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Getting started with Slow Ways

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A beginners’ step-by-step guide

Welcome! This is a big and exciting initiative that is taking root, and we are delighted that you have found your way here and are interested in getting involved. Below you will find a series of how to videos that will help you get going.

Slow Ways is a crowd-sourced national walking network for everyone to enjoy

Our mission is to create the national infrastructure needed to help people walk more often, further and for more purposes. Our routes link up every town and city in Great Britain as well as many villages and every national park. We believe that all of us should be able to walk safely, reliably and directly to any neighbouring community, so we’re working to make that happen. 

There is a Slow Way near you!

Thousands of volunteers have drawn over 9,000 routes connecting 2,500 places and now we need help to walk, review and survey them to make sure that they really work on the ground. 

That’s huge! Is it possible?

Each route needs to be triple checked. To achieve that massive goal we need the nation to help! The good news is that we are already well on the way – a third of routes are already triple-checked and verified, and over 60% of all Slow Ways have a route that has been walked and reviewed once.

This toolkit… 

… gives some information, tips and ideas for walking Slow Ways and encouraging others to walk with you too. 

Keep up to date

There are several ways to keep up to date with Slow Ways:

  • Please register on this website. Your account will record your walks and reviews, your overall distance, how many routes you’ve helped verify, and lots more lovely stats
  • Sign up to our newsletter too – it’s not too frequent and always full of exciting progress
  • You can find us on social media at Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram – we are @SlowWaysUK
  • Join our Slow Ways Discord forum where you will find lots of people poised to help, regional priority route lists, and lots more
  • You can also contact us on hello@slowways.org

Video how to guides

Through the series of videos below, Cristie will talk you through the process of signing up to the site, choosing and downloading a route, and leaving your first review (they really needn’t be long!).

Step 1: Sign up to Slow Ways! It’s free and easy

Having an account allows you to leave reviews, track the numbers of routes you’ve walked on your own dashboard, and create shareable waylists (route collections for future plans).

Sign up here, or watch the video for help with signing up.

Step 2: Find and download the route

You can use our iPhone app or our Android app on your phone to find and navigate a Slow Ways route.

Alternatively you can find a route you’d like to walk, from our homepage. If you like you can download the GPX file and open it on another navigation app.

Or you could go old-school and either print the map via the Inkatlas option on each route page, or simply draw it onto a paper Ordnance Survey map.

You can use the Slow Ways website to search for a route in your local area or further afield. If you’re just getting started, you can try walking a route that’s already been reviewed so that you know what to expect! Feeling bold? Be the first to pioneer a route that has no reviews.

Step 3: Walk the route!

Now for the best bit – walk a route! During your journey you can take some photos. You can add these to your review later on.

You don’t have to walk the whole route in one day. You can break a route into a number of sections and then post a review when you’ve completed all of them.

Step 4: Leave a review!

It’s easy to leave a review. Simply find the route you walked, scroll down the page and click ‘review this route’. You can then give it a star rating and add a review.

It can be as long or short as you like! Is it a viable route? Did you enjoy it? Did you face any challenges? What was the weather like? Did you have any interesting encounters or discover any gems along the way? Share them with the next walker!

If you find that a route isn’t possible to walk, you can upload a new GPX file via the ‘Suggest a better route’ function or write about the issue in your review so that others know how to get around it.

Step 5: Create a waylist

You can create a waylist collection of your dream routes and journeys and plan them using Slow Ways! You can make your waylist public to share it with others too.

Part of the fun of using Slow Ways is planning purposeful adventures. Join routes end to end to create long trails wherever you’d like to go, or make a waylist to group together lots of themed routes. Your waylist could be a holiday plan, a hit-list of routes in your local area, or a big idea to share with a friend.

This is the Intercity Network – priority Slow Ways routes that join up all of the 70 cities in Britain. Find out more here

Click the button below for more in-depth how-to guides from Cristie to help you on your Slow Ways journey.

Welcome on board, and happy walking!

The Slow Ways intercity network is close to connecting all 70 cities. Which cities would you like to link?

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Britain has 70 cities, and we are this close to having them all connected up via the Slow Ways intercity network

We believe that it ought to be possible to walk between any settlement and its neighbours. If you can drive between two places, or get the train, you sure should be able to walk well between them. Otherwise whether we use the routes or not, we effectively live on islands connected by tarmac or rails. That’s not what we want! So there are Slow Ways that connect every town and city and many, many large villages, and over 60% of them have been reviewed at least once.

But we’re going way beyond that. We need the routes to be verified – that’s three or more reviews for each Slow Way, that agree it’s a good route and worthy of being part of the network. Nearly 30% of Slow Ways have already been verified. That’s incredible! See the full progress map here.

So what’s the intercity network?

We’ve created a core network of routes that connect all of the cities of Great Britain to each other. These are the most populated places, and give us a good spread across the countries. There are 70 official cities in Scotland, Wales and England, and so far people in 40 of the cities can reach each other using only trusted, verified, triple-checked routes. We want to connect them all by the end of the summer. Can you help?

These intercity routes connect places as far apart as Plymouth, Cardiff, Brighton, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London. And there are many that are only a walk or two away from being connected – might you be the person to make the final link to Glasgow, Canterbury, Newcastle, Liverpool, Truro, Wrexham, Swansea, or many others?

Or maybe you’re up for a multi-day summer trail? Could you help with one of the outliers? St Davids in Pembrokeshire, Aberdeen, Inverness, Carlisle, would all be very memorable challenges!

Look at the map of the Intercity Network below. Purple routes are verified already, so you’re looking for the green gaps that need another review or two to be turned purple.

