Mahroof joined the initial Slow Ways ‘hack day’ in January 2020 to help form its early thinking and start the process of creating a network of walking routes.
He went for a walk with friend Belal and film maker Nico Hambleton to explore the idea of Slow Ways. It made sense to walk one of the Slow Ways routes, from Bishop’s Castle to Minsterley, taking in tea shops, Shropshire Hills tracks and trig points along the way.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Mahroof Malik, a British-born Pakistani who lives in Tyseley in Birmingham. It’s still one of the most industrial parts of the city. Fortunately, even here there are canals, rivers, and walking routes on my doorstep.
I work as a Public Rights of Way Officer managing the public paths for the city. As an outdoor enthusiast, I hike, climb, mountain bike and am qualified to instruct in all three. I run a Scout group and advise the British Mountaineering Council on Equity and Inclusion as part of Mosaic Outdoors. And I juggle all of this with a wife and two lads.
What got you into walking and why do you enjoy it?
I started walking because I grew up in the city and was introduced to its ‘wildness’ at a young age. As it happens, that was the countryside a few miles outside of Birmingham, but it was a wilderness to me! I’ve spent my life trying to get out of the city to enjoy the variety of landscapes that we are blessed with on this tiny island. As a geographer, and someone who loves adventure, there is so much fun to be had outdoors, and walking is just one of those ways in which to enjoy it.
What, to you, are the benefits of walking?
Whilst there’s an inevitable physical health benefit to walking, I think the mental benefit is even greater. Whether that be mental nourishment or a spiritual uplifting, the connection to nature for us as beings is essential for our realization in the world. I’m sure a biologist could give you a far more thorough answer than me but just the physical act of walking reinvigorates the body by more than just physical exercise… it almost seems to reset the body to its default state. Maybe I’ve been working from home for too long!
Would you use Slow Ways, and why?
Slow Ways to me is a mode of thinking about the modern world where everything is done in the quickest possible time. I would use Slow Ways to change the way I travel, to make it more about the journey as well as the destination. To revive the journeys as they would have originally been walked, to add some meaning in the process of connecting places.
Will it help in your daily life?
More than anything, I would like for Slow Ways to change my and others’ perception of place, space, and time. The travel that would otherwise be done by car or public transport can be done at a much slower pace which gives a much more intimate connection between places. This then translates into all your daily journeys. Walking to people’s houses, walking to your local shops instead of big supermarkets and local green spaces. I would like that mentality to translate from the Slow Ways routes to my daily life.
Do you have to be a serious walker to use Slow Ways?
The simple answer is no. There are short routes and long routes in the Slow Ways network and there is no compulsion to complete the whole route either. However, my vision of what Slow Ways are transcends the actual network that we mapped and is now getting tested out. The current mapped network has everything from short routes to considerable walks that a novice walker may not want to attempt right away. The concept of walking from location to location and making it about the journey, not just the destination, is applicable at any length of walk in any place. Any journey can fit into this approach and be part of a Slow Ways mindset.
‘Slow Ways Voices’ films have been made with funding from The National Lottery & Sport England.
Rob Bushby, Nico Hambleton 1 May 2021