lost hat

Not Walking, But Writing

I’ve just spent a couple of hours working on the website, focusing mainly on tenses. Every ‘I plan to…’ or ‘I will be …’ has now become a ‘I have.’ This wasn’t too bad (I’ve become something of a content wizard – I wish!), but it was poignant. As I reported in my last blog, the walk is now well and truly complete. The challenge now is to turn that intangible ‘asset’ into something real. To get writing. In other words, the whole Diagonal Walking project has moved onto a fresh stage. I haven’t hung up my cap, it’s just resting!

 

Stay tuned for the journey, it’s likely to have as many ups and downs as the walk itself!

 

So, Head Down and Writing Now Is It?

Sort of, but it’s more complicated than that. As it happens, I already have a first draft of the book. As regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve taken extensive notes along the way, and have devoted time in between legs of the walk to writing them up. This, along with the planning, research, booking of accommodation and actual walking, has pretty much dominated my summer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been worth it, in spades; just that it’s been all-encompassing. Especially when other life stuff gets in the way, but you don’t want to know about that.

 

After the completion of the walk, I put a real shift in before a short break away and this brought me to the completed first draft. This included the tricky bit of writing a conclusion. One of the purposes of the walk was to take the temperature of the country as it stood on the brink of Brexit, and as such it was incumbent upon me to come up with some conclusions. I’d made notes on this as well, and as it happened, writing the conclusion flowed quite well. However, while the rest of the book almost writes itself, this bit is more subjective. The temptation to go back time and time again and tweak it is irresistible.

 

Discipline and Deadlines

The solution lies in deadlines. I like to think I’m fairly disciplined in my writing, well in most things actually, otherwise I doubt the project would have got so far, so fast. That said, there’s nothing quite like a deadline to focus the mind. So, I’ve created an artificial one.

 

Past experience has taught me the benefits of having an external pair of eyes cast over my work. No matter how much you go over a passage or proof a page, your mind plays tricks on you. You see what you think should be there, not what is there. An external perspective is essential. As it happens, there’s no shortage of people with editing and proofing skills. A shakeup in the publishing industry means many of these work as freelancers, and there’s a useful directory of them through their trade body, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders .

 

Understandably, these need to be booked ahead. So, I’ve been searching for likely candidates and am on the brink of appointing one. I have another break coming up in October (I know, I know, but it’s my birthday), so I’m trying to line them up to work on the book while I’m away, which means it has to be ready before I go.

 

This will mean some more long shifts, but that’s how things get done. Plus, I’m really driving the momentum on this project, as it really has to be out as soon as possible next year in order to remain relevant to the Brexit angle.

 

Publishing Options

In my blog The Sense of an Ending published back in July, I was very much of a mindset to go down the self-publishing route. My thinking at that time was that the traditional publishing industry just takes too long to get stuff done (you’ll have gathered I not a patient man). In a subsequent blog, The End of the Beginning I reassessed this thinking and approached some publishers. Four in fact, all smallish players who are likely to be more fleet of foot, two of whom I’d worked with before, two I hadn’t. Two (one of each) have come back saying no, one seems keen and another I’m about to chase. I still haven’t ruled out the self-publishing option as it allows me to retain more control, but it does require a cash injection. Hopefully, I’ll have made a decision by the time of my next blog.

 

A Fresh Direction

No, not north east to south west (although, never say never), but a fresh direction for the project. As this blog attests, the focus now is on sharing the publishing and promotion story, rather than the actual walk. I will continue to post on the various social media from the walk, but Diagonal Walking now moves into a different phase.

 

On the social media front. Twitter continues to creep upwards, and I’ve had some success boosting my Facebook followers, mainly by sponsoring a post boost. This cost £10 and got me and extra 20 followers, but over 1,000 engagements, whatever they are. Worth it? You judge. Instagram is still the hit, with followers now in excess of 1,100, which I’m pleased with.

 

I’ll leave it there for now, more to come shortly.

 

So stay tuned and keep diagonal!