Check out the live progress of the core network on its waylist page. At time of writing it’s on 58% complete. Can you fill a gap? Let us know in the comments where you can target this summer.

Key gaps to fill to complete the intercity network

Not sure where to begin? Here is our priority gaps list as of the 15th of July 2024!

Bishop’s Stortford to Stansted Mountfitchet to Saffron Walden
Two routes here will connect much of East Anglia to London and the intercity network, including Cambridge and Ely: 
https://beta.slowways.org/Route/Bissta/10751
https://beta.slowways.org/Route/Stasaf/8714

Shipley to Bradford
Two more reviews can connect Bradford to Leeds, Manchester and all the other close by cities: 
https://beta.slowways.org/Route/Shibra/9641

Garston to Widnes
Just one more review here will connect Liverpool and Chester to the rest of the network! 
https://beta.slowways.org/Route/Garwid/10724

Kilsyth to Bonnybridge
Help us connect Glasgow and Edinburgh with this nice central route: 
https://beta.slowways.org/Route/Kilbon/6827

An option for the adventurous in the South West
Truro is close to being connected but we just need a verified route between Fowey and Looe. A suggested route has been drawn but no one has walked it yet…

And what’s a ‘complete’ intercity network?

A route is ‘verified’ when it has at least three positive reviews – at least three people have walked or wheeled it and believe it to be good enough to be part of the people’s National Walking Network! If you look at at verified route on the website you’ll be able to read at least three reviews about it, likely also with pictures, and probably travelled at different times of the year.

As the network becomes more and more verified each month, that’s more and more routes that people can feel confident to go out and try. What is emerging here is a ‘finished’ network that is a gamechanger for people who might not want to be part of the process of trying out untested walks, or tweaking ones that aren’t quite right, but who just want to go on a good walk!

Thank you for helping to make this a great big reality!

Be part of the Great Slow Ways Summer Waycheck 2024!

The Waycheck is GO! Join us now over the ten glorious days of midsummer and let’s see how many Slow Ways we can check together

Calling everyone who loves walking, running and wheeling! The Great Slow Ways Summer Waycheck is live!

We are busy creating a hugely ambitious national walking network that joins up every town and city in Great Britain.

If this sounds good to you, please join in with the Great Summer Waycheck! There’s an online check-in at 10am on Tuesday – see below.

To be part of the Slow Ways Summer Waycheck, simply travel and check as many Slow Ways as you can between June 14th and 23rd, and watch our collective total on the Waycheck Totaliser.

The Waycheck is our big annual midsummer mission to collectively walk, run, wheel and review as many Slow Ways routes as we can. Last year was FUN. Over the ten glorious days of midsummer, we collectively reviewed hundreds of routes, in groups, in ones and twos, and all over the country. So we’re doing it again! It’s on right now:

Friday 14th to Sunday 23rd of June

It could be your chance to combine with a holiday and do some walks in a new part of the country, try our routing or journey planner to make yourself a bespoke multi-day trail, or re-check your old favourites and make sure they still get through.

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.

1. Don’t miss: the Waycheck check-in on Discord

Join us on the voice channel on our Discord forum at 10am on Tuesday the 18th of June. Meet other people taking part, find out what everyone has been up to so far, or make plans for the rest of the time. Feel free to join in from the trail if you are out walking, or ask for help getting going if you’re not sure where to begin.

2. Check the stats as they come in, on the Waycheck Totaliser!

Last year there were hundreds of routes walked during the Waycheck, of which 72 created newly verified routes (triple-checked and good to go!). How will we do this year? Keep an eye on this page for our collective total:

To be part of the Slow Ways Summer Waycheck, simply travel and check as many Slow Ways as you can between June 14th and 23rd. Tell people about it, post about it on social media, and let’s give a big bump to the progress map below!

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’s fun too. Some people are walking multiple routes on their own, others are forming teams to check all of their town’s routes in a single day before having a celebratory get-together.

What you can do

  • Join the Big Slow Ways 2024 Challenge too, and gather really cool pin badges as you pass milestones!
  • Share your plans and journeys with us on social media… #SlowWays
  • Tell us your plans in the comments on this page
  • Sign-up to the newsletter to stay updated
  • Join us on the voice channel on our Discord forum at 10am on Tuesday the 18th of June
  • Keep an eye on this Waycheck Totaliser page for our collective total as the ten days progress

Not sure where to walk? Check out our network progress map here to see how the network is progressing in your area. All of those purple routes and triple-approved, or more! And every blue line has been walked and reviewed once or twice. Incredible progress – but we still need more! Help us out in the glorious long days of midsummer, and let’s purple the map a bit more!

June’s progress map. The purple routes have been walked and positively reviewed at least three times. The blue lines have been walked and reviewed once or twice. Can you fill some gaps this midsummer?

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? Tell us who you are and what you’re up to by commenting on this page!

Midlife mappers: embracing friendship, commitment and the menopause on the muddy trail

Three school friends rekindle their sense of adventure, seeking freedom beyond work, family and menopause, on foot through the West Midlands

This story is the next in our Trails series. We invited people to apply to assemble a group of friends and walk a multi-day trail of Slow Ways. They could submit the story of their adventure in whatever form they liked.

As we walked out one wet spring morning…

A few months ago, three dear friends applied to take part in an eco-adventure reviewing Slow Ways routes from Birmingham to Aberystwyth in a grand city-to-sea modern-day pilgrimage from England to the edge of Wales. As three bold women, navigating the throes of menopause, we sought freedom beyond work, child-rearing, and family commitments.

