostly because she couldn’t bear to go to Tumble Tots
My mum is an excellent map reader. She taught me what contour lines are, and that a river meanders, and the first time I heard her swear was when my dad dared to question her navigational skills on holiday. I had never tried to be like her until I became a mum myself. Then I decided to walk 50 miles to go and see her, carrying my baby daughter on my back.
An intergenerational journey
Some might say that this kind of intergenerational journey is one of the oldest reasons to walk anywhere, though this is easy to forget in our 21st-century car culture. Certainly, I had driven the route numerous times since my daughter was born. So why take the time to walk it instead?
Why did I walk?
For me, the reasons were multiple. I walked partly because I wanted to acknowledge the efforts of my mother in a way that had only become clear to me since I had had a child. It certainly isn’t a requirement that you become a mother to recognise your own mother’s labours, but the duration of care stretching out in front of me had brought my understanding of her experiences into renewed perspective.
I walked partly because a walk can become a self-styled ritual; it can make meaning when meaning feels absent or where there are no other cultural markers for a life change. Christenings or naming ceremonies, after all, are focused on the child. And I walked partly because I was tired of smiling weakly at strangers who happened to have reproduced at the same time as me at Rhyme Time or Tumble Tots, and I thought a walk would be a lot more fun.
So, with my baby carrier stuffed full of spare clothes, nappies, purées and sunscreen, and with a map and a compass that I could sort-of remember how to use (because this was ten years ago and I didn’t know anyone who had walking apps or digital maps on their phones then), I set off from Bristol to Cirencester.
Using footpaths, it’s an indirect 50ish miles between my house and my mum’s house, and I’m afraid I didn’t do it all at once. Anyone who’s ever looked after a baby will tell you it’s already pretty heroic to get out of the house sometimes, so I’m also sorry to say we didn’t sleep overnight in a bivouac; I drove to where I left off last time and had to rely on being picked up by family or friends.
We left Bristol via the Frome Valley walkway, which follows the river under graffitied motorway bridges, and out through the long back gardens and farmland of Winterbourne and Iron Acton towards Yate. Already the perspective of walking rather than driving brought the suburban realities of overgrown hedges, discarded tricycles, and innumerable garden trampolines into view. These backstage paths told a very different story to the clipped hedges and shiny driveway statements we see from the road.
Dog walkers, teenagers hanging out under the bridge, construction workers; everyone I passed I asked to take a photo of us, and everyone took longer about it than they needed to, because everyone wanted to have a chat
Dog walkers, teenagers hanging out under the bridge, construction workers; everyone I passed I asked to take a photo of us, and everyone took longer about it than they needed to, because everyone wanted to have a chat. Babies seem to make that happen. At Chipping Sodbury the path joins the Cotswold Way, and later, around Tetbury, we joined the Monarch’s Way. It is quieter – some days I didn’t meet a soul, just sheep, donkeys, deer or llamas. You go past the backs of people’s houses there, too, including the estate of HRH King Charles. No trampolines there, just a ‘beware of the dog’ sign and surveillance cameras hidden in the trees.
Walking with a baby
One of the surprising things about walking with a baby was that I felt much safer than I might have done alone, despite the fact I couldn’t run, or even walk very fast, wearing the baby carrier. Perhaps it was just the feeling of having company, or strength in our apparent vulnerability, or perhaps I’d just had enough of warnings which curtail women’s adventures before they’ve even started. In fact, any dangers came from animals and the terrain itself. I had to run away from some cows once, and another time I fell on uneven ground and badly twisted my ankle. Ironically this was when my daughter was learning to walk, and for a while we both made our way around at home by holding onto furniture. And, perhaps inevitably, since my mum’s map-reading prowess was not passed down to me, there was the time we got lost and had to be rescued in the dark. The generations either side of me were united in their disapproval.
Towards the end of the walk my route took me parallel to the road I’ve driven most regularly for more than half my life. It was fun to see the back of my hand from my feet for a change, and to be in familiar terrain. I’d thought a lot about maps, and guides, and how infuriatingly useless they can be when they don’t show you what you need to know. Parenting manuals are the same; they tell you stuff, but their words convey the experience of having a baby about as well as contour lines help you to understand what it’s like to walk up a hill. Navigating this path towards my own mother had allowed me to reflect on all the ways in which she seemed so competent, for which I was so grateful, but which I was now required to emulate. I didn’t feel I was doing a very good job.
…although the walk was a gesture of appreciation towards my mother, it was also time, space, and enjoyment that I was claiming for myself
Reflections on the journey
Looking back on the walk now I can see that this feeling was stronger than I cared to admit at the time. Having a baby had floored me, and going for a walk was (to use another term that wasn’t yet in my vocabulary) an act of self-care. Although, to my surprise, I was frequently congratulated on “doing something in nature” with my child, and although the walk was a gesture of appreciation towards my mother, it was also time, space, and enjoyment that I was claiming for myself. Yes, we arrived at my mum’s house safely, and, true to form, she was much more interested in the pragmatics of the journey than in my philosophical musings. My daughter now rolls her eyes every time I mention this trip. But still sometimes, as I am driving us towards Granny’s, landmarks from that walk reveal themselves momentarily, and then hide again behind a hill…
Lizzie Philps is an artist, theatre-maker, academic and mother. Her doctoral research considers walking performance and its potential to re-inscribe maternalised landscapes from within. Performance, exhibition and publication contexts for walking include GPS Embroidery (Acts of Invisible Repair)- part of an AHRC funded commission from the University of Exeter (2021) The Journal of Cultural Geography (2021), LADA’s DIY (2017), the Study Room Guide to the Maternal (2016), Walking Women at Somerset House (2016), and Ways to Wander (2015). www.gps-embroidery.com
Coisiche aon-neach, neach-togail dhealbhan agus sealbhadair na bùtha thiodhlacan, Coralbox, a choisinn mòran dhuaisean, tha Eilidh Carr a’ mìneachadh dhuinn a cuairt mu thimcheall Bheàrnaraigh, eilean a h-àraich ann an Innse Gall
Is e eilean beag a th’ ann am Beàrnaraigh na Hearadh a tha suidhichte ann an Caolas na Hearadh air costa an Iar Thuath na h-Alba, agus ged a tha e beag ann am meud tha e a’ taomadh le tràighean bòidheach, fiadh-bheatha, flùraichean, eachdraidh agus mòran a bharrachd.
Is e Beinn Shlèibhe a’ phuing as àirde air an eilean, a tha na seasamh aig àirde de 93m (305 troighean) agus an uair sin cnoc Bhuirgh aig 85m (279 troighean), agus tràigh ainmeil an taoibh shiar a’ sìneadh a-mach thairis air trì mìle sìos an costa. Le dìreach mu 10km ceàrnagach de mheudachd, ’s e eilean beag ach fìor chumhachdach a th’ ann. Ged a tha Beàrnaraigh ceangailte ri Uibhist a Tuath le cabhsair agus còd puist, buinidh an t-eilean dha Eilean na Hearadh gu tuath, mar phàirt de na Bàigh air Oighreachd na Hearadh. Àireamh-sluaigh làithreach: 133.
A’ còmhnaidh ann am Beàrnaraigh, is ann an seo a tha mi a’ tòiseachadh air mo chiad chuairt do Slow Ways.
Le mo phicnic dèante agus mo bhaga-droma air a lìonadh, tha mi a’ togail orm air chuairt timcheall an eilein ris an can mi mo dhachaigh. Tha mi a’ fàgail an taighe agam agus a’ leantainn frith-rathad singilte tro bhaile-fearainn Cùl na Beinne. Tha na prìomh thuineachaidhean air an eilean a’ ruith sìos taobh sear an eilein dlùth don chosta, le àireamh de rathaidean a’ falbh gu na bailtean eile, Borgh agus Ruisigearraidh. Tha taobh an iar an eilein uile fo mhachair chòmhnard, a tha air obrachadh do chaoraich, crodh agus bàrr.
