Author Archives: admin_MoW

Bucolic scenes in town

Autumn colours have been all around these last two weeks, and what has surprised us is that so many of the scenes that have caught our eye have been in London.  We have been out about on the streets of Muswell Hill, walking with Paul Wood, author of “London’s Street Trees“. As a finale for our final street tree walkshop of 2018, we thought we would include a walk through Coldfall Woods, a remnant of ancient forest, rescued several decades ago by Haringey Borough Council from the housing developers.  Crieghton Avenue runs along the southern edge of the wood and affords a good viewing point, so we equipped walkshop participants with binocular so they could look into the tree canopy, while listening to guest presenter Craig Harrison from the Forestry Commission.

The woods are a Local Nature Reserve and public park so there is no reason for you not to pop in and walk through the woodland, but as a group, we are apparently expected to seek permissions, provide insurance with cover to £5million, a plan of what we intend to do, and then wait for the Borough to consider our application.  On top of this, as we are ‘commercial venture’ (Oh dear, we charge a ticket price and try to make a living from our efforts), we have to pay a fee of £5 per head.  We left it all too late, ruffling some feathers of a representative of the Friends of Coldfall Wood, who alerted the council to our plan to walk through the wood for 20 minutes or so.   Exchanges of emails to establish what we were doing, who we were, our intentions, and providing our insurance cover and route plan, came to no avail, so we took the step not to enter Coldfall Woods.  We can see where the Borough is coming from however, but surely we as a group interested in trees, can be trusted not to damage the wood; and to levy a fee of £5 per head, when it must cost the Borough considerably more than that to process an application, grant permissions and process the payment, seems madness.

The good news is that the our walkshop participants took it all in their stride, thoroughly enjoying the walkshop as a whole, and especially the contributions from Craig and Paul – giving 4 and 5 stars (out of 5) throughout.


Ways to Wander the Gallery” is a new book brought together by Clare Qualmann and Claire Hind for which we attended the launch last Thursday at Tate Modern.  Claire Hind managed to enthralled the audience with some simple but effective ‘arm-ology’ while Clare Qualmann gave us a hint of how she approached walking as an art practice.  Clare Qualmann was an early interviewee on Talking Walking, when she was part of the walking artist trio, WalkWalkWalk, and this book full of amusing techniques to deploy in a gallery – you may need to choose your gallery carefully, no doubt Tate Modern’s expansive Turbine Hall is helpful here – echoed the interview of Sara Wookey, of which we listened again to this week (as part of our #100daysto  challenge).


Dance, movement and performance artist understandably consider walking as part of their practice.  For Sara Wookey, walking is a means of gaining knowledge of a place, through a tactile experience, literally feet on the ground, what made it appear unusual is that she chose Los Angeles as the city to walk around.  Her practice came to the notice of the public transport authority, MetroTransit who employed as a movement consultant, training people in ‘Being Pedestrian‘ as part of their drive to get more discretionary ‘ridership’ the subway.  It may seem crazy to us here in London, but many residents in Los Angeles have little experience of walking in public spaces or travelling on public transport among strangers. Listen to Sara Wookey on Talking Walking

Establishing what is and what is not socially acceptable in public spaces is how Lottie Child has developed her walking art practice and in devising her ‘Street Training‘ course, for which she trained the Metropolitan Police.  Working with  young people on deprived housing estates in south London, she found their playful, carefree approach to life on the estates and in the surrounding streets as insightful.  She herself had not been adverse to a bit of scrambling, parkour, or even urban climbing.  Young people are often seen as the perpetrators of crime when they are merely meeting up to play together in social groups. She asked how is it that such an activity can result in an Anti-Social Behaviour Order and being restrained, when she can win an international art residency for doing little different? Listen to Lottie Child on Talking Walking

Author Linda Cracknell also sought a tactile experience walking bare foot in the Kenyan Highlands, one of her paths trodden in memory, that was included in her anthology “Doubling Back“.  Linda is often out walking and conversing with the elements around her as she finds a walk often allows her novel’s characters to reveal themselves.  In her interview she talks abut the practicalities of walking on foot, and how ‘journalising’ a walk isn’t necessarily the best way of approaching writing a compelling and appealing narrative. Listen to Linda Cracknell on Talking Walking

Jess Allen Photo credit: Richard Gott

Jess Allen is not shy of a long walk – she walked for 7 hours through Herefordshire and Gloucestershire to meet to be interviewed for Talking Walking – and as she says it’s not really fair to set a time or a destination for any long walk, for you are often distracted from your route by what you encounter, who you meet and the weather.  Like Sara Wookey, Jess is a dance artist (but also happens to have a PhD in Biology) who has explored walking activism, tackling issues around how we are connected through services, such as food distribution, power networks, water and sewage. Listen to Jess Allen on Talking Walking

Tim Hagyard has taken up durational long walks first by devising his own 1800 mile tour of Sacred Britain, for which he describes as a number of different pilgrimages, and subsequently walking to Jerusalem for the Amos Trust.  However, his day job is that of an urban designer seeking to improve the spaces between buildings, and especially looking at how to accommodate walkers, cyclists, and vehicles in Hertfordshire (possibly one of the counties of highest car ownership). Listen to Tim Hagyard on Talking Walking

So Tim is probably aware of the research that Jody Rosenblatt Naderi undertook to establish the role of street trees in vehicle crashes, for which (thankfully) she discovered that street trees not only reduce vehicle crashes, but also provide a buffer for pedestrians, between them and vehicles, making spaces and corridors in which pedestrians belong.  So visual cues are key in encouraging and reassuring those on foot that where they tread is safe.  Our Talking Walking conversation explored more than just road safety, and covered topics on ‘walkability’, measuring city civility, and what are the elements that encourage deep thinking and contemplation.  It is one of the interviews that I keep coming back to, and highly recommend as a strong argument as to how we can make places better for walking (at not very much expense). Listen to Jody Rosenblatt Naderi on Talking Walking

Expense is key in Matt Tomasulo‘s campaign to get more people walking in cities across America, for he created Walk [Your City], a means by which you or I can generate our own waymarking signs that indicate how long it takes to go from one place to another. Signing the highways for vehicle traffic is a hugely expensive and often drawn out process, but Walk [Your City] provides a cheap and effective way to sign a city for pedestrians.  Doesn’t it clutter the city with unnecessary signage, I naively ask?  Well that’s a good problem Matt explains, in typical ‘disrupter parlance’, as it moves the conversation on, and can generate shifts in thinking and in policy. Listen to Matt Tomasulo on Talking Walking

Wayfinding is also key in Rowena Mcauley‘s campaign to make it easier for people to get about in Colchester and within the campus of the University of Essex.  She has been training walk leaders in auditing routes and documenting them by using photographs – nothing new there surely?  However, she has investigated how photographs can be used as way finding tools and these have been found to be effective for those with ranges of mobility impairment – something that we all encounter at different phases of our lives. She also talks about her involvement in 3D wayfinding through buildings….Listen to Rowena Mccauley on Talking Walking

 


All about walking blog posting is unpredictable – if it’s raining biblical downpours then a blog post is more likely to appear, in most other weather conditions we are out walking and not blogging on a keyboard…..

A Peckham Spark

We took to the streets of Peckham on Sunday to celebrate the life of Dame Muriel Spark and in particular her novel “The Ballad of Peckham Rye”. We had a great turnout of more than 20 people, good number of whom had actually read the book!

We began by walking up Rye Lane to the Peckham Arch, standing opposite Jones & Higgins, the once grand Department store to which many hundreds of customers visited on a daily basis In the 1950s, the decade in which the novel is set, and when Muriel Spark was a nearby resident in Camberwell.

Along the route there, we were able to point out buildings that once housed well-known shops including C&A, British Home Stores and Sainsbury’s. For some participants this was the highpoint but there is a lot more to come. Museum co-creator Nigel Bristow film director and tutor in film at Goldsmiths gave us a synopsis to the novel. We then split into pairs to discuss the novel as we retraced our steps in search of locations mentioned in the novel.