It’s not the first time we have embarked on an eco-adventure. As seventeen-year-old sixth-form friends, our group peddled around Greece on our first parent-free holiday abroad; we were powered by a contradictory thirst for independence and connection. This Slow Ways challenge felt like a fitting opportunity to rekindle our sense of adventure sparked so many years ago.

Stourbridge to Church Stretton, the first five Slow Ways on the way to Aberystwyth

An immersive long trip had huge appeal, but as middle women with responsibility for family, parents and work, the walk was feasible over a series of weekends. Our first trek was from Stourbridge to Church Stretton, with train stations at each end.

Meet me at the station, don’t be late

Stourbridge to Kinver

We’d arranged to meet at Stourbridge Junction, skipping the verified route from Birmingham. The plan was clear – meet at the station, don’t be late! One of our team took the 5am train from London, another travelled from Bristol. The nearest, scheduled for a Telford train, skipped the rail replacement delay and drove. Despite unexpected challenges we met on time – the weekend had finally come.

A daybreak start and end-of-term pressures took their toll. For some of the team it felt rough, trekking out of Stourbridge in the rain. Somehow we remained unscathed – we had missed the ‘Bull in Field’ warning signs and soaked up a deluge of rain as we tramped through woods, beside roads, brimming rivers, and canals towards Kinver.

Despite the weather this was one of the easiest routes, made up of five miles of accessible parks, roads, paths, and some field footpaths. Equipped with the route meticulously highlighted on a full set of OS maps, and blessed with exemplary planning, cooperation and direction, it seemed there was no stopping us.

Soaked to the bone, at Kinver we bundled into a quaint tearoom, bedecked with yellow Easter garlands for tea and cake, welcomed by friendly locals who marvelled at our wet-weather wear and resolve.

Our heritage-loving hearts skipped a beat when we realised our route virtually passed the Rock Houses at Kinver Edge. Carved into a cliff of rich red sandstone, with tin and brick roof and chimney trims, these historic dwellings managed by the National Trust were residential homes until the 1950s. We skimmed our way through the lower rock houses and skipped the hillfort and the café, anxious not to lose precious daylight.

Into the flooded realm

Kinver to Highley

The afternoon route was a liquid blur of red and green. Rusty rivulets of water bled through bright grass sward, all a glitter, in a rush of choral cascade. Paths were streams. Our leather boots, like pilgrim’s coracles, bore bone-dry feet through red rivers of flood.

We met obstacles both metaphorical and physical: developers’ fences, broken bridges, and bounds of weariness. But we found new ways, unexpectedly passing a familiar visitor centre at Severn Valley Country Park to cross the Miners’ Bridge close to dusk. The river-edge path was subsumed by eddies from the swollen river. As we carefully picked a route to lodgings at the Ship Inn, all we could think of was a hearty supper and rest.

After flood, mud

Highley to Cleobury North

We rose early, crossing Severn Valley Railway for a steep climb to the local shop at Highley. Brekkie was on the hoof, through a street of miners’ brick-red cottages, joining a footpath framed by a corridor of trees.

If yesterday was flood, then today was mud, slippery enough to glide and thick enough to tug boots. Our planned morning nine-mile stretch took the best part of the day.

We met protective ewes with tiny lambs, galloping horses, collies and terriers jumping, suckling calves, warm-hearted farmers, and a pair of tweed-clad gunmen shooting crows. They informed us that legally they must make themselves known and escort us through the field’s public footpath.

We skated and plunged our way into an acre of ankle-deep mud and vaulted barbed wire to tear prized waterproofs, to finally arrive at the post office in the hamlet of Cleobury North. It was already 2pm. We’d walked for over six hours.

Get in, ladies, quick!

Cleobury North to Munslow

We were too far into the afternoon to make it on foot to digs in Munslow before dark. Ahead was an eight-mile walk up over the National Landscapes of Clee Hill. In the walled garden of the post office we regrouped, drank hot chocolate, used the washroom facilities, and reached out to local taxi firms.

We weighed up hitchhiking versus trekking two miles to the pub. It was Good Friday – taxis were either booked or on leave – but one offered to collect us in two hours from the pub. We set off on the verge-free A-road, ducking into a field for safety to pop out through a hedge further along and cross the busy road.

Within a minute a car drew up, fast. The driver leaned out; “Get in, ladies, quick!” It was our taxi guy. We’d been spotted punching through the undergrowth. We sped to Ludlow for collection later. What relief, as we tumbled into the busy market town, wet, sweaty, and with a suspicion of Eau d’Farmyard fragrance.

“Get in, ladies, quick!” It was our taxi guy. We’d been spotted punching through the undergrowth

Within the hour our cab returned, whisking us to deluxe static caravan accommodation in Munslow. We were carefully met by an adorable, but intact, Doberman and our lovely hosts.

We settled on the sofa, supping hot tea and biscuits, mournfully looking back towards the missed segment of our walk. Suddenly Clee Hill was framed by a huge double rainbow bowed towards the equestrian paddock of our lodgings. It felt like a moment of magical confirmation for the timely redirection, despite missing a favoured section of the weekend walk. Lament subsided with more great pub grub, this time at the Swan Inn.

Sunny-side-up

Munslow to Church Stretton

Early to bed, early to rise – soon we were tramping through milky-hued, dew-laden grass. Fuelled by sunny-side-up eggs in baps and hot cross buns, we trekked into our first clear day; through the old village, behind the main road, past the church, and across an earthen over-trodden path that stretched into the distance. Up and up we clambered, climbing a long steep slippery rock stream, into a woodland where we finally met some other walkers.

