• Walking in Britain
    Walking in Britain

GPS has mapped the fastest way to drive, cycle or bus between almost anywhere, yet there was no map showing how to walk between Britain's cities and towns – until now.

A new national network of walking routes on the 'Slow Ways map', will soon connect every town, city and thousands of villages across Britain.

Despite Britain having thousands of public footpaths, Google Maps often leads pedestrians alongside A-roads or through private property, while walking apps usually avoid the most direct route in favour of more scenic and remote trails.

In short, planning an intercity walk in Britain was, for most, more hassle than it was worth – until now.

In January 2020, Daniel Raven-Ellison, a geographer, National Geographic Explorer and the founder of Slow Ways put out a call on social media for volunteers to join him at an upcoming Geovation hack day in London to help with his most ambitious mapping project to date.

Using existing public rights of way, the Slow Ways map would create a national slow highway showing people the safest, most direct and most enjoyable way to walk between anywhere in Britain.

"[The British] culture around walking means we travel on foot mostly for recreation," Raven-Ellison told the BBC. "But what if we started using our incredible network of footpaths to walk further, more often and for more purposes?"

For centuries, footpaths and bridleways were the only way to travel around Britain. Stitched together to form an extensive pedestrian highway, these ancient paths allowed the Romans, and later the Anglo-Saxons, to trade and visit relatives in neighbouring villages.

It wasn't until the 19th Century, when Romantic poets like Keats and Wordsworth waxed about the benefits of rambling, that walking for recreational purposes became popular across Britain.

According to BBC Countryfile, today England and Wales alone have an estimated 180,000 miles of public rights of way. But that number only includes footpaths that are officially recognised.

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