Thursday, 29 April 2010

You'll never walk alone?

Thanks to Alan Hardy for his talk today at Castle Park bandstand. A small audience enjoyed his tales of life afoot, starting with his excitement as a young boy, when Everest was first climbed. (1953 for those who want to estimate Alan's age without chopping his leg off and counting the rings.) Young Alan imitated the adventure by putting a stick in the top of a pile of rubble on a demolition site. Alan expressed concern that today's young people are not given the opportunity to explore and play like that, and so may never get the bug for adventure outdoors.

Alan chatted about his hikes across the Scottish highlands, and in the Himalayas. But it wasn't all about walking and fording rivers, it was about people he met on the way, and a bit about food and drink - well you do get an appetite don't you?

The audience were interested in the differences between solo trips, and walking with another person or in a group. Alan had no particular preference; each option had its advantages and downside. Walking alone meant that you would see more of the natural world; groups of people make more noise and smell, which means less animals and birds to see. Besides, some people are driven crazy by their own company after a couple of hours! The audience enjoyed Alan's company for 45 minutes. Look out for him giving illustated talks to local groups after the summer.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Hiking Hardy tomorrow lunchtime, 12:30 Castle Park

A quick reminder for tomorrow's "Hiking Hardy" talk at Castle Park bandstand. It starts at 12:30, will last about half an hour, and we get the chance to ask questions and chat with Alan afterwards. Castle Park is looking great this time of the year, and we're right by the Park cafe, so take in a stroll, a talk and a cuppa tomorrow lunchtime.

Step and Snap competition underway

Entries for our photography comp are coming in. Click on "Step and Snap" at the right for more info about our fun competition. Pigeons optional.

Voting with our feet - we joined the Walking Party

Another brilliant day, as the sun shone on our Walking Party. About fifteen people met at the War Memorial, and we made our way along the town streets, through the green link over The Moors, along the riverside path and over the railway footbridge to the Uni. Most of the party were associated with the University.

But some were simply along for the pleasure of the walk, uninfluenced by the prospect of a super cooked breakfast on the Uni campus. It was great to meet some of the project supporters; there are some talented people working on the Walk Colchester project - more about that next week.......

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Foot Feast - our perfect picnic pitch

Team meeting in the conference room? No thanks, when this lovely open space is ten minutes away. The weather and setting were perfect for the first Foot Feast, and six representatives of town centre businesses met at The Mercury for a short stroll in brilliant sunshine over to Hilly Fields. With a rooftop view of the town's northern aspect, we had the perfect backdrop for our picnic lunch.

Thanks to Ewan and team at Whybrow Chartered Surveyors and Andrew from Big Swifty Associates for supporting the event.

Walk to work week isn't just about walking to work. For many of us it would not be possible, but maybe we can get some walking in during the working day? A lunchtime stroll could be an option, or a team meeting on local green space?

CW2W received several apologies for non-appearance at our event, some saying the weather was so nice that they had gone to the beach for a picnic. Absentees, you missed a blissful picnic, and the Whybrow team proved to be splendid company and lots of fun.

Vote "Walking Party" tomorrow

Tomorrow is "Walk to Work Wednesday", and some individuals will be stepping out many miles from home to the office in a massive attack of solo walking fever. But for those who are more sociable and relaxed, join in with our "Walking Party" for a stroll from the town to the Uni.

We meet at 08:00 at the Castle Park gates by the war memorial. For most of the route we will follow a green coridor, and expect to arrive at the Uni around 09:00, where there will be cafes for your refreshment. Vote "yes" to the Walking Party" tomorrow.

Foot Feast today - Hilly Fields, meet at noon at Mercury

See you later, this is our picnic spot! The sun is shining, the ground is dry, the company will be good, and I am bringing some creme caramels for you.... Meet at Mercury theatre at noon, for a short walk to this blissful spot.

Walk to Work Challenge - now live!!!!

The national "walk to work challenge" is now live, and people in Colchester are joining in. If you would like to take part it's not too late to register. Walk to work week is 26-30 April, and the weather forecast is great! The national Challenge is run by Living Sreets/Walking Works, and they have set up an entertaining website where we can log our trips, win prizes, and compete with others (if that floats your boat!).

Just as a reminder, click onto . If you haven't registered, follow the links; we are in "east of england" "essex". When I last looked there were about 15 Essex employers on there, and around ten of them are based in Colchester.

If you have registered you can now log your trips. The website was so busy at times yesterday, that it stalled a bit, but was fine when I tried to use it. It's encouraging that so many are taking part.

Map Grab yesterday - some still left!