Our final day brought crisp clear views; panoramic soft blue hills set behind a wooded decline at Wenlock Edge. A startled young deer cracked its way through the undergrowth. Somewhere along the route, the path dropped into an old farm with a basin of cropped pasture flanked by mountains. Beyond it a pond, fringed by stems of flag iris and trunks of mature willow, and then on into more woodlands.

We tore at the road, anxious not to miss our pre-booked afternoon trains. The spectacular scenery was a delight. As we bore down towards Church Stretton, even roadside dogs wore lovely smiles. At each turn, the landscape seemed to grow prettier. Attractive hillside dwellings clad the varying descent, growing brighter and denser towards the heart of town.

By 12.30pm we were ensconced amongst a throng of tourism in the courtyard of a walled cafe, for local oatcakes (also known as pancakes), toasties, and tea. We reflected on our chance encounters; we’d been bestowed such warmth by the people of the West Midlands, Staffordshire, and Shropshire. Following lunch, we were homeward-bound, in time for Easter Sunday celebrations. During the return ride, via WhatsApp chat, we shared anticipation for family time and Easter chocolate – surely we’d earned it.

The next segment of our adventure lies between railway connections at Church Stretton and Newtown. Look out for our Mid Wales story.

Story: Beth Môrafon, multidisciplinary artist and visitor experience consultant at VisitMôr

Navigation: Corinna Faith, film director

Team overview: Hannah, SEN primary school assistant head

Photographs: All

Singing the song of the Dee to the Wye

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Songwriter Janie Mitchell walks from Chester to Hereford through one of the wettest months ever recorded, and records her own song for the hidden histories and ever-present water

This story is the second of our Trails series. We invited people to apply to assemble a group of friends and walk a multi-day trail of Slow Ways. They could submit the story of their adventure in whatever form they liked.

The walk from Chester to Hereford was quite a big undertaking for us two mum teachers and a dad in the soggy month of March 2024; it took every free day, when we were not working or looking after people, to walk 12 to 20 miles a day through one of the wettest months ever in the UK.

Dee to Wye by Janie Mitchell

The countryside was as muddy as it was beautiful, although we navigated in bleak weather the alleys and gullies of parts less beautiful. The edges of towns where felled trees and blocked paths were the casualties of new building developments, the sites of historic importance (boundary streams, mottes and baileys, the centre of Oswestry Hill Fort) buried under litter or off-limits behind barbed wire.

The basis of our story project was to collect words from the hinterlands of Welsh border towns and villages. As predicted, place names were often in both Welsh and English and fun was had, pre- and post-walk, researching their etymologies. The name of the village of Rhosllanerchrugog (known as Rhos), between Wrexham and Chirk, is a translation of ‘heathery glades’. A sizeable community of red-brick mining cottages, with a noticeable abundance of barbers and hair salons, it has less heather these days than hairdressers. But the outlying road and housing estate named Cristionydd suggests a pilgrim route or settlement, and a span of common land/fields with ruins towards Acrefair had an atmosphere of an earlier time.

We started our walk at Chester Cathedral – where we got an inadvertent blessing during a service we walked into – and ended it at Hereford Cathedral, where we asked for one from a wandering vicar. None of us are religious but it felt a fitting way to end a long and impactful walk.

Waist-deep in water

Whilst we had an idea about what we would write about it was the actual walking of the route that gave us our story. Imagining and plotting a route is one thing, travelling it on foot is another. We looked out for words but what was inescapable and flavoured every conversation was the presence of water. It had rained for months. Every river, brook, stream we crossed or walked along was brown and in spate. No field was dry and nearly every field was flooded. Ponds and rills happened where on the map they did not exist. The footpath between quarried lakes near Wellington in Herefordshire was waist-deep in water. As one reviewer on Slow Ways comments, the flooding is a result of anthropogenic climate change.

For my song, I decided to try to capture a sense of how water is everywhere in this part of the country and how the old industrial past and new building developments sit within a watery landscape, both leaking into each other. I have named a few of the rivers and streams we crossed and the song’s title is ‘Dee to Wye’.

In a park at the edge of a housing estate in Chester, which we walked through on our first day, we saw a Roman carving of Minerva, in a rock, an owl on her shoulder representing wisdom. In Roman times, quarrymen asked for her blessing for safe passage across the wide holy Dee river, to quarry and carry stones for building. May such wisdom guide developers now, so that the curlew and skylark continue to have land and so the rivers carry only their stories out to the sea.

Dee to Wye by Janie Mitchell

Owl on her shoulder, Goddess Minerva
Looks from a housing estate to the Dee
Quarrymen asked her for a safe crossing
Stones to carry

Behind the bus stop a motte and bailey
Battles now hidden under a hotel
Grey boundary river beneath the bypass
Lost history

Old Woods long taken by road and car park
Gone are the heathery glades of Rhos
Oswald’s old hill fort has barbed wire ramparts
No way to cross

Severn and Quinny, Morda and Onny
Arrow, Lugg, Weir, War, Perry and Teme
No field or drain that does not run into
River, brook or stream

Out on the common the sky’s wide open
Skylark and curlew flying and free
Deer hide in bracken edging the wheat fields
Rare sight to see

There are three in our group. I’m Janie Mitchell, a professional folk singer, songwriter and English Language teacher. I have previously completed long distance walks and written songs about them for performance and broadcast. Claire Hanson has taught English for many years and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing at MMU. She is currently working on a novel set in the borderlands and has brought her research and story-telling skills to the project. John Hanson is an artist and enthusiastic rambler. We all live in the Clun Valley in Shropshire, through which some of the route travels. We are interested in making new stories from old landscapes.