Coiseachd am measg fiadh-bheatha
Mar a tha mi a’ coiseachd timcheall Loch nam Bàgh, tha fiadh-bheatha an eilein gan dèanamh fhèin follaiseach. Tha mòran eòin a’ sgèith os mo chionn agus na caoraich a’ mèilich, ach tha m’ aire air a tarraing gu fuaim is onghail nan ròn. Tha àite faire le being agus pàirce chàraichean a’ toirt cothrom air coimhead air an tuineachas ròn a tha a’ còmhnaidh air an eilean, le measgachadh de roin chumanta agus ghlas. Tha cuid aca a’ cluich ’s a’ plubadaich mun cuairt san uisge, agus feadhainn eile nan laighe shuas àrd air na creagan a’ gabhail na grèine. Faisg air deireadh na bliadhna, bidh na ròin ghlas sin a’ briodachadh air tràighean eilean Shileigh, faisg air làimh. Ann am breislich a tha a’ sìor fhàs, tha mi a’ coimhead air adhart ri tuilleadh fiadh-bheatha fhaicinn air mo chuairt a’ dol air adhart.
A’ leantainn air adhart timcheall a’ bhàigh, tha an rathad a’ cumail dlùth don chosta gu ruig Baile. Air fàire agus sìos chun na làimhe deise, tha mo sheann bhun-sgoil. On a bha na h-àireamhan a’ crìonadh, chaidh a dùnadh ann an 2005 an dèidh fosgladh an toiseach ann an 1877. Tha cuimhneachain iongantach agam air an seo agus a bhith a’ fàs suas air eilean mar phàiste òg.
A’ tionndadh gun làimh dheis, tha mi a’ coiseachd tro fhosgladh beag anns na dùin-ghainmhich. Mar a bhuaileas èadhar na mara nam aodann, tha mi ag aithneachadh gu bheil mi air ais ann an aon de na h-àiteachan as fheàrr leam, an tràigh. Is fìor thoigh leam a bhith a’ cur seachad mo thìde air a’ bhlàr a-muigh agus tha rudeigin glè shònraichte mu dheidhinn tràigh ann an Innse Gall, gun neach sam bith eile mun cuairt.
Cumaidh mi orm air mo chuairt sìos fad tràigh a’ chladaich an ear a’ leantainn loidhne a’ mhuir-làin, a’ coimhead airson tuilleadh ulaidh a dh’fhàg am muir às a dhèidh. Le toileachas, tha mi a’ faicinn beagan shligean dathach am measg na feamad, tuilleadh shligean dathach eile agus seann phìosan crèadhadaireachd, uile rin cur ri mo chruinneachaidhean a tha a’ sìor fhàs.
Is iad na sligean dathach – aithnichte mar shligean a bheir deagh fhortan agus beairteas leotha agus air an cleachdadh mar shruth-airgid airson malairt aig aon àm – na nithean as fheàrr leam fhaicinn air mo chuairtean an seo
A’ tighinn faisg air ceann na ciad tràghad seo, tha an t-àm ann sreap suas chun na puinge as àirde ann am Beàrnaraigh. Bheir an earrann seo, is mi air mo stiùireadh le puist comharrachaidh a dh’fhaodas mi a leantainn, suas mi gu agus thairis air Beinn Shlèibhe. Letheach slighe suas a’ bheinn, tha seann chladh / làrach tiodhlachaidh. Is e làrach inntinneach a tha seo airson tadhal oirre, leis a’ mhòr-chuid de sheann uaighean air an comharrachadh le clachan uaghach sònraichte agus dìreach beagan dhiubh le clachan uaghach air a bheil ainmean agus cinn-latha clàraichte. Is e uaighean cogaidh a’ Cho-fhlaitheis a th’ ann an àireamh dhiubh sin, bhon chiad agus an dàrna cogadh mòr, uaighean nam fear a dh’fhàg na h-eileanan againn gus sabaid sa chogadh.
Làrach iongantach a’ coimhead air ais sìos air an tràigh a choisich mi o chionn ghoirid. Tha mi a’ coimhead air adhart ris na tha ri thighinn a dh’aithghearr.
A’ seachnadh a’ bhoglaich fo mo chasan, tha mi a’ dèanamh mo shlighe suas chun na puinge as àirde air mullach a’ chnuic. Tha mi a-nis nam sheasamh 93 meatairean os cionn ìre na mara. Air latha soilleir, tha e a’ tabhann sheallaidhean aig 360 puing a-mach tarsainn Caolas na Hearadh, gu Pabaigh, Beàrnaraigh agus Uibhist, fiù tarsainn a’ Chuain Sgìth gu an t-Eilean Sgìtheanach agus tìr-mòr na h-Alba. Ma tha an suidheachadh aimsireil freagarrach, tha eileanan fad’ às Hiort a tha 40 mìle an iar air Uibhist a Tuath rim faicinn mar sgàil-dhealbh chumhachdach air fàire.
A’ toirt sùil an-àird, chan e mise leam fhìn a tha a’ faighinn tlachd às na seallaidhean sin. Tha dà iolaire mara air a thighinn còmhla rium. Ag èirigh an-àird dha na speuran, a’ sireadh bìdhe agus a’ gabhail talachd às na seallaidhean, tha mi a’ cur ceist a bheil àite sam bith eile nas fheàrr dhaibh airson am beatha a chur seachad.
Leis an iolaire fhathast a’ sgèith os mo chionn, tha mi a’ dol sìos air cùlaibh a’ chnuic a rannsachadh taobh siar an eilein agus a’ tòiseachadh a’ coiseachd thairis air na trì mìle de thràigh gheal a’ chladaich an iar. Tha mi a’ gabhail mo chuairt sìos a’ chiad phàirt, a’ stad ’s a’ tòiseachadh, agus a’ gabhail tlachd às na seallaidhean bòidheach agus fuaimean nan tonn a’ sluaisreadh, agus a’ coimhead airson sgùilleach is tràthach. Tha seo gam thoirt gu oisean a’ chladaich far an gabh mi air adhart timcheall an rubha gus fuireach a-mach às a’ ghaoith. Tha sealladh mòr ùr den tràigh a’ fosgladh a-mach air mo bheulaibh.
Tha mi air a bhith a’ tadhal air a’ chladach seo fad mo bheatha agus tha e a’ cur iongnadh orm gach turas a bhios mi ann
Tha mi a’ seasamh fad mòmaid gus gabhail ris na tha mun cuairt orm. Tha mi air a bhith a’ tadhal air a’ chladach seo fad mo bheatha agus tha e a’ cur iongnadh orm gach turas a bhios mi ann. Bhon aimsir a’ sìor ghluasad a tha ag atharrachadh dathan na mara agus nan tonn gu dol-fodha na grèine as t-samhradh a tha a’ bòcadh orains agus pinc no fiù stoirmean borb a’ Chuain Shiar a bhios a’ beucadh a-steach, is e an t-àite as fheàrr leam a bhith air an t-saoghal.
Is e seo an t-àm foirfe airson spot a lorg gus mo phicnic ithe.
Tha mi a’ suidhe le mo dhruim ris na dùin ghainmhich, a’ toirt balgam às an fhlasga teatha agam agus a’ coimhead a-mach dìreach air a’ mhuir. Is e Canada agus Aimeireaga a’ chiad tomad-fearainn tarsainn a’ Chuain Atlantaig a Tuath. A’ còmhnaidh an seo ann an Innse Gall, feumaidh tu gabhail ris a h-uile seòrsa aimsire. Faodaidh na samhraidhean a bhith eireachdail le uairean fada de sholas an latha, speuran mòra farsaing agus dàn’-thursan san amharc. Faodaidh na geamhraidhean a bhith fada agus dorcha le stoirm an dèidh stoirm a’ roiligeadh a-steach. Ach tha geamhraidhean cuideachd a’ toirt leotha gealltanasan de Fhir Chlis agus an cothrom air àiteachan a rannsachadh bho shealladh diofraichte.
