Can a network of 7000 walking routes transform the way we travel?

Can a network of 7000 walking routes transform the way we travel?

Daniel Raven-Ellison a “guerrilla geographer” has walked across cities around the world creating a film showing the whole of the UK in 100 seconds and last year he successfully campaigned to make London the world’s first National Park City.

The UK already has a countrywide network of paths but planning a practical journey from one place to another is not an easy task. Rural routes which start and finish in the middle of nowhere can feel inaccessible for a vast majority of people and places to stay on popular walks are often expensive.

Getting in touch with history

The project is refocusing on why the UK’s network of footpaths originally came to exist. Some routes we still use today were established as early as 5,000 BC to travel between settlements. Others were built by the Romans and in more recent years, many of these have turned into roads and we’d rather zip between places in our cars but nowadays we’ve lost that tradition. While we might decide to spend an afternoon walking somewhere for fun or as exercise, Daniel adds, we’re unlikely to think of walking as a practical way of getting where we need to go.

An unexpected detour

The project was originally meant to involve getting together hundreds of volunteers across the country. However, COVID-19, got in the way and the project was taken online instead. Eventually, after a team of 10,000 more volunteers have had a chance to test out the extensive paths they have plotted from home, the entire Slow Ways network will be published online. You’ll be able to search the database for sections of footpaths between towns and cities or even daisy chain them for longer routes that cover more distance.

What’s the slow way from London to New York?

The idea behind the project doesn’t necessarily end with walking. Daniel has started to think about how Slow Ways could transform our travel across longer distances. It might seem a daunting prospect but unless we start to consider these journeys as a possibility things are unlikely to change. Aviation companies could even subsidise slower travel to offset their carbon footprint and make it the cheapest way to go. 

“With change and with ecological emergency and with a health crisis, we need to have desire lines to what we imagine is possible,” he says, “and then we need to try and make that happen.”

This is an excerpt from an article by Rosie Frost, originally published on euronews.


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