We choose the Bussey building as a surrogate for Meadows Meade & Grimley, the first textile factory to employ Dougal Douglas, the novel’s key character. Here co-creator Tim Ingram Smith, adopting a typical Dougal pose, putting a scarf beneath his coat to raise his right shoulder to emphasise Dougals deformity, read from the book.

We continued onto the site of the prefabs on Costa Street. Delightfully Mavis Pilbeam and her sister Elsie described the area as it was when their mother was brought up here as a child. Very recently, the last remaining prefab was sold for close to £1 million. One of those rare serendipity moments occurred when participant, Gail Astbury (Tim Ingram-Smith‘s partner) revealed that she had worked with local schools and artist Tom Phillips to create artwork in the small park behind the site of the prefabs. So we went into the park and Tim read a second passage from the book.

As twilight began, we moved onto Peckham Rye itself, to a point just beyond where the Peckham Lido used to be. “Dougal peers into the gloom across the Rye” In the novel, the Rye is where fights take place, picnics are to be had in the Old English Garden and would-be lovers court. Turning around, we lent on the railings to look over at The Rye Hotel (as it was called by Muriel Spark) . The group shot, shows a great bunch of enthusiasts thoroughly enjoying discovering not only the novel, something of the life of Muriel Spark, but also what Peckham may have been like in the 1950s.

Next month where off to Kensington to walk Between the Lines of two other Muriel Spark novels: “A Far cry from Kensington” and “Loitering with Intent“. Why not come in join us? Read more here


Joyful

On Monday evening we went to NESTA to listen to Ingrid Fetell Lee talk about her new book and “Joyful: The surprising power of ordinary things to create extraordinary happiness“. She argues that we can draw joy from everyday things that surround us, and amongst the key elements are bright colours. So it was of no surprise, that later this week my reverie was interrupted by a glorious show of oranges and yellows:  by a tree whose branches had grown between railings in Muswell Hill. I was on a recce for this coming Sunday’s Exploration of the Urban Forest with Paul Wood, the last of this year‘s series, that is sure to be very colourful. Sign up here to join us on Sunday


Yesterday we joined in at the first London National Park City Foundation Network  meeting in Conway Hall. We weren’t sure what to expect but we were pleased to find a room full of enthusiasm, filled with people willing to share their wisdom, make suggestions and work together, to bring the vision of London as a National Park City to reality. Some dates for 2019 to put in your diary include:

  • 1st January:  Launch of 10 ways to make life better in London
  • 23rd May: Launch season begins with an event at the Southbank Centre
  • 20-28 July: National Park City Festival

As co-producers of the first Urban Tree Festival, we need to ensure that our own efforts in 2019 compliment and not conflict with the National Park City campaign.


This last week’s listening from the Talking Walking archive, has brought a lovely mix of memories, walking wisdom, and creative thought but what rings through all the podcasts is the value of walking to find space in our busy lives.

Three of the interviews were recorded on the Sideways2012 nomadic art festival in Belgium, in which a ‘caravan of walking artist’ including myself walked 375kms across the fairly flat country of Flanders.  A strange landscape of deserted suburbia, market gardens and some farming, with an occasional tree-lined canal or former slag heap as landmarks.  Dee Heddon, co creator of “The Walking Library” talked about how she and Mysha Myers came to the idea of carrying a library of books chosen as companions on walks.  She also described how “walking deepens friendship” and that when she turned 40, she invited 40 of her friends (and family) to gift her a walk with them.  A lovely idea, I cribbed for my own significant birthday earlier this year.  Listen to Dee here

Bram Thomas Arnold has just completed a PhD based on the theme of walking home, a journey he undertook in 2009 to revisit his Swiss childhood, but when I interviewed him he was collaborating with Eleanor Wynne Davis on project they called “Belgium Transect“.  Taking its form from ecology, they dissected the landscape, making music and writing poetry in response to what they encountered.  They ‘field broadcasted‘ portraits of their transect at the end of each day.  Listen to Bram and Eleanor.

Christine Mackey from Ireland, carries a mobile studio and botanic laboratory as she investigates ‘invasive plants’ on the Sideways2012 route.  Her intention was to build a multi-media installation at Turnhout (our final destination on the walk) that would include moving and still images, plant specimens, drawings and audio recordings. Listen to Christine here

I was slightly fearful of meeting Amy Sharrocks anywhere near water, for she’s been known to jump in to canals, ponds and rivers and in her effort to swim across London (with 50 other hardy volunteer recruits), has taken a pre-dawn dip in a lido or two.  She says her interests lie in journeying, and although I had met her when she volunteered as one of Dee Heddon’s walking librarians, I was actually wondering whether she did any walking at all in her art practice.  She is now well-known and well-travelled by her creation of a Museum of Water, for which she explains an early prototype in our interview.  Little did I know at the time, that Amy was using the interview as a rehearsal for a judging panel for the Royal British Society of Sculptors, Sculpture Shock Prize, for which she came out as the winner!  Listen to Amy here.

Ali Pretty has had a hugely successful career as an artist developing work for carnivals, including that at Notting Hill, painting colourful silk banners.  She talked about how she wanted to move on to include walking as her practice.  And move on she has.  Ali gave me the impression that she wouldn’t ever stop walking, becoming a member of the Long Distance Walkers’ Association, who don’t shy at walking 30+ miles in a day, she had devised a 100 mile walk to link the 8 white horses of Wiltshire – these giant etchings in the chalk downland sward. She had collaborated with digital artist Richard White, and together they had produced a geo-located, visually stunning exhibition at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes.   I interviewed her at the back of the Brady Arts Centre in Hanbury Street (close to Brick Lane) in East London when the piece was still in development, but later joined her and Richard at the start of her 100 mile walk for which I couldn’t keep up, let alone go the distance!  Listen to Ali here.

Tim Stonor is an architect and urbanist who heads up a consultancy called Space Syntax, that itself was once a research laboratory at University College London.  Space Syntax is a means of forecasting pedestrian movement through our existing towns and is applied in planning new cities an urban extensions.  So does this mean that there is no such thing as an unpredictable human? Tim explains that we are fairly simple beings and that ancient cities grew on a grid pattern – which I thought was something that was only revealed in cities built for cars.  We humans apparently develop patterns of movement that can be predicted – we don’t however, walk to destinations unless they have a particular pull – we are not that daft – so much of Tim’s work is in persuading planners to provide better places for us to walk and better connected routes that link attractions e.g. public transport hubs, shopping, schools, green spaces etc. Space Syntax were heavily involved in the re-configuration of Trafalgar Square, so Tim, although likely to forecast your next move, must be on the walker’s side.  Listen to Tim here.

Walking through Bloomsbury on an early Sunday morning in the company of Susan Trangmar must go down as one of my most delightful memories of Talking Walking.  Susan has been photographing street trees or rather photographing building facades as they are framed by street trees.  Many of these trees have lived through the Second World War and bomb damage, others have witnessed considerable changes in the built environment, and Susan sees them as the ‘Invisible consciousness of the city’.  Her take on walking is as much abut slow movement as it is about pausing to take a photograph – the pauses allow the sound around you to penetrate your consciousness, and often it’s an unexpected silence that you hear.  She sees the combination of slow movement and pauses as a therapeutic walk.  Listen to Susan here.


All about walking blog posting is unpredictable – if it’s raining biblical downpours then a blog post is more likely to appear, in most other weather conditions we are out walking and not blogging on a keyboard…..

Clock changes

Never been one for working out whether the clocks go forward or back, so of course this last weekend, I had a bit of panic that I wasn’t going to be at the start of a walkshop in Brockley at the right time!  As it happened I bumped into co-walkshop leader Paul Wood on the Overground, so I was reassured that I had got the right time!