Ceanglaichean tarsainn a’ chuain
A’ cur meas air na h-uisgeachan bòidheach gorm, tha e a’ cur nam chuimhne an turas a lorg mi put iasgaich buidhe a bha air a thighinn air tìr air a’ chladach faisg air far a bheil mi nam shuidhe. Is fìor thoigh leam na nithean a bhios an cuan a’ toirt air tìr às dèidh stoirmean agus air an latha sin cha robh nì a’ coimhead neo-àbhaisteach mu dheidhinn. An dèidh am put a thoirt dhachaigh, fhuair mi a-mach nach robh ainm a’ bhàta clàraichte san RA. Thug tuilleadh rannsachaidh air-loidhne agus air na meadhanan sòisealta mi gu buidheann iasgaich Canàidianach, far na cheangail iongantasan mìorbhaileach teicneòlais mi leis an teaghlach a bha air am put a chall còig mìosan roimhe sin bho na clèibh ghiomach ann an Albann Nuadh. Bha e air siubhal còrr air 4500km aig muir mus deach a sguabadh gu tìr ann am Beàrnaraigh.
Na cheangail iongantasan mìorbhaileach teicneòlais mi leis an teaghlach a bha air am put a chall còig mìosan roimhe sin bho na clèibh ghiomach ann an Albann Nuadh. Bha e air siubhal còrr air 4500km aig muir mus deach a sguabadh gu tìr ann am Beàrnaraigh
A’ cur crìoch air mo phicnic, tha mi a’ leantainn orm a’ coiseachd fad na tràghad an iar. Tha an t-sìde a’ tòiseachadh ag atharrachadh le uisge air fàire; tha mi a’ faireachdainn fuachd san èadhar a’ tighinn dlùth. Air mo làimh dheis, tha na tuinn a’ tighinn ’s a’ falbh, a’ sluaisreadh air tìr le mòran cumhachd. Air mo làimh chlì, tha na dùin-ghainmhich nan seasamh àrd. Tha na dùin sin leis a’ mhachair air an cùlaibh, glasach ìosal còmhnard a tha torrach agus làn eòin, bhiastagan agus fhlùraichean ann am mìosan an t-samhraidh. Tha an seòrsa fearainn seo ri fhaotainn air costa fhosgailte an iar Innse Gall, Alba agus Èirinn.
A’ coiseachd tro smùid gainmhich am measg nan dùn, tha mi a’ fàgail na gaoithe agus na tràghad air mo chùlaibh. Bheir mi sùil mun cuairt aon uair eile gus sealladh aithghearr fhaighinn air a’ mhuir. Tha mi ag ràdh rium fhìn gu bheil e ro fhuar airson snàmh agus gun till mi latha eile. Leanaidh mi an costa creagach timcheall, a’ dol seachad air cladach mhoil agus a’ sreap staidhle. Coisichidh mi seachad air carragh-cuimhne cloiche don Fhuamhaire MacAsgaill nach maireann à Beàrnaraigh. Air a bhreith ann an 1925, air dearbh làrach tobhta an taighe sa bheil an carragh-cuimhne na sheasamh, dh’fhàs Aonghas gu 7 troighean is 9 òirlich a dh’àirde. Tha an carragh-cuimhne na sheasamh cho àrd ris an Fhuamhaire MacAsgaill fhèin. Tha Aonghas air a chlàradh gu h-oifigeil ann an Leabhar Claran Cruinneil Guinness mar am fuamhaire neo-dhearbhte as àirde. Ghluais e fhèin agus a theaghlach gu Ceap Breatainn nuair a bha e na bhalach òg.
A’ leantainn an fhrith-rathad singilte air ais timcheall an talamh àitich agus a’ mhachair, tha mi a’ mothachadh don ath chnoc bheag air a bheil mi ag amas, Beinn a’ Chlaidh. Air a’ chnoc seo tha Cladh Maolrithe na sheasamh, seann tursa a thathar a meas a bhith a’ dol air ais bho Linn an Umha agus tiodhlaichte ochd troighean fon talamh, agus an aon àirde os cionn na talmhainn. Ged is e aon de na cnuic as lugha air Beàrnaraigh, tha e fhathast a’ tabhann àite amhairc fìor mhath. Air astar, tha mi a’ faicinn na h-aiseig do na Hearadh a’ ceangal suas aig Àrd Ma Ruighe agus carbadan a’ feitheamh ri thighinn dhith. Tha Beàrnaraigh ceangailte ri eilean Uibhist a Tuath le cabhsair. Chaidh seo a thogail ann an 1999 agus chaidh fhosgladh gu h-oifigeil san earrach 2000 leis a’ Phrionnsa Theàrlach.
A’ dol air ais chun an rathaid mhòir agus e a’ lùbadh ’s a’ tionndadh tron choimhearsnachd, tha mi a’ leantainn orm leis a’ phìos mu dheireadh dem chuairt. Tha mi a’ dol seachad air geodha beag a bha air a chleachdadh aon uair mar aon de na ciad laimrigean a bhiodh a’ toirt dhaoine agus bathar air tìr chun an eilein. A-nis, tha na bàtaichean nan laighe, air an dìochuimhneachadh an dèidh mòran bhliadhnaichean aig muir. Bidh mi an-còmhnaidh a’ smaoineachadh air na sgeulachdan nan lùib agus an luchd-siubhail a bha iad a’ giùlain aon uair tarsainn a’ chaolais.
Mo dhachaigh eileanach
Mar a bhios mi a’ dol timcheall a’ chiad oisean, tha prìomh chala iasgaich Bheàrnaraigh agus Loch nam Bàgh a’ tighinn am fàire agus tha fios agam gu bheil mi faisg air a bhith aig an taigh. Tha mi air a bhith a’ fuireach an seo air an eilean sa mhòr-chuid dem bheatha, le còig bliadhna no mar sin air an cur seachad air tìr-mòr na h-Alba agus mi ag ionnsachadh dealbhadaireachd. ’S e sealladh a tha a’ toirt cofhurtachd dhomh a th’ ann gach turas oir tha e a’ ciallachadh gu bheil mi air ais aig an taigh.
Tha an taigh againn air oir Loch nam Bàgh, cho faisg air a’ mhuir agus gu bheil smùid is tonnan a’ suathadh sna h-uinneagan nuair a bhios an aimsir dona agus stoirmean aig muir. Tha mi a’ faireachdainn ceangailte ris an fhearann, am muir agus an èadhar tro mo bheatha air na cuairtean tràghad, snàmh sa mhuir, padail-bòrdadh, tursan sa bhan, agus togail dhealbhan le dròn. Faodaidh aon latha ann an Innse Gall na ceithir ràithean a thoirt thugainn, ach chan atharraichinn nì mu dheidhinn.
Seo an t-eilean a tha na dhachaigh dhomh.
Cha b’ e cuairt Slow Ways a rinn Eilidh, ged a tha Aiseag Bheàrnaraigh na puing-trasnaidh no tuineachadh de Slow Ways. Tha a’ mhòr-chuid de phuingean-trasnaidh san lìonra air an taghadh airson meud àireamh-sluaigh, ach ann an àiteachan iomallach tha puingean-trasnaidh gan cur a-steach aig prìomh ionadan còmhdhail is eile. Tha seo a’ ciallachadh nach eil Slow Ways air an eilean, ach tha e a’ nochdadh san lìonra. Taing do Eilidh airson ar toirt mun cuairt!