 

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A Million Steps Later

I’ve added a new video to YouTube detailing the last day of the walk and a few reflections from the whole experience. It’s called ‘A Million Steps Later’ and can be viewed here:

multiple footpath signs

In Praise of Pathwatch

This blog is to draw your attention to the Pathwatch initiative from The Ramblers. Those of you who’ve been following my progress will know I’ve had a spot of bother or two with footpaths. Specifically, step forward Staffordshire and take a bow, but mind that electric fence. Ouch! Too late.

I blogged about this and also put a video up on YouTube which this garnered quite a lot of interest. Not least, I managed to get the walking magazine The Great Outdoors to write a piece about it. One of the suggestions that came out of this was that I should download the Ramblers app Pathwatch, and it’s been a lifesaver.

Pathwatch is part of a wider initiative from the Ramblers to get all the rights of way in England and Wales well maintained by 2020. Quite a lofty ambition, but surely a worthwhile one at a time when we’re all being encouraged to exercise more?

So, I’m here to praise Pathwatch, and to tell you why it’s worth getting. Just so you know, this is an entirely independent review, no one’s paying me. I just love it and want to share it.

Know Where You Are

The app is super easy to use and one of its best features is the knowledge that you never need be lost again when out on a walk. It starts with this three option screen. The three choices are whether to download some maps. This is useful if you think you may have dodgy signal. These don’t need to be where you are at that moment, you just search from this home screen:

Home Screen

The second, and to my mind most useful, option is to locate yourself, using this handy button.

Locate me!

Not only does this tell you where you are, it also overlays your position on a map of public footpaths! So, if you think you have gone wrong, you can check, like this:

Whoops! Field edge, but not the path.

Equally, I find it useful to reassure myself that I’ve taken the right path, like this:

On track again. Phew!

 

Report Naughty Landowners

One of the biggest issues I had with my walking in Staffordshire was unmaintained footpaths. Okay, it isn’t just Staffordshire, but they have it bad. Well, one thing this app lets you do is report bad practice. Not only report it, but send a picture, if it’s something bad like this:

rotton stile

Electric fence barring a stile

Or just let the Ramblers know, so they can see if they can do anything about it. The reporting procedure lets you record positive and negative experiences.

So far I’ve only used the negative option! This takes you through two stages. First, what the nature of the problem is/was.

Then, some more detail. This is the screen under ‘Obstructions’ for example.

But, Isn’t It cheating?

Yes, that was my initial reaction. I set out on this walk not wanting to use any electronic gizmos unless in extremis. I wanted to be a heroic map-only kind of a person. The problem is, in extremis is what I experienced. So, I say: embrace the technology! As such, I offer this sort of mini-review up for nothing. Think of it as a little gift from Diagonal Walking.

 

There’ll be more on how I managed to find my way around the country in the book. Register your interest here.

 

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Aiming For Middle England

I’m back after a short break away from Diagonal Walking, busy planning the next stage. As promised in my last blog, I’m going to use this opportunity to allow you to ‘get inside my head’ a bit. At the moment my main preoccupation is around planning the next stage, which is a long one, rather than the actual writing. I’ll explain why there’s not so much on this later. By way of compensation for those interested in the writing process, I’ve included some initial thoughts on publishing. Also, for those who want to know, an update on progress of the various social media channels.

 

The Route

The next stretch of the walk takes me out of Staffordshire. This is a big deal, see the Surviving Staffordshire video if you don’t understand why. Yes, within a day I’ll be walking into Warwickshire. After that I’ll be more or less following the Warwicks/Leicestershire border. Incidentally, this or more or less congruent with the A5, of the Roman Watling Street. It’s curiously pleasingly that the Romans built their road on a diagonal line passing through the centre of the country!

From there, my route dives into the centre of Northamptonshire, and the county town, and then into the top of Buckinghamshire. Technically, it passes into the unitary authority of Milton Keynes, but I’ll ignore that for now. Places people might recognise include Atherstone, Hinckley and Watford – but not that one. The Watford I’ll be going through is the one better known through its service station Watford Gap. When people talk of ‘north of Watford’ it’s here they’re referring to, rather than Watford, Herts. Not a lot of people know that.