Pilgrims, radicals, adventurers, traders – the people who formed our paths

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The Ramblers’ Head of Paths, Jack Cornish, tracks the generations making and remaking their landscape on foot and horseback

Slow Ways are a new way of exploring something much older. Slow Ways routes use our existing public rights of way – which are an ancient and venerable network of 140,000 miles of paths across England and Wales.

In my recently published book, The Lost Paths, I set out to walk and discover the story of our path network. The nineteenth-century American diplomat Elihu Burritt described the paths of Britain as spaces that “thread pasture, park, and field, seemingly permeating her whole green world with dusky veins for the circulation of human life”.

I found this human life in the ghosts which linger on the footpaths, tracks and trails – the pilgrims, radicals, adventurers, traders, and of the ordinary people who have formed and solidified our paths – generations making and remaking their landscape on foot and horseback, their actions now fixed in time.

What I discovered on our paths and in writing The Lost Paths is a messy, interleaved story of creation, transformation, continuity, loss and glorious revival. Below are just two of the paths I explore in the book.

By walking our rights of way, by tracing Slow Ways, we can discover and retell this story – of the oldest part of our heritage still in use for its original purpose – as we walk in the footsteps of those who came before.

Thircho: Thirsk to Chop Gate, North York Moors

About halfway through the Thircho Slow Way, from the market town of Thirsk to the village of Chop Gate, at the base of the Cleveland Hills, you will cross a long track which runs up the side of the looming Black Hambelton hill.

There are small groups of walkers making their way up the track, braced to the wind, enjoying what is now part of the Cleveland Way National Trail. Many have come this way before – William the Conqueror took this path when returning to York after his ‘Harrying of the North’; it was subsequently used by monks, with paths snaking off to monastic settlements at Byland, Rievaulx, Newburgh, Mount Grace and Arden.

Dorothy and William Wordsworth strode up here in the hot summer of 1802, stopping by a small stream to rest. Dorothy recalls in her journal, “We sate [sic] a long time by this water, and climbed the hill slowly. I was footsore, the sun shone hot, the little Scotch cattle panted and tossed fretfully about.”

These animals give a clue to the reason why I came to walk this path. This is one of our surviving long distance drovers’ roads, a route which started in the highlands of Scotland, heading south to transport animals to market in the cities of England. Before the age of refrigerated lorries and airplanes, our food was transported liked this, across country. The number of animals involved is staggering – almost 19,000 cows alone passed through Carlisle in 1663; Daniel Defoe recorded 150,000 turkeys travelling from Norfolk to London in 1724; a single tollbooth in Wiltshire registered payment for over 14,000 pigs in 1830.

The traces of the drovers can be seen in this path, as in many across the country. Characteristically wide paths, which frequently veered away from village centres in order to avoid local, and potentially inferior, animals breeding with drovers’ beasts.

Our modern roads which carry names from the droving past – Welsh Lane, Cow Lane or Bullock Way. Just down from the meeting point of Slow Way and drovers’ road, there is a neat holiday cottage, which used to be a drovers’ inn called Chequers, in which a peat fire is said to have burned continuously in its hearth for 200 years. On the wall of the house the original pub sign survives, protected under glass. Beneath a painted chequerboard, it reads:

BE NOT IN HASTE

STEP IN AND TASTE

ALE TOMORROW

FOR NOTHING

Caemen: Caernarfon to Menai Bridge, Gwynedd, Wales

On the Caeman Slow Way, the path snakes pleasingly, its borders blurred by vibrant ferns and ivy and a gentle accumulation of leaf litter. Small indistinct noises penetrate from the outside world. There are thousands of people a short distance from here, shielded by the trees, but in these north Wales woods I am seemingly alone.

As I walk, I get glimpses of the outside world. A statue of Nelson which was an early experiment in sculptural concrete, rises from the water and functions as a navigational aid to help ships negotiate the treacherous waters of the Menai Strait. I see where the trees meet the shore, occasionally slumping into the water (a gentle erosion through which fossilised plants appear, uncovered from a muddy tomb after 300 million years).

As I follow the coast to the west, with Bangor long behind, the woods seem to become lusher and the path rides undulating ground. Trees are painted with the luminous green sheen of damp lichen. Salt from the Menai Strait, just a few yards away, and the taste of decomposing leaves are caught in the back of my throat and up the sides of my nostrils. Despite the clear path, this feels like a wilder, more elemental place.

Suddenly a high stone wall topped with spiky slabs of grey slate cuts through the trees. I wasn’t expecting this solid man-made line to cross my path, an interruption to my gentle walk. Set in the stone wall is an ornate gate, and from this side it feels like a portal to a secret garden.

Beyond is the National-Trust-owned land of Glan Faenol. Upon passing through the gate, the trees change. Towering pines emerge from a dense green undergrowth, ivy climbing their trunks. The green lichen from before has gone, and these trunks are splodged bright orange. Walking further, the trees change again: the blotched, cracked and streaked bark of a stand of shorter silver birch, more numerously planted.

The way between these trees is new, I’m no longer on the mapped Slow Way. This mile and half route was created by the National Trust and Gwynedd Council in 2018. It’s a new and improved section of the Wales Coast Path, joining the 870 miles of coast path around Wales and the 2,700 miles of newly created England Coast Path. This is where our path network has been expanded, paths going on the map, new possibilities created for exploring the land.

I’m off now, to suggest a new route for Caemen, so that the Caernarfon—Menai Bridge Slow Way can follow the coast the whole way.