Tha Eilidh a’ tarraing còmhla a dìoghras a thaobh dealbhadaireachd agus dàn’-thursan gus a sgeulachdan agus a dealbhan de thalamh, muir agus adhar, a roinn le càch air feadh an t-saoghail.
Tha a bhith a’ còmhnaidh agus ag obair air taobh siar na h-Alba ann an Innse Gall a’ ceadachadh do Carr a dealbhadaireachd, an dà chuid dròn agus camara, a chothlamadh le a gràdh air èadhar ghlan, muir agus rannsachadh àiteachan sean agus ùr. Nuair nach eil i a’ siubhal san bhan aice, lorgaidh sibh Eilidh ag obair sa bhùth thiodhlacan aice air an eilean, Coralbox, a bhuannaich mòran duaisean. Is ann an seo sa ghnothachas neo-eisimeileach seo a thòisich a miann air a bhith ag obair air a ceann fhèin.
Mar neach-siubhail na h-aonar, tha i a’ gabhail tlachd mhòr à bhith a’ roinn a tursan agus pìosan de a beatha làitheil air an eilean tro a meadhanan sòisealta air-loidhne agus a dealbhadaireachd.
Berneray, or Beàrnaraigh na Hearadh in Scottish Gaelic, is a small island located in the Sound of Harris on the North West coast of Scotland. Berneray, although small in size, is bursting with beautiful beaches, wildlife, flowers, history and more.
The highest point of the island is Beinn Shleibhe, which stands at a height of 93m (305ft) followed by Borve hill at 85m (279ft), with the famous west beach stretching over three miles along the west coast. At only around 10square km in size it is a small but mighty island. Although Berneray is connected to North Uist by causeway and postal code, the island belongs to the Isle of Harris in the North, part of the Bays of Harris Estate. Current population: 133.
Living on Berneray, it is here I begin my first walk for Slow Ways.
With a picnic made and my rucksack packed, I head off for a walk around the island I call home. I leave from my house, following the single track road through the village of Backhill. The main settlements on the island run along the east, tight to the coast with a number of roads leading off to other townships, Borve and Rushgarry. The west side of the island is flat machair, worked for sheep, cattle and growing crops.
Walking amongst wildlife
As I walk further around Bays Loch, the islands wildlife makes itself known. Numerous birds fly overhead and sheeps emit baas, but my attention is drawn to the noise and commotion of the seals. A viewing point with bench and carpark provides a break to watch the island’s resident seal colony, a mixture of both common and grey seals. Some play and splash around in the water, while others lay high up on top of rocks sunbathing. Near the end of the year, these grey seals breed on the beaches of the nearby island of Shillay. My excitement grows as to what other wildlife I will spot during my walk ahead.
Continuing around the bay the road hugs the coastline to Baile. In the distance to the right is my old primary school. With declining pupil numbers it was closed in 2005, after first opening in 1877. I have wonderful memories from here and growing up on an island as a young child.
Veering right I walk through a small opening in the dunes. As the fresh sea air hits my face I know I am back to one my favourite places, a beach. I love to spend my free time outdoors and there is something very special about a Hebridean beach with no one else in sight.
I continue to wander along the sands of east beach following the high tide line, looking for more treasure that the sea has left behind. To my joy I find some cowries hidden amongst the seaweed, other more colourful shells and old pottery, all to be added to my ever-growing collections. Cowrie shells – often said to bring luck and wealth, and once used as currency to trade with – are the highlights of my walks here.
Cowrie shells – often said to bring luck and wealth, and once used as currency to trade with – are the highlights of my walks here
Nearing the end of this first smaller beach, it is time to climb to the highest point on Berneray. This section, guided by marker posts to follow, will take me up and over Beinn Shleibhe. Situated halfway up the hill, is an old graveyard / burial ground. It is an interesting site to visit, with the majority of older graves identified by, at best, maker stones and only a handful with recorded names and dated headstones. A number of these are Commonwealth war graves from the first and second world wars, of men who left our islands to fight.
A stunning location, looking back down on the beach I have just walked. I look forward to what is to come shortly.
Dodging the wet and boggy ground underfoot, I make my way up to the trig point on the summit of the hill. I now stand at 93 metres above sea level. On a clear day, it offers 360 degree views out across the Sound of Harris, to Pabbay, Berneray and Uist, even over the Minch to Skye and mainland Scotland. If weather conditions are correct, the remote archipelago of St Kilda situated 40 miles west of North Uist can be visible as a powerful silhouette on the horizon.
Glancing up, I am not the only one enjoying these views. Two sea eagles have joined me. Soaring high, searching for food and enjoying the views, I wonder if there is anywhere else better for them to live their life.
With the eagle still flying above, I drop down behind the hill to explore the west side of the island and begin to walk over the three-mile stretch of white sands of the west beach. I wander along the first stretch, stopping and starting, appreciating the beautiful views and sounds of the moving waves, whilst searching for flotsam and jetsam. This brings me to the corner of the beach, where I wander further rounding the point to stay out the wind. A whole new view of the beach opens up ahead of me.
I have visited this beach all my life and with each visit it still amazes me
I stand for a moment to take in my surroundings. I have visited this beach all my life and with each visit it still amazes me. From the ever-changing weather that alters the colours of the sea and waves, to the colourful summer sunsets that glow orange and pink or even the raging Atlantic storms that roll in, it is my most favourite place in the world to be.
Now is a perfect time to find a spot to enjoy my picnic.
I sit with my back against the dunes, sipping from my flask of tea looking straight out to sea. The next landmass across the North Atlantic Ocean is Canada and America. Living here on the Hebrides, you have to love all kinds of weather. The summers can be beautiful with long hours of daylight, big skies and looming adventures. The winters can be long and dark, storm after storm rolling in. But winters also bring promises of Aurora Borealis and the chance to explore places from a different perspective.
Links across the ocean
Admiring the turquoise waters, I am reminded of the time I found a yellow fishing buoy washed ashore not far from where I am sat now. I love to see what the ocean brings ashore after storms and on that day nothing seemed unusual about it in particular. After recovering the buoy home, I found the boat name was not UK registered. Further research online and on social media led me to a Canadian fishing group, where the amazing wonders of technology connected me with the family who had lost the fishing buoy some five months earlier from their lobster creels in Nova Scotia. It had travelled more than 4500km at sea before washing ashore on Berneray.
the amazing wonders of technology connected me with the family who had lost the fishing buoy some five months earlier from their lobster creels in Nova Scotia. It had travelled more than 4500km at sea before washing ashore on Berneray
Finishing my picnic, I continue to walk the length of the west beach. The weather is starting to change with rain on the horizon; I can feel a chill in the air already approaching. To my right the waves come and go, washing ashore with great energy. To my left the sand dunes stand tall. These dunes back onto machair, which is a low grassy land, fertile and rich with birds, insects and in the summer months, wildflowers. This land is mainly found on the exposed western coast of the Hebrides, Scotland and Ireland.
Walking through a blowout in the dunes, I leave the wind and beach behind me. I glance round one last time to catch a glimpse of the sea. I think to myself it is too cold for a swim, I will return another day. I follow the rocky coastline round, passing a stony beach and climbing a stile. I walk by a stone monument to the late Giant MacAskill of Berneray. Born in 1925, in this exact location of the ruined house in which the monument sits, Angus grew to the height of 7ft 9 inches. The monument stands as high as Giant MacAskill once did. Angus is officially recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest non-pathological giant. He and his family moved to Cape Breton when he was a young boy.
