Walking is the best exercise for most of us. If you have two working legs, you are very fortunate, as many people don’t. Yet sometimes we forget that the best exercise for us, is that which our bodies are naturally designed for: walking. We are bi-peds (two legs rather than four) and are designed to walk upright, but walking is something that we can build into daily life, without much effort. Town planners could make life easier by thinking of feet (rather than cars) when designing new towns. But there are plenty of community efforts going on.
Walking on a regular basis can help you lose weight (try walking an extra hour a day and see the weight drop off), it can build muscle and co-ordination, help you relax and improve your sleep. Wear layered clothing so you can put on or take off layers, if you get too hot or cool. Forget the pedometers, and just incorporate more walking into your life. You don’t even have to ‘go for a walk’, just walking to and from the shops or school or walk is a start (try walking the children to school, instead of getting stressed with the school car run, if you have a safe routes).
Mindful walking is just that, focusing on the walk, rather than all the things that you’ve done wrong in the past, and all the worries of the future. Mindful walking is linked to Buddhism, but in fact many Catholic monasteries have mindful ‘labyrinths’ where people walk, taking each step at a time. If you think that you can’t think of anything other than present concerns, try going for a walk in nature. You’ll find that often you automatically ‘turn off’, which may seem impossible to do, within an enclosed space. Of course, long-time practitioners of meditation may be able to feel peace in a prison cell. But for most of us, a mindful walk is where it’s at!
- 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.
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!
Walk with Dogs Too!
See how to find good dog walks, which covers safety tips 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
How to Look After Your Feet
How to look after your feet should be pretty simple. Most of us are fortunate to have two feet, to get us from A to B. But instead of appreciating them, our feet get bashed around in trainers and high heels, walk miles until they get blisters and generally put up with a lot of abuse. Just like other mammals, our feet are made to walk and balance (we have 26 bones on each foot, the big toe is for balance). Baby feet are just growing fat pads, which is why they look so cute. And nails are made from keratin (like rhino horn). Reflexology presses meridian points that correspond to organs, to help ailments. For ticklish feet (or amputees), work on hands instead.
How Animals Use Their Feet
- Flamingos have a unique foot/knee design, to stand comfortably on one leg, for a long time (their feet inspired human shoes). This is Jasper inspecting his socks to heal foot lesions, before joining 3000 flamingos in the Caribbean.
- Elephants cause ‘mini-explosions’ when their feet hit the ground, which causes elephants to hear from far away (a bit like megaphones).
- Ostriches (the largest birds on earth) have unique toes (one for standing, one for balance). This is why they can run 40 miles an hour, and kill you with one kick. Their foot design influences prosthetics.
- Gecko lizards have sticky feet. Just like those toys you would throw at the wall, their feet have tiny hairs they can make sticky on demand.
- Rhinos have tiny feet that can support huge body weights.
- Penguins have exposed feet, to regulate their body temperature.
- Mountain goats have ‘cloven hooves’. But they can still fall; the homeopathic remedy arnica (not safe for everyone, so check before use) was discovered, when shepherds tried to heal bruises of their flock.
- Cats walk silently on the balls of their feet, in order to hunt. It’s not true they always ‘right themselves’ when landing; many have been injured in falls. So people invented Flat Cat & Cataire window guards.
Tips for Basic Footcare
- Unless diabetic, try to go barefoot when you can.
- Walk by placing your heel down then ‘roll through the toes’ (like paddling a canoe). Swinging the arms is for balance (see items to help Parkinson’s patients, who can’t swing their arms).
- Don’t wear flops all the time (when you do, rubber flops biodegrade, if they fall in the sea)
Wear breathable socks made from cotton, hemp or bamboo (if they have elastane, wash in a GuppyFriend to stop synthetic fibres reaching the sea). This and choosing breathable vegan shoes (alternate each day to let them dry out) should solve most ‘stinky foot’ problems. Use handmade soap with tea tree or lemongrass. Avoid toxic odour-eaters and use used charcoal water filters.
