How can I get involved?

During lockdown 700 volunteers drafted over 7,000 Slow Ways routes that connect all of Great Britain’s towns and cities as well as thousands of villages. That’s a great start.

The next challenge is to walk, test, review, record, verify and enjoy all of the Slow Ways routes that have been drafted. 

That means checking over 100,000km of routes, the equivalent of walking 2.5 times around the equator. This sounds like a big job, but shared between 10,000 volunteers – individuals, established groups, new groups and collaborators – we’d need to walk an average of just 10km each. 

We’d love your help to test-walk one or more routes.

Just sign up on our homepage and we’ll keep you updated.

When can we get started?

We’re currently putting behind-the-scenes things in place, including building the website to host all the routes.

We had planned to launch in the last week of January 2021, but due to the current situation with Covid-19 are delaying until conditions improve. We will post here as soon as we have a new launch date. 

We know lots of people can’t wait to get going. Neither can we! Please bear with us, thanks for your patience.

I’m part of an organised group. Can we help?

Yes! Please register your interest in your group getting involved here.

Can my local council or authority show their support?

Yes! Ledbury Town Council was the first to officially support Slow Ways, passing a council motion to promote the project to local residents. Why not ask your civil, parish, town or local council to show their backing for Slow Ways too?  

What is the Slow Ways initiative?

Slow Ways is a project to create a network of walking routes that connect all of Great Britain’s towns and cities as well as thousands of villages.

It’s more than just a network of walking routes though. Slow Ways is a way of thinking, seeing, moving, navigating, exploring, learning, caring, creating, collaborating, connecting, sharing and hoping… all by going for a walk. We think the initiative will lead to more people walking, more often, for more reasons and purposes.

What are Slow Ways?

Using a wide variety of existing paths, Slow Ways are routes for walking between neighbouring cities, towns and villages.

They are grounded by the principle that people should be able to walk reasonably directly, safely, easily and enjoyably between neighbouring settlements.

How long are Slow Ways?

The landscape, distances between settlements and our methodology determine the length of the routes. The average route in England is 12km. In Scotland they are closer to 20km. Hundreds are just 5km and thousands are under 10km. 

Who do you think will use them?

People who like walking and want to get from A to B. People will use them to see family, meet friends, get to work or go on adventures. Some people will use them for short distances while others will combine Slow Ways for long distance journeys.

What makes Slow Ways special?

Slow Ways will make it easier for people to see, imagine, plan, share and enjoy journeys on foot. 

Slow Ways triangles
This map shows you the structure of the network. The straight lines show Slow Ways as the crow flies and are not walkable.
These wiggly lines show routes in the West Midlands. Some Slow Ways routes are more direct than others. Hopefully you can see from this approach how easy it is to imagine following one or more of these lines.

Why does the Slow Ways initiative matter?

.It’s positive, timely, and important. Walking can improve health and wellbeing, be part of lifestyle changes that help tackle the climate and ecological emergencies, save people money, improve our environment and bring joy to people’s lives.

Great Britain already has lots of footpaths. What does this add?

Yes, but they don’t form a coherent and comprehensive country-wide network. Slow Ways walking routes – drafted, tested, reviewed and verified by volunteers – suggest the best ways to get between neighbouring towns, cities and villages. Our mapping and routing will show a limited number of paths, making it easier to see and plan journeys.

The approach will also help people to plan long distance journeys. The distinctive Slow Ways geometric plan makes it easier to plant journeys and routes intentionally link towns and cities that have lots of places to eat, sleep and rest.

What are Slow Way routes?

Slow Way routes are suggestions that volunteers have drafted for walking between neighbouring settlements. 

When walking the Slow Way between two places there might be one or more route options. Some route options will be better than others.

Where are the Slow Ways?

They cover Great Britain – just take a look at this map! One million people live within just 500 metres of a Slow Way.

Slow Ways map

How were Slow Ways destinations decided

Slow Ways routes always link two primary settlements. There are about 2,500 of these primary settlements in the Slow Ways network, selected because of their population size or their cultural, transport or local importance. Many were based on the ‘primary destinations’ and ‘primary locations’ identified by the Department for Transport and Ordnance Survey. 

