Walking is the best exercise for most of us, as we are bi-peds (two legs, instead of four). Designed to walk upright, town planners could easily help fitness by thinking of feet (rather than cars) when designing new places. Walking often helps you lose weight (walk an extra hour a day and see the weight drop off) and also builds muscle and co-ordination, helps you relax and improves sleep. Wear layered clothing to keep warm or cool, and just build walking into your life, rather than buying a pedometer.
Mindful Walking is a delightful guide by Alice Peck, on how the simple practice of walking has benefits from connecting with our body and the earth, to discovering a new sense of calm. Walking outside in nature evokes awe, and nurtures the soul. Includes inspiration for ways to walk (forest-bathing – strolling through trees and wooded areas) and walking barefood in the mud, to friluftsliv – the Norwegian philosophy of enjoying the outdoors.
- Take a Walk
- Forest Bathing
- Delightful Dirt
- Spending Time in Nature
- The Sense of Nature
- Weather Can Transform
- When Walking is Not Possible
Walking outside in nature evokes awe, and nurtures the soul. Includes inspiration for ways to walk (forest-bathing – strolling through trees and wooded areas) and walking barefood in the mud, to friluftsliv – the Norwegian philosophy of enjoying the outdoors.
Alice Peck likes to find the sacred in everyday things. As an editor, she focuses on creativity, mind and spirit, collaborating with Zen and meditation teachers and Tibetan Buddhist psychotherapists. She lives in New York, USA.
Walking with Glenn is an ode to the joys of mindful walking to find balance, build awareness and engage body and mind. In these 35 guided mindfulness walks, Glenn invites us to discover how we sense, move, think and feel. Cultivating key mindfulness meditation skills, this user guide features walks for every occasion and emotion: walks for expressing gratitude and affirmation, listening, grounding and grieving walks: mindful dog walks and more. Glenn includes walks for any fitness level and walking ability – including children and those who need assistance.
In Praise of Paths: Walking Through Time and Nature is a beautifully written ode to paths, and the journeys we take through nature. As told by a gifted writer, who stopped driving – and rediscovered the joys of travelling by foot. He started to walk everywhere, after an epilepsy diagnosis affected his ability to drive. The more he ventured out, the more he came to love the act of walking. And an interest in paths emerged. Torbjørn Ekelund is a writer and co-founder of Harvest, an online magazine documenting our relationship with nature. He lives in Oslo, Norway.
Urban Rambles is an illustrated city walking guide. Each of the 20 walks includes a GPS enabled map configured for your mobile, illustrations and photos, and information on green spaces, cafes, pubs and indie shops. Choose from cathedral cities (York, Lincoln), seats of learning (Cambridge, Oxford), trading ports (Bristol, Liverpool), cities (Bristol, Bath) or Victorian industrial cities (Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham). Or explore the 25-mile circular route through London’s Olympic park past rivers, parks and palaces.
See where to find good dog walks to find tips on safe dog walks, including the Countryside Code (to keep dogs & livestock safe). The post includes tips on becoming a volunteer dog walker. Did you know that Germany is introducing a law that requires everyone to give their dogs at least two walks a day (of at least one hour, if the dog is fit enough)? It will also be illegal to tie up dogs for long periods, or to leave them alone all day
I withdraw from the arguing and the talked-up necessity and all of the false assumptions. I withdraw from the words. I am leaving. I am going to go out walking. Paul Kingsnorth
The Walking Monk is a Canadian Swami who has walked thousands of miles across many countries, to promote environmental awareness. Always wearing his orange robes, he has been reported by the public as an escaped convict, and was even once reported by a concerned local, as a moving traffic cone!
How to Create Walkable Communities
All environmentalists are keen on creating healthy green communities for all. Also see tips to be a greener driver. One way to do this is to create walkable communities. Also called ‘mixed-use communities’, you can work from home – then pop to the shop, office or any other place, without having to get into a car. Of course, this theory is not often promoted by governments, as the big car companies often donate to political parties or have them lobbied to support the car or even aeroplane industry. If we had mixed-use communities, we would not have out-of-town stores or supermarkets or retail parks: you’d get your bread from the baker, bike repaired at the local indie shop, eat lunch in the park and walk to the doctor.
