2424km / 1500 miles walked all over Great Britain in one weekend! Here are some of the stories of our first ever National Slow Ways Swarm
Slow Ways wouldn’t exist without the efforts of lots of people, inspired by the idea and willing to put time and effort to inch the network towards reality. In the beginning this volunteer effort took the form of a hack day, in which 70 people sat at laptops and began imagining the routes into being.
Now those routes all need walking, so we decided to harness some of that original hack day magic by calling a swarm weekend, appealing to people all over the country to walk all at the same time, to share the energy and celebrate the results.
Walking the network into life!
This March swarm was the pilot, to test the idea and see if it got attention. We had no idea how it would go, but figured even if it was just the tiny handful of Slow Ways staff walking and making a noise at each other about it on Twitter, we figured it would be worth it. And then, covid. Most of our staff were floored all at the same time, and had to cancel the Leeds event we’d been planning as the celebratory open party for the Sunday night (sob!). Several of us had to watch it unfold from our sofas, or walk tentative fractions of our local Slow Ways with long sit-downs.
But thankfully the idea caught on and those of us on sofas were gripped by the progress of the newly-minted stats page. Over the weekend routes and miles were racing up, another dozen with every refresh. In all 233 routes were walked, and 33 routes gained their third positive review, which meant they became verified and get a snail-badge of trust.
See below for a merry jumble of tales from the Slow Ways of Britain. Some people were organised – Mike Tormey travelled north to take on the second-longest route in the network, over three sunny days. Michael Schiller did the opposite and set off without deciding on his route, outsourcing his decisions to Twitter as he went and ending up walking six routes in a row, into central London.
There were organised group walks around Brighton and Leeds, a brilliant impromptu walk in the Peaks in response to a Twitter call-out, a school bear called Jack taken on a walk in Hertfordshire, a sleepover on Dartmoor mid-way through a two-day walk. There was a walk along Hadrian’s Wall, and a 15-Slow-Ways-long chain to join London to its closest National Park, South Downs.
Lots of the action happened on Twitter – this is an enormous round-up thread from Sunday evening:
Wow wow wow wow wow! Thank you SO much to everyone who’s contributed to our first #SlowWays swarm 🐝 so far.— Slow Ways (@SlowWaysUK) March 27, 2022
172 routes have been reviewed
1,722 km (1,070 miles) of reviews shared
28 routes have been fully verified (so far) 🐌✅
Here’s a thread!!! /1 pic.twitter.com/JcKyZTW7TH
Some first-time Slow Ways walkers made films about it. Here’s Roxy, walking from Bristol to Portishead, back to her van where she speed-edited her walk story from there and a local library:
… and Jonathan walking from Lakeside to Coniston in the Lake District, to his bike before cycling home again:
Slow Ways’s Saira walked a group guided walk with leader Smith, from Brighton to Saltdean.
On Friday, went on a #SlowWays walk led by amazing local guide/ walk leader, Smith from #Brighton to #Saltdean. A wonderful route – discovered tons of local stories, hidden gems and made lovely new friends @SlowWaysUK. A solid 5 ⭐ from us! #Brisalone 🌊🌱👣 pic.twitter.com/GGmVQPYqD0— Saira (@livinglon) March 27, 2022
Lynn Jackson did her first overnighter while walking from New Ollerton to Sutton on Trent in Northamptonshire, and recorded the experience in her usual lovely illustrated diary pages.
And Day 2 – sunny weather cannot turn a ⭐️ route into a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ route I’m afraid (but if you have to, do it in sunshine I say…) pic.twitter.com/Phg0nokuhw— Lynn Jackson (@Lynnjuk) March 26, 2022
Black Girls Hike did a group canal stomp from Bingley to Shipley in West Yorkshire:
We had already done 7 miles, so was not sure we could manage the @SlowWaysUK #swarm weekend hike from #Bingley to #shipley but 15 of the @UkBgh girls were ace. They stomped the canal walk all the way. pic.twitter.com/QAMdYLMrWR— Dr. Sarah Njeri (@sndeall) March 26, 2022
… with an intergenerational crew including several mother-and-daughters enjoying a sunny Mothers’ Day together.
We had the most glorious weather for the @UkBgh hike in #Bingley today. 27 turned up. The beauty is that it is intergenerational we had several mums with their daughters join us. Incl 2 who came all the way from London. #DiversityInTheCountryside #WestYorkshire #Goitstock pic.twitter.com/jmBAwgD7Td— Dr. Sarah Njeri (@sndeall) March 26, 2022
Daimon Walker filmed the whole of his walk from Headcorn to Tenterden in Kent, except for the pint at the end!
Slow Way superwalker Jane walked countless routes around Leeds, some twice to iron out the problems. We love that she is so practiced at these routes that she could tell that Morley to Leeds had been designed by someone with local knowledge. It needed some tweaks, but that’s what the swarm, and this year in the life of Slow Ways, is all about.
Ok I can’t resist another go at Morlee One, Morley to Leeds, will try to resolve blocked path reroute. This is such a good route otherwise with, I suspect, a lot of local knowledge 🐌😻@SlowWaysUK pic.twitter.com/8jZfFLlYzT— ❤️Jane❤️ (@1001ships) March 26, 2022
Michael Schilling, Londonin360, got his Twitter followers to direct his route as he walked, which ended up being a chain of no less than six routes end to end, from Coulsdon to Victoria Station in London.
Amazing seeing so many @slowways swarm highlights today.— London In 360 (@londonin360) March 26, 2022
Here’s how my route yesterday Coulsdon to Victoria Station began and ended.