Cure (most) Foot Problems Naturally
- For fungal infections, ingrown toenails and athlete’s foot, just follow the tips above, and gradually cut off the infected parts (it takes months to grow out, as toenails grow slower). Tea tree oil is not usually effective and can irritate some people (avoid near pets & children, and on broken skin). Choose natural nail polish (or let nails go bare).
- For corns, calluses & dry skin, just soak and gently pumice it off. Veruccas (foot warts) are viral, have your GP freeze them.
- Let fluid drain from blisters, then cover with a a biodegradable plaster.
- Gout can cause severe pain. NHS suggests raising the limb and applying ice (drink water, take gentle exercise and avoid alcohol & smoking). Brandi helped her husband’s gout with these recipes.
- Bunions are often hereditary (or due to bad shoes). London Foot & Ankle Centre has pioneered a lower-risk surgery that leaves a titanium wire in the patient’s foot for 4 weeks. London podiatrist Dr Tariq Khan (inspired by his father’s Marigold Therapy) has an ointment to help reduce pain for bunions.
NHS says not to cover a baby’s feet or head, as this can lead to higher risk of crib death, in warmer temperatures.
If you no longer need a prosthetic (or have sadly lost a relative who used one), donate it to charities that help others. Ed Pennington-Ridge has created a simple prosthetic limb for developing countries, with a springy foot and mobile ankle. Many people lose limbs due to accidents or landmines (elephants often step on them and lose limbs). The Halo Trust is helping rid the world of landmines.
I cried because I had no shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet. Saʿdī, Persian poet
The job of feets is walking. But their hobby is dancing. Amit Kalantri
Where to Find Good Walking Books
Would you like to know where to find good walking books? Although the chain bookstores sell some, they are not the most inspiring, you are better off seeking out more unique and interesting guides by independent publishers. Often these are also written by locals, rather than commissioned by travel journalists. You can find these in your local library or buy from your indie bookstore (all links go to Blackwell’s, an indie bookstore if you can’t find them locally). You can buy good walking boots from Wills Vegan Shoes or Ethical Wares.
Urban Rambles: 20 Glorious Walks Through English Cities is an illustrated walking guide like no other. Whether you live in the city or country or just visiting for the weekend, this book will inspire you to go explore your nearest city on foot. The 20 walks include:
- Cathedral cities (York, Lincoln)
- Seats of learning (Cambridge, Oxford)
- Trading ports (Bristol, Liverpool)
- Cities for pleasure (Brighton, Bath)
- Victorian industrial cities (Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham)
- A 25-mile circular route of London past rivers, parks & palaces
Other Good Walking Books
- Walking Home is the follow-up by Yorkshire poet Simon Armitage to his book Walking Away, where he swapped moorland uplands of the north for coastal fringes of south west England. Now he decides to walk his native Pennine Way (a challenging 256 mile route), but back-to-front, walking towards the village where he was born. Without a penny in his pocket; singing for his supper with poetry readings in village halls, churches, pubs and living rooms.
- Walking the Great North Line is the story of poet Robert Twigger, who stumbled upon the Great North Line, and decided to follow the straight line following 1 degree 50 West up Britain. From Christchurch to Northumberland, he walks through Salisbury Plain, the Peak District, Birmingham, the Yorkshire Moors and Consett. He wild-camps, reads poetry, sleeps in a prehistoric cave, falls into a river, crosses a ‘suicide viaduct’ and gets told off by a farmer’s wife for trespassing.
- Walking Cheshire’s Sandstone Trail is a lovely online guide to one of the best walks in north west England, and also you can find many good local guidebooks. The Trail stretches for 34 miles of superb elevated walking across Cheshire.
- Hallewell Pocket Walks focuses mostly on Scotland, but also publishes nice pocket guides England. Each walk includes brief descriptions, two-colour sketch maps and Ordnance Survey grades.
- Pocket Mountains offers lovely walking guides with beautiful cover illustrations, featuring 40 Coast & Country Walks series that cover several counties, Northern England and Scotland.
- Wild Things Publishing offers walking books for wild places (and swimming), a series of Lost Lanes books for cyclists, and unique books to find hidden beaches & wild ruins.