 

 

Landmarks

There are three significant landmarks on this leg, one geographical and the other two more personal. The geographical one is that I’ll be passing through the centre of England. As such, I will truly be in Middle England. As an earlier blog has outlined, this is on private land outside Fenny Drayton, near Atherstone. This is a big deal, as you can imagine. I’ve tried to get in touch with the farmer who owns the field it’s in, but no luck yet. I haven’t given up though. I’ve also tried to whip up some interest from the body responsible for tourism in Leicestershire, but also nothing so far. Disappointing.

The first personal milestone is that, all being well, I’ll also reach my own half way point by the end of the walk. Due to the shape of the country there’s more walking after Fenny Drayton than there is before the centre. As the How I’m Doing page shows, I’ve currently done nearly 300,000 steps, and I reckon I’ll be on more or less half a million by the end of this stretch, having walked around 250 miles.

The other personal milestone is I’ll be close to Milton Keynes. That may sound an odd thing to say, but Milton Keynes holds a pivotal part in my life story. It was here, over 30 years ago, that I helped build a house for an exhibition of energy efficient buildings. Ours was supposed to champion a self-build system, and we built the house over a series of weekends with architectural students providing the labour. The house is still standing, and I’ve tracked down the current owners and they’ve agreed to meet with me. This house is as old as my marriage – I had just met my wife to be when the project was, quite literally, getting off the ground. It will be interesting to see if it has lasted as well.

 

 

Practicalities

I’ve been spending some time planning the actual route, and it’s a bit tricky. Although it’s not as rural as the run through Staffordshire, places to stay remain few and far between. This has meant having to set quite long targets for each day. This decision has involved a trade-off between having somewhere to stay actually on the route, as tended to be the way on the first leg, and taking a wider brief and being prepared to travel, as was more the case on the second leg.

I’ve gone for the former. Even though I had the option on a car, the time wasted moving it around is time I’d rather spend walking. On average, I’ve ended up setting myself targets of around fourteen miles a day. This is more than I’d like, especially given the fact that having no car means carrying everything in a rucksack. This doesn’t daunt me too much – I have done these distances already, but the problem is I hadn’t planned for them. When I’ve done these sorts of distances earlier, it’s normally because something’s gone wrong. In other words, I’ve not left a lot of wriggle room. If the footpaths in the next counties are as bad as Staffordshire’s, I’m in trouble.

On the subject of the rucksack, I’m determined to make it lighter this time. As a large part of the avoidable weight is clothing, I’m going to pack light in that department. Don’t worry though, I’ve arranged to stay at an AirBnB half way round and to use their washing machine. For those that are wondering, I tend to use a combination of homestays, AirBnBs and cheap hotels. I am to spend no more than £50 a night on accommodation, sometimes its more, sometimes less.

 

 

Mixed Emotions

This leg is going to be as long as the first one, but with a vital difference. This time, there’s less of the excitement that came with the whole project starting off. As such, there’s more of a sense of the mundane, no, not mundane, but routine. I remember having this feeling when I undertook the canal trek for Walking on Water, and I suspect it’ll pass. That, plus the distances, plus the variations in the weather forecasts for the week ahead, all add up to a sense of challenge and some trepidation. Still, challenge was part of what I signed up for so here I go!

 

 

Walk With Me – Physically

As anyone reading these blogs will know, the concept of Walk With Meis integral to Diagonal Walking. Whilst I continue to have a great relationship with Stay In A Pub, we have yet to secure anything with one of their pubs. The idea was for me to give a talk on a weekday to boost trade, or to review their accommodation, but none have taken the bait so far. Hopefully, this will come in time. What will be, will be.

I have managed to secure two people to walk with me in person for one of the days, which is great. I have also got a good response from local community websites, and there’s still time for someone to come forward for other days. Response from more traditional media has been sluggish, although it’s not always possible to know you’ve been featured until you get a response from someone who’s read a piece. I did manage to get this piece in Waterways World, the leading canal magazine, which I was quite pleased with.

 

Walk With Me – Virtually

Stay In A Pub organised a competition which required people to follow Diagonal Walking on Twitter, and this resulted in a couple of hundred new followers. Most of these have stayed, and I’ve since built on this number to get to over 500. Instagram continues to be the best social media outlet for me. Even though I’ve had little new to post in the hiatus between legs, followers here are coming up to 600. In both cases, followers were half these total sat the start of the last leg. I sense some traction here now, especially with Instagram.

