Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (est.1894)

Interview with Daniel Raven-Ellison

Ken Brockway, Footpath Inspector

This article is from Signpost 65, Autumn 2020

What are Slow Ways?

Slow ways are a network of 7,000 walking routes that connect about 2,500 towns, cities and principal destinations across Great Britain. The principle behind the slow ways is that we should be able to walk enjoyably and safely between neighbouring settlements. While lots of people might use them for short journeys, I'm most inspired by the opportunity to combine multiple slow ways for long distance journeys. By linking populated places the slow ways not only go between the places where most people are, but also the places that most people want to get to and the places where there's a greater diversity of places to eat and sleep - I think they will help to make long distance walking more inviting and inclusive.

Slow Ways route Biggin to Waterhouses
via Ilam FPs 15 and 18 passes Castern Hall

You posted a request inviting people to volunteer to help. How many people have been involved so far?

The slow ways were mostly drafted during lockdown by a team of 700 volunteers across the country. Everyone signed up for some training on Zoom and then used OS maps and Google Sheets to create them all. In all the slow ways currently stretch for over 100,000 km which is roughly 2.5 laps of the equator.

Can you estimate how many volunteer hours have gone into the project so far?

10,000 would be a reasonable estimate. That's over a year of continuous volunteering.

You now have routes that link to meeting points. What is the next step?

We've drafted a network of routes and we've got a team developing a website to host them all.

When the website is launched will it be like using a TomTom or Google directions?

There will not be step by step instructions like TomTom provides when you are driving. We are working towards people being able to search how to get between places. The plan is that you'll be able to search for the best way to get between any town and city using the slow ways. The mapping will show you the routes created by the volunteers and you'll be able to download the routes to explore them. That way, say you wanted to get from Swansea to Huddersfield, the slow ways will give you a route and a route card, but not tell you to turn left after the next stile.

When do you get to route testing and how can people volunteer?

This autumn we want to recruit 10,000 volunteers to walk and test all of the slow ways. We want to verify they work, rate them, tag them with information and make them better. We need all the help we can get and it will be lots of fun to collaborate on such a big mission. Anyone wanting to help should sign-up for updates on my website via I can't wait!

Daniel says thank you so much to everyone who contributed to the last sprint of activity to make sure all the routes were connected to all the "meeting points". There were about 15,000 ends of routes to review. A relatively small group of people did an incredible amount of detailed work. Thank you. This effort created a snagging list of about 300 problems to deal with, some of them are quite complex. A small team is working through these issues at the moment. We are still working towards the website being ready for this autumn. We'll then be able to use it to browse, search, download, share and rate routes.

Next: Signpost Report

Page title:Interview with Daniel Raven-Ellison
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