- Northern Eye Books makes award-winning books that mostly cover coastal paths, footpaths and long-distance trails. Most walks focus on the English Coast Path, Lake District, Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, national parks, Cheshire and Wales Coastal Path.
Nice Dog Walking Books
See how to find good dog walks, to learn about safe dog walking and following the Countryside Code (to keep dogs and livestock safe). Check for updates, as some of these books are a few years old.
- Countryside Dog Walks ((Wet Nose Publishing!) produces beautiful walking guides for you and pooch, many centred around good pubs.
- Countryside Books is a little publishing company that releases many small walking guides for every area of England, with walks centred around pubs with good food or tea rooms, waterside walks – search by niche or region.
- Dog Walks App from Countryside Books includes over 400 of the best dog walks in England, with route maps on your mobile handpicked and tested on dogs. There are easy and short walks, or longer ones for young fit dogs, with detailed route info, time to the nearest refreshments and where to park. Try for fee, then unlock the full version for £5.99. Not yet on Android. Other good sites to visit are:
Walking England’s Coastal Paths
Walking England’s coastal paths is a pretty easy thing to do, because even if you live in the Midlands, you are never more than 70 miles or so from the sea, so it’s not far to take a few days away. If you live nearer, then we have lots of lovely coastal walks to explore. The main coastal paths are hundreds of miles, so you can either walk them as part of a holiday over several days or weeks, or just walk parts of one. You can buy good walking boots from Wills Vegan Shoes or Ethical Wares.
Cheshire contains the Sandstone Trail (one of England’s best walking routes) and the city of Chester is famed for its black-and-white timber buildings. The bedrock here is Triassic sandstone (which is why Liverpool and Chester Cathedrals have distinctive red stone).
Some of the coastal paths are quite difficult and not wheelchair-friendly, so check details before you go. Obviously don’t walk dogs near cliffs (and keep dogs on leads nearby – even the most obedient dog may forget if he sees a seagull). See how to find good dog walks for info on safe dog walking, including the Countryside Code to keep dogs and livestock safe.
Wainwight’s Coast-to-Walk Walk starts at St Bees in Cheshire (on the west coast) and ends when you paddle your toes in Robin Hood’s Bay in East Yorkshire. The journey takes you through some of our most spectacular land, and takes a few weeks, stopping at friendly pubs and B & Bs on the way.
The Salt Path is the story of a woman whose husband is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and then they lose their job (which comes with a home). So with nothing to lose, they take off with only their backpacks and walk the South West Coast Path. An amazing journey that changes their lives forever.
40 Coast & Country Walks
This is a nice series of little books, you may like if you live nearby or are on holiday:
- Cornwall has over 400 miles of coastline and an excellent public path network. Find rugged shorelines, gorgeous sandy beaches, turquoise waters, meandering rivers and wide open countryside. Walks are from 2 to 8 miles.
- North York Moors includes the largest area of heather upland in England, rising from the Vale of York and continuing to the North Sea Coast, where dramatic cliffs expose the geology that shaped this unique environment. From tranquil dales and stunning coasts, to ancient woodlands and charming moorland villages.
- Dorset takes you from Old Harry Rocks, Lulworth and Durdle Door, along the shore of the Jurassic Coast to Lyme Regis, via the glowing summit of Golden Cap and the one-eyed winking lighthouse at Portland Bill!
- Northumberland is England’s most northerly county, filled with ancient castles overlooking golden sand beaches, plus you’ll find rolling hills, rugged moorland and friendly little towns and villages.
- Suffolk is a place of retreat, to escape from everyday life. From heather covered heathland to softly rolling hills, you can then venture to genteel coastal enclaves and kiss-me-quick seaside resorts. Suffolk boasts 5,600km of rights of way, to discover this most gentle of English counties
- Devon takes you from the crumbly rhubarb-and-cream-coloured cliffs of the Jurassic Coast in the southeast to the surf-stroked craggy coves in the north, across the wilderness and woodland of Dartmoor and Exmoor. For an easy afternoon stroll on the shore to a tor-topping trek on the moors, there’s something to suit every boot.