Persian silk tree

Brockley is the ‘heartwood’ of street tree warden volunteers.  The neighborhood is not short of trees or green spaces, but many of the street trees are coming to maturity and may soon face the chop.  Brockley Society has for many years recruited volunteers to look after trees in the streets.  So many residents have signed up that they have now created Street Trees for Living as a separate NGO, working in collaboration with Lewisham Borough Council‘s tree officers.  All over the borough (not just in Brockley) there are some 2000 empty street tree pits, but the council alone hasn’t the resources to plant and maintain trees.  So, Street Trees for Living are galvanising residents to fund the purchase and planting of trees in their own streets.  The Borough does the physical work of planting them, and the residents then maintain them as ‘juveniles’.

Strawberry tree in a front garden

Elm as a street tree

Xanthe Mosley is co-chair of Street Trees for Living and she and her husband joined our walkshop on Sunday, providing fabulous local information to complement Paul’s remarkable knowledge of street tree varieties. It is intriguing discovering which trees local residents choose to have planted in their streets – what influences their decisions we ask?  Brockley station boasts a Persian silk tree, but other streets offer up sweetgums and several birch varieties. Many of the houses on the ridges running up to Hilly Fields (itself a fairly diverse parkland arboretum) have front gardens festooned with shrubs and trees – one example is this red barked strawberry tree. Neither Xanthe nor Paul quite expected to discover an elm surviving as a street tree!  Elms in Lewisham, of which there is one in Ladywell, were decimated by Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970s, so it was terrific to find this elm tree thriving.

Paul with a gingko in the background

The fruit of the female gingko has a pungent noxious aroma

The weekend was a full on street tree extravaganza, as we had been commissioned by the Royal Horticultural Society to run two walks and a talk across their Urban Garden Show.  Each of the walks was an hour in duration, and Paul had worked out a circular route around the Horticultural Halls in Vincent Square.  The route included the magnificent avenues of London plane trees in the Millbank estate, and participants learned just how smelly the fruit of a female gingko tree can be! We also found out the derivation of the term ‘Pom’ used by Australians to describe the English, and Paul bumped into the commissioning editor of his new book (out in May 2019).


We have been prepping for our first “Between the Lines” walkshop coming up this Sunday 4 November in Peckham, celebrating the life and work of Dame Muriel Spark,who wrote an intriguing novel called ‘The Ballad of Peckham Rye‘ .  Many of the locations mentioned in the novel still persist so the plan is to walk to some of these and read and discuss her book.  Why not come and see Peckham in the 1950s (when the novel was set) and see for yourself? Read more and book here.


This last week, catching up with the Talking Walking archive, I have been listening to a variety of voices whom it would be difficult to categorise under one label, unless that label was ‘passionate walker‘.

I was in the Apple Store in Regent Street about to join a workshop on using Garageband (the sound editing suite bundled in with Apple computers, which to this day is what I use for producing these podcasts) when I met Graham Stevens, who was having difficulty closing his computer down.  I offered to help and we got to talking, and it turned out that not only was he an artist and film maker but one who was passionate about walking – not just any walking, but walking on water!  Well this piqued my interest and in researching the Internet, I uncovered a video in the archive of the National Library of Scotland.  It showed a large polythene cube in which two people walked, causing the cube to move forward, one side at a time, and as it moved forward down hill, one realised that the cube would end up in a lake if the people within weren’t careful. Well that was of course, their intention!  Once the cube came to the water, the people within it just kept walking, and indeed walked on the water, to the far side of the lake.  A very much younger Graham Stevens emerged and was interviewed about his experience.  I sent the link to Graham who told me he had never seen the video!

Graham invited me to join him on a walk on the Isle of Wight, where he had created the ‘Freshwater Dialogues‘ a series of walks in honour of Robert Hooke (inventor and town planner) who was born in Freshwater.  The intention of the walks were to visit sites that would prompt discussion about Hooke and about walking on water, air and fire.  Cannily Graham had got funding from the Royal Society marking their 350th anniversary – for whom Hooke was a founding member – and had been invited by local art gallery, Dimbola, to display photographs of his work from the Rock Festival in 1970.  At that time, Graham had created an inflatable tube of vast proportions, that was passed from hand to outstretched hand by the rock festival crowd, creating an extraordinary image and film of ‘crowdsurfing’.

Only a few months earlier, Graham had been approached by Andrew Tweedie, a photographer who recognised Graham from when he had been studying photography at college, and had taken Graham’s art works as the focus of his photography dissertation.  Andrew had leapt negatives of photographs of Graham’s work from the 1970s (including from the Rock Festival), such that these photographs could shown at Dimbola.

An amazing story and an amazing artist, and delightful company on a walk across the top of the Isle of Wight – a treat to make and a treat to listen to.  Listen here to Graham Stevens Talking Walking.

Phoebe Taplin recommends you take a dog zappa next time you follow one of her walks.  Although she now lives in Bishop Stortford, I interviewed at the time of the publication of her walking guide books to Moscow.  She has since written guides to walks in Hertfordshire, London and the Thames Valley, where it less likely you will encounter packs of wild dogs.  Resourceful Phoebe realised she could cover more ground and write more walks, if she recruited friends to join her, thereby creating a regular walking group, that expanded in number immediately her walks began appearing in an English Language weekly Moscow paper.  In all she devised more than 50 walks in Moscow – take a  look at her Talking Walking page to follow links to her books, and listen to Phoebe explaining how she landed what she sees as her ‘dream job’ as a walking route devisor.

Adam Shaw had worked on the front line of the NHS for more than a dozen years as a nurse in a heart ward.  Listening to heart disease sufferers he began to realise how little they knew of how to change their lifestyles to prevent heart disease, attack or imminent death. He looked into alternative medicine, becoming a Reiki master, yet found that walking was often seen as the best prevention to heart disease.  He consequently combined energy healing with walking, devising a simple process through which participants can become grounded and lower their stress levels, as well as taking moderate physical activity, calling it “Walk Innovation“.  I came across Adam when working on behalf of the NHS on workforce development and invited him to present Walk Innovation at a Talk the Walk hosted by Greenwich Healthy Living Service.  Well worth a listen.

Katrina Naomi is a poet, currently in residence at the Leach Pottery in St Ives.  She is passionate walker so much so now, that she felt to really be prepared for any eventuality, it was important to her to train as a mountain guide.  Frequently, clients assumed that she wasn’t the guide!  We walked together across Streatham Common towards The Rookery, at the time she was living in London.  Now in Cornwall, she was recently commissioned by BBC Local Radio to compose a poem for National Poetry Day.  Listen to Katrina on Talking Walking here.

Dare I describe Foster Spragge as an obsessive?  Her art is made through almost constant repetition, criss crossing the City of London, marking every step with a pencil mark on an unfolding square of paper.  Each city she encounters has a unique ‘signature’ created through her repetitive walks.  Listen to Foster’s interview on Talking Walking.

Trying to move further into recording the path one treads, this time trying to devise a simple process for a tactile interpretation of the landscape, Belgian artist Reg Carremans walked 375kms across Flanders with canvas on the soles of his shoes.  It was only the third day of the month long nomadic Sideways 2012 art festival, when I recorded this interview, so Reg’s shoe adaptations hadn’t yet been tested on the roughest surfaces.  Yet he was very confident that not only the canvasses and the shoes would survive the adventure, but so would he!  He was a companion on many more kilometres of the festival and we became allies and friends.  I have lost touch with him since, and only have this recording and a couple of newsletters he sent me, but I am hoping that one day soon our paths will cross again.  Have a listen to Reg Carremans Talking Walking.


All about walking blog posting is unpredictable – if it’s raining biblical downpours then a blog post is more likely to appear, in most other weather conditions we are out walking and not blogging on a keyboard…..

