We would all like to retain the better habits we built up over the last 18 months during lockdown and one of them is walking for the joy of it. Sometimes though, it’s good to set out on a mapped route rather than going over the same ground and that’s why LGL has partnered with Point2 Guides created by Andy Stevenson, a design lecturer at the University of Worcester, to inspire readers with guided routes.
Andy is a self-described “outdoor-obsessed design lecturer at the University of Worcester”, who like many others began walking in his local area during Lockdown 1 for exercise. Andy with a bit of spare time to hand, decided to chart his walks to hand out to locals and visitors to Tenbury Wells where he is based through the local Information Centre. The walks grew in number and coverage and he soon realised he needed a ‘vehicle’ to further distribute them, which led to ‘Point2 Guides’.
Now 600 free downloads later, Andy is busier than ever distributing his guides to anyone who wants to walk locally and in the counties that surround Tenbury Wells. Most of the walks are still free to download. But he also offers a few higher quality guides with more features that cost just £1 to download. We had a chance to go for a walk with Andy and chat about what motivates him, the guided walks and why walking is the perfect outdoor activity.
Motivated by adventure and exploration
It may sound a bit cliché but I love getting outdoors: away from the office, away from the laptop and emails. Out in the fresh air you’ve space to think and talk unencumbered by the modern day with others of like minds.
I also enjoy exploring new places and countryside — much of which doesn’t have to be far off. I enjoy new discoveries near where I live just as much as I do those further afield.
Helping to get people out into the countryside using graphical or digital means (apps, etc.) is also a particular interest and has meant me studying part time at PhD level in this area too.
Activities such as walking are always enjoyable when you’re sharing them with others and I’ve begun helping to build a Facebook community of other people with similar interests, which is nearly 200 strong who enjoy activities in the outdoors. It’s an informal arrangement but we’ve had some great outings and events over the years be it walking, mountain bike riding, wild swimming or canoeing. It gets particularly interesting when others in the group post pictures of their own trips or plans or linked articles as it helps drive on the group’s ideas and aspirations further too.
Finding walks and why ‘free’ guides
I select an area for a walk for lots of reasons. For example, if have heard or read good things about the area or if there is a particular historical reference that I am keen to link into a walk. I also try to select walks that have an overt link to one or more local facilities such as local pubs or coffee shops — some places are easier to pin down in this respect than others. Other reasons can revolve around the great views and walking offered in a particular place (or) even if there’s a forest or similar there for a relatively sheltered lowland walk.
I decided to offer up walks for free mainly to try and help encourage both locals and visitors out into the lovely countryside of the area. My native Derbyshire is criss-crossed with walks in almost every grid square of the map so when we moved over to this region there seemed huge potential to create new or variations of existing walks as there were relatively few walks on offer in comparison.
When we were confined to exercising from our doorsteps during the first lockdown, I just thought “I’ll explore the fields around where I live”. Eventually I began to create a small portfolio of local circular walks and handed these over to the local tourist information centre to stock for when restrictions eased. Interest grew so I decided to create a vehicle with which to expand that portfolio of walks so that anyone could download them online. And, hey presto, ‘Point2 Guides’ was born!
I’m all for encouraging people into the countryside who might not ordinarily consider it and to make it easier for more to enjoy, I decided to make the majority of the walks free to download.
Why is walking the perfect activity?
Personally, I find walking offers up a wonderful, cheap and accessible way to enjoy the countryside around me. Grab a pair of trainers and go out and explore — it’s hugely cathartic.
Walking’s also hugely beneficial to both physical and mental health. You can walk at whatever pace you want to knowing that it’ll give you gentle physical exercise. My PhD studies have shown that we’re ‘wired’ to walk and move, when we do so we’re both physically active with all it’s benefits to body and heart health and more but we’re also ‘cognitively active’ – our brains are busy dealing with spacial awareness and issues linked to the landscape and they’ve moved up to ‘5th gear’ to do so and are super productive and efficient.
That’s what we’ve evolved to do — when we’re moving our brains are ‘in their happy place’ — doing what the brain is designed to do. Conversely, when we sit still for a while our brains slip into a kind of ‘neutral’, less active and less productive state. Companies are starting to realise this and there are now various initiatives to encourage staff to get up and walk around or to move their workspace a few times in a day if they can.
What other things has Point2 Guides led you to?
It’s already meant I’ve had a number of collaborations with organisations and councils: I did some lovely work recently for ‘VisitShropshire’ who were looking to create three new family-friendly walking routes in area of the county that were lesser known: Clun Black Hill, to a certain extent Stipersones and Brown Clee Hill.
I’ve also been working with Malvern Hills District Council helping them improve and update some older routes in the Teme Valley as well as a new project that will link in to the town’s literary heritage such as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. This project means I can go back to my hand-illustrated craft drawing roots which I’m hugely looking forward to! There are other things in the works but the great thing is that all of the new ideas and developments I’ve developed can be incorporated into my PhD learning so it’s very much ‘win win’ for me.
What is the future for Point2?
I see it growing as a project and covering new routes not only in the surrounding region but also further afield with a uniform, easy-to-read route guide format and support from the well-known walking apps of the day including O/S Maps, Viewranger and Komoot.
I’m keen to continue building the community for those who enjoy walking in the region or simply those who aspire to walk in the region and want to hear more about it all and what’s on offer.
Plus, the future of walking and helping people to get out into the countryside is bound to get even more exciting with the help of emerging and ever evolving digital technologies. I can’t wait.
Go on, let’s walk!
Buy the Mortimer Forest Circular 5 mile illustrated tried & tested walk: £1
Try the Brown Clee Circular route: free
For for more info visit the Point2 Guides website
The (as it’s known now by most participants) ‘Walky Cake’ group on Facebook