Walkable cities have a big knock-on effect. People who spend their time on their feet (instead of in cars) are likely healthier, less stressed, spend more time in nature, have healthier and more relaxed children, and also likely are more financially stable, as they are not seeing all their money poured into a vehicle they don’t need to use. Many people give up their cars altogether.
- Stop basing cities around cars. Build at the speed of walking, and ban cars where you can (that’s how he started, banning cars in the main street, then adding more walking spaces and bike hire).
- Make it enjoyable. Make the city centre a pleasure for being in: parks and beautiful buildings. He put heated street lamps and benches (it gets cold in Copenhagen) and this brought more people into the city, so it felt safe. Although more night lights can cause issues for birds flying into windows, this city is not full of glass-fronted skyscrapers.
- Have such good design that it’s faster to go by foot or bicycle, than car. This is what planners have done in Belgium’s second city of Ghent. It made the city centre car-free, then it’s easier now for people to walk or cycle, as drivers have to use a ring road. Also see how to find good dog walks.
- Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Space is a super book by Jeff Speck, known as the ‘rock star of town planning’. The world’s expert on making cities more walkable, he is not a fan of those who add extra lanes to motorways. His 10 steps to make a city more walkable include planting trees, to make it more pleasant to walk. He is well-known for his oft-mentioned quote that turns up in his books and talk. In Jeff’s land, a walkable place is ‘useful, safe, comfortable and interesting’. His simple chapters include how to escape car-thinking, get the parking right and make comfortable interesting spaces. Jeff writes ‘The faster a society moves, the more it spreads out, and the more time it must spend moving’.
So which cities in the world live mostly without cars?
- The tiny Channel Island of Sark is car-free.
- Louvain-la-Neuve (near Brussels, Belgium) is car-free, built to house a Catholic university. Nearby Ghent is mostly car-free too.
- Venice has no cars at all. But its rivers are polluted from water-taxis.
- Tripoli (Lebanon) has no cars, as they would get stuck! Full of winding streets and stairways.
- Orvelte (Netherlands) is a museum village.
- Many islands worldwide are car-free.
- The most car-free cities in the UK are York, Leeds and Cardiff.
- Read Carfree Cities and Carfree Living.
The website Urban Advantage is very interesting, where a digital imager creates before/after pictures of how to turn these empty parking lots into walkable communities, simply by widening the sidewalks/pavements, adding trees and generally making the areas more pleasant to live. Steve has recently written a wonderful book Imagining a Walkable America, these ideas could be used worldwide.
Books to Help Take Back Our Streets
Movement: How To Take Back Our Streets looks at how we approach the biggest urban problem of too many cars on the streets, and looks at how people in The Netherlands do things differently. Make our communities safer, cleaner and greener, by first asking: ‘Who do our streets belong to?’ Just decreasing traffic in cities and making more bikes available is not the answer. In this enlighening book, the authors challenge us to rethink our ideas about transport, to put people at the heart of urban design.
Curbing Traffic is a book by two mobility experts who left Canada for a new adventure in The Netherlands. On their return, they took the knowledge of how the Dutch do traffic differently, and now are the world’s experts in making cities more walking and bicycle friendly. This book looks at their experience, and how the ideas can be translated to other cities around the world.
Handbook for an Urban Revolution is the story of NYC’s Transport Commissioner Janet Sadik-Khan who managed the seemingly impossible task of transforming one of the world’s toughest cities into dynamic spaces, safe for pedestrians and bikers. Her approach was dramatic yet effective. This book shows how to do the same, where you live.
Urban Playground looks at how to replace car-dominated, noisy and polluted cities devoid of nature, with walkable, welcoming and green alternatives. Good for humans, animals and the planet, this book shows how seeing cities through the eyes of children, is key to good urban design. Healthier children means happier families, stronger communities, greener neighbourhoods and an economy focused on the long-term.