Stories from stones

Borrowing a phrase from Talking Walking interviewee, Leo Hollis, who said ‘where stones turn into stories‘ while talking about how the City of London, and the fabric of its built environment conjures up a myriad of stories.  Leo had just written a book about Sir Christopher Wren and the re-building of St Paul’s Cathedral, but I had approached him about an earlier book which described the history of the City of London through ten walks.  I accompanied him on one such walk when I recorded the interview.  He is a great advocate of both Wren and Sir Robert Hooke, as he feels that they were the first to ask ‘modern questions’ about how cities should function and how their form could influence how people lived within them.  Leo is also supporter of preserving views of St Paul’s and feels that they should be protected, more so than individual buildings being listed.  In this digital age, where our every move can be tracked, Leo recommends switching everything off and getting lost, allowing yourself to experience the stones of the City of London, to create your own stories. Listen to Leo here

At the other extreme, in terms of digital tracking, I accompanied Tim Wright, a digital author, who keeps track of not only where he is, at what altitude, but also his velocity at any time.  His GPS provides hims this detail, from which he determines the time it takes him to walk from one point to another, providing him the score on which to write the script for an ‘audio walking piece’.  It is actually fascinating stuff, and like Leo, he is only too happy to let stories emerge.  We walked from Waterloo station to Hercules Road, where William Blake once lived, and Tim recounted how he had ‘stumbled’ upon an idea for a ‘bibliomancy‘ – what if you stepped from a Blake walk, into a Dickens‘ walk and from here ended up in Joseph Conrad‘s ‘Heart of Darkness’?  He too came out with memorable turn of phrase, in which he said ‘walking liberates the writer from the solitariness of the room‘.  This interview was very much an inspiration for my own efforts of devising geo-located audio walks, for which the software and smartphone technology, makes it easy and affordable to have a go yourself. Listen to Tim here

Tom Bolton is also a walking historian, with similar enthusiasms to Leo, but he has broadened his territory to include the Lost rivers of London and Vanished neighbourhoods.  On our Talking Walking jaunt, we went in search of the River Effra, which along its whole course leaves tantalising traces in street names – Brixton Water Lane, Effra Road – but never appears.  We supposedly heard it rushing beneath our feet as we stood on a manhole cover in Norwood – but after a couple of hours following its course, you are prepared to believe anything.  Since then, Tom and I have gone out with groups of people and walked several lost river courses and explored forgotten neighbourhoods.  Tom is an engaging speaker and brings hidden rivers and streets to life. Listen to Tom here

Len Banister is a writer of walking guides.  He is also not averse to using the latest technology to help him devise an engaging route, flying through Google Earth, before he sets out on foot. Len showed me little known alleyways in the historic village of Waltham Forest, but he has been a contributor to Country Walking magazine and various  newspapers, so has walked all over the UK.  However, Len has volunteered for the Ramblers for many years, and has founded and chaired the Greater London Ramblers Walking Forum, as he realised how valuable the work of the Ramblers has been in maintaining, preserving and creating new rights of way, and for them to continue such work they must be involved in strategic policy in London.  So Len has been a lobbyist for walkers, and in our interview explains the inconsistencies of rights of way in London.  Len has a keen interest in nearby Essex, its inland villages and the coast, which he sees as an almost indefinable border between sea and land.  (It’s also of interest to Tom Bolton too whose latest book is all about Brexit and the Essex coast…). Listen to Len here

Moving up the coast to Suffolk, I met Fran Crowe for a walk along the shingle beach at Thorpeness, and area of continuous erosion from the North Sea.  She too is drawn to the coast but for a very different reason.  Many years before Sir David Attenborough‘s Blue Planet, Fran was inspired to take action having discovered the extent of plastic pollution in the North Sea from attending a talk by the Friends of the Earth.  She learnt there that at the time a square mile of ocean was host to as much was 46,000 pieces of plastic.  Taking this number to heart, Fran determined to collect plastic from the beach at Thorpeness and use what she found for installation art to raise awareness and campaign for a reduction in plastic use.  She kept bobbing up and down as we walked along the beach to pick up yet more plastic – shingle makes a terrific ambient backdrop and one is immediately taken to the beach just listening to the recording. Listen to Fran here.

Danielle Wilson is a labyrinth facilitator – which means she is there to support you as you walk through a labyrinth, journeying to find an inner calm.  It was about this time that I was working on Amazing London – an unrealised Olympic legacy project in which were going to create a maze in all 2012 square kilometres that London covers.  I was walking down Hampstead High Street, and spotted a banner of Danielle’s hanging on the railings of Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel inviting people to walk a labyrinth.  This turned out to be printed on a vast canvas sheet that Danielle rolled out to which she added a circle of candles.  The space itself was contemplative and she merely invited us in our own time, and at our own pace to walk the labyrinth route.  Now unlike a maze, which offers several routes, to trick you, and make it hard to find the centre of the pattern, a labyrinth offers only on route to the centre.  Hence you can trust that the path will lead you in and lead you out.  This Danielle tells us is a key to finding inner peace and each participants will discover something different.  It was a remarkable experience and subsequently chatting to Danielle and discovering both her journey to become a labyrinth facilitator and the history of labyrinths, make this a lovely recording. Listen to Danielle here

A frosty walk across London on chilly winter’s day, in the company of Ben Rossiter one-time Essex boy, and now full blown Australian was challenging for both of us.  I recall that my gloved hand holding the recorder got cold very quickly, and Ben, unused to the cold was fairly quickly shivering.  One needs to consider how much colder it is when you take to a bridge to cross the river Thames on foot – it is a big river, and takes awhile to cross! Ben runs Victoria Walks which acts both as a government lobbyist as well as promoting walking and in devising routes, across the state of Victoria in south Australia.  Melbourne is its biggest city, sprawling out into age tracts of suburbs, so finding ways of encouraging people and routes they can walk is challenging to say the least, but the Internet has provided a means by which people can contribute their own suggestions to a growing route map of the state. We may see Australians as fit athletes but the sorry fact is that they too have succumbed to obesity with almost 2/3rds of Australian adults overweight and 1 in 4 children.  Ben is a realist. His enthusiasms though come clearly through in our conversation and he values the chance encounters and excitement of urban walks. Listen to Ben here


Plotting buildings and streets of Peckham in the 1950s

We have been out walking and talking this week, not least in discovering as much as we can about Peckham, in south east London, plotting buildings, some of which still persist, all part of our homework for our celebration of Muriel Spark’s 100th anniversary – why not come and join us on Sunday 4 November as we explore and read her  novel “A Ballad of Peckham Rye“. Read more and book here


All about walking blog posting is unpredictable – if it’s raining biblical downpours then a blog post is more likely to appear, in most other weather conditions we are out walking and not blogging on a keyboard…..

Orchard to Orchard

We marked Apple day on Sunday 14 October, with our new Museum of Walking Co-creator, Carole Wright who is not only an artist, but a bee keeper, community gardener and orchardist.  She has lived in the SE1 postcode area for many a year, and has worked for local charities and initiatives, including Bankside Open Spaces Trust, Groundwork and homeless charity St Mungo’s. She has such infectious enthusiasm, that despite the rain, we had a wonderful time walking from Orchard to Orchard, from Peabody Square (adjacent to the Blackfriar’s Road), via the ‘Brookwood Triangle’, Charles Dickens’ country, to White Ground Rents, tucked up beneath the railway into London Bridge, and just east of the trendy Bermondsey Road.

5 stars: It was excellent: Because Carole is so articulate, funny, personable, and committed to the programs she runs.

5 stars: It was excellent: It was a real delight to discover these community gardens
that looked a bit run down from the outside, and on first impression, due to the autumnal season. When we spent more time lingering, looking at the different mixture of trees, hedges, and wildflowers, up close and enjoying the stories about the people who have taken part in these gardens, the gardens really came to life and became very endearing.