The podcasts are steady if unspectacular. I’ve had over 250 downloads so far, but the frustrating thing is not having any idea who these people are! Facebook remains much the same, gaining a fresh follower every now and then, and the YouTube videos are a useful backup. Out of interest, I’ve also asked my website designer to find out how many hits I’m getting on the website. I’ll amend this blog if I get this.

 

 

Writing

I mentioned the writing at the start. This is a frustrating area as I cannot do much actual tapping away at a keyboard without fresh material. Stuff keeps popping into my head – thoughts, reflections, ideas – and of course I capture these as notes, but I don’t want to ‘pre-write’ the book. I want it to be real, a true reflection of the experience. At the same time, once the antennae are active, it’s surprising how many things crop up that might be relevant to the book. The recent BBC exercise in defining ‘Englishness’ being a good example.

 

 

Planning for Publishing

I’ve begun to think about possible publishers. I recently completed a novel and have been trying to get agents interested in it, as this seems to be the only route into fiction publishers. The experience hasn’t been heartening, it’s a very tough world to break in to. That said, there’s a lot less publishers focussed on travel, so it should be possible to approach them direct. I have put together a list of likely suspects from the Writers and Artist’s Yearbook, but don’t want to start approaching them until the book is in a more complete state.

So, in conclusion, I’m beginning to consider my options here, but am not quite ready to act. I’d welcome any thoughts or advice people may be able to give. The one thing I can say for certain however, is the book will be published. Self-publishing is a common route for this kind of book, or I may focus on a combination of e-publishing and print on demand. This would reduce upfront cost, whilst still making it possible to satisfy both those happy with their Kindles and those who like a physical book. More on all this as it happens.

 

That’s about all for this update. I hope you’ve found it interesting getting inside my head and not too scary!

There’s much more to come, so stay tuned and keep diagonal!

 

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Packing Your Pack

Packing your pack is something every long distance walker has to consider. As the reality of having to put one foot in front of the other looms, I’ve been turning my thoughts to my own packing. How much stuff will I need to take on my walk? After all, it’s not as if I’m going to have a back-up van travelling in my wake.  What I take, I will need to carry, and I will have to keep it to the essentials.

 

Turning to the internet, there are a number of good sources of advice for packing your pack. A blog on the Ramblers website for example provides a useful photo. It complements this with a long list which it’s possible to get a bit lost in. Equally, other sites provide long lists of things to take, with this one taking the prize by offering 36 (count them) great tips for keeping packing simple.

 

Whilst not disagreeing with any of the items these sites suggest, I thought it would be helpful to categorise them and put them into the context of my walk. Although experience may prove otherwise, I’m working on a number of assumptions. I’m not going abroad (by definition), so no passport, plug converters, or indeed plugs. I’m also never going to be that far from civilisation, so if I run out of anything I should be able to pick some up on the way. Also, no need for distress flares. Finally, no camping, so that means a lot of stuff can stay in the garage. On this trip, I’m strictly an AirBnB or hotel man.

 

I’ve grouped my conclusions under five headings, so here goes …

 

Packing Clothing

 

Going with layers seems to be the consensus here. After that, it’s a matter of whether you’re prepared to wash things out as you go and how smelly you’re prepared to get. A classic baselayer T-shirt (possibly with long sleeves), followed by a fleece or equivalent and a waterproof coat looks like a winning combo. The coat can be foldable (a pack-a-mac if you’re being optimistic about the weather) or, if you’re feeling nifty, something like a padded jacket whose sleeves come off to, hey presto, form a gilet (if you want to look a complete prat).

 

As for trousers, on the same two-for-the-price-of-one basis, I’m strictly a zip-off legs man. These need to be light and quick drying, because whatever I may wish, I’m going to get wet at some point. If feeling pessimistic about the weather and little option but to complete a stage, waterproof over-trousers might be an option too.