Walking England’s Coastal Paths
No matter where you live in England, you’re never more than 70 miles or so from the sea (various villages in Derbyshire and Leicestershire lay claim to be the most central point in England). That’s likely too far for a day trip, but you could enjoy a weekend away at the coast, or take a longer break. This post looks at the main coastal paths in England, along with Wainwright’s famed coast-to-coast path. Pocket Mountains is a small publisher that offers a nice range of quality coastal/country walking books, for England and Scotland.
See tips for zero waste hikers (including safety tips for dogs and where to find vegan hiking shoes/boots). Obviously keep away from cliffs with dogs (or humans). Don’t let dogs eat seaweed (many love to play with the fronds), as it can expand in the stomach and cause blockage.
Never pick up pebbles from the beach (illegal in Italy) as they are natural sea defences. Avoid crabbing (many are injured, even if returned to the sea).
The Salt Path is the fascinating story of how one woman and her husband of 32 years (diagnosed terminally ill) have their home and jobs taken away from them. With nothing left and little time, they make the impulsive decision to walk the 650 miles of the sea swept South West Coat Path from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall. Carrying only the essentials on their backs, they live wild in the ancient weathered landscape of the cliffs, sea and sky. And yet through each step, their walk becomes a remarkable journey. A wonderful story of coming to terms with grief, and the healing power of the natural world. The Wild Silence is the follow-up.
The England Coast Path
The England Coast Path is still in progress (delayed due to COVID), with parts becoming more accessible to the public. When complete, it will be the longest waymarked coastal path in the world (currently Wales holds that title). The English version will be three times longer (around 2800 miles). Presently you can walk sections that you can find on Contours Walking Tours website:
- Somerset Coast Path (66 miles) is from Weston-super-Mare to Minehead along the Jurassic Coast.
- South West Coast Path(630 miles) takes in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset.
- Isle of Wight Coast Path (33 to 71 miles) goes around the entire coast.
- Kent Coast Path (67 miles) goes from Camber to Ramsgate.
- Norfolk Coast Path (87 miles) is from Hunstanton to Hopton-on-Sea
- Lincolnshire Coast Path (20 miles) is from Gibraltar Point to Mablethorpe (presently stile-free). This is where we have lots of basking seals, so take care not to approach, if with dogs (their bite is as strong as a rottweiler, if they are defensive with pups nearby – often hiding in the sand dunes.
- Cleveland Way Heritage Coast (53 miles) stretches from Saltburn-by-the-Sea to Filey.
- South Northumberland Coast Path (39 miles) is an urban walk from Sunderland to Cresswell.
- Northumberland Coast Path (28 to 74 miles) takes in the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (look at tide tables, to avoid you or your car getting stuck/washed away at high tide).
Great Walks on the England Coast Path looks at 30 routes on the new national trail. Includes a varied selection of walks from estuaries to beaches to saltmarshes, routes are from 9 to 45km to suit all ages and abilities.
Wainwright’s Coast-to-Coast Path
The Coast to Coast Path takes you from St Bees on Cumbria’s west coast to paddling your toes in the little village of Robin Hood’s Bay in East Yorkshire. The walk takes a few weeks, and you stop at B & Bs along the way, often companies will send your baggage on. It’s pretty difficult in place, so likely only for seasoned walkers.
The walk connects dozens of smaller walks, pieced together by travel writer Alfred Wainwright, and despite not being an ‘official walk’, it’s the most popular in England. It takes in the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors, and is actually mostly inland as you are not walking along the coast, but from one coast to another.
The Coast-to-Coast Walk is a personal travelogue by Trevor Bell, who walked the 200 miles, in search of an England that is fast disappearing. Going beyond the usual trail guide, this covers the history, people and villages along the way – along with flora, fauna, folklore and fells and waterfalls.
The Green Road into the Trees is not all coastal walks, but Hugh Thomson includes them in this book. He shows how forgotten cultures like the Celts, Saxons and Vikings lie closer to the surface than we thing. The walks include the Dorset Coast to Stonehenge, and Cambridge to the Norfolk Coast.