Jack Cornish

Jack Cornish is the Head of Paths at the Ramblers, Britain’s largest walking charity. In 2017, Jack undertook a 1550-mile walk across Britain, from Land’s End to John O’Groats. He is the author of The Lost Paths, published by Penguin Michael Joseph. This book is a personal journey and exploration of the deep history of English and Welsh paths and how this millennia-old network was created, has evolved, and been transformed. It is story of traders, soldiers, artists, farmers, radicals, and hikers. This book celebrates the ordinary and the extraordinary in our paths and serves as a call to arms to save this vital part of our collective heritage for future generations. Jack lives in South East London, from where he sets out to complete another mission, a potential futile attempt to walk every street and path in London.

Tales: Somang Lee’s illustrated field guide to walking with the East and South East Asian outdoor enthusiasts

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“I am allowed to take up and reclaim space” says illustrator Somang Lee. In the wake of the pandemic’s anti-Asian hate crime, she has reclaimed space through outdoor adventures, and healing through returning to her roots

This story is part of our Tales from a Slow Way series. Each Tales award includes a contribution to the organisation as well as a project fee to the creative. Somang Lee’s project donation went to ESEA Sisters.

“As a woman of Korean heritage I grew up seeing women who looked like me being portrayed as weak and subservient in the media. Since moving to the UK twenty years ago I have started to go on outdoor adventures – exploring the Outer Hebrides by bike and planning solo long-distance walks. This has helped to build my confidence and has given me a sense of empowerment. I receive a tremendous amount of joy and sense of meaning when I am exploring the outdoors and would like to inspire others to get out there and be part of it.

For this project I would like to share stories of ESEA Sisters women walking and the benefits they receive from the activity as well as practical tips on how to plan for a walk so that it feels less daunting for those who may never have considered going on a long distance journey.”

You can download Somang’s full field-guide by clicking on the link below:

An award-winning illustrator and projection artist based in London, Somang Lee trained at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art. Her creative practice is informed by her love for nature and outdoor adventures and her aim is to create illustrations that are both beautiful and useful – making use of the wonder of nature, to inspire others to get out there and be part of it.

Last year we launched Tales from a Slow Way, a community stories initiative that enabled us to commission creatives and community groups to work together to produce original stories and content situated around Slow Ways walking routes. Each award included a donation to the organisation as well as a project fee to the creative. Together, the awarded projects map the sheer diversity of walkers across the UK and highlight the importance of forging new paths.

Inspired to go on your own Slow Ways nature wandering? Why not sign up to walk and review Slow Ways. You can also find and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

Trails round two: would you like to tell us the story of a trail?

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Calling all adventurers! We’re looking for teams to take on a Slow Ways Trail this summer

Our spring call-out for groups to walk particular trails of Slow Ways was a great success! Throughout March and April small groups headed out to walk trails, and have sent in beautiful stories of their experiences, including films, songs, architectural models, prose poetry, and photo essays. Keep an eye out on Stories channel as they appear over the next weeks.

We were so delighted that we’re doing it again, and this time with more trails available to apply for!

There are Trails all around Britain and we are offering £600 as a contribution towards the expenses of you and your team. Teams need to be three people or more, and you can choose your preference and two back-up trails from this list:

TrailsKm/milesTell me more!
Glasgow – Sanquhar117/73These two beautiful-looking routes will connect Carlisle and Glasgow, and stop off at Sanquhar, an historical Scottish town with railway access to both Glasgow and Carlisle
Sanquhar – Carlisle130/81
Carlisle – Ripon173/107This route skirts the Pennines and crosses the Yorkshire Dales, connecting Carlislie to Ripon and Leeds
Carlisle – Newcastle109/68A cross-country route running east to west, almost coast to coast
Hereford – Machynlleth147/92An exciting route taking you through Hay-on-Wye and central Wales
Leeds – Lancaster118/73Help us connect Yorkshire and Lancashire with this route via Preston
Newark-Lincoln-Doncaster113/70We’d love to make a connection from the verified routes of south Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire out to the picturesque cathedral city of Lincoln
Norwich – Ely – Peterborough167/104Taking on this trail would help us create a verified route into East Anglia and connect Norwich, Ely, Cambridge and Peterborough to our network in one go
Bristol – Gloucester – Oxford173/107While much of the West Country has Slow Ways routes, Gloucester is a barren patch. This would be an important connection to join up the network
Perth – Dundee – Aberdeen183/114By the end of the summer you should be able to walk from Aberdeen to Plymouth on verified walking routes but we need a team to connect Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen first
Bangor – St Asaph – WrexhamConnecting St Asaph and Wrexham to England
South Coast Curve94/58This route will connect four southern cities to the Slow Ways network: Salisbury, Southampton, Portsmouth and Chichester
Colchester – Southend85/53This important section will provide a trusted route out eastwards from London and will join with existing routes going up through Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk
Leeds – Bradford – Manchester93/58Why not provide a slow alternative to the M62 and take on this Trail connecting Leeds and Manchester via Bradford

What you need to do

  • Please take a look at the Slow Ways Trails Application Information and decide which you want to apply for. You can apply for up to three routes but first preferences will take precedence so please do select carefully.
  • Assemble your team and ensure all of you can walk all of the routes in the Trail by the deadline, though this doesn’t have to be in one go.
  • Fill in your application, including telling us about each of your team members as well as the story you want to tell, and how your story might inspire others. You can be as creative as you like!
  • The deadline for your submission is the 4th of June and we will be briefing those selected between the 10th-18th June. All walks and reviews need to be completed by 11th August with final stories submitted by the 31st August 2024. Please check the Application Information for more information.

Office workers! Get off your bums!

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Ioana Biris of Nature Desks argues that it’s time to follow in Amsterdam’s footsteps and work outside for the UK’s first Outdoor Office Day

Maybe you are reading this message indoors, whilst in your office? Your laptop is probably nearby, the next meetings are planned, exchanging ideas and making plans. A couple of them will probably take place online. Tomorrow you might work remotely but the pace will be the same: busy, involving lots of sitting behind a screen.

