In 2010, I became a Trustee of Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking; and the very next year Living Streets decided to designate May as National Walking Month. The two events are unrelated.
However, to mark the first NWM, I decided to walk to work one day in May 2011. Normally, I either cycled the 10½ miles from home (in west London) to the office (in central London), or got the tube. (Before you mention it, the latter choice did of course involve walks at both ends – of around half a mile in each case.)
The purpose of my first Walk to Work was simply to take the opportunity to see what I saw. All the streets I strolled down were familiar, due to the fact that I cycled along them regularly, and of course walked very often along those near to the home and work ends. But I chose to make a particular point of looking about me; and I didn’t just keep my observations to myself, I live-tweeted photos of what I saw as I went along. The subject matter was highly varied, covering a variety of walking-friendly and (more often) walking-unfriendly street layouts, detailed quibbles about tactile paving or bollards, the beauty of the trees I passed, the sound of birdsong, reflections on some of the buildings I passed, and other random encounters. I enjoyed it enormously; and the feedback from folk on Twitter was very encouraging. They should have known better…
…because I was inspired to repeat the procedure, and have done so every year since. The 2012, 2013 and 2014 Walks to Work took different routes between my home and office, and then I started to walk to other destinations or in other cities where I was working. In 2015 it was Croydon’s turn; in 2016 I sauntered from where my Mum lives, in Whitley Bay, to Newcastle; and in 2017 I ambled from Bradford to Leeds. The 2018 walk was in west and central Glasgow, where I’ve been involved in the ‘Avenues’ project for the past few years; and this year (just this last Tuesday, in fact) I went for a 12-mile meander through parts of east Glasgow that I’d never visited before.
After a total of six hours – my average walking speed is affected by regular stops for coffee, to take photos, to compose tweets, and to recharge phone batteries – I found that I had sent 106 tweets featuring about 150 photos. On the off-chance that others might be interested in reviewing what I saw and what my associated reflections were, a very kind colleague has turned the Twitter thread into a series of four pdfs that you can inspect using the links below. If you have any of your own reflections on what you find there, feel free to leave a comment. But what I’m most hoping that readers might do is also to take National Walking Month as a prompt to walk more themselves and to take a little time to make the most of the perspective on life that walking gives us.
As the NWM slogan goes, #WalkThisMay.
Check out John's Live Tweeting from his Walk to Work (Part 1)