Walk2COP26 London To Glasgow

by Ric Casale

Walk2COP26 London To Glasgow

I have bought a decent waterproof jacket. And I have bought an extra battery pack for my old iPhone. Both objects say a lot about the long-distance walk that I will be attempting with the rest of the Walk2COP26 team.

We are walking in October so that we arrive in Glasgow in time for the start of COP26. If last year is anything to go by, we are in for a lot of rain. October 2020 was one of the wettest on record for some areas of the UK. In addition, a warm conveyor – a band of warm, moist air that leads to heavy rain – brought further rain to high ground along our route. As we have heard from recent news stories about May being the wettest on record in the UK, warmer temperatures also bring heavier rainfall.

However, remaining optimistic and paraphrasing Lakeland fell walker Alfred Wainwright: there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. So, although it will be a big challenge to cover the distance regardless of the weather, with my new waterproof to hand I am confident we will get there!

I expect I will put my phone to good use too and the extra battery pack will give it a much-needed new lease of life. We would like to have 500 conversations with people we meet, either serendipitously or by arranging meet ups. We would like to have discussions about what climate change means to people and how it’s impacted where they live; heart-to-hearts about what we should really be doing to mitigate the risks and adapt to the inevitable changes; chats about the low-carbon initiatives that different organisations are already working on in their area. It would be good to record some of these conversations, to reflect on what’s shared and spread the word.

I will be using a mapping app on my phone to help follow the route – although that’s easier said than done, as there is no existing long-distance footpath to Glasgow for us to upload. People usually get there from London by alternative means: they drive, take an overnight bus or hop on the train. Worse, some choose to fly. But we would miss too many interesting places and people if we travelled any other way. Besides, we need to be ‘on the ground’ as we are also organising eight events along the route that will bring together businesses, local councils and community groups.

How did we come up with a new, 500-mile walking route across the UK? This is where Slow Ways was a great help. Slow Ways is a project supported by Ordnance Survey to create a network of walking routes that connect all of Great Britain's towns and cities, as well as thousands of villages.

Mapping all these walking routes is the brainchild of geographer and National Geographic explorer, Daniel Raven-Ellison, who loves what we are doing:

We were delighted to help Walk2COP26 plan their route. People walk for fun, of course, but we’re also interested in the idea of functional walks from A to B. Many footpaths were originally created for walking to work, visiting relatives or trading, but a lot of these routes have been forgotten. We want to reimagine them for use today and encourage people to walk between locations they might otherwise drive or take public transport to. Creating a new walking route from London to Glasgow, and linking up so many people and places in between, is an exciting and ambitious thing for this team to do.

For those of you who would like to see our walking route from London to Glasgow, please see the interactive map on Slow Ways.

It helps that we have a clear destination in mind and a specific date when we would like to arrive. Like any big challenge, when you break it up into small enough stages, it feels more manageable and less overwhelming. But COP26 is not the end of the road. It’s just another milestone on a bigger journey to climate safety.

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