Our Map Grab happened yesterday, and we had great fun meeting the public and some of the project's followers. We has a small stall at Mountain Warehouse, who had kindly agreed to host us. Their shop in the High Street, nearly opposite the Town Hall, has a comprehensive range of hiking and walking gear. Thanks for visiting our Walk to Work Week stall, and chatting with us; we have some good ideas for how we can take our project forward in 2010.

"Colchester Walking Map" is already proving popular. There are two leaflets at present, covering North Colchester and East Colchester. Both sheets include North Station, and East also includes the town centre. The maps fold out to A3 size, and there's lots of information and links to further travel and health information.

The map is the result of teamwork. Design work was funded by North East Essex Primary Care Trust, recognising that encouraging people to become more active can help address the growing obesity problem, and the extra demands for health care that come with that. The designers were Steer Davies Gleave, working on information supplied by "Colchester Walk to Work", "Colchester2020 Travel Plan Club" and "Walk Colchester". The printing was funded by the Travel Plan Club, to help our community to reduce traffic congestion and our carbon footprints, and to contribute to the wellbeing agenda.

Contact us if you would like a copy of the maps, or pick them up at the Visitor Information Centre at the corner of High Street and Queen Street.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

walking and visionaries

This is based on an article by Linda Cracknell from her which is an interesting project, and always a good read. Linda writes:

"I'm very grateful to a reader for drawing my attention to Fieldwork, a collection of essays by Ronald Blythe (CW2W note - Blythe lives at Wormingford), and in particular to ‘John Clare and footpath walking’ written in 1995. The essay explores the role of paths (as opposed to roads and newly-forged ways) and our fairly recent but diminishing legacy of walking as a way to get somewhere which also becomes an incidental route towards learning. It draws attention to a peopled countryside, the fields as one-time places of social intercourse, where routes of work met and crossed. The sense of travel along shared paths and social routes is very precious, when so much of our recreational walking now seems to suffer from both its deliberateness and its anticipation of relative solitude.

During the recent months of snow, I was intrigued to hear of a change in ‘normal’ patterns. A woman living a mile or so from the shop in Strathtay (where most people get to and from home entirely by car) told me how she and her neighbours, unable to get their cars out, established a new ritual. Each would walk the mile along the river to the shop, returning together, and finding that they enjoyed the unaccustomed pace and company. This would have been the natural way not long ago for rural dwellers, but I suspect now spring is here, and the roads are clear, it will be a rarity again.

John Clare walked both for his travel to work – lime-burning or ploughing – and for his poetry, in order to look, to solve problems and to scribble furiously as he stopped in dips and hollows in the land. The effect of walking on a creative mind is profound, as Blythe says in this essay, ‘a great amount of our best poetry, novels and essays smell, not of the lamp, but of dust, mud, grit, pollen, and, I expect, sweat.’But more interestingly for me, Blythe highlights how the experience of walking touches everyone: ‘.. it touches us because we are all descended from the walking men, the walking women, the walking children: and not so very long ago either.

Sometimes we forget that it wasn't only the poets, novelists like Hardy, who had these wonderful ideas as they walked….. Certainly, these long walks to work, these long walks to school, these long walks with a friend, these long walks just to get out of the house, etc, were part of a pattern of life of people right up until the modern age. Whilst it happened, their minds ticked over in an extraordinary way. Because men and women haven't all been able to write, or paint, or make music about certain things, it doesn't mean they haven't experienced them...’

I particularly love Blythe's idea that countless people, not just writers, whilst on the way to work, or at work itself, were unwittingly visionary. And I love this line: 'It was the landscape being articulated in their heads, via their normal work practices. ' Walking is a great leveller – it democratises the visionary and gives everyone the opportunity to learn. But with the loss of these simple ways of getting around, I can’t help wondering what else we’re losing".

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

26-30 April 2010, Fully Detailed Programme

Monday 26 April, MAP GRAB all day from 08:00, Mountain Warehouse, High Street, Colchester

26 - 30 April, STEP AND SNAP photography competition

26 -30 April, WALK TO WORK CHALLENGE starts, www.walkingworks/walk-to-work-week-2010

Tuesday 27 April, FOOT FEAST picnic at Hilly Fields. Meet outside Mercury Theatre at noon.