Hopefully you’ll see green through the window of your office, but most probably you will not really be in connection with the surrounding nature during working hours. What a pity, isn’t it?

In an article recently published in The Conversation, Ricardo Correia, assistant professor at Turku University of Applied Sciences, writes: “The frantic pace of modern life is damaging our sense of time, but nature can help us heal”. He proposes that nature experiences offer a “potential solution to the increasingly widespread feelings of time scarcity caused by contemporary urban lifestyles”.

It is not only the frantic pace of the modern word which leads us to extend an open invitation to take your work outdoors, be active and reconnect with the nature. Recent figures by the World Health Organisation on physical activity levels – both in Europe and the UK – paint a disturbing picture about our health and wellbeing. Almost half the EU population (45%) never do exercises or play sports. On an average day approximately 44% of people spend between 2 hours and 31 minutes, and 5 hours and 30 minutes sitting on a chair; 11% sit even more than 8 hours and 30 minutes every day! In the UK the numbers are as bad: according to a study published by the BBC a quarter of the adult population in England is currently deemed to be inactive, with more than 11 million doing less than 30 minutes of total activity in a week.

Keeping in mind the many hours we spend working in our offices, it is absolutely a great idea if you could take your next meeting outdoors. Combine your work with a breath of fresh air and natural scenery. Why not walk in urban nature on June 13th 2024 during the first edition of Outdoor Office Day in the UK?

Are you looking for other reasons than being physically more active? A study published by Harvard Business Review shows that our emotions and wellbeing, our creativity and thinking but also our connection to others are enhanced by being in nature.

The New Forest National Park, Slow Ways and the Green Halo Partnership are inviting you to take your work outdoors on June 13th.

Join us and for a walking meeting during your working day. Why? Scientific research has shown that you will feel more creative, healthy and happy while spending time surrounded by nature, whether you’re in a city or in the countryside. It will enhance new and meaningful relationships, stimulate the flow of good ideas and support the forging of valuable collaborations.

How to take part

  • add a ‘walking meeting’ slot in your calendar on June 13th 2024
  • invite a colleague, business partner or stakeholder, or your whole team
  • choose a topic to brainstorm about or a problem to solve while walking together
  • choose a short walk in nature in your neighbourhood
  • you can also be more adventurous and plan a longer Slow Ways walking route
  • share your experience, upload a great image and tag us #OutdoorOfficeDay #OutdoorOfficeDayUK #SlowWays #NewForest
  • enjoy your walking meetings and the great outdoors!

More information: https://www.outdoorofficeday.nl/2024en. Outdoor Office Day is an idea born in Amsterdam and an initiative of Nature Desks, a non-profit platform that brings (urban) nature, work, vitality and wellbeing together. 

Tales from the Danelaw

Let architect Thom Brisco take you on a 100-mile tour of landscapes colonised by the Romans, settled by the Saxons, and raided by the Vikings, then fortified by the Normans and drained by the Dutch

This story is the first of our Trails series. We invited people to apply to assemble a group of friends and walk a multi-day trail of Slow Ways. They could submit the story of their adventure in whatever form they liked.

Smart prep for our walk from Colchester to Norwich might have involved me and my partner Pandora going on a few short warm-up hikes, but I swapped that out to trawl a couple-hundred wikipedia pages about Vikings. Reading how our path through Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk would cross the former Kingdom of East Anglia, long-ago settled by Scandinavians to form the Danelaw, I thought it’d be fun to invite our Nordic mates Tiril and Adrian. A chance to show them where they might have grown up, had their ancestors joined the Great Heathen Army.

Finishing up work on a Thursday, and due back at my desk by Tuesday, we had four days to cover the 91 miles of the planned route. However, by casually combining the booking of off-trail accommodation with the addition of short sight-seeing digressions, I managed to bump it up to 100 miles. Implausibly, back then, 25 miles per day sounded like a breeze.

Day one

Jumping off the train at Colchester, my insistence that we bend our route to enter this former Roman capital through its surviving gateway, before visiting its water tower, ruined priory, and concrete mural, ensured that we had walked for at least two miles before reaching our scheduled start point. Stocked with snacks and blister prevention tape, we set off northward, crossing the river Colne and climbing to High Woods Country Park where small streams lace through the roots of the woodland.

An hour later we experienced one of the more surreal memories of our walk when we turned out of green fields into the battered moonscape of an aggregate quarry. After crossing a ridge between two flooded pits, we reached an active portion where machines were digging great trenches through the footpath, and we were forced to scramble our way out toward the village of Ardleigh.

On the approach to Manningtree we were skirting the edges of a village called Lawford when one of my debatable detours brought us to the door of a beautiful cottage that I knew right away would become the first of the buildings that I planned to make a small model of, as a record of our trip. Located on Church Hill, ‘Pink Cottage’ is an 18thC-built house with a thatched roof and small lean-to, roofed in pantiles. With its pink plaster, white window frames, and patterned thatching, it is the kind of gingerbread house that you might picture when thinking of the British countryside and yet the gambrel roof and pantiles connect this cottage to the Low Countries. Imported from the Netherlands since the early-17thC, pantiles form a bright terracotta stripe across these eastern regions, highlighting longstanding ties with Europe.

When working on the conversion of a late 18thC-built threshing barn a few miles up the road, a local heritage consultant once shared with me how the near 250-year-old roof timbers looked likely to be imports from the Baltic Countries.

