Using existing footpaths, people will be able to use the Slow Ways to walk between neighbouring settlements or combine routes for long distance journeys. Some of these journeys will be for pleasure while others will be to see family, friends or even for work.
This is an important, positive and timely project. Walking can improve health and wellbeing, tackle the climate and ecological emergencies, save people money, improve our environment and bring joy to people’s lives.
While there are thousands of miles of paths linking places across the country, there isn’t a comprehensive network designed to help people walk off-road between all towns and cities. That’s what the Slow Ways project is working to make and bring into our collective consciousness.
A Slow Way is conceptually a connection between two neighbouring settlements. A single Slow Way can have multiple routes options. These can include more direct, accessible, safe variations or use different already established or suggested routes.
In some parts of the country the Slow Ways will expose places where there is a lack of suitable footpaths. In this way, the project also hopes to inspire the creation of new footpaths to better connect settlements and communities.
Slow Ways will open people’s imaginations to walking in new parts of the country and could contribute to local economies as people book places to eat and stay along the routes.
During lockdown 700 volunteers from across the country have been collaborating to produce a first draft of the Slow Ways. This incredible effort has led to the creation of 7,000 routes that collectively stretch for over 100,000km.
This was all possible thanks to the project collaborating with OS Maps and support from the Kestrelman Trust.
The next phase of the project is to recruit 10,000 volunteers to test, verify and rate the routes using a purpose-built web platform. It will then be possible for councils to consider collaborating with the Slow Ways to bring them to life within the physical landscape to help inspire even more people to use them.
The Slow Ways are a beautiful example of a scalable and replicable project that nearly everyone can contribute to. As well as having the potential to reduce emissions, the Slow Ways are hopeful, ambitious, visceral, tangible, a vision, a community and a way of getting around. You can join the Slow Ways by simply walking them, sharing stories of them or helping to make them. Why not?
Lots of people want to volunteer to do creative and collaborative things that create something useful and with legacy.
So far project has been delivered almost entirely online with people collaborating from all over the country. We’ve used free or low-cost software including Skype, Zoom, OS Maps, Google Maps and some large collaborative Google Docs spreadsheets. Zendesk was used to create a FAQs helpdesk and self-help community that largely looked after itself.
The Slow Ways have lots of entry points. You might be interested in walking, mapping, transport, the environment, heritage or nature. You might want to walk the routes, help make them, test them, create story around them or actually bring them physically to life through art and signage. This diversity of interests and ways to get involved have helped increase the range of people who are involved.