Wednesday 28 April, WALKING PARTY led walk from Castle Park gates (war memorial) 08:00, to University of Essex

28 April, WALK TO WORK WEDNESDAY - tell us your stories about your walking journey to work

Thursday 29 April, HIKING HARDY 12:30 lunchtime talk at Castle Park bandstand, by local celebrity walker

Also happening during the week:

27, 28, 29 April HEALTH WALKS, various times and locations
28 April TODDLE WADDLE, High Woods Country Park, 11:00
29 April GHOST TOUR, 2+ hours on foot from outside the Town Hall at 19:30, cost £7

For events in CAPITALS, click on "walk this way for" to find out more about each event.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

BBC Essex features Colchester Walk to Work

Did any of you catch Dave Monk's morning show on BBC Essex yesterday? He featured our walk to work project, and we chatted away about the potential for walking to work, at least for some of the people some of the time. We also discussed town planning, and how as a society we use cars so much, with little use of alternatives for some of our trips, compared with the modal split between cars, buses, bikes and walking in some of our neighbouring countries on mainland Europe.

The interview went well until my landline phone started ringing when I was live on air using my mobile. Dave invited me to answer it, but I threw it outside into the laundry basket and got on with the radio job.

I put in a plug for this blogspot, as the definitive source of full up to date detailed information, and we had a rise in visitors to the site. We hope for more local radio coverage over the next few weeks....

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Walking map photoshoot

Thanks to our great modelling walkers! It has been a super week for walking, with the longer daylight and sunny weather. Here are some Health Walkers, and friends of Colchester Walk to Work, at Middle Mill, helping with some promo photos.

Some pics will be used on the soon to be launched Colchester Walking Map. The cartographers are finishing design and plotting, now having full information about routes, text and photos.

From now on we will be concentrating on promoting our walking week events, and we look forward to meeting many of you over the next few weeks.

Talking about walking can also be dangerous

The "Hiking Hardy" event in Castle Park on Thursday 29 April is shaping up. Not only do we have a celebrity speaker, we have a venue confirmed, and a RISK ASSESSMENT. Quite rightly, we have to consider carefully what we have planned, and what could go wrong, so this is not a "elf and safetee gone mad" rant.

Alan will meet us all at the Bandstand in Castle Park, please be there for 12:30. Alan may be familiar to some of you, as he is a regular speaker at local clubs and societies. But "Hiking Hardy" is a bit different to his more usual format. With his evening shows, he chats to his audience, with a backdrop of his super collection of slides. (Yes, he does "magic lantern", he shines a powerful light through a piece of transparent film; he hasn't yet gone digital.) In Castle Park it will be different. Last week I asked him about what he had planned, to help me with the risk assessment. He replied:

"Demonstration of use of crampons for climbing up and over the band stand roof and sharp pointed ice axe to arrest slip down far side, followed by a climb of the north face of the Castle and abseiling down using the sacred tree as an anchor. And finally opening the Middle Mill Sluice Gates to create a torrent to demonstrate the art of river crossings. And if I can find a friendly farmer to erect an electric fence ... Enough to go on?"

I think ???? he's joking????? My risk assessement was "public disorder" and "people tripping over", bascially things that can happen anytime, anywhere. The question is, will we need crowd control, as it's a free event and no booking procedures? We have capacity for thousands. Alan is walking to our event, as part of his training for a backpacking trip, coast to coast across the Scottish Highlands in May. I look forward to hearing his tales.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

A dozen W2W supporters model for Walking Map

Sunshine was booked and delivered for our photoshoot today. About a dozen "walk to work" supporters responded to an appeal for models to appear on our walking map and leaflet. Photographer Dave Higgleton took pictures at the Hospital, Station, University Quays and Dutch Quarter, illustrating some of the great routes to walk in Colchester. Thanks to our supporters for turning out today.

Last week, the first draft of the walking map and text was completed, and sent to the cartographers, and we look forward to the first proof coming back soon. Some of today's photos will be used on the map.

Our aim is that the map will be ready for launching at our "Map Grab" event at Mountain Warehouse on Monday 26 April. We hope you like it.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

The Challenge website is OPEN

At last we're in April and the national walk to work week challenge website is open. We can now register ourselves and/or our companies. The website should be user friendly, but it's too early for "Colchester walk to work" to share any advice, as we don't yet know. However, as a tip, we're in "east of England" region, and in "Essex". (Unfortunately there is no separate category for Colchester, as Colchester Borough Council is not a unitary authority. However, this debate is for another day and webspace....)

It's Easter and there's still the possibility of snow. But in three week's time, it will be walk to work week, the sun will be shining and spring will be all around, probably.

Sign up now for the website, so that we're all ready in advance of the week, and join the "colchester walk to work" Facebook group if you haven't already. We expect there will be a live forum for comments and latest news on all our walk to work week events. Full details of events WILL also be on this blogspot, so keep coming back.