Slow Ways is primarily an inter-town and inter-city network. While our largest cities have multiple Slow Ways destinations within them, the network’s strength is in the Slow Ways routes that radiate out to connect settlements. There are thousands more hamlets, villages and suburbs along Slow Ways routes that are not our primary destinations.   

How are Slow Ways routes decided?

A small team of volunteers created an overview plan of all the villages, towns and cities to be included in the Slow Ways network, and which neighbouring settlements should be connected. This resulted in the distinctive triangular shapes that you can see in our maps. 

During lockdown we put a call out for more volunteers. 700 people stepped up and were given some basic training to use OS Maps to draft Slow Ways routes. 

Everyone was challenged to design routes that, as far as possible, should:

  1. Start and finish at a good central point (like a bus or train station)
  2. Be direct
  3. Be off road
  4. Be easy to navigate
  5. Be safe and accessible
  6. Have resting places (somewhere with a shop, pub or hotel) every 5-10km
  7. Pass through train and bus stations
  8. Be enjoyable and beautiful, but not tours
  9. Use already established routes, but not be distracted by them

Of course, the landscape does not always allow for these things to apply at all times. Some routes have had to use roads, and there are many parts of the country where there is not a “resting place” every 10km.

Will Slow Ways routes included information about accessibility?

Yes. We will be asking volunteer route checkers to provide some information on accessibility of the routes. We are aware that another project is needed to do this as well as we would like it to be done. It would be great to have a national map of accessibility that is co-created and shared between many different groups and organisations so are exploring how that might work.

How are Slow Ways named?

Every Slow Way has its own name. This is created by joining together the first three letters of the two neighbouring places they connect. This results in hundreds of charming names. The Slow Way from Winchester to King’s Somborne is called Winkin, for example. Each Slow Way route option also has a unique code that is simply a number. 

How are Ordnance Survey involved?

We’ve used the OS Maps platform to collaboratively create all the Slow Ways routes we’ve made so far. We’ll be publishing the whole Slow Ways network to the OS Maps web platform too.

Will the routes appear on Ordnance Survey’s paper maps?

We’d love that. Maybe in the future.. It’s a great thing to work towards.

Will Slow Ways routes be free?

Yes. You will always be able to search, browse, review, download and enjoy the routes for free.

Will Slow Ways route information be available under a Creative Commons license?

Yes.

What will the Slow Ways website do?

Lots of things. Once past its testing phase, Slow Ways users will be able to search, browse, rate, verify, download and comment on routes. We also plan for it to help with routing, so users will be able to search for ways to get between more distant places. Want to know the best way to get from Southampton to Glasgow or Swansea to Huddersfield? In the future the website will be able to show you.

Who’s behind this project?

Slow Ways was started by Dan Raven-Ellison. Dan’s done lots of walking in the UK and began wondering why our incredible footpath infrastructure, heritage and culture is not better organised and easier to navigate.

In February 2020 Dan invited anyone who likes maps and walking to attend a Slow Ways hackday at GeoVation, Ordnance Survey’s innovation centre in central London. The day was full of learning, energy and success. As a result, the idea of Slow Ways started to grow.

Dan had planned to organise ten further hack events across Wales, Scotland and England to complete a first draft of the Slow Ways network. Unfortunately Covid-19 put the brakes on that.

A call was put out for anyone to attend online training (by Zoom of course) to help create the network and 700 people stepped forward. As a result of their enthusiasm, creativity, determination and energy, roughly a year’s worth of time was invested in the project in a single month. The result was a first initial draft of the Slow Ways network. 

The Slow Ways initiative would not exist if it was not for the positivity and generosity of the people who have volunteered so far. Thank you!

We now need to recruit thousands of people from across Great Britain to help walk, test, verify, record, improve and enjoy the Slow Ways walking routes. To do that we’re building a website to host information on all of the routes and doing lots of work to make sure the project is a success. 

To help with all of that, we’ve recently set up Slow Ways CIC. This is a not-for-profit and asset locked Community Interest Company that is limited by guarantee. It’s purpose is to help make the Slow Ways initiative a success and as a result, get more people walking more of the time.

The project has been supported by friends at OnePointFive, Urban Good, Ordnance Survey, OS Maps and ESRI and Rob Bushby Consulting. We had some critical early financial support to kick everything off from the Kestrelman Trust too. 

Thank you to everyone who has contributed so far.