6 #slowways reviews – snailed it once and pioneered thrice.https://t.co/VhoCQcjuPT pic.twitter.com/GtgEUsaE8x
Contender for our favourite moment was when we tweeted that just a few walks were needed in some strategic as-yet-unconnected parts of the network, to make a big difference. And the next thing we knew, Bryony Bell and hairy walking companion were on a train heading to walk into Edale from Hayfield, thus joining up a positively-reviewed network all the way from the Lake District down to Coventry and across to Ross-on-Wye.
On our way pic.twitter.com/k5QFEGAFCN— Bryony Bell (@Bryony_Bell_) March 27, 2022
The second-longest route in the network got tackled during the swarm, by Mike Tormey. Berwick to Alnwick in Northumberland, on Beraln three – a 75km/45mile three-day hike in bright sunshine.
Started with the first mile(ish) tonight, from the rail station and along the river to my hotel. It was very dark, but the rail viaduct (can you see it in picture 2?) and road bridges were stunning in low light. The weather is great, the town is calm and quiet, and now I sleep 😴 pic.twitter.com/MqxYXcElwO— Mike Tormey (@TormeyMike) March 24, 2022
We roped in some artists to walk and record their journeys in art form – we’ll be posting their artworks here when they are done.
Thanks to everyone who has shared their exciting #SlowWays journeys over on insta! Don’t forget to send us your photos and videos so we can include them in our #swarm film 💚 📽 https://t.co/MzAjBjR62G @SlowWaysUK #walking pic.twitter.com/WB7FOnbUcd— Saira (@livinglon) March 26, 2022
Helen Gough showed how the review system works (and how totally crucial it is to get all of these routes walked) by finding Chard to Crewkerne in Somerset inaccessible in three places. She took the time to find alternative ways round, uploading the new route as Chacre two, and awarded it a full five stars!
Chard to Crewkerne completed, but ChaCre is a fail due to access in 3 places. I’ve had a flippin spectacular walk though having found alternatives. Will upload ChaCre2 and give 5 🌟 #SlowWays #Somerset #Chard #Crewkerne pic.twitter.com/ti5m5oesvE— Helen Gough (@hjgough) March 26, 2022
Igrina walked a massive 15 Slow Ways over three long 24-mile days, from Central London to the M25 on day 1, and then on over the next two days to reach the South Downs National Park. Chapeau! Her walk is an illustration of how the Slow Ways get longer as you get away from the city – day one was nine Slow Ways, day two was four, and day three was just two! (Just?!)
Big thread that will slowly unspool over the next days…@SlowWaysUK x @alltheelements_ walk is a go!— ingrina (@agreeninn) March 11, 2022
I’m making my way from London to its closest national park, South Downs National Park, over three days, and then will spend one day in the park. 1/
People walked in their walking groups, like some committee members of Wellington Walkers are Welcome, who checked out Shrewsbury to Telford.
Some of the committee are taking part in the Slow Ways swarm this weekend. We are walking the Shrewsbury to Telford route in 2 parts. See the route as it currently is:https://t.co/U52oztgIux #slowways @WalkersrWelcome— Wellington WalkRWelc (@WellingtonWaW1) March 24, 2022
… and best of all Fran Barton made it to his mum’s for Mothers’ Day lunch, along StrPai – Stroud to Painswick.
Got to my mum’s in time for lunch. I make her look rather little (she is) pic.twitter.com/ZFVVLKgJ4h— Fran Barton (@ludictech) March 27, 2022
Huge thanks to all of the swarm-walking volunteers:
Agreeninn, Alison Moore, Almighty Custard, Andy Redfern, andy_mackay, Anna Clark, Bc, Bostal Boy, Brian, Brian John Moffett, Bruce, Bryony, Bshepherd, Carl Sumnall, Carol, Carol Wilkes, Caroline Stead, CatrionaS, Ccargill, Charles Hedley, Chris Morris, Christopher Brown, Clint shepherd, Colin of Blythburgh, CongoSue, Cristie, Dan Phelan, danravenellison, David Sanderson, Derick Rethans, Di Gilpin, Dommo, EmiOga, Emma Poggi Kendall, Gabrielhyde, GabyMacbeth, Gail Richards, Geeoharee, Gismay, Grussell, Hannah, Helen C., Hiking Historian, Hjgough, Ian Heron, Ian Macqueen, Intrepid Rabbit, J_Sawk, Jane Lytton, Jane Taylor, Jeanette, jennywalker19, JMiller, John Hay, John Oliver, JohnMyerson, Karen M, Karen Phimister, Karl Quirk, Kate EW, Kelly Norman, Ken, kerry puttock, Lesley, Lizbiz70, LondonIn360, LR13572468, Lwatson, Lynn Jackson, LynneStrutt, MaddyT, Margaret, Mark Gills, Mark James, Martin Ellis, Martin McGovern, Mary Oz, Matthew Axford, Mockymock, Mtormey, Naomi Wrighton, Nick, Nicky, Nigel Whiting, Nik Hunter, Panifex, Paul Chilcott, Paul Deach, Paul McGill, Paul Wright, Pcgosling, Penny, Petr Sadilek, Pilea, porcovolente, RKB, Robert Packer, Robin Rumbles, Ross, Ruth Broadbent, Sarah Njeri, Sausageking, Scott Mackie, Simon, Slow Ways Darren, Snailblakes, Sophie R, Sophie Skinner, Stan Morgan, StephenWalker, Stephenwalking, Steve_Roser, StraylightTravel, Strider, Sumaria, Suze, Team Tato, Tim Onions, Tim Ryan, Tom Candy, TomWhitelaw, tony77, Truffle, Wayne Hellewell, Wellchoughed, Whymummywalks, Yorkie Christine
Please join us for the next Slow Ways National Swarm on the 27-29th of May 2022!