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Footpaths Going Digital

Strolling from A to B across the countryside is soon to become a whole lot easier.

Daniel Raven-Ellison describes himself as a guerrilla geographer and creative explorer. He is the former geography teacher who, back in July 2019, successfully spearheaded the campaign for London to become the world’s first national park city. Now he's hatched a new plan.

Whilst preparing his itinerary for a 26 mile hike along the Clarendon Way from Salisbury to Winchester he realised it would still require him to carry a paper map. Not a big deal in itself, but he was surprised just how analogue access to the UK's footpaths is. Or, if he has his way, was.

In partnership with Ordnance Survey and a team of volunteer ramblers, Raven-Ellison is aiming to digitally map walking routes between every town and village in the country. Once complete, the information will be made available to the public. It has the perfect name: Slow Ways. In time, using existing footpaths, people will be able to use the Slow Ways to walk between neighbouring settlements or daisy-chain routes for long distance journeys - all conveniently available digitally on their smartphones.

“It would be brilliant if the Slow Ways inspired and supported more people to use [footpaths] instead of using motors for the same journeys,” says Raven-Ellison. He also takes the view that 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.

Naturally, and unfortunately, Slow Ways has been interrupted by lockdown but, thus far, 700 volunteers have plotted more than 60,000 miles of walking routes. It's a work in progress and we all look forward to being the happy beneficiaries of its outcome.

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