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…..