Launched in February, the Slow Ways project was established to map out paths across Great Britain, aiming to locate and confirm walking routes around the island. But then the pandemic struck. Plans to meet in person across England, Wales and Scotland were cancelled, and a call was put out for volunteers. Around 700 people responded. “As a result of their enthusiasm, creativity, determination and energy, roughly a year’s worth of time was invested in the project in a single month.” The lockdown proved to be a catalyst of sorts.
Slow Ways was created by Dan Raven-Ellison, a self-described “guerrilla geographer & creative explorer.” Since lockdowns started, this non-profit has continued to search for further volunteers, aiming to “recruit thousands of people from across Great Britain to help walk, test, verify, record, improve and enjoy the Slow Ways walking routes.” The main goal is to make paths more visible and accessible online and for free — showing people safe ways to walk short or long distances.
Achieving the organization’s aims will be no small accomplishment. It “means checking over 100,000km of routes, the equivalent of walking 2.5 times around the equator.” Now, “this sounds like a big job, but shared between 10,000 volunteers – individuals, established groups, new groups and collaborators – we’d need to walk an average of just 10km each.” Hence the need for more walkers.
The project is timeless and timely — it is useful in the context of broad lockdowns as well as the climate crisis but it also serves to promote a healthy and evergreen mode of exercise and transportation, increasing accessibility and lowering barriers for would-be walkers. For anyone interested in learning more and lending a hand (or foot), the Slow Ways website goes into greater detail and has a volunteer sign-up page.
Special thanks to 99pi fan Tom of Hampshire, UK, for this story tip!