Walk21 the series of international walking conferences organised by Jim Walker and Bronwen Thornton, rolled into south America on the invitation of Mayor Enrique Peñalosa Londoño in Bogota, Columbia.  We would have loved to have been there this week, and although the conference was free, through a generous gesture of the Mayor, the flight from London was prohibitive.  Next year, there’s talk of Walk21 in Holland, and if they’ll have us in the EU next year, we intend to be there.  It is great to bring so many people together talking about what they are doing to benefit those of us on foot.  So Three Cheers for Jim and Bronwen and read more about the conference here.


Occasionally I’ve tried to plan who I’m going to interview for Talking Walking and where I’m going to walk with them. However most of that interviewing takes place whenever an opportunity arises and the publishing tends to follow in a sort of similar haphazard way. So this week I’ve been listening to 8 previous interviews 3 of which are very closely linked through health walks.

I’m up on the Berkshire Downs looking down on the River Thames in the company of Veronica Reynolds who at the time was a director of Walk England. Her two Jack Russell dogs accompanied us and occasionally you hear them barking in the background. We are just a heartbeat away from where health walks were first devised by family GP, Dr William Bird in Sonning Common. In fact Veronica and William co-authored a book about walking and health and they’ve known each other for many years. It only seems right that the interview that followed that of Veronica was that of William Bird. Listen to Veronica here.

I first met Dr William Bird back in 1997 when he came to the launch of Get Wiltshire Walking… more of that later. This time when I made the recording, we were in St James’s Park and in the background it wasn’t dogs barking but a man with one of those dreadful leaf blowers. By this time William was frequently being interviewed and so he was quite a professional getting me to stop the recording whenever the blower interrupted our conversation.

Patients with diabetes attending his clinic , offering up weak excuses for not taking exercise, was the catalyst for Dr William Bird to go out and discover for himself the under-used resource of public footpaths around his GP surgery in Sonning. Not only has he started the successful uptake of health walks by hundreds of thousands but he is also the genius behind Green Gyms in which people volunteer (or are prescribed)  to undertake conservation projects in the local area. The former is helpful for increasing physical activity and the latter has proven successful not just in physical activity but also in improving people’s mental health. Listen to William here.

This week,  I also listened to Dawn Vernon who I originally met when working in Wiltshire for TravelWise and with whom we devised Get Wiltshire Walking. Dawn went on to become the key trainer within the Walking for Health initiative incredibly training hundreds future trainers who in turn trained more than 40,000 volunteer health walk leaders in for just five years. Listen to Dawn here.

Another key ally when we launched Get Wiltshire Walking in 1997 was Nick Cowen who then and still to this day, is the rights-of-way officer in Southwest Wiltshire. I interviewed him on a walk to a remote woodland where he told me that many uses man has put Hazel to over the centuries. Nick is a larger-than-life character a keen photographer, wonderful musician, and also a writer to boot. He is generous as a walking companion and listening again to this interview was a delight. Listen to Nick here.

About as far away from rural Southwest Wiltshire in terms of landscape must be the Wakefield Europort Truckers’ services on the M62.  John Davies, at the time, a rookie vicar in Norris Green, Liverpool had taken a sabbatical and walked the route of the M62 from Hull to Liverpool. I had met him previously at TRIP, a Manchester conference on psycho-geography  and caught up with using Skype for an interview over the Internet. Listen to John here.

 

Psycho-geography also came up in conversation with Geoff Nicholson, author of the ‘The Lost Art of Walking‘ and many novels. I first met Geoff in the Stook’s Wine bar when we were celebrating the publication of his second novel, ‘The Knot Garden’.  Similar to John Davies, for this interview I used Skype, as Geoff was living at the time in Hollywood an area where the majority of people don’t walk.  Geoff has a lovely turn of phrase in his writing, and also in conversation, punctuated with wry humour.  Listen to Geoff here.

I have had the pleasure of re-listening to a walk I took on a very blustery day in Bristol with George Ferguson and Richard Holden, two key players behind the creation of the Brunel Mile. This is a direct 1 mile route that links the Great Western Railway station at Temple Meads to the harbour where the SS Great Britain stands. Isambard Kingdom Brunel had hoped that his Great Western Railway would have continued all the way to the dockside but the city fathers would have nothing of it and so it stopped short. However, George and Richard saw  a great opportunity, begun as a Millennium project, and since to create a pedestrian walkway that connects the station to the now increasingly popular Bristol harbourside. The recording was made some years before George became the first elected mayor of Bristol. Listen to the story of the Brunel Mile here.

I believe Laura Jennings wasn’t long out of art college when I interviewed her for Talking Walking, but she spoke with such assurance about how she had developed a process in which she engaged people through adding layers of audio to enhance their experience of public space. She developed narratives, as well as characters, from observing people using the many spaces.  By gathering recorded reflections of participants, and re-editing the work to include them, provided a rich source of material, to create a truly immersive experience.  Laura provided a clear and concise description of the process of creating an audio enhanced walking piece, and it is well worth a listen to Laura.


A couple of weeks ago we were blogging about #Forgotten and a walk of discovery we took along the ‘Pedway‘ in the City of London – well, we were beneath an isolated and dislocated part of the Pedway yesterday, and look what we spotted had been constructed there.

Read our previous post about the Pedway  here.

 


All about walking blog posting is unpredictable – if it’s raining biblical downpours then a blog post is more likely to appear, in most other weather conditions we are out walking and not blogging on a keyboard…..

Walking: between the lines

We have a fascination with writers who draw from place.  It is probably something to do with the fact that as walkers we are out carving our way through space and experiencing places, one step at a time.  We are not great writers so appreciate those who can write a good story and engage with readers.

We wanted to read more writing from such writers and create experiences on foot, to which we could invite others to discover that writing, as well as exploring places.  In addition, we wanted to generate discussion about the writer and their creative process too.

So we can be walking with others, sharing stories from engaging writers, we have devised “Walking: Between the Lines”, and we hope you will come and join us – choosing to read the writing that we are reading too – a Book Club on foot.

Part discovery of engaging writing, part discovery of place, and part discovery of the writer.

We are starting out on this new adventure in November 2018, running an event once a month.  As it is the centenary of the birth of Dame Muriel Spark, we though it was only right that we should invite you on an adventure to discover Peckham in the 1950s – the setting for her novel “The Ballad of Peckham Rye“.

There is so much more to this slim volume.  William Boyd wrote in the introduction to the Penguin Modern Classic edition “ Remember the title here – The Ballad of Peckham Rye  – designed to conjure up all the bawdy and scurrilous traditions of the balled form….. a catalogue of sexual crimes and misdemeanours, minor and major – suspicion, jealousy, envy, betrayal, adultery, rupture, violence and, ultimately, murder.”

Written when Muriel Spark was living in nearby Camberwell, it was published a year before “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” – by far her most famous novel, because of the play starring Vanessa Redgrave, and the film starring Maggie Smith.  Muriel Spark led quite a colourful life herself, living in Africa during the Second World War, abandoning her son in leaving a troubled marriage, she was ‘discovered’ by winning a short story competition.  What followed was a string of slim novels, far from lightweight however, many drawing on her life experiences and the places she lived.  Latterly she lived with a female companion in New York and then Italy.

The Centenary is marked by a slew of events, many of which have already passed, but there’s a fabulous website, MurielSpark100 listing on-line resources worth a dip into.

Come and join us, in the company of Dame Muriel Spark as we reveal Peckham in the 1950s from 2.30pm-4.30pm on Sunday 4 November read more and book here – and remember to read “The Ballad of Packham Rye” beforehand!

We are open to suggestions on writing and writers who draw from place, so if there is hero or heroine of your’s with whom you would like to go Walking: Between the Lines – just use our Get in touch page and we will try to schedule a walkshop, convenient for you.


