Corona & Walking

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What the current crisis can teach us about improving our walking infrastructure in the UK

The UK is a small and densely populated country, once lock-down was initiated and our options for shopping and eating out were removed what did we do? We decided to go out for walk… local parks and beauty spots were inundated and couldn’t cope with demand. We saw footage on TV of local beauty spots with cars as far as the eyes could see…

What message does this give us for future environmental hopes? That, should everyone choose to leave the car behind and walk, we just don’t have enough walks and outdoor spaces to house everyone, and buy a long way.

Through two meter distancing we have learned that pavements aren’t wide enough to give a two metre zone in many places, this won’t come as news for those of us in wheelchairs or with pushchairs, I’m sure we can all think of pavements local to us which are un-traversable.

As a Walking Trails Designer I help local communities and councils create Walking Trails, building upon the walks, routes, locations, heritage, nature and outdoor spaces that exist in their community – I work with and observe the infrastructure that already exists and apply routes to it.

In my work I have come across traditional walking routes being appropriated by land grabbers, and local authorities doing little if anything to investigate and keep old walking routes open. In a few years’ time (by 2026) ‘rights of way’ which remain unregistered in the UK will be lost, something that should spark a nationwide reporting and logging process at the least?

Walking Trails can benefit local communities by bringing in much needed tourism into areas without local attractions – walkers support the local economy and will spend in local pubs cafés and restaurants, in holiday areas they will support local accommodation and for tourism locations which rely on seasonal visitors they can boost all year round trade.

There is so many positives; education, walking arts, encouraging exercise, environmental pursuits, helping mental health are just a few of them.

During the design process I consider many aspects including how to make a walk accessible, how to preserve current walk routes, how to map walks through new developments and how to use future tech.

This investigation provides a report on the status of a proposed walk route, and this may translate in the future to auditing a communities walking infrastructure, both for leisure and public use if what we have learned prevails.

If you are a town manager or local council tourism officer interested in helping your location bounce back from their enforced isolation during the Corona crisis with renewed options for outdoor leisure, building community and enjoying being back outdoors, Walking Trails are an ideal solution to your problem!

Sara Hayes MA

For more information on Walking Trail Design contact me today on: sara@thepublicartcompany.co.uk

www.thepublicartcompany.co.uk/walking-trails/

I am available for initial meetings and discussions on Zoom or WhatsApp, and offer a full package from concept to completion of permanent and non-permanent trails, including permissions, community consultation, design, signage, installation, launch and promotional media.

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