Across the afternoon we passed a vineyard called ‘Prettyfields’ and a farm with a tall green silo marked ‘Boythorpe Cropstore’ before we arrived at the glassy estuary of the river Stour. Looking out to the Shotley Peninsula, I shared with our Viking pair how a local detectorist had recently found a comb made of reindeer antler that is thought to have been brought to the area from Norway in the 9thC. The lateness of our subsequent ‘lunch’ continued to uncover the naiveté of my planned daily mileage, but we set out determined to complete our march into Ipswich with the sun already low in the sky. We crossed the river Orwell to enter the city at half-ten that night.

Day two

After eight hours of sleep in an eight-square-metre room, we gobbled beans on toast from Audrey’s Café, before beginning to hobble out of Ipswich along the near thousand-house-long Norwich Road. Beginning to feel human again as we passed the low-200s, I looked up at Number 274 to encounter an especially handsome house with steeply pitched roofs and a perfectly triangular gable, built in red brick and clay tile.

I’ve since found out that the house was designed by the architect Arnold B Mitchell and built in 1912 as the winner of an ‘Ideal Villa’ competition run by a national newspaper. The model reveals the square plan of the house and how all four elevations share the basic symmetry of the street front.

Leaving the asphalt behind, we stepped off road at the village of Claydon to follow for several miles the course of the River Gipping. Flanked by fields, ponds, and woodland, this winding riverside path was a highly enjoyable leg of the route with information boards that extended the story of the region’s relationship with Europe. Describing its lost navigability, we learned how the river brought Danes to settle the area in the 860s and how, in the 11thC, the river was used to transport limestone from Normandy. Nestled in one of the course’s wider meanders is the Baylham Rare Breeds Farm, where the west bank’s gaggles of grazing geese were outdone by the bellowing beasts of the east bank.

It was a couple of miles south of Needham Market that I came across the third building that I have modelled. Attached to a small older house, the listed Baylham Watermill was built in the early 19thC and sits close beside a bridge over the river Gipping. Characterised by the white-wash of its brick and timber-boarded storeys, the clay roof tiles, and diagonally braced hoist tower, the mill’s striking presence in the open landscape appears to be exaggerated by the rising swell of the bridge.

As the afternoon progressed, we grabbed tea at Needham Market, pancakes at Stowmarket, and snacks on route to Stowupland, passing a series of curious landmarks that included an obviously magical tree, the great industrial workings of Munton’s maltings, and a bus-sized turnip pile. Arriving fifteen minutes before the bar of our inn was set to shut for the night, the pint that followed tasted all the better for the three-mile digression from our route, that I’d so nonchalantly added when picking accommodation.

Day three

With breakfast warming our insides, and blister tape much of our outsides, we set off to rejoin our trail at a halfway point on its length. It was a wet morning of puddles and mud that slowed our pace and dampened our spirits but there were relieving sights ahead in the small market town of Eye. Entering from the west, we circled the footprint of its central motte-and-bailey castle, climbing to its peak through the ruins of the keep, windmill, and folly that had crowned it across the past thousand years. From the top we looked east to the town’s towering flint-faced church where, shortly after, Adrian would unpack his Norwegian goat horn to improvise a piece amongst the pews and the incense, a strange reunion of medieval Nordic paganism and Christendom.

To the west of the castle mound we could see the ring of the historical bailey where, built by the council at the beginning of the 1980s, is the Castle Hill housing estate. Designed as a ring of short curving terraces, these council houses have red brick party walls that extend beyond their door line to form buttresses, like the walls of the castle they neighbour. They are endearing, comically triangular, homes with chimney pots, slate roofs, and individually carved door hoods, that have clustered together to shelter their community of Eyelanders for almost fifty years.

Day four

Closing the door on the swimming pool and steam room that we had been too tired to use, we set about our recovery from the previous day’s marathon by walking another one. Having bridged Palgrave, Diss, and Burston the night before, the walk ahead crossed several miles of open fields peppered with pylons, thatched cottages, and round-towered churches. Approaching the village of Wacton, we looked up from our stile and mud-hopping feet, to find ourselves surrounded by a gang of five edgy-looking horses. Delicately counselled by Tiril’s Norwegian whispers, they nudged us across their field, and out the other side through the hedgerow. Of course, we’d then have to repeat the trip twice over, as Pandora had dropped her phone at the stile. Arriving with our bodies in bits, we were put back together by staff at the sympathetically named ‘Huggers’ who cooked up a big vegan lunch at their Long Stratton café.

At three o’clock we began the final leg of our crawl, leaving town to turn into green fields and verdant woodland. We chatted to horses at a sanctuary near Flordon, and heard peacocks calling on the common at Mulbarton, before collapsing into the less encouragingly named ‘World’s End’ pub for a pint. By then, we were just seven miles out from our finish line so, after a change of socks, we strapped on our headtorches and set out for the glow on the horizon. Around ten o’clock we completed the climb up into Norwich, passing St Julian’s Church and the Dragon Hall of King Street before crossing the river Yare and crumbling beside the doors of the station.

Colonised by the Romans, settled by the Saxons, and raided by the Vikings, then fortified by the Normans and drained by the Dutch, the East Anglian lands of our walk are populated by structures built with material from the Netherlands, France, and the Baltic. Once joined to the Low Countries by the submerged hills of Doggerland and bridged to Scandinavia by the great northern ice sheets, the landscape of our Anglo-Nordic walk remains a product of its proximity to the continent. Told through this text, the models, and photographs, I hope you have enjoyed these tales and their small part in a wider European story.

Thom Brisco is an architect based in London and university tutor at the Kingston School of Art.

He runs Brisco Loran architects with his partner Pandora.

Their work together can be viewed at briscoloran.com or @briscoloranarc on Instagram.