Continuing our saunter through the podcast library of interviews we have recorded for Talking Walking, this last week, we have been hearing from people who seek to make the walking environment better, as well as those who have been trying to get us to be more active.   Some of the interviewees are no longer in the roles they were when we recorded them.  Some of the organisations still continue, others have disappeared but it is interesting to hear their enthusiasm and passion for inviting people to experience the outdoors in a different way.

It was great to contrast the views of Bill Chandler, the convenor of Australia’s Urban Design Forum with those of Robert Huxford, Director of the UK’s Urban Design Group.  For Australians, where their roads are wider, and suburbia more sprawled, the key was about making the first part of every journey by whatever mode, more pleasant for walking – this chimed too with what Des de Moor, formerly Everyday Walking officer at the Ramblers had told us too.  For Robert Huxford, traffic speed was a key determinant of whether people chose to walk, with Tony Armstrong, the then CEO of Living Streets suggesting that the pier to change the built environment was squarely on the shoulders of local authorities.

By the time I interviewed Veronica Reynolds of now defunct WalkEngland, health walking had become firmly established with more than 500 local initiatives across the country.  Aspirations were about getting people to test their levels of fitness through walking 1 mile Active Challenge routes with a target of getting 1 million people more active by the Olympics.

Walking the Marsh Loop – Muggridge & Nanni

It was delightful to listen again to two artist curators who interpreted different landscapes through walking, first Sorrel Muggridge (in collaboration with Canadian artist Laura Nanni) recounting how ‘retelling a route eroded its distance’ and how they created a 3D ‘infographic’ of their repetitive endurance walking by rolling up climbing rope.  Second, Martin Kohler, a professor of urban planning and photographer, who has been part of a team who conceived the Haffen City Harbour Art Safari, in which they invited people to explore and ‘uncover’ art installations in derelict (but soon to be developed) docklands, declaring that such landscapes are ‘lived in through dreams and memories’ and that these are as important as the infrastructure that persists.


Paul Wood, author of ‘London Street Trees‘ took us on a romp around Hackney Central on a beautiful sunny October Sunday morning.  Even he discovered trees he wasn’t able to identify, new specimens planted in the streets.  These lapses of Paul’s didn’t disappoint the participants as they all gave him 5 out of 5 for the walkshop.  I concur it was excellent!   We are out in search of street tree delights in Brockley at the end of the month – you can sign up here


Last but not least this week, we ran a Hidden Garden Haiku walkshop in Vauxhall to celebrate National Poetry Day – here are a couple of the haiku written for you to enjoy and you can download a zine anthology of poems from the walkshop from the event page here (there’s also a handy crib on how to fold the paper on which you print them).  It has emboldened us to set up a monthly Hidden Garden Haiku each Thursday – next up is City East, in which we will visit a garden within a derelict church, a labyrinth in a courtyard and the churchyard where Samuel Pepys is buried.  Come and join us – it will be fun!

  • In a small garden
  • Flowers from Ladakh carry hope
  • Humanity blooms

 

  • Footprints through the square,
  • Hidden from sight and timeless
  • Resting, I ponder

All about walking blog posting is unpredictable – if it’s raining biblical downpours then a blog post is more likely to appear, in most other weather conditions we are out walking and not blogging on a keyboard…..

Making it better for walking

It is ever so easy to forget what was there before…..what was that building that is now rubble behind a hoarding and where did that path lead to anyway?  Don’t know about you, but we are feeling that our grasp on place is slipping from our memory.  If you don’t cover the territory very often, it is really tricky to remember the detail.  The opposite is also true, that if you repetitively walk a familiar route, you begin to notice things more often and recognise incremental changes.

Making it better for walking is often all about incremental changes, as only a slight (often modest) change in the built environment can be significant for those on foot.  Listening to Leon Yates, former author of the City of Melbourne Pedestrian Strategy, reveals how much thought is given over to making the street better for walking: reducing obstacles, widening the footway, sharing the roadspace more equitably, prioritising pedestrians at crossings, introducing new trees and street furniture into the ‘streetscape’, working with street trading teams and in improving the overall quality of pedestrian routes.  Since the Commonwealth Games in 2004, Melbourne has been able to draw on and add to a network of pedestrian counters, providing unique data on which are the most popular routes and how new developments can have an impact.  Have a listen to the Talking Walking interview with Leon and be inspired.

Jamie Wallace wanted to live in a relaxed and convivial city and felt one way to make such a thing happen was to encourage more people to walk more often.  A seed of an idea came to him in 2000, and by the time Talking Walking caught up with him, his Walkit wayfinding website app was already proving popular in London and beyond.  Although he foresaw the converging trends in climate change, health and energy security, his personal driver was more psychological, he wanted to be in charge of his own destiny in terms of how and where he chose to travel in London.  Often he found his friends and colleagues over-estimated the time it would take to walk a journey and under-estimated the time it would take to drive or take the tube. His simple solution drew first on switching off one-way streets in a global digital road atlas and in adding pedestrian only routes from aerial photographs.  As the community of Walkit users grew, he also realised how valuable it was to have their ‘eyes on the streets’ and their ‘feet on the ground’, such that the Walkit wayfinding could be enhanced through user-derived data. Nowadays we rather take this for granted but back 2008 this was cutting edge. Listen to Jamie describing how Walkit came about and its applications.

London is a vast built up metropolitan area and it is often quite bewildering when one sees the posters of all the rail and tube interconnections.  During the 1980s, the then Countryside Commission started to envision a network of walking routes that might connect up all the different parks and green spaces throughout London – almost to counter the reliance of Londoners on the tube map.  Their intent was to have a network of strategic walking routes, which would be no more than 2kms or 30 minutes walk form the bulk of the population.  Alexandra Rook became the first Operations Director for the the strategic walking routes managing agency, Walk London, and in our interview 10 years ago, she explained how the routes came about and the plans for a Jubilee Greenway to link up all the venues for the 2012 Olympics. She talks about how for most people they need an excuse to go for a walk, and that for her the delight was as much in serendipity as it was in the route she was taking, so her desire was to create ephemeral temporary artistic interventions along each route. Listen to the Talking Walking interview with Alexandra here.

We also hear from pedestrian champions from both sides of the Atlantic, neither of whom had imagined their career paths would follow such  intriguing routes.

Jacky Kennedy, retired now, but when interviewed in 2008, was riding high on the success of delivering a ‘road show’ across Ontario in which she brought international experts in improving the pedestrian experience to work with local communities, and also delivering a Walk21 conference in Toronto.  Coming to realise that ferrying her children to school by car was contributing to congestion was the lightbulb moment for Jacky to seek alternatives through the creation of Active & Safe Routes to School.  She modestly tells her story, but you quickly realise there is a determination and passion in her voice. Listen here.

Jenny Budd is still today in her role as a healthy walks champion in the borough of Lewisham in south east London.  Before she had children she was an Occupational Therapist and latterly a Psychotherapist, but in spotting a temporary part time job advertised in 2001 by her local primary care trust, in which the requirement was to get more people walking to combat obesity, one of Britain’s longest-serving champions in health walking was recruited.  Back in 2008 she had encouraged hundreds of Lewisham residents to join health walks and had trained dozens of front line medical staff in how to incorporate pedometers into their clinical practice as well as recruiting similar numbers of volunteer health walk leaders.  This from a woman who said she hated walking as a child. Listen to the interview.

Fabulous shadows- A Devine

Two walking artists whose interviews we have listened to in the last week, include Ernie Kroeger, a professor of photography at Thomson Rivers University in Kamaloops in western Canada’s British Columbia and Anne Devine, now living in the Caitskills, who took endurance walking to limits that few of us would even dream.  Ernie Kroeger was the artist who conceived the Walking & Art Residency at the Banff Centre of Arts where both Talking Walking and the Museum of Walking began.  He is fascinated by place and a simple act of taking a detour from his regular walk to work, of about 200 metres in which he walks through an are of sage brush, has proven to be a continuing source of creativity, allowing him to free his mind each morning.  Anne Devine on the other hand has undertaken repetitive endurance walks as well as, adrenalin-rush activities, to create extraordinary walking performances.  She like WalkWalkWalk has found that the ‘cloak of darkness’ provides an alternative dynamic to wthe walking experience.