Following the single-track road back around the crops and machair, I spot the next small hill I am aiming for, Beinn a’ Claidh. On this hill stands Cladh Maolrithe, an ancient standing stone, said to be Bronze Age and buried eight feet into the ground, standing the same height above. Although one of the smaller hills on Berneray, it still offers a great vantage point. In the distance, I spot the ferry to Harris berthing at Ardmaree and vehicles waiting to unload. Berneray is connected to the next island of North Uist by causeway. This was built in 1999 and was officially opened in spring 2000 by Prince Charles.
Joining back onto the main road as it twists and turns through the island community, I continue the last stretch of my walk. I pass a small inlet, once used as one of the first piers to bring people and goods ashore to the island. Now the boats lay forgotten after many years at sea. I often wonder of all the stories and passengers that these once carried back and forward across the sounds.
My island home
As I turn the final corner, Berneray’s main fishing harbour and Bays Loch come into view and I know I am nearly home. I have lived here on the island the majority of my life, with five years or so spent on mainland Scotland whilst studying photography. It is a comforting view to see each time as it means I’m back home.
Our house lies on the edge of Bays Loch, so close to the sea that during bad weather and storms the sea spray and waves splash up on the windows. I feel connected to the land, sea and air through my life of beach walks, sea swimming, paddleboarding, van adventures and drone photography. Any day on the Hebrides can bring all four seasons, but I wouldn’t change any part of it.
This is the island I call home.
Eilidh’s walk wasn’t a Slow Way, although Berneray Ferry is a Slow Ways node, or settlement. Most nodes in the network are selected for population size, but in remote places there are sometimes nodes added at key transport or other hubs. This means that there isn’t a Slow Way on the island, but it does feature in the network. Thanks to Eilidh for showing us around!
Eilidh brings together her passion for photography and adventure in order to share with others around the world her stories and photographs from land, sea and sky.
Living and working on the west coast of Scotland in the Outer Hebrides allows Carr to combine her photography, both drone work and camera, with her love of fresh air, sea and exploring places old and new. When she’s not travelling in her converted van, you’ll find Eilidh working in her award-winning island gift shop, Coralbox. This small independent business is where her dream of becoming her own boss first started.
As a solo traveller, she takes great pleasure in sharing her escapades and snippers of daily island life through her online social media and photography.
Join us for a new national tradition: checking and rechecking Slow Ways throughout the week of midsummer / Ymunwch â ni am draddodiad cenedlaethol newydd: gwirio ac ailwirio Slow Ways trwy gydol wythnos canol haf
Calling everyone who loves walking, running and wheeling!
We are busy creating a hugely ambitious national walking network that joins every town and city in Great Britain.
If this sounds good to you, please accept our invitation to our Great Waycheck weeks across mid-summer and mid-winter, and we’d love your company!
We want to make sure Slow Ways across Great Britain are open and ready to be enjoyed… and we’re looking for thousands of people to join up and check part of the country.
Beating the bounds
We’re taking inspiration from the old ‘beating the bounds’ tradition, in which people would walk the boundaries of their parish once a year. The older people would lead the younger, creating and understanding their landscape with their very footsteps.
A verified network will still need once-overs, once or twice a year. Hence the Great Waychecks! A future tradition, starting now.
Could you say you were there at the very first?
It’s a mission that matters
You’ll be helping to create a network not just for walking and wheeling, but for joy, health, love, ideas, creativity, relationships, communities, tackling the climate crisis, connecting to nature and more.
It’ll be fun too. Some people will walk multiple routes on their own, others will form teams to check all of their town’s routes in a single day before having a celebratory get-together.
To be part of the Great Slow Ways Summer Waycheck, simply travel and check as many Slow Ways as you can between June 16th and 25th.
You can take part on your own, in a group, with an organisation, as a community or as part of a guided walk. You can walk, run, wheel, bimble or yomp – it all counts.
Up for it? Sign up below and we’ll keep you updated and send you more details, a toolkit, and the schedule of guided walks.
Slow Ways so far
Slow Ways is a grassroots initiative to create a national network of walking routes. The routes connect all of Great Britain’s towns and cities, making it easier for people to imagine, plan and enjoy walking and wheeling journeys between places.
So far 8,000 walking routes have been suggested by volunteers. Our current challenge is to check them all – that’s 120,000km of routes! It’s a big challenge, but totally doable with enough people.
You can walk and review any time, but the waycheck will be a big push with energy and fanfare.
Galw ar bawb sydd wrth eu bodd yn cerdded, rhedeg ac olwyno!
Rydym yn brysur yn creu rhwydwaith cerdded cenedlaethol mentrus sy’n ymuno â phob tref a dinas ym Mhrydain Fawr.
Os yw hyn yn swnio’n dda i chi, derbyniwch ein gwahoddiad i’n Gŵyl Gwirio’r Llwybrau dros ganol yr haf a chanol y gaeaf. Byddem wrth ein bodd â’ch cwmni!
Rydyn ni eisiau gwneud yn siŵr bod Slow Ways ar draws Prydain Fawr yn agored ac yn barod i gael eu mwynhau… ac rydyn ni’n chwilio am filoedd o bobl i ymuno a gwirio rhan o’r wlad.
Curo terfynau’r plwyf
Rydyn ni’n cael ein hysbrydoli gan yr hen draddodiad o guro terfynau’r plwyf, lle byddai pobl yn cerdded ffiniau eu plwyf unwaith y flwyddyn, gyda’r bobl hŷn yn arwain y bobl ifanc, gan ddeall eu tirwedd gam wrth gam.
Wedyn, pob blwyddyn, fydd angen ei sbïo drosti i sicrhau ei fod yn ddibynadwy. Croeso felly i’r Ŵyl Gwirio’r Llwybrau! Traddodiad yn y dyfodol, gan ddechrau nawr.
Allech chi addo i fod yno am yr un cyntaf?
Mae’n fudiad sy’n bwysig
Byddwch yn helpu i greu rhwydwaith nid yn unig ar gyfer cerdded ac olwyno, ond ar gyfer llawenydd, iechyd, cariad, syniadau, creadigrwydd, perthnasoedd, cymunedau, helpu creu datrysiadau i’r argyfwng hinsawdd, cysylltu â natur a mwy.
Bydd yn hwyl hefyd. Bydd rhai yn cerdded llwybrau ar eu pen eu hunain, bydd eraill yn ffurfio timau i wirio holl lwybrau eu tref mewn un diwrnod cyn cael cyfarfod dathlu.
I fod yn rhan o’r gwiriad haf teithiwch a gwiriwch gynifer o Slow Ways ag y gallwch rhwng Mehefin 16eg a 25ain.
Gallwch gymryd rhan ar eich pen eich hun, mewn grŵp, gyda sefydliad, fel cymuned neu fel rhan o daith gerdded ddwysedig. Gallwch gerdded, rhedeg, olwyno, trampio neu grwydro – mae’r cyfan yn cyfrif.
Barod amdani? Cofrestrwch isod a byddwn yn rhoi’r wybodaeth ddiweddaraf i chi ac yn anfon mwy o fanylion, pecyn cymorth, a’r amserlen o deithiau cerdded tywysedig atoch.
Slow Ways hyd yn hyn
Menter ar lawr gwlad yw Slow Ways i greu rhwydwaith cenedlaethol o lwybrau cerdded. Mae’r llwybrau yn cysylltu pob un o drefi a dinasoedd Prydain â’i gilydd, sy’n ei gwneud yn haws i bobl ddychmygu, cynllunio a mwynhau mynd o le i le ar droed ac ar olwynion.
Mor belled, mae 8,000 o lwybrau cerdded wedi’u hawgrymu gan wirfoddolwyr. Yr her i ni ar hyn o bryd yw eu harchwilio i gyd – 120,000 cilomedr o lwybrau! Mae’n her enfawr ond yn un y mae modd ei chyflawni â digon o bobl.