From Source to Sea is a story on how travel writer Tom followed in the footsteps of other writers, artists and ambers, and walked the entire length of the Thames, from its start in the river of the Cotswolds, through the winding 200 mile journey that ends in the North Sea.
Join him for an illuminating stroll past meadows, churches and palaces, country estates and council estates, factories and dockyards. Along the way, he meets interesting characters, and explores the living present and remarkable past, of England’s longest and most iconic river.
Tom Chesshyre is a travel writer who often writes ‘slow train journey books’ on travels around Europe. He has travelled thousands of miles across England and beyond, for his weekly hotel column for The Times. A visitor to 94 countries, he has been hijacked in Africa, travelled by cargo ship around the Maldives, met tornado-chasers in America and followed in the footsteps of Graham Greene in Haiti.
Coastlines is the story of our shores. Patrick Barkham tells the stories of the most beautiful 742 miles of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – their rocks, plants and animals. The views, walks and history and the people who have made their lives, within sight of the waves.
As he travels along coastal paths, visits beaches and explores coves, Patrick reflects on the long campaign to protect our shoreline from tidal erosion and human damage, along with tales of smuggler’s routes, exotic migratory birds and bucket-and-spade holidays.
These books for little dinosaur fans are sure to intrigue your little one, if only to help them wish to protect the endangered species we have now.
Dinosaur fossils have been found on the Jurassic Coast, proving that this was where the dinosaurs lived. These huge creatures would sometimes live on land or sea. Most were vegetarian, but the big carnivores could easily eat you up in two bites! Some have been collected and are displayed in local museums. Read The Colourful World of Dinosaurs, a fun book by Matt Sewell.
- If you have a little dinosaur fan, why not treat him or her to a copy of this book? Dinosaur Yoga is written by a qualified children’s yoga teacher, and includes all kinds of poses to help your child relax and get down with the dinosaurs. They can follow along as triceratops, pterodactyls, tyrannosaurs, and many other dinosaurs set aside their differences and engage in a lively yoga session!
- Tyrannosaurus Drip is a funny story about celebrating difference. Everyone knows that tyrannosauruses are big and scary. So when a placid duckbill dinosaur’s egg ends up in the wrong nest, confusion is sure to ensue. When the baby dinosaur hatches out, he’s so out of place- all he want is a quiet life, munching on water weed…
- Dinosaurs in Love is based on the viral, heart-melting song of a child. A simple story on love, longing and loss by a three-year old. ‘Dinosaurs eating people, dinosaurs in love, dinosaurs having a party, they eat fruit and cucumber’. When Tom Rosenthal and his daughter posted their original song, it became an instant classic. Just as Fenn’s dinosaurs fell in love, so did the world. Features charming illustrations by Hannah Jacobs.
How to Create Walkable Communities
Would you like to know how to create walkable communities? And do you know what they are? Walkable cities and towns form part of mixed-use communities; that is, 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.
The world’s most walkable city is Copenhagen, Denmark. But it wasn’t always that way. It was gridlock, before architect Jan Gehl transformed it:
- 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’.
Curbing Traffic: The Human Case for Fewer Cars In Our Lives is a book by a couple who have lived in The Netherlands. They were so impressed at how this country is ‘designed for people, not cars’, they wrote a book about it. Dutch children are also the happiest on earth. Many people these days have to drive, due to bad town planning. Towns and cities are designed that you have to drive everywhere, from the supermarket to the vet. With no walking or cycling paths and poor public transport, this all contributes to traffic, smog, stress, wasted time and accidents. What would be better is to design places for feet.
- See tips to be a greener driver
- Carfree Cities is packed with info.
- Carfree Living is a book by a US woman.
- Walkable City Rules has 101 simple changes that planners can make.
- UK law offers a 10 minute grace period, if you are late back to your car. So if you were late due to helping an older/disabled person or dog, it’s worth appealing, if you can afford to risk it (most let you pay half the fine, if you pay immediately).
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.