Viv Corringham takes the everyday walks of strangers and turns them into compilations of song and environmental sound compositions, in what she calls ‘Shadow walks‘, often creating urban ‘song paths’.  Her work brings us back to the resonance of place and memory. She uses binaural microphones that sit like headphones on the ears, and allows her to record both conversations and the ambient sounds as if it were 3D.  Those strangers with whom she walks, often open up in a generous way, forgetting that she is recording their conversation, and she develops a free and easy relationship with them. She then takes the arc of the everyday journey as a score for the composition she will make. Our interview is a fascinating window into the creative process of a sound artist and walker.  It was a joy to listen to it again – you can listen to it here.

If tempted why don’t you join us on the #100daysto challenge or just occasionally dip into the Talking Walking podcast library.


A couple of years ago I won a scholarship to City University and the Cass Business School to undertake a Masters in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership, and  ‘what won it for me’ was something I called ‘Woof Woof Walkies‘.  It was a simple way of bringing dog walkers together with socially isolated people, to try to combat loneliness.  In one form, it won a Student Entrepreneurship prize.  Through a meeting in a bar one evening after a day at a Walk21 conference, led to a proposal for a pilot for Woof Woof Walkies in the Netherlands,with partnerships between City University and a University in Arnhem.  Unfortunately, unlike my scholarship, the funding wasn’t forthcoming, so Woof Woof lay dormant. Tinged half with regret half with excitement, as I hear of Dog Dates,an initiative between the Campaign to Endlessness and Pedigree – the makers of ‘Chum’ and other dog foods and accessories.


All about walking blog posting is unpredictable – if it’s raining biblical downpours then a blog post is more likely to appear, in most other weather conditions we are out walking and not blogging on a keyboard…..

Walking the archives

The #100daysto challenge to mark the tenth anniversary of Talking Walking has begun! We are diving through the Podcast Library archives of 90+ interviews and we thought we would work through it chronologically.  So take yourself back in time to 2007/8 – where were you 10 years ago?

I had been very lucky to win a place on a ‘Walking and Art‘ residency at the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity in the Canadian Rockies.  I had never been on a residency (and to be honest, never mingled with so many artists).  I quickly realised that my lack of arts training meant that the facilities offered were beyond my mastering them within the 6 week residency.  So instead, I started recording interviews with the artists to find out how walking was the catalyst for their practice.  Podcasting was in its infancy but offered an exciting avenue for my creativity.

Toward the end of the residency, we had two visitors both of whom well-respected artists: Simon Pope and Hamish Fulton.

Simon had come to lead on a ‘new media’ residency (as it was so called then, now geo-located media is mainstream), and Hamish as the  star guest for our own Walking and Art residency.  Simon was graduate of Banff, previously creating a walking bibliography.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, he was also author of a book called “London Walking – a survival guide and technical manual‘ – already out of print, he transferred its contents to a wiki that I had introduced him to.

Our Talking Walking interview took place among suitcases packed for our imminent departure from Banff.  Simon talked enthusiastically about how walking through necessity had led to become more observant of the many incremental changes taking place in London, and how he felt driven to write London Walking.

Hamish Fulton invited the residency to walk as slowly as possible around a city block – taking as much as 15 minutes on each of the four sides.  I also remember a bout of walking backwards.  He raced up a mountain and I only was half way up, when he was coming down, so I admit, I turned around and accompanied him down.  He was so enthusiastic and intrigued by the variety of walking and walking interventions in which I had been involved, and was eager to learn more.  So when I came to interview Hamish the following day I feared that he and I had already covered everything.  Hamish was strident, not only fast across the ground on two feet, but talking rapidly as though time was running out, he revealed his frustration with the various walking spheres not embracing each other.  Hamish sees walking as a means of opening up the mind to creativity and inventiveness, and feels that a bout of habitually walking a similar route, but with occasionally adding some absurdity, is a great way of freeing the mind.  He is also a string advocate for nature, arguing that the western world has a severe contempt for nature.

I knew I could bring variety to the Talking Walking podcasts by interviewing people I encountered in my work as an active travel specialist and urban designer. When I left Banff, I didn’t return to London immediately, instead, drove west (through a snow blizzard) across British Columbia (in the good company of Becky Ipp) to Vancouver to meet Arthur Orsini and Bernadette Kowey.  I can’t remember now why I don’t have Arthur as an interviewee, but do I recall walking along the shoreline in Vancouver chatting and recording an interview with Bernadette.   As she was working on tackling car-borne school journeys, I could empasise with her having recently finished project  managing Young TransNet.  Canadians are auto-dependent – to some extent you can understand as the vastness of the country and remoteness of some of the cities is extraordinary.  Not only Bernadette, but two other interviewees were grappling with similar issues.

Peter Tombrowski was a Calgary resident whom I very briefly met at the Walk21 conference in Toronto, where he had shown his award winning short documentary To Costco and IKEA without a car.  In Britain getting to IKEA without a car isn’t too onerous, although buying a sewing table, that was Peter’s intent, carrying back might have proven problematic.  Try it -30C cold and with deep snow it becomes far more than a ‘stroll to the shops’.  I didn’t get to interview Peter at the conference and instead, I only managed to catch up with him when back in London, which meant he was my first interview recorded over the Internet using Skype and Encams recording software.

Elinor Whidden is a sculptor and performance artist, but above all else an intrepid adventurer.  She tackled the car crisis head on, by cutting up cars, or collecting shredded tyres and rear view mirrors with which to make props for compelling art that took her into the higher snow covered peaks around Banff.

 

Once back in the UK, I went to an early meeting of the Walking Artists Network where I met Clare Qualmann and Viv Corringham, both of whom submitted to being interviewed for Talking Walking.  Clare was at the time, one of a trio of women, (the others were Serena Korda and Gail Burton), all walking artists called WalkWalkWalk, who set out to undertake various nightwalks in Hackney, searching out the ‘archeaology of the familiar and the forgotten’.  They all admitted to feeling fearful when walking alone, not just after dark, but also in daylight. Walking as a group, and often leading a larger group of walkers, changed the dynamic of the abandoned city spaces they searched out and encountered.

Why not join us and listen to each of the interviews we’ve recorded and published on Talking Walking – we will give you a weekly round up here of what we hear, and would love to encourage you to seek out our archive and have a listen yourself.


Earlier this month, we ran three sensory walkshops in the London Bridge Low Emission Neighbourhood on behalf of Better Bankside and Team London Bridge. Research reveals that by walking just one block away from a main road your exposure to air pollution can drop by half. The intention of the sensory walks was to encourage residents and visitors alike to experience better air on walking routes away from the main trafficked streets. We had already begun a similar series during National Park City Week. This time however, I was joined by Paul Wood, acclaimed author of “London’s Street Trees” and one of our Museum of Walking co-creators. We took a group of participants along a circular route connecting Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market, Guy’s Hospital and London Bridge station. Along the route, Paul told them about the few trees that line the streets and how through careful selection it is possible to plant trees more resilient to pollution and climate change. The London Plane tree is renowned for its resilience to pollution, and with our longer and hotter summers, this species is thriving, with trunks expanding and shedding bark, creating colourful patterns. Latterly I led a listening walk and a smell and touch safari. In all I must have walked the route a dozen or more times!