Gallwch gerdded ac adolygu unrhyw bryd, ond bydd yr Ŵyl Gwirio’r Llwybrau yn ymgyrch amlwg, a fydd yn llawn egni a bwrlwm.
Sam Fender, Florence and the Machine and George McCrae: Saira shares her Slow Ways journey in the North East through song
For my first Slow Ways journey of the year, I decided to head up to Sunderland. I had never been to the North before. My choice of location was in part inspired by the Sam Fender song Wild Grey Ocean. I’d listen to it on repeat while gazing out onto the English Channel while living in Brighton. I wondered what ocean Sam was talking about. Then one evening, I watched the music video on YouTube and subsequently got sucked into reading the comments underneath it. Many northerners shared micro-stories: of love, longing and heartbreak. They shared memories of growing up by the North Sea, the Wild Grey Ocean, in the towns that existed on its shores: North Shields, South Shields and, further down, Sunderland.
I knew very little about the areas I was planning on visiting. I’d read that the North East had the highest suicide rates and amongst the highest child poverty rates in England. I’d read that the area had a strong religious past, and a rich industrial heritage. I’d heard stories of monks, and miners. I vaguely associated the region with football, the fishing industry, distinct accents, and varying dialects. I knew of notable people that hailed from the area: actor Rowan Atkinson, film director Ridley Scott and radio DJ Lauren Laverne.
During my short time in the North East, I came to know Sunderland as a small, proud and friendly city – a place that seemed both foreign and familiar. I came to know the neighbouring places (South Shields, Whitburn, Seaham, Durham) as places of mystery and wonder.
Here’s my journey through song.
The War on Drugs – Thinking of a Place
I love The War on Drugs’ music. Their songs are often evocative, steeped in nostalgia, coloured with metaphors and imagery. I listened to this track on the train to Newcastle. It was still dark when I left London; I watched the sun rise from the train window as it flit further and further away. Hours later it pulled into Newcastle, passing the iconic Angel of the North. The sun was blinding in the bluer-than-blue sky. I wandered around the city, through Quayside and over Gateshead Millennium Bridge and back around over the swing bridge. After some time, I got the bus to Sunderland from outside Newcastle Castle.
I’m moving through the dark ~ Of a long black night ~ Just moving with the moon ~ And the light it shines ~ And I’m thinking of a place ~ And it feels so very real ~ Just moving through the dark
The War on Drugs – Thinking of a Place
I arrived in Sunderland a few hours before sunset. My home for the next week, I wandered around, in attempts to orientate myself. I took in the towering housing blocks, the streets that made up the town centre, the busy McDonalds. It was frenetic, noisy, and cold.
I always get this strange feeling when entering a new place, a blank canvas waiting to be filled. It’s a mix of anticipation and uncertainty, disorientation and freedom.
There’s a line in this song that gets me, it’s a simple line: “I’m thinking of a place.” A place… a place. What makes a place? I often wonder. Those fleeting moments – fragments of experience. A series of images, of sounds, and feelings: these are the things that create a place, or rather a picture of a place and when we think of that place, we piece them all together. Slow Ways journeys often feel like nostalgia in the making.
Years from now, what will I think of, when I think of Sunderland? A flash of the river Ware, the moon, shadows on sheets, teenagers congregating outside the shopping centre, the council estates, the colourful community board with Sunderland words on it…
Would I think of that hole-in-the-wall Chinese takeaway; everyone who worked there was of a different background, a different ethnicity and age and it was filled with warmth and laughter. Would I think of the guy behind the counter whose northern accent was so strong, that I was too embarrassed to ask him to repeat what he said for the third time and ended up taking away a meal that I didn’t order.
Sam Fender – Wild Grey Ocean
Sam Fender’s Wild Grey Ocean, the song that drew me to the North East. I listened to it as I walked from Whitburn to South Shields. The sky was overcast. The ocean was raging. It was wilder than wild. The cliffs were diminishing, as the sea edged closer and closer to the path.
Wild grey ocean buried in my eyes ~ The coast town muscles through weekdays and nine to fives ~ I finish work and compartmentalise ~ With the wild grey ocean buried in my eyes
Sam Fender – Wild Grey Ocean
I love this song. It tells a story. In part, I think it’s about feeling stuck in a place (a physical place and a place in your life). It’s about waiting, longing, and feeling left behind. It’s about love lost and ‘good time’ friends – it’s about being a ghost in your hometown. The ocean exists as a backdrop to the story. The ocean: a witness, a catalyst, a fierce living entity eroding memories as it sweeps away a world.
A remote route, on a nowhere winter’s afternoon – at the start of a new year. I walked by horses on a mount, the path was muddy and wet. I love the saxophone riff towards the end of the song. I passed by a labyrinth, it looked otherworldly. I wandered down to the beach at Marsden Bay.
The song reminds me of King Krule’s Rock Bottom. Filmed by the Kent Coast, near the Isle of Grain, the song permeates a stagnation, a sense of feeling stuck in a place you don’t want to be, doing something you don’t want to be doing. It signals repeating the same cycle – maybe a cycle of poverty, of unrest, of emotional turmoil.
I grew up in a working-class household in South London with my six siblings. I started working at seventeen and over the next decade job-hopped from place to place, feeling a deep sense of frustration and restlessness; ever-dreaming of an escape. The words and sentiments behind both songs spoke to me.
And I’m sick of working dead end jobs with lame pay ~ And I’m tired of being hired and fired the same day
King Krule – Rock Bottom
The stretch of coastal landscape towards the Isle of Grain and South Shields both feel desolate in their own way. There’s a sense of being at the edge of everything, where only the ocean remains. There were also derelict artillery forts and pill boxes on both trails, burn scars and graffiti, remnants of industrial and urban activity alike.
It started to rain as I got to South Shields. I wandered into the town centre, took in the high street, town hall and shops. I settled in a Subway and drank tea as the sky outside darkened and condensation clung to the doors…
George McCrae – You Can Have it All
It was a beautiful day. I set off early to check a route from Sunderland to Seaham. The sun rose as I trod through the back roads of the city, into the suburbs and then further out onto the coastal path. It was bright, and light and I felt jubilant. I bopped along to You Can Have it All, an upbeat number by American soul and disco singer George McCrae as I went. Unlike many of the other songs I listened to during my trip, this one was markedly joyful and energetic. I fell into step with the rhythm of the song.
You can have it ~ You can have it ~ Have it all ~ Have it all
George McCrae – You Can Have it All
It was a stunning walk, it mostly followed the coastal path. On the way, I stopped off at a beach. It felt like a hidden gem, a well-kept secret. With every step I took, I drifted further away from the city, the marshy path felt as though it stretched endlessly. I walked out of Sunderland and into County Durham.
Sticking to the route, I bypassed the Glass beach. I kept on walking after I reached the end point of the route, the train station. I walked into the centre of town, explored the shopping centre and the high street. I had a cup of tea at Costa and carried on to Nose’s Point, the start of the Durham Heritage Coastal path, where I settled on the grass and looked out at the bay.
Eventually, I wandered back into town and got the bus back to Sunderland. As I watched the world from the bus window, I wondered if I could live in Sunderland. I wondered what my life would look like. I could go for daily walks by the sea, read in Waterstones in the shopping centre, I could go to the library often, and the beautiful winter garden filled with palms next door. I loved visiting the koi fish in their pond. Working at Slow Ways, I’ve come to believe that there are a lot of places I could live, places I could learn to call home.
Anoushka Shankar & Karsh Kale – Sea Dreamer (feat. Sting)
I listened to Sea Dreamer as I walked from Sunderland to Whitburn. It was grey and cold and damp. I wandered over the bridge. I passed the University of Sunderland, the National Glass Centre and Sunderland Marina.