 

Socks are the smallest, but probably most import item of clothing on the trip. The trick here is to balance comfort with sweat. Cushioned soles are great, or wearing two pairs at once and swapping them around can work too. There are advocates for merino wool out there too, which are great on the old anti-bacterial front and a good idea if you’re not travelling solo. Besides, you might be outside all day, but at some point you’ll be sharing a room with your socks, which will mean clothes washing will suddenly stop becoming a mere option.

 

Then there’s footwear. Everyone will have their favourite boots, and pointers here would probably be its own blog. What is necessary, is a change of footwear for the end of the day. Give your feet a break. They’ve earned it.

 

Finally, I favour a hat. The top of my bald pate has enough scar tissue on it already and I favour a baseball hat (it’s my ears that are the problem), but each to their own. I even have any own customised, logoised hat. Gloves might also be a good idea. Finally, no jeans. They’re a nightmare to get dry. Oh! And don’t forget nightwear (and evening wear) – something to put on after a shower!

 

 

Packing Technology

 

Maps are a good idea. I’m an OS guy, but they can be a bugger in the wind. For this reason I photocopy my route and have handy A4 pages to work from. The main map stays in my pack. It’s useful for getting an overview at the start of the day and to stare at zombie-like at the end. When I get lost (and I will, trust me), I rely on instinct and Google Maps on my phone. Sure, there are fancy GPS trackers for walkers, but personally I don’t see the need.

 

In fact, iPhones (other clever little mini-computers are available) also have a compass and can be used to take notes and/or voice memos too. I will also be using mine for recording podcasts and YouTube videos. I’ve heard you can even make telephone calls on them. Amazing. On this subject, pack a powerpack for a power punch if needed. And don’t forget the charger.

 

Back on phones, they also have amazing cameras of course, but this is definitely an area where personal preference rules. An DSLR is perfect, but can be clumbersome and heavy. It depends if you see it as a burden or a necessity. I veer towards the latter camp. A middle ground is a bridge camera, which give better photos than an iPhone, but can sometimes fit into a pocket. It’s worth considering.

 

Given my sleeping arrangements, I’m assuming I’ll have wifi at least twice a day. Besides, I’ll need it to keep this website updated, and I refuse to take out a new data contract on my phone. For this reason (the website one, not my meanness), I’ll probably take an iPad too, but forgo taking a notebook computer. I also have a nifty gizmo for plugging the memory card into the iPad too, so that means better Instagram pics. Cheaper options are available, but I’ve been stung in the past by the allure of cheap imports from the East, if you catch my drift.

 

 

Old School Packing

 

I’ll have a lot to do once I get to my room, but a book to switch my mind off will be a necessity for me. If nothing else, it stops mindless internet wandering. Of course, I could read via a Kindle app, but that’s cheating isn’t it? I’m a writer, and I still favour the smell and feel of a book.

 

I’m a big fan of dry bags which come in various sizes and colours. For a borderline obsessive-compulsive like me, they make packing easier (no air taking up space) and provide reassurance that my technology is protected. Most of all, they provide the opportunity to compartmentalise. Knowing T-shirts and socks are in the red bag and toiletries are in the blue bag saves a lot of scrabbling around in the rucksack. You can also use them for dirty washing (or washing you can’t face), although a supply of plastic bags is an alternative. Handy for all sorts of stuff, and they take no weight.

 

I like the tip on this website to take a small Thermos. Most rooms have a kettle and sachets of coffee and teabags and even milk. You’ve paid for them, use them. Thanks too to this website for this simple but effective idea: a packing list. Use this as a checklist at the start of the day and also at the end, to make sure you didn’t get it wrong at the start. There’s nothing worse than panicking you didn’t pack something (my borderline obsessive-compulsive again).

 

If you are going to wash clothes out, don’t forget the travel wash. Take some anyway (decant it first into something handy), nothing wrong with good intentions. Going back to hotels and their giveaways though … ever wondered what that bodywash stuff is for?

 

 

Health and Safety – and sanity

 

The most basic item here, and number one on the packing list, is a water bottle. As the plastic police get more powerful, it’s becoming harder for places like coffee shops to refuse to fill a bottle. There are also handy taps dotted along towpaths. You can use a bladder, but who wants to drink out of a bladder. If you do, then good for you.