On a very wet Sunday morning, in the company of Dr Peter Coles, creator of the on-line resource Morus Londinnium and Museum of Walking co-creator we took a group stalking mulberries in the East End. Joined by local resident and now tree activist, Jaime Rory Lucy, we peered over the hoardings to view the top of Bethnal Green’s oldest mulberry (and possibly one of the oldest in Britain). Threatened by the redevelopment of the London Chest Hospital site only a couple of days before, Tower Hamlets Planning Committee had decided that the tree could be re-located, although experts argue that as it is so fragile and reliant on specific micro-organisms in its current root site, it is likely not to survive any relocation. Read more about here from Spitalfields’ Life.


#Forgotten – we are keeping up a weekly walk of forgotten routes and walking initiatives – do Get in touch with us if you would like to join an ad hoc adventure into the forgotten past of the walking world. Last week we struck out on a route from Parliament Hill to Trafalgar Square that included a walk through the newly expanded Royal Academy of Arts – that got us thinking about reviving CrissCrossCulture walks….

Not a Guardian reader? Well you can dip into a fascinating series about walking the city, including an article about following others on their walks, written by walking artist (and one time Sound Salon participant) Debbie Kent. The series is proving to be a delight.


All about walking blog posting is unpredictable – if it’s raining biblical downpours then a blog post is more likely to appear, in most other weather conditions we are out walking and not blogging on a keyboard…..

#Forgotten

Peter Coles has been unearthing the history, the myths and truths behind London mulberry trees.  He won over the Conservation Foundation to help him secure Heritage Lottery funding to create morus londinium, an interactive map and archive of mulberry tree heritage, that Peter maintains, and now he is putting pen to paper.

Black mulberry in Victoria Park Photo P Coles

 

We are delighted that he has found some time to reprise a walk he did in London Tree Week in 2017, seeking out the history of mulberries and how they shaped the East end of London, from Stepney Green to Victoria Park.  It is not all heritage however, some of it is very current, as one of London’s oldest surviving mulberry trees is under threat by the redevelopment of the London Chest Hospital.

Book now to join Peter on this intriguing walk, this coming Sunday (23 September)book here – and remember, you can avoid a booking fee by using the PayPal button


Are you old enough to remember when London Bridge was sold to the Americans? That was 50 years ago and we can’t be sure whether they actually bought the bridge they intended to buy.  It is noteworthy as it is still the largest antique ever sold. Travis Elborough, with whom we explored Parks, Pleasure and Politics in Battersea Park in July, is the author of a book all about the sale of London Bridge.  So we thought it only appropriate to invite him to lead a walk to mark the 50th anniversary.

There is a lot more history to bridging the Thames than what might have been wrongly done 50 years ago. Not only was it a key thoroughfare, but until very recently it was the only bridge over the Thames. Without any competition, it became a money-spinner for the City of London, and its very uniqueness influenced the growth of London south of the river. Even today, there’s lot of talk about how money may have been swindled from the public purse in the pursuit of crossing the river.

Meet a cast of peculiar characters, including revolutionary radicals, frock-coated industrialists, Thames waterman, dockers and stevedore, Guinness Book of Records officials, the odd Lord Mayor, bridge-building priests and an Apache Indian or two, when you join Travis Elborough and the Museum of Walking on this Thames adventure.

Travis Elborough is the author of the bestselling: “London Bridge in America: The Tall Story of a Transatlantic Crossing”.

Book a ticket from here – remember you can avoid a booking fee by using the PayPal button


Last weekend, we launched a new series of walks considering what has been ‘Forgotten‘.  Whether it’s forgotten paths, routes or walks, or of the people who have trodden the ground before us.  Can you help us identify some #Forgottens that we can dust down and to which we can bring a new lease of life?  If you have a suggestion drop us a line here

London’sPedway‘ was to be a 30 mile network of pedestrian only routes on bridges, terraces and walkways several feet above the ground.  This network was to provide safe routes for pedestrians in the City of London, away from the traffic, so that the traffic could flow unimpeded.

Begun in the early 1960s, and as much inspired by pedestrian terraces of the Festival of Britain, on the Southbank a decade earlier, as they were by the architect Courbusier or town planner, Buchanan.  The network was never realised, in fact there were only ever some short sections, the most enduring being the ‘high walks’ of the Barbican centre.  In part it was found to be unpopular with pedestrians, while it was also left up to individual developers to add to the network as they constructed new buildings (some of whom chose not do so).

A section of the ‘Pedway’ along London Wall has been given a new lease of life, with the opening of a new office block development, with rust coloured sinuously curved steel bridges and walkways replacing the more utilitarian concrete passageways.  It provides for an intriguing view of some of the City’s best kept gardens and the ruins of St Alfage church.  However, it is from the Barbican’s ‘high walks’ that you can see some of the best views of the ruins of the Roman wall and much more ‘greenery’ beside.

We had to go and search for other sections of the ‘Pedway’, and our route didn’t uncover all of it, as that there’s a section around the Middlesex estate and Petticoat Lane market which is only accessible to residents. However,  we encountered anomalies, intriguing views, and eventually ended by joining the Thames Path at London Bridge to see a magnificent view of Tower Bridge.

 


As written up in last week’s post, we are about to take the #100daysto challenge to mark the tenth anniversary of Talking Walking.  Why not join us and listen to each of the interviews we’ve recorded and published on Talking Walking – we will give you a weekly round up here of what we hear, and would love to encourage you to seek out our archive and have a listen yourself.  Tomorrow, Friday 21 September marks the start of the #100daysto the end of the year – so it is even fewer days until Christmas….


All about walking blog posting is unpredictable – if it’s raining biblical downpours then a blog post is more likely to appear, in most other weather conditions we are out walking and not blogging on a keyboard…..

100 days to

Talking Walking has been marking its tenth anniversary this year.  We have had the delight of reconnecting with several of the walkers we interviewed over the last decade, learning about what they’ve been doing and where they have been walking.  When and where we can, we have been updating their pages on the Talking Walking website.

We have been struggling however, to overcome the technical issues we have with getting Talking Walking re-instated on the iTunes Store – our first 26 episodes were accepted but none since.  In the ten years since we started podcasting, the tech for distributing podcasts has changed considerably and the audience has grown dramatically.  No longer is it unlikely that you will see people walking about with headphones on their heads, even when out in the country.  And when we first started out, the majority of people were still on dial-up modems with little chance of downloading anything much larger than a 10MB mp3.

Intriguingly the tech for publishing podcasts is not that dissimilar to what it was 10 years ago – mp3s are still the most prevalent and popular format, and although downloads from broadband are considerably faster and computers and mobiles more capable of handling far larger volumes than 10MB – mp3s remain the dominant format.

More and more smartphone users are trying their hand at recording and podcasting themselves, merely using their mobile, on which they record, edit and publish.  In the summer, we ran a podcasting tutorial on foot for London National Park City* Week, with fellow podcaster, Rick Pearson.  I had come across Rick’s intriguing podcasts in which he climbs to the highest point in each London Borough in the company of a ‘local celebrity’,  and invited him to be an interviewee on Talking Walking, and in turn he invited me to be a guest on his Londons_Peaks podcast.  Our walk got me thinking how we could devise and deliver a podcast tutorial…..

Tim Ingram-Smith, creator of the London Spiral Walk being interviewed

Author Peter Fiennes being interviewed by rookie podcasters

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what’s the ‘100 days to‘ title all about?

Dare I say it but it is almost 100 days to Christmas, and just a few days more until the end of the year – our tenth anniversary year for Talking Walking.  With almost 100 interviews published, and sufficient numbers still ‘in the can’ to reach that target, we are going have some fun listening again to earlier Talking Walking interviews, and writing about them in this All About Walking blog.

This will take some discipline on our part – each day another podcast to which to listen, each week another blog entry to write about the seven interviews to which we have listened.  As the nights draw in and the turn of the year approaches, we hope you will join us in our “#100daysto” challenge and listen along to Talking Walking podcasts.


All about walking blog posting is unpredictable – if it’s raining biblical downpours then a blog post is more likely to appear, in most other weather conditions we are out walking and not blogging on a keyboard…..