Wish that I could build a bridge across the sea ~ And the secrets of the moonlight would carry me ~ Where the sun meets the water and the sky breaks free ~ That’s where I’ll be
Anoushka Shankar & Karsh Kale – Sea Dreamer (feat. Sting)
I stopped off at Roker beach. I looked out towards the lighthouse and the boundless sea. We’re on an island, water surrounds us and there are so many sea dreamers: fishermen, lighthouse keepers, swimmers, walkers… all drawn in by the pull of the tide.
Sting (Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner) the musician and actor, is from the North. He was born and grew up in Wallsend. In one interview he admitted he hated growing up in the region and spent his youth “plotting to escape”. We don’t get to choose where we’re born. We’re defined by our turning away from places, from escaping them as much as we are for staying. The boundless sea, a symbol for freedom and openness could just easily make you feel stuck: landlocked and claustrophobic. I enjoyed this route’s cold wind and sea views.
Florence and the Machine – St Jude
I took the bus to Durham. I’d intended to check a Slow Ways route but I arrived at midday and knew it would be getting dark soon. So instead, I wandered around town. There were eldely Christian preachers preaching by the bridge over the river Ware. A young girl sung karaoke out of tune. I walked to the river, I walked up and down a stretch of it. The light was beautiful. The city was beautiful.
And I’m learning so I’m leaving ~ And even though I’m grieving ~ I’m trying to find a meaning ~ Let loss reveal it ~ Let loss reveal it ~ St Jude, the patron saint of the lost causes
Florence and the Machine – St Jude
I walked up to Durham Cathedral. It was closed to the public as the graduation ceremonies were taking place. The green outside it was packed with crowds of students from all walks of life dressed in long robes – all around them proud parents and siblings beamed. I snuck into the cathedral for a wander. It was spectacular.
Later, I went inside the cathedral shop. I read about St Cuthbert, St Hilda and St Bede. I’d always been interested in saints and the lives they led. Saints are recognised as having an exceptional degree of holiness or closeness to God. I’d always wanted to visit Lindisfarne and Inner Farne, St Cuthbert’s later hermitage. I hope I’ll have a chance next time I visit the North.
On my last day, I went back to Roker Beach for a walk. I looked for shells and glass and seaweed. I then went back into town, and settled upstairs in Waterstones where I enjoyed a cup of tea and listened to people chat. There’s something so enjoyable about being a stranger in a new city, a city that very quickly becomes familiar.
I’d intended to review all the Slow Ways routes in Sunderland during my trip. Unfortunately due to train strikes and an awful bout of food poisoning that knocked me out for a few days, I only managed to check a small number!
Music kept me company, in the days when I was walking on my own on quiet paths and on the nights when I was stuck in my room, sick. It allowed me to connect to the places I travelled through, and although I don’t listen to music on all my Slow Ways journeys, often the right song gives me a boost of energy or comfort when I most need it.
Do you ever listen to music while out checking Slow Ways? Share your #SoundtracktoSlowWaysor #WaylistPlaylist
Do the little things on the day of the patron saint of Wales
St David’s famous last words, spoken before his death on the first of March, were
Arglwyddi, frodyr a chwiorydd, byddwch lawen a chedwch eich ffydd a’ch cred, a gwnewch y pethau bychain a glywsoch ac a welsoch gennyf i
which translates as
Lords, brothers and sisters, be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed, and do the little things that you have seen me do and heard from me
The man was a quiet teetotal vegetarian, who ploughed the land himself rather than bothering the oxen, and ate only leeks and water. He did kind miracles like slightly raising the land under his feet so that the people in the back could see him while he spoke in Llandewi Brefi.
Do the little things
Do the little things really appeals. At a time where the problems of the world seem huge and frequently insurmountable and just create in me a feeling of overwhelming disempowerment; when the people in the world with the most power to do the big things seem to be doing very deliberately the wrong big things; when the rest of us often misuse what power we do have to snipe at each other and create ever smaller bubbles of the likeminded… To do the little things can at the very least can be a salve to the soul.
And at most can add up to something really meaningful and truly life-changing, and landscape changing. So it is with my beloved Slow Ways.
We are asking for your
and then for the
story of your footsteps
Walk, and then tell everybody via your review how your walk was. This simple act is changing already the landscape of Great Britain! Bit by bit we are creating an ambitious, grand, dot-to-dot network that really is changing how communities respond to each other.
It’s mitigating the climate emergency, can help with the cost of living crisis and dozens of other good things. Just a step and a story and we can change the landscape in a way that will benefit even more people than just those at the back.
A giant citizen initiative is underway, and we need you! Read on for how you can help us, and we can help you
What if there was a network of recommended ways for walking or wheeling between any town, city or national park in Great Britain?
That’s what we’re creating – and we’d love your help with that.
Working with volunteers across Great Britain, and with support from the National Lottery Community Fund, we’re crowd-sourcing a national network of walking routes that make it easier for people to walk or wheel between places.
When driving or catching the train somewhere there are lots of good websites, apps and services to help us find our way. Despite having a rich footpath network across much of Britain, the same can’t be said for walkers and wheelers. Ordnance Survey maps do show lots of paths, but they don’t show which are the best to take.
Councillors and council staff are in a unique position to both benefit from Slow Ways and bring it to life. In this article I’ll explain how.
Walking is a big priority for councils, authorities, governments, national parks and national landscapes across Great Britain.
It’s not surprising. I’m sure you will be able to see links to how Slow Ways support multiple overlapping agendas, plans and ambitions for your council and communities, not least:
Health and wellbeing
Cost of living through affordable transport
Levelling up and spreading investment
Tourism, leisure, culture, heritage
Quality of life
…all by going for a walk!
Slow Ways is a beautiful and positive initiative that people from across the country can both contribute to and benefit from. By helping with Slow Ways your community and council will gain a walking network that connects it to your region, nation and the rest of Britain.
Sharing easy-to-follow and trustworthy routes is an important solution. People are far more likely to use inviting routes that have been recommended by other people.
People have already drafted over 8,500 routes, each of which connect two neighbouring towns, cities or villages.
Each Slow Way route in the network has been suggested by a volunteer. To create a fully verified and trustworthy network we need to walk, review and survey all the routes to make sure they are good enough to be included.
Our current challenge is to get outside and triple-check all of the routes.
Here’s how we’re getting on with that:
126,021km of routes
50% of Slow Ways reviewed
12% of Slow Ways verified
80,104km of reviews shared
1 million words of reviews
Nottingham, Exmouth, West Kirby and a few other towns have already 100% triple-checked all their routes. Dozens of towns and villages are just one walk away from hitting that goal.
Once people in every town, city and village in the network have checked their local routes – hey presto – we’ll have created the network! It’s all about local people checking their local bit of the network.
Councillors and council staff have extraordinary collective potential to come together to make a big difference to this national citizen initiative.
Slow Ways routes connect council areas across the country:
100% of nations and regions of Great Britain
100% of counties
100% of local authorities
100% of Westminster constituencies
100% of national parks
92% of wards have a route passing through them
8 in 10 community and parish council areas have a route passing through them
1 in 4 wards have a Slow Ways node (settlement)
With this coverage, councils and local authorities are in a unique position to help with Slow Ways. You collectively have the power to create the network in a single day!
Imagine that – all councils across Great Britain collaborating to create a national walking network in a matter of days. How inspiring would that be?
Even if it actually takes a few months… it’s totally possible, if everyone does their local bit.
From Clackmannanshire to Frome, councils have already been showing their support for Slow Ways by passing formal motions of support. You can read more about this here.
How you can help
This is a massive ambition, but many feet can make light work.
Councillors and council officers are already one giant team for Britain. Could your council community chip in and check your bit of the network?
Here’s what you need to know.
There are 2,433 towns, cities and villages in the network. We want all of these communities to have a complete set of Slow Ways route options that are 100% reviewed, verified and surveyed. To become verified a route needs to get at least three positive reviews.
To help you could get together:
3-4 people to review, verify and survey all of their community’s routes over a small number of days, or
10-30 people to split up and check all of a community’s Slow Ways in a single day
You could also connect with your neighbouring councils or communities at the end of each route to join in too.
Taking part will be rewarding, enjoyable and memorable.
Routes and route data will always be accessible to the public for free. We are creating open infrastructure for public good.
Take part during the Great Slow Ways Waycheck
This summer we’re going to be kick-starting a new tradition for the country – the Great Slow Ways Waycheck. Partially inspired by ‘beating the bounds’, this will be a midsummer sprint to check as many routes as possible. Taking part between the 16th and 25th of June when days are their longest, this could be a great time to get involved. You can of course help with Slow Ways at anytime of the year!
Sign up and help connect your community
We’d love for you and your community to be involved. To help, simply choose, walk and review your local routes.
If you sign up we’ll know that you are helping and will be able to keep you updated and share both resources and opportunities with you.
160 miles on Slow Ways, to the house where he was born
In autumn 2022, Steve and Sandra walked from their home in Buckinghamshire to their former homes in Birmingham and Wolverhampton using Slow Ways, in order to raise money for ActionforXP, a charity that offers support and guidance to those affected by the ultra-rare DNA repair disorder, Xeroderma Pigmentosum. Find out about how they planned the trip, who they met, and how Steve got stuck like an upside-down tortoise!
Tell us about your journey: what inspired your home to home walk?
Steve: It was Sandra’s idea really, to mark our retirement from the XPSG (Xeroderma Pigmentosum Support Group) by doing something a bit out of the ordinary and to raise funds at the same time. We wanted to explore parts of the Chilterns and Cotswolds which we had driven through hundreds of times without stopping.
Can you tell us a bit about the XP Support Group?
After our son Alex was diagnosed with Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP) in 1998, all we really knew was he had to be fully protected from UV light, as his skin is unable to repair the damage done by sunlight and would become cancerous over time.
We struggled to find out more about the condition and how best to live with it, and we set up the XP Support Group in 1999 to help share this information with other patients and their families. Since XP has health implications for much more than just the skin, patients normally need to see a number of other specialists, such as neurologists, ophthalmologists, etc. Setting up consultations with all these people could be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive for people who don’t live in a major city. I think our single most significant achievement therefore was working with St Thomas’ Hospital London to establish a multi-disciplinary clinic where patients could see all the relevant specialists in one day including, if necessary, having minor surgical procedures to remove melanomas.
In 2019, the XP clinic team won the British Association of Dermatologists’ Team of The Year award, which was a great achievement.
How did you go about planning the itinerary for the journey?
Having blocked three weeks out of our diaries (that in itself was a challenge!), I used the Slow Ways website to look at possible routes from Prestwood to Wolverhampton via Birmingham. I did originally think about simply following the Grand Union Canal, as we live very close to one of its feeder canals, but we both felt that a varied route would be more interesting.
Having pulled together a Slow Ways waylist for the proposed route, I then looked to see if accommodation was available for all of the overnight stops. I had to shift our start date by one day to achieve this, and then I booked all of the rooms during one busy afternoon to ensure availability didn’t change! The final element of planning was to see if a convenient pub was open for lunch each day and, if not, to check where we could buy items for a picnic.
Having reviewed the final detailed itinerary, one friend described it as a 160-mile pub crawl!
Sandra and I did a one-week walk in Norfolk in September 2021, as a sort of practice for the longer home-to-home walk. A big lesson learned was to be more ruthless with non-essentials in our rucksacks; we also learned we did not enjoy walking in temperatures over 30 degrees!
Did you and Sandra have any interesting encounters while walking? Who did you meet?
We met a lot of interesting people along the way, from people on narrowboats when we were walking along towpaths, to an American couple from Philadelphia walking from Stratford-upon-Avon to Burford. They were on a rather more upmarket trip, as their belongings were being transported for them from hotel to hotel! While enjoying a picnic lunch near Stratford, we met a Swedish musician who specialised in playing period stringed instruments, e.g. 18th century violin. He had recently played at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, and was having a couple of days relaxing in the English countryside before his next concert in Prague. And no, he did not perform for us as he wasn’t carrying his violin with him!
What was your favourite part of the journey?
Obviously it was very satisfying to reach the end! Curiously enough, the last part of the route into Wolverhampton along the old industrial Birmingham canal was where we saw the most wildlife, with many herons, geese, etcetera. It was good to have friends and relatives joining us for some legs, as it meant walking never became tedious or boring. If I had to name just one highlight, it would be visiting the house where I was born in Birmingham.
You used Slow Ways routes on your home-to-home walk. What was your favourite route and why?
That’s difficult: Hooded one was really excellent, and not just because it concluded at the Hook Norton brewery! It passed through some lovely Cotswolds villages, was easy to follow, and had nice scenery for the whole route.
My personal favourite was the Ardley to Deddington stretch of Dedbic one. As I said in my review, this was very much a route of two halves; the route between Bicester and Ardley included a footpath parallel to the M40, which was noisy and dirty. The other section from Ardley on to Deddington was a complete contrast: rural, interesting, varied, and very scenic.
What were some of the more memorable places that you stayed and meals that you ate?
We stayed in Stratford-upon-Avon on our wedding anniversary, and marked the occasion with a meal at the Michelin-starred ‘Salt’ restaurant. A couple of days later we ate at Purnell’s in Birmingham, which is also Michelin-starred. Both of those meals were really excellent, though of course rather expensive. By contrast in Oldbury we ate at a Wetherspoons inn, where beer was under £2 a pint, and food simple but still tasty. We never had a bad meal during the whole trip.
What were some of the challenges of the journey?
Surprisingly few, really. The last thing we bought before setting off from home were blister plasters, but after 160 miles we never used any of them. Fairly early in the walk I slipped off a narrow, greasy footbridge, and fell on my back into a ditch full of nettles & thistles. I didn’t hurt myself, and was more concerned Sandra might bust a gut laughing at me lying there like an upside tortoise, with my arms & legs wiggling as I couldn’t get up due to the weight of the rucksack!
How did you feel when you arrived at your old home?
When we arrived at the house in Birmingham where I lived until leaving to go to university, we took a few photos outside and then rang the doorbell. When it was answered, I pointed to the front bedroom upstairs and said I had been born in that room. We were invited in and had a wonderful chat with the current occupants, and were able to indicate which features of the house and garden I remembered.
Do you have more journeys planned?
We’re still catching up on trips that were booked before covid, so have quite a few things in our diaries right now. This includes Peru and Bolivia, Amsterdam, Antarctica, and Boston. We have also bought three-month Interrail passes which we intend to use next spring. Apart from that it’s pretty quiet.
We do intend to make another Slow Ways waylist, taking the train to one location, spending a week or so walking to somewhere different, and taking the train back home from there. But it’s just at the contemplation stage right now.
Share the love around with this voucher for a hike or a stroll with a purpose
It’s not too late to give your loved one a little gift – the promise of a walk.
You’ll also be giving a little love to your own lungs and muscles, sense of perspective, good cheer and wellbeing.
And then there’s love to the nation in the gift of another strand checked, plus love to your community with the gift of connection, and also legacy love – creating something that will be used for generations!
Here is a voucher you can print out and annotate with a pen for your dearest. Or (because who has a printer?!) you could save it to your phone or computer and underline as applicable with the drawing tool in your photo library. Or just send it on un-filled, as a poem and a promise.
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