 

Accompanying water is snacks. Walking takes energy, and if you’re lacking it, each step will feel twice as heavy. Pack some energy bars and whatever else takes your fancy. Me, I’m a sucker for these.

 

Years of staying in hotel rooms for work have taught me that ear plugs and an eye mask take no weight or space but can be a lifesaver. I’ll probably sleep like a sloth on my walk, but why take any chances? A travel clock might be an idea if you want to charge your phone overnight.

 

Then there’s the obvious, but worth mentioning. A first aid kit, including medications (for the runs, for headaches, for hayfever and so on), but critically plasters, especially blister plasters. Antiseptic gels or wipes may also help prevent the need for at least one of those medications. A few packs of travel tissues secreted around your bag are also a good idea – you never know when you might get caught short.

 

Enough of the toilet, and on to toiletries. Keep it simple. Check out the travel section of your local Boots or Superdrug. A good deodorant is a necessity, maybe one of those ones offering 48 hour protection, although why anyone should need 48 hours of protection is beyond me. A small camping towel is probably also worth taking. Again, they’re light, and useful if you didn’t fancy the one in that dodgy café you went into to use the loo (back to bodily functions, sorry!).

 

Other old school items probably worth having might include a penknife (good for slicing apples as well as getting things out of horse’s hooves) and a torch or headlamp (if you don’t mind looking like an apprentice miner). A padlock probably makes sense, but go for a combination one. A repair kit with some sewing stuff and safety pins is also recommended.

 

One final thought. Something about your person that says who you are and an emergency contact number is a good idea if you’re on your own. There’s nothing worse than lying slumped against a tree in the middle of nowhere, when someone finds you and doesn’t know what to do next.

 

 

And finally …

 

Well, we haven’t discussed the rucksack itself. Like the boots though, that’s probably worth a blog on its own. For now this recent article may help. As might this one too from Go Outdoors: Finally, this guide from Which? gives some basic ground rules.

 

This website offers the obvious thought of checking what you don’t use when you get back from a trip and to ask yourself what might have been useful. Obvious, but I hadn’t thought of it.

 

And finally … this website suggests taking the following five things, and seems to be a good note to end this blog on:

  • Patience
  • Curiosity
  • Open-mindedness
  • Open heart
  • Humour

 

Keep it diagonal!

 

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partners collaboration working together

Partners Wanted For Diagonal Walking

A keystone of Diagonal Walking is the concept of ‘Walk With Me’, both physically and digitally. If it helps, think of it as me kicking up a cloud of both dust and digital code as I follow my line down from Crosby down to Dungeness. I’m on the lookout for more partners. As my previous blog has shown, it’s already been rewarding working with others, but there’s potential for more.

 

Calling Potential Partners

As part of this, I am keen to find partners who might be interested in my walk. Or in walking, or just exercise in general. They may be active in promoting their local area, a breakfast club for example, a tourist body or a radio station. Or they may have a more tangential interest, perhaps as a manufacturer of walking clothing or equipment, or a small hotel chain (I’ll be staying in a lot of hotels and Air BnBs). Local businesses might also want to get into the act. A local drone photographer, a pub or a shop for example. Or maybe they’ll just be interested in something they regard as, well …. interesting!

 

Swapping Not Selling

The point is, I want to be able to connect with as wide a variety of people and organisations as possible – that’s why the website has a ‘Connect’ rather than a ‘Contact Us’ tab.

So, am I looking for sponsorship? No, it is my intention, certainly as I write this at the outset to the whole project, to keep things ‘pure’ if you will. I see Diagonal Walking as more of a collaborative rather than a commercial venture. The sorts of partners I’m looking for will be happy to operate on a ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ level. Think of it more as swapping than selling.

 

Working in Harmony

To me, partnerships need two willing partners working in harmony, meeting both joint and specific interests. I’ve just made that up, but I think it works.

For my part, a specific interest would include boosting the number of individuals walking with me in a digital sense. In other words, working with partners who can introduce me to people who want to follow me on one of the social media platforms. Or they may be partners who may be able to help in my wider mission of trying to understand what makes the country tick. Other specific interests may be more basic. Swapping a bed for the night in return for a talk to a local society for example.

Partners’ interests could vary from exposure of their business, filling a talking slot in the diary, promoting their town or region or simply being associated with an innovative project. I don’t want to limit peoples’ imaginations, but rather spark them.

If you think you’d like to partner up and be part of Diagonal Walking, simply use the Connect link to reach me, and let’s start a conversation.

 

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walking

Breathing Life Into Diagonal Walking

I first had the idea for Diagonal Walking as the basis of a walking book around ten years ago. I tried to pitch it to publishers, the logic being that it would describe a linear walk across a number of counties, thereby increasing the potential market. Most walking books tending to cover only one or two counties (your classic ‘Twenty Circular Walks in Anywhereshire’ book). Good though, but unfortunately, it wasn’t a great time for publishers. The so-called ‘Credit Crunch’ (remember that?) was hurting. Then there were pressures from printers as the shift to full colour from pure black and white took place. As such, it didn’t happen.

 

A Fresh Look

The idea was shelved, but towards the end of 2017, I reached up and blew the dust off it. Things had moved on. Not least the advent of social media. What had been a fairly analogue idea suddenly gained a fresh component. There was an opportunity to make this a three dimensional, more digital, project, involving both individuals and partners. ‘Walk With Me’ was born.

I dropped the idea into conversations with friends and family, and it began to spread like butter melting on a hot crumpet. The different elements of the idea, notably the route, ‘Walk With Me’, and the need to reconnect with what makes the country tick in a post-Brexit referendum world, all seemed to strike a chord. Suggestions were made and taken on board. It seemed I had a green light to take the idea to the next level.

 

Making It Real

Now, projects like this don’t just happen, but I was to be genuinely surprised by how quickly things did happen. Things got going in earnest in the new year, as I got a website designer on board, whose enthusiasm for the project was infectious (thanks Jigsaw Design). The next test was to see if the route was practicable, and if so how flexible I was going to have to be to make it work. I started with a trip to the library, where there was a full set of OS Explorer maps. Starting at the centre point of the walk in Fenny Drayton, I traced a finger along my proposed line. It worked. I opened the next map. It worked again.

A corridor of merely a mile or two either side of the line, miniscule in terms of the whole country, seemed to provide the necessary byways of footpaths, bridleways, towpaths and minor roads to move along the line. The next step was to work out which maps I needed to get to cover the whole route. There were eighteen of these and thanks be to eBay for reducing the cost here. With the exception of one or two obvious challenges (the runways of Luton airport being one of them), the same held for the entire route. It was do-able. How satisfying it was to draw a simple pencil line at forty-five degrees (arrived at using a protractor, an instrument I hadn’t touched for decades) down a number of OS maps.

 

Running, Not Walking

By now, I was almost waiting for the inevitable problem – things were surely going too swimmingly? But it didn’t come, I was running, not walking. I wanted the ‘Walk With Me’ element to cover podcasts and videos, so I contacted the local paragon of Higher Education, Bucks New University, and asked if the people on their Film and Broadcasting degrees were required to do practical exercises, and if so, could I please be one? It seemed they did, and I could. Within three weeks I had scripted and recorded the first three podcasts. I’d also scripted and filmed scenes for both the introductory website video and a longer one to start off a YouTube channel.

Within six weeks, the idea had taken on shape and begun to develop a momentum of its own. Things were getting real. Meanwhile, there was the small matter of fitness to consider. I regard myself as fairly fit – but ten miles a day fit? Um. Time to hit the treadmill, and get some advice courtesy of the good people at The Fitness Space.

 

The Next Steps (Quite Literally)

The next steps will involve setting an actual start date, probably in April, when the clocks change. Before the first step is taken however, I will need to research the first stages of the route and find people I can partner with. Also important will be the process of populating the social media with followers. Somehow just reaching out to family, friends and contacts isn’t going to cut it. I also need to learn how to create a podcast stream, and a YouTube channel. So far, it’s been terrific fun, and long may it continue, but I may need some help!

Keep checking these blogs to see how I get on, and of course, it you are a social media kind of person, please follow me on as many channels as you want.

Onwards and upwards!

 

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