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Pensioners are among those who have shared over 8,000 pathways spanning 75,000 miles as part of the Slow Ways project that launched during the pandemic. The routes are not intended to be the fastest possible but rather encourage walkers to rediscover unused footpaths and ditch private transport.
Dan Raven-Ellison, founder of Slow Ways, said: “Politicians are currently debating things they can do to tackle the cost of living, social, climate and health crises.
“Meanwhile, thousands of volunteers are getting on with an initiative that helps with all these challenges while bringing people together from across the country. Their common goal is simple – to make it easier to walk from A to B.
“What if there was a national network of recommended walking routes that people could use to walk between any town or city in Great Britain? Slow Ways is a grassroots initiative to do just that.”
Polling during the pandemic suggested walking was consistently the most popular form of activity when many sports centres closed amid tight restrictions.
Nearly three in 10 adults (67 per cent) in England reported walking at least once a week, a government survey from November 2020 showed.
The NHS website says walking is one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier.
It adds: “Sometimes overlooked as a form of exercise, walking briskly can help you build stamina, burn excess calories and make your heart healthier.”
Meanwhile, being in nature can reduce anger or stress, and improve connection with the local community.
The Slow Ways project is now looking for people to walk and review routes shared during the pandemic to ensure they are good enough to be included in the project.
An average of 85miles of routes are being walked and reviewed every day but Slow Ways wants people in every town and city in Great Britain to help
The project, which has benefitted from a funding boost from the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF), hopes older people will be able to pass information about their local area to youngsters.
Emma Ackerman, funding strategy director at the NLCF, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players this project is doing an amazing job of opening people up to the wealth of walking opportunities we enjoy here in the UK.
“As well as connecting communities from villages, towns and cities together, Slow Ways enables older people to share local knowledge with younger generations to improve walking experiences for all.”
To find out more about Slow Ways, visit beta.slowways.org
Mapping out trails has ”opened up new horizons”
Tim Ryan has seen “way more wildlife than ever before” while mapping walking routes across the country.
The retired expedition leader, 68, said he now spends more time ambling from home in Tiverton, Devon, on local paths and using public transport.
Talking about mapping routes, he said: “It has actually opened up new horizons and presented new challenges which I had never thought of before.
“I like to keep myself fit and have always been active in outdoor pursuits, so in that regard little has changed.
“As for nature, to be honest, because I spend more time on the routes. I have seen way more wildlife than ever before.
“When perhaps in the past my aims were more to get the trip done, rather than enjoying it. I have even taken up painting, such has been my renewed interest in the environment around me.”
Tim told how he also enjoys contributing to a project that encourages people to get out and exercise, shifting their mode of transport away from private cars.
”I often make surprising discoveries on my travels”
Retired bookkeeper Mary Austin gets “an adventurous buzz” from pioneering new walking routes in Britain.
Mary, 67, said: “I love linking routes together to create my own long distance walks, and I like building up my personal route count (currently 115 routes walked), and it gives me plenty of exercise and fresh air.
“There are often surprising discoveries on the rural routes, such as unexpected stunning views, carpets of wild flowers, and wildlife like hares, buzzards and curlews.
“Even on the more urban routes, I have enjoyed some of the architecture, quirky cafés, and graffiti etc.”
Mary, from Lancaster, heard about Slow Ways during lockdown through a friend and thought it sounded “right up my street”.
She said: “Over previous years I have walked a few long-distance footpaths with one particular friend, and have done many day walks with friends or relatives, but often I walk on my own.
“I had sometimes felt a bit aimless walking on my own, but Slow Ways has provided a useful purpose to my walks. I enjoy checking how practical and pleasant these desk-designed routes are and reporting back via detailed reviews and surveys.
“And if a route is problematic (due to blocked access, dangerous road crossings, inaccurate plotting or whatever) I enjoy adapting it or